This year, we celebrate Black History Month with a focus on the theme “Resilience! Moving Forward” as we work towards a future free from anti-Black racism.
The discrimination and oppression of Black peoples of African descent in Canada is often whitewashed and sanitized. Slavery was legal and practiced in Canada until it was abolished in British colonies in 1834. We cannot build a future rooted in anti-oppression and justice if we refuse to acknowledge not only historical wrongs but the systemic discrimination Black people in Canada face to this day.
It might be an uncomfortable truth for many of us, but anti-Black racism is deeply rooted in this country’s history, institutions, unions, and culture. It’s evident in the policing of predominantly Black neighbourhoods, the overrepresentation of Black people carded by police, under-representation of Black people in positions of leadership within our union, over-representation of Black people in the criminal justice system, every day micro-aggressions that Black people experience, and in the ways the media portrays Black-led movements; to mention but a few.
We celebrate the strength and resilience of Black people in the face of systemic racism and racial violence. As we celebrate Black History Month, it is the responsibility of Canadians – and especially white Canadians – to dismantle systemic barriers of anti-Black racism, discrimination and oppression. OPSEU/SEFPO reiterates our solidarity with that fight by implementing our constitutional amendment from 2022 that commits to dismantling anti-Black racism and all forms of racism in our union and workplaces.
OPSEU/SEFPO proudly represents diverse members who self-identify as Black. In addition to the important, meaningful work they do within their union, communities, and workplaces across Ontario, Black OPSEU/SEFPO members have contributed significantly to our union’s solidarity, growth, culture and values. Since its inception in 2003, the Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW) (formerly the Workers of Colour Caucus) has persistently advocated against and challenged policies and practices which are rooted in systemic racism. CoRW’s mandate, objectives, and goals ensure that Black and racialized members are valued for their skills, knowledge, and leadership.
OPSEU/SEFPO is committed to becoming an anti-racist organization that fights for ALL workers. We’ve done a few things to achieve this, like the Social Mapping Project initiated by the CoRW. We have developed trainings on dismantling anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and all forms of racism that are mandatory for all elected positions of leadership within the union.
We are stronger and more powerful when everyone has a voice at the table – and at our Executive Board table too. At the 2023 Convention a constitutional amendment was passed to introduce seven Board Equity Seats to allow OPSEU/SEFPO to meet the member-led demands for representation on the Executive Board that reflects the diversity of our membership. Under elected Chair, Peter Thompson – who also serves as the Chair of the Coalition of Racialized Workers – the Board Equity Committee (BEC) created and launched a selection process for the seven seats. This is crucial step in making our union a more equitable place, but we know we have a long way to go to build an anti-racist future.
This month, OPSEU/SEFPO members are invited to attend a hybrid Black History Month event being hosted by the Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW) on Friday February 23, 2024, at the Wellesley Membership Centre located at 31 Wellesley Street East. Click here for more information.
If you are unable to attend these events, we encourage you to reach out to your respective locals, equity committees and caucus, communities, and/or find your own ways to plug into Black History Month events and activities that are running throughout this month.
- Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice
- Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard
- White fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
- The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole
- Black Life: Post Black Lives Matter and the Struggle for Freedom by Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi
- Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
Other Articles and Readings:
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person
- How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids
- In Conversation: Desmond Cole and Téa Mutonji
- 17 Years of Police Violence in Canada