OPSEU Coalition of Racialized Workers

Black History Month: honoring the legacy of black activism

OPSEU Workers of Colour Caucus logo

This Black History Month, the Workers of Colour Caucus (WOCC) reflects on the tremendous shifts in public discourse, policy and legislation that have had significant impact on black workers and racialized communities.

These changes are the result of the decades of activism of Black activists, human rights and labour advocates who continue to play a key role in securing rights and in building movements for social change. To this end, in 2018, the WOCC highlights the achievements and the legacy of anti-racist and human rights movements in its black history project, Black Facts. For previous versions of Black Facts, click here

Please also join us in celebrating black women innovators—Paulette Senior, Trey Anthony, Viola Desmond, Delivina Bernhard, and d’bi.young anitafrika—portrayed in this year’s Legacy poster created by artist Robert Small.


Improvements to the Human Rights Code and Labour Standards

The Workers of Colour Caucus especially applauds legislative changes such as Bill 164 –the proposed amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code which calls for the extension of human rights protection against discrimination in Ontario to those who live in poverty, have precarious immigration and police records, and to those who live in poverty.

The WOCC supports the positive transformations brought by Bill 148—the Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act—in so far as the Bill introduced sweeping changes to Employment Standards Act and Collective Bargaining in Ontario, including minimum wage increases, equal pay for equal work regardless of an employee’s status, an onus on agencies to prove the independence of contractors and enhanced leave and vacation requirements.

The changes are particularly welcome given that racialized Ontarians are more likely to live in poverty and to face barriers in Ontario workplaces. That is, even when racialized Ontarians are employed, they are more likely to earn less, work in precarious employment and to live in poverty than the rest of Ontarians. These disparities have been shown to persist despite the fact that racialized Ontarians have higher labour market participation than non-racialized Canadians. Underemployment, precarious and job strain also have a devastating impact on income security and protections from physical and psychological hazards—all critical determinants of health and health equity.

For more information, read https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/role-race-and-gender-ontarios-growing-gap

Black history month forum: promoting health equity for racialized communities

Stay tuned for the Workers of Colour Black History Month Forum taking place later this month. The event will provide the opportunity to explore racial disparities in health and work, especially the link between good jobs, income and well-being for racialized communities. We also investigate whether legislative changes like Bill 148 go far enough in addressing income disparities and health outcomes for racialized communities.

Resistance to racial profiling and police violence

The Workers of Colour Caucus has previously drawn attention to the history of resistance to racial profiling http://opseu.org/news/remember-reflect-and-take-action-black-history-month-2016.  Racialized communities have exposed not only the ways in which racialized people are frequently stopped, questioned and searched, but the systemic racism that permeates the criminal justice system. In January, new rules came into effect in Ontario that ban random carding by police. The regulation bans police from collecting identifying information "arbitrarily," or based on a person's race or presence in a high crime neighbourhood in certain instances. For more information, read here.

The new rules are only a first step in addressing racial profiling and systemic racism in policing because even with the new legislation, police can still card people during a traffic stop, while arresting or detaining someone, executing a warrant, or while investigating a specific crime. The Workers of Colour Caucus join with community and labour activists in demanding the end of carding practices all together.

Stop the hatred rally

A year ago, the Workers of Colour Caucus and thousands of people across Canada joined in vigils and rallies in a show of solidarity with the Muslim community after the Québec City mosque shooting. Please click here http://opseu.org/news/we-stand-together-midst-terror-black-history-month-2017  to see our statement in commemoration of the Muslim men who were killed during evening prayers: Mamadou Tanou Barry and Ibrahima Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzeddine Soufiane, and Aboubaker Thabti. Please join us in a rally to stop anti-black, anti-Indigenous and anti-Muslim racism and hatred.

Jan 27, 2018 – We Won't Forget! Stop Hatred Now.

When: Saturday, January 27th, 11am
Where: Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto City Hall

On Saturday January 27, we call on all those who oppose hate to join us for a rally at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square at 11am, featuring a number of speakers. Snacks and warm beverages will be available.

The rally will mark one year since the horrific killing of 6 Muslims at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Québec. Over the past year, Islamophobia and hate by white supremacist movements have risen. These groups are increasingly emboldened by the election of Donald Trump and the support of far-right politicians in Europe. These white supremacists have sought to spread their racist hate by organizing rallies at Nathan Phillips Square.

Shamefully, the far-right hate group PEGIDA has decided to hold a rally at Nathan Phillips Square on January 27th — almost a year to the day of the massacre. They will attempt to encroach our space. We believe PIGEDA wants to celebrate the terror attack and whip up more irrational fear of Muslims. We are rallying to show that their message of hate has no place in our streets, and our message of peace is infinitely more powerful.

This event will take place on the territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. The territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.