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Ford’s inaction on racism speaks louder than words: OPSEU President Thomas

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas speaking into a microphone in front of an Ontario flag.

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says Doug Ford’s inaction on the anti-racism file speaks louder than words, proving the premier “doesn’t actually care about breaking down barriers.”   

“Ford’s strategy to combat systemic racism is to plug his ears and pretend it doesn’t exist,” said Thomas. “Well, that doesn’t work for the rest of Ontarians, and it doesn’t wear well for the premier whose popular support can’t sink much lower.”

The Ford government’s failure to host a mandatory anti-racism conference comes on the heels of major cuts to Ontario’s anti-racism directorate. Last fall, Ford disbanded four of the directorate’s subcommittees, which provided sound input on ways to eliminate systemic racism.

The conference was part of a three-year anti-racism strategy implemented by the previous government, which has been utterly ignored by the Ford administration and solicitor general Sylvia Jones who holds the file.

“We’re seeing populist politicians in Canada and abroad stoking the flames of bigotry to boost their base,” said Thomas. “Now’s the time for Ford to stand up to toxic rhetoric and racism, not sit on his hands.”

OPSEU and its Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW) also recognize that recent cuts to Legal Aid, education and child welfare are an attack on racialized peoples, noting that they disproportionately affect racialized communities.

“These cuts are weapons against an already-marginalized community,” said Kola Iluyomade, chair of OPSEU’s Region 5 CoRW. “In the face of such attacks, racialized communities remain resilient. Members of OPSEU Region 5 CoRW will be planning their resistance at a gathering on July 27 in Toronto.”

“We’re prepared to fight back,” said Peter Thompson, chair of OPSEU’s Provincial CoRW. “The Ford government is breaking the law by cancelling this conference. Racialized communities will mobilize, advocate and build power to hold this government accountable whatever way possible.”

In March of 2019, OPSEU in conjunction with the Coalition of Racialized Workers proudly hosted its first-ever Racialized Workers Conference, where nearly 200 delegates tackled the realities of racialization.

“OPSEU is leading, while this government does nothing,” said Thomas. “Failing to host the mandatory anti-racism conference is a dereliction of duty, plain and simple. The Ford government either doesn’t care, or they’ve completely forgotten their responsibility to the anti-racism strategy. Either way, they look like a bunch of bigots.

“We’ll keep pushing and fighting for an Ontario where everyone is included, listened to and respected.” 

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931