OPSEU Coalition of Racialized Workers

OPSEU to government: legislation, race-based data needed to combat racism


The Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate must have the power to shape legislation if it really wants to make a difference in the lives of indigenous and racialized communities, say members of OPSEU’s Workers of Colour Caucus (WOCC).


Ontario Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism Michael Coteau speaks at community meeting

The directorate held its third community consultation on September 27, 2016 in Mississauga. Among those in attendance were: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne; the Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism Michael Coteau; Attorney General Yasir Naqvi; MPPs Dipika Damerla and Harinder Malhi; labour activists; and representatives from the community. 

The directorate’s mandate is to decrease the systemic racism that creates barriers for indigenous and racialized communities in institutions regulated or governed by the Ontario government.  Many speakers at the community meetings are calling for the directorate to have more authority and want it to be legislated rather than simply mandated. 

OPSEU members say change needs to come from the top if the problem of systemic racism is to be eradicated once and for all.  One of the ways to do this is by pushing the government to establish a mandatory and comprehensive employment equity program. 

“A lot of people are going into this process with a cynicism that comes from failed programs in the past that have attempted to stamp out systemic racism,” says Peter Thompson chair of the Workers of Colour Caucus.  “If we want to do this right, we need to move beyond hiring circles, beyond favouritism and nepotism and start spreading the wealth of hiring.”

Thompson says the government needs to start collecting and analyzing race-based data to see just how grossly underrepresented racialized and indigenous populations are in our workplaces.  “We also need to start asking for race-based data on job applications,” adds Thompson. 

Another priority for the WOCC in these consultations is to push the government to begin collecting and analyzing race-based data across all provincial ministries and public institutions.

“Only when we know who is in the jail system, who is graduating high school, who the recipients of social assistance are, will we be able to identify the sources of systemic racism and find a way to create a level playing field for all members of our communities,” says Thompson. 

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says it’s time for the government to stop dragging its heels when it comes to anti-racism initiatives. 

“OPSEU has been leading the charge on this for years through initiatives like the social mapping project and the equity committees we have seen flourish within our membership,” says Thomas. “We recognize the tremendous value more inclusive workplaces offer. We support the government’s willingness to work with the community, but we don’t need any more lip service.  What we need is real change.”