RESCON webinar addresses racism
By Grant Cameron & Amina Dibe/RESCON
Racism, hate and discrimination have absolutely no place in Ontario and the provincial government is taking steps to put an end to any unfair and biased workplace practices, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Minister Parm Gill said in his remarks at a recent webinar and panel discussion on the issue sponsored by RESCON.
Gill, who is also minister responsible for anti-racism, noted the Anti-Racism Directorate is developing programs and working with other government ministries to create more equitable workplaces for everyone.
“From boardrooms to jobsites, we will create a safer and more equitable workplace for everyone, and we will build the right foundation for a thriving and more inclusive Ontario for all of us to live and enjoy.”
Gill was speaking at RESCON’s second annual Addressing Racism in Construction webinar. More than 150 representatives from a cross-section of the construction industry, including builders and developers, unions and various agencies, and educators, school boards and government tuned in to the event.
Gill was keynote speaker and highlighted the important work that the government has undertaken to tackle the problem. He applauded RESCON’s commitment to anti-racism initiatives and noted that strong leadership between construction industry leaders, workers and government will lead to positive change.
He said stepping into the two government portfolios has been a great honour, as he’s very passionate about the challenges that need to be addressed. As a member of the racialized community, he’s been listening to people from those communities about how the province can be made a more equitable home for everyone.
He said workers from racialized and Indigenous communities are significantly underrepresented in construction, and “we need to move any and all barriers standing in their way to create a diverse and healthy workforce.
“We have an opportunity right now to build the workforce of tomorrow – one that’s talented, one that’s diverse and ready for the jobs at hand.”
In terms of anti-racism initiatives, he said the blueprint starts with creating more equitable workplaces for everyone and the Anti-Racism Directorate has been developing an online employer resource hub that will launch soon to support the hiring and advancement of Indigenous, Black and other racialized talent.
“These resources will help employers and create an understanding of systemic racism so they can proactively put an end to discriminatory practices. Anti-racism initiatives can help to create meaningful, well-paying jobs to support families and communities,” Gill said in his remarks. “They can foster equitable, inclusive and high-performing workplaces and they can create growth opportunities, not only for companies, but also for the entire province.
“We’re going to build something great for generations to come and I am personally very excited to be part of the design.”
The event also featured a number of other speakers, including:
• Nosa Ero-Brown, assistant deputy minister - Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate
• Raly Chakarova, executive director at BOLT
• Chris Campbell, equity and diversity representative at Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario
• Joseph Chow, a service technician at Tridel
Ero-Brown, Campbell and Chow engaged in an important panel discussion on the challenges facing construction and discussed ways to tackle racism in the workplace and encourage more BIPOC youth to join the industry.
The panellists unanimously agreed that better data is needed to build, and deliver better policy and programs. Currently, there is an absence of race-based employment data in most sectors of construction. It is therefore unclear the extent to how diverse the industry is.
Brown noted that the Anti-Racism Directorate is looking at gathering more race-based data from more industries.
Campbell spoke about his role as the equity and diversity representative at the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario.
“My role is to promote the union to the local community, to the province, and to community and cultural groups like TCBN, African Canadian Contractors Association, Building Up, HammerHeads … . I also assist with recruiting from the BIPOC community.”
Chow mentioned Tridel’s Common Grounds Group, “which is ran by the employees, for the employees.” He said that despite COVID, the group has managed to meet virtually once a month to touch on social issues ranging from the murder of George Floyd and anti-Black racism, the anti-Muslim, Islamaphobia attack in London, Ont., that resulted in four deaths in the same family, and the children of residential schools who were never able to make it back home to their families.
“These are big steps that we are taking individually as companies … but I think with the little steps we are collectively taking together – industry-wide – will take us even further.”
RESCON commemorated National Truth and Reconciliation Day during the webinar.
Here is a link to a recording of the webinar.
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