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Anti-Racism working group seeking city council action

Local group asking city council to demonstrate leadership in working to address systemic racism in North Bay
racism and harmony stock

A local book club that was studying a manual about racism has evolved into an action group seeking endorsement by North Bay City Council to establish a local Equity and Inclusion Committee.

The group has submitted a letter, signed by more than 50 local citizens and organizations, asking that city council demonstrate leadership in working to address systemic racism in North Bay.

"The rash of recent incidents of racial conflict across North America -- including disturbing examples of police violence against Black and Indigenous peoples -- has raised the profile of a problem that has always existed. Racist speech and actions exist everywhere, and North Bay might not be any worse than any other community, but neither is it any better," says the group's chairperson, teacher Heidi Buck.

"The fact that over 2,000 people participated in a Black Lives Matter march in North Bay on June 6 in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions is evidence that members of this community are concerned about these issues and expect to see community leadership."

Group member Dr. Dielle Raymond, N.D., says the turnout for the North Bay demonstration was remarkable for a city of this size.

"Immigrants and Indigenous residents now represent about 20 per cent of the population. If scaled to Toronto, the North Bay march was the equivalent of 250,000 citizens demonstrating their concerns on this issue. This shows that our city is becoming more diverse."

"Media attention being given to racist incidents has given members of multicultural groups courage to speak out about their personal experiences," says group member Vijanti Ramlogan.

"North Bay is a lovely community but it experiences the same challenges as the rest of Canada and the world with systemic discrimination especially for black, Indigenous and people of colour. Especially hard hit are children and international students. These aggressions cause long term health issues for people and make our community look bad. An equity and inclusion committee, similar to those of St. Catherines City Council and Sioux Lookout, could help ensure that all citizens of North Bay are treated equally and with kindness."

Longtime North Bay resident Maurice Switzer, currently serving in an advisory capacity with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, says the group's initiative provides North Bay with an opportunity to demonstrate to newcomers the value of choosing to make their homes here.

"Equity and inclusivity are good things for cities to brag about when they're trying to attract new residents and businesses. Racism does not represent quality of life for anybody," said Switzer in a release.