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Mother says discrimination still exists in community: 'Little kids see colour'

'I have seen the need to create some more awareness in the community. We need to start at the elementary school level.'
2020 09 29 Gemma Victor (YouTube)
Gemma Victor, a member of Equity and Inclusion North Bay. Photo: YouTube

"We need genuine allyship," Gemma Victor told North Bay City Council, Tuesday, adding she got involved in Equity and Inclusion North Bay (EINB) because "as a parent I felt I needed to protect my child in this community." 

Victor, who has lived in North Bay for over 15 years and has earned two degrees in her time in Canada, says she is more than "capable of dealing with discrimination on my own but five years ago I had a child in this community and I've seen the impacts on her."

A recent incident on her child's school bus has only emboldened Victor to attempt to effect positive change in North Bay.

"I have seen the need to create some more awareness in the community. We need to start at the elementary school level. Little kids see colour," she added.

So, what began as a book club studying racism has evolved into an action group in North Bay — augmented by the lived experiences of its members.

Equity and Inclusion North Bay is the result and the group's mission is to "remove systemic barriers to inclusion in all sectors of our society and to take meaningful action towards discrimination, by learning together to build a respectful, inclusive and safe North Bay community."

"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," advised the group's chairperson, teacher Heidi Buck. "Racist speech and actions exist everywhere, and North Bay might not be any worse than any other community, but neither is it any better." 

Buck added, "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."

Equity and Inclusion North Bay has drafted a charter including the above mission statement plus the group's vision and mandate. This will be sent to partners and interested parties for input and revision and to gain momentum in forming a sector-driven larger committee by 2022.

The EINB's vision states, "By 2030, North Bay will be a community where everyone actively shares responsibility for removing barriers to equity and inclusion for all; where every individual has the opportunity to equally contribute to, and benefit from, the economic, political, social, and cultural life of our community."

EINB says "some social categories, including Indigenous, immigrant, age, income level, criminal background, physical/mental ability, gender, and perceived race are experiencing marginalization in our community," and the hope is they will all be represented on the committee.

A first meeting of the group is imminent with more details to come.

During the virtual presentation to North Bay City Council, Tuesday, group members Victor and Vijanti Ramlogan made three requests on behalf of EINB to the City of North Bay:

EINB says equity and inclusion is "everyone’s responsibility and as a community we need to work harder at making our community one where everyone feels that sense of belonging."

Mayor Al McDonald acknowledged Council had received the requests and "would respond."

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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