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Co-chair of anti-racism task force in Barrie says success won’t be measured because ‘racism isn’t going to end’

Anti-racism task force has five themes

Donald Carty has been doing work in the area of race relations for over 40 years.

Donald Carty, co-chair of Barrie’s anti-racism task force – picture provided

Now he has a mandate at home as co-chair of the anti-racism task force that Barrie city council agreed to establish last summer.

“On June 29, 2020, Barrie City Council approved a motion, sponsored by Barrie Police to establish an anti-racism task force. Seven individuals have been chosen to work actively with police services, school boards, community groups, municipal organizations, social services, business, labour and government agencies in order to facilitate a stronger understanding of the needs of the City’s racialized populations,” according to a media release from January of this year.

“I did it in Atlanta,” says Carty, detailing some of the places where he has done similar work. “I did it in the second largest county in Florida. I worked with Broward County human rights and race relations. I’ve been doing this for quite some time.”

The fact he is now carrying the mantle for the same cause in Barrie appears to give him mixed feelings.

“You know, to see the same kind of thing repeating itself is difficult. But we keep moving forward and we keep going,” Carty says.

“Our mandate really is to bridge and promote a stronger, more positive understanding and representation of the city’s racialized groups.”

He says the task force is actively working with and holding accountable the police services, education systems, health services, community groups and associations, municipal organizations, businesses, labour and government.

City council was presented with a semi-annual update from the task force last month.

There are five different themes, Carty says, the task force is working on.

  • Understanding: “We address and promote stronger understanding of the needs of the cities racialized populations.”
  • Messaging: “To create and expand race-based programming, education and resources to raise awareness about racism and the impacts of white privilege and dominance.”
  • Connecting: “To raise awareness and correct the absence of a significant reflection of the city’s diversity within its institutions and create safe spaces for dialogue.”
  • Transitioning: “To challenge workplace practices, evaluate and promote changes that address the needs of the city’s racialized populations.”
  • Strengthening: “To establish institutional accountability that ensures and strengthens the involvement and sense of belonging and wellbeing of racialized persons.”

The roots of the task force can be traced to what Carty says was happening south of the border, in particular the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“It was becoming more apparent that these crimes were real,” says Carty. “There is always people that have doubt. As Canadians we are very polite and we don’t think this happens in our backyard, but it does, and it’s a real thing here.”

He says the police chief and mayor got together with community organizations and had a discussion about creating a task force. Some preliminary things were laid out that they wanted the task force to do, and the search went out for members. Seven individuals were chosen by an outside group from 30 different applicants.

The city and police are each kicking in about $5,000 toward the work of the task force which has a mandate until the end of this term of council which Carty says is November 2022. But he wants the work to continue.

As for metrics to measure the success of the task force, Carty explains it this way.

“It’s not so much success because that kind of anticipates an end. Racism isn’t going to end,” he explains. “What happens is racism changes its focus as different events happen in our society.”

Carty expects the task force will measure how they are reaching people by engaging social media, the number of people participating online with some of the initiatives, and activities they are working on.

“What areas of the city and what kind of engagement are we getting, and how that is influencing other things,” says Carty.

He was asked if this task force would have been created without the death of George Floyd.

“I believe when I see how many task forces were created across Canada after George Floyd, I would always have to say that we may not perhaps have had the same engagement if that hadn’t happened.”

While Canadians can sometimes wag a finger at the United States about racial tension, Carty says we can’t say we’re not like them. He chalks that up to a protectionist thing – if you don’t see it then it isn’t happening.

“We’re afraid because we don’t know each other,” says Carty. “All we know are the stereotypes and how the media portrays us.”

Carty says many people who claim they are not anti-racist can think of a stereotype for some racialized group right off the top of their head. He says these things are embedded.

Carty feels diversity is not represented in Barrie, which he says is 84 per cent white.

“We’re not seen on billboards, in our newspapers, in the newsletters or in a lot of the higher echelon of our institutions, or in the boardrooms ” he laments.

The task force is a starting point for Barrie, a community Carty describes as a wonderful and beautiful place.

If people want to help, participate, engage or volunteer for focus groups or working groups contact:

Anti-Racism Task Force Members:

  • Brandon Wu
  • Cheryl Blondell
  • Donald Carty
  • Esther Nkoli Enyolu
  • Haily MacDonald
  • Irfan Toor
  • Masa Sone