New tool launched to combat racism in Barrie

Co-chair of anti-racism task force says diversity is not only about race

The City of Barrie’s anti-racism task force has launched a new website https://barrieantiracism.ca/ to tackle racism in the community.

In the wake of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, Barrie City Council on June 29, 2020 approved a motion, sponsored by Barrie Police to establish an anti-racism task force.

Three weeks prior, over a thousand people took to the streets of Barrie in a “Justice for Black Lives” demonstration.

“When you look at Barrie, Barrie is not what it used to be,” says Esther Enyolu, the task force co-chair, who spoke to Barrie 360 at the unveiling of the website at City Hall on Tuesday night. “If you were living in Barrie in the 70s, the 50s, that’s not what Barrie is today, and even the 90s.”

Enyolu moved to Barrie in 2004 and since then she is aware of the new immigrants and says she can see a lot of diversity.

“The Barre Anti-Racism Task Force is the bridge to promote a stronger, more positive understanding and representation of the city’s racialized peoples,” according to the website. “This will be done through actively working with, and holding accountable, police services, educational systems, health services, community groups, associations, municipal organizations, social services, businesses, labour and government.”

Barrie Police Chief Rich Johnston says as a public safety and a public service, they are sensitive and appreciative of the efforts of the anti-racism task force.

“We’re exploring racial trauma training of our new recruits, of the coach officers who take out these new recruits,” explains Johnston, “and to see the effect over an extended period of time, and does that training have any alteration on behaviour, perception and thought.”

The Chief says he considers the Barrie Police Service to be a learning organization.

“Part of a learning organization is to listen, and we’re listening to the community,” says Johnston.

Enyolu says the work of the anti-racism task force is not to condemn the police, but rather to work with them and tell them what they can do, so this kind of situation doesn’t happen here, referring to George Floyd.

“Barrie is very diverse, and it will be our duty for all of us to help make our city a welcoming city,” she adds. “Am I feeling accepted? Am I feeling comfortable?”

Enyolu says diversity is not only about race, but it’s about gender, ethnicity and language.

She wants the community at large to be a part of the solution.

“Join forces with us,” Enyolu urges, “to make our community a safe community where everybody can feel a sense of belonging.”

Banner image – Anti-racism task force co-chair Esther Enyolu (photo – Barrie 360)

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