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Province-wide anti-racism campaign aims to be controversial

Olivia Morris

LIFE REPORTER

The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and the City of Toronto launched a new campaign on Nov. 2 to trigger conversation about anti-black racism in the city.

The campaign ads, featured on bus shelters throughout the city, are meant to provoke people to confront their own anti-black biases and to confront black stereotypes. The anti-black racism campaign aims to educate people about the injustices that Black Torontonians face, such as racial profiling, carding and issues of discriminatory housing policies.

On one of the two poster ads, the faces of a white male and a black male are beside each other. The ad’s tagline is, “Quick, Hire One.” The second poster ad is similar, with the faces of a white woman and a black woman beside each other. The ad’s tagline reads, “Quick, Rent to One.”

OCASI communication consultant Bassel Martins said an in-depth consultation with the City of Toronto gave OCASI a much clearer direction for the campaign ad, in terms of triggering conversation among Torontonians.

“What we want is to start a conversation, bring it to the surface and see what people do with it,” Martins said. “We had a press conference on Tuesday and the mayor was there, so it’s getting exposure and that’s what we want.

“Hopefully the people that are already involved in anti-black racism missions can point to it and say, ‘look this campaign is so relevant because this is still going on,’“he said. “Maybe they can add ammunition to the struggle and to their cause.”

Martins said the posters have received both negative and positive feedback from the public since the new campaign ads were revealed.

“We got positive and negative, which we expect,” he said. “The city funds it, OCASI runs it and Public Inc. is the creative company that was behind the design. There’s no point in having an ad that nobody notices.”

Social justice lawyer and an advocate for Toronto’s Black community Anthony Morgan is pleased with Toronto taking OCASI’s leadership on bringing this issue into public discourse.

“The statistics and the data are out there, the City of Toronto would not have put its resources or its moral authority behind it if it didn’t know that there was this problem,” Morgan said.

“What’s important about the posters is the conversation,” Morgan said. “For folks who aren’t black, I would encourage them when they do see the posters, instead of coming from a place of defensiveness, to think about what you know about the conditions experienced by black people when it relates to housing, employment and education.

he said.

A Toronto Star investigation using census and Toronto Police data in 2013 tracked the likelihood of a black male being stopped by police. The possibility of being carded by police was higher for black people than whites across the city between January and June 2013 when thousands of people were being carded every month.

Carding decreased between July and October 2013, but the likelihood of black people getting stopped compared to white people increased and was 17.3 times more likely in some areas.

Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Diversity at Humber College Nancy Simms believes OCASI’s campaign is one of the ways to raise awareness about anti-black racism in Toronto.

“All forms of hate crimes are unacceptable,” Simms said.

“The Ontario Human Rights Code is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in specific social areas such as jobs, housing, services, facilities, and contracts or agreements,” she said. “OCASI is mandated to do exactly as they have done.”

The anti-black racism campaign is the second in a series of campaigns focusing on issues of oppression and discrimination to the surface in the City of Toronto. The first Toronto for All campaign last summer focused on anti-Islamophobia.

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