City reflects on initial steps toward anti-racism, diversity and inclusion goals

Information report to Council details actions underway to make Guelph a more welcoming place

Guelph, Ont., November 27, 2020 – In an information report to Council posted today, City of Guelph staff provide an update on the organization’s recent activities to address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and racial injustice, remove barriers to inclusion, and ensure inclusivity and equity for people who live and work in Guelph.

The report details the City’s progress in three interconnected streams of work:

  • Supporting community-driven systemic action through Guelph’s Community Plan,
  • Creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace through the launch of the City’s Employee Diversity and Inclusion Plan, and
  • Acting on opportunities identified through the City’s Strategic Plan to embed anti-racism and inclusion practices and principles into our services, service delivery, policies and decision-making processes.

“We are striving to initiate and support systemic change to make our workplace and the community we serve more inclusive and welcoming for all,” says City of Guelph Chief Administrative Officer, Scott Stewart. “This is a process of both learning and unlearning for many of us as we examine the systems, institutions and practices that have historically underserved or excluded some members of our community. We are grateful for the guidance and support of our community partners and residents as we undertake this critically important work.”

Community conversations about racism in Guelph

On May 16, 2019, the Guelph community presented A United Vision: Guelph’s Community Plan to City Council. Currently, the Community Plan does not specifically address systemic racism. In order to address this gap, in July 2020, the City began the process of reaching out to the people and organizations most affected by systemic racism in Guelph, including the Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) communities.

This first phase of outreach has resulted in productive discussions about the depth and breadth of the issues to be addressed, and have helped inform and clarify City staff’s role as facilitators or participants in this community-driven work. Initial conversations also identified a foundational need to use data to better understand the realities of systemic racism in Guelph.

In the coming months, the City and its community partners will embark on deeper conversations within individual communities. These conversations will help to develop goals for this work through dialogue, gain a deeper understanding of the local impact of systemic racism, and identify work already happening in the community to explore potential action areas for investment and support.

More work is required to build new relationships and leverage existing partnerships, including those with local Indigenous groups including the City’s Treaty partner—the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Continued engagement in these areas will be guided by the City’s working principles to listen first, learn and adapt, follow the community’s lead, and, most importantly, do no harm.

Our Shared Journey: Unpacking Systemic Racism

On November 16, staff hosted a Council learning workshop facilitated by Marva Wisdom, consultant and local community leader and Giidaakunadaad (Nancy) Rowe, Mississauga of the Credit Elder and Equity Educator Consultant, titled Our Shared Journey: Unpacking Systemic Racism. The focus of the workshop was to help attendees better understand systemic racism, examine how it affects the local community, and explore ways the City and Council can help break down barriers to inclusion in Guelph.

This workshop provided foundational learning to assist Council as they work in collaboration with City staff and our community partners to set the community standard for the elimination of systemic racism using Guelph’s Community Plan as a guide.

A recording of the workshop is now available online.

City’s Employee Diversity and Inclusion Plan

Work continues toward implementing the City’s Employee Diversity and Inclusion Plan with a goal to foster a more inclusive and welcoming culture for City staff.

One component of this work is the ongoing recruitment for the City’s Welcome Workplace team, which is a cross-functional and diverse group of employees and leaders who will guide the various projects within the plan, advocate for organizational changes as needed, and act as champions in recognizing City’s progress toward its diversity and inclusion goals.

The Welcome Workplace team will meet for the first time later this month and engage in an onboarding program in January 2021.

Increasing diversity on Guelph’s agencies, boards and committees

On August 20, the City Clerk’s office hosted a webinar titled “Increasing Diversity on Guelph’s Committees” with invited guests from community groups and organizations who represent traditionally underrepresented groups. The City Clerk’s Office also conducted a survey of existing members of the various advisory committees, local boards, agencies, commissions and associations to collect information related to race, gender and disability.

The survey data shows that significant gaps exist in the representation of certain groups including visible minorities, individuals with disabilities, and individuals who identify as a gender other than male or female in comparison to similar data from the community as a whole.

For more information on the survey data and initial findings, read the November 2020 Public Appointments to Advisory Committees, Local Boards, Agencies, Commissions and Associations report.

In the coming months, the City Clerk’s Office will endeavor to gain a better understanding of the experience that committee members from underrepresented groups have while serving on these agencies, boards and committees to help inform future recommendations to City Council regarding potential changes to policies governing these groups.

These initiatives reflect the community’s shared vision for inclusive prosperity as outlined in Guelph’s Community Plan, and are designed in alignment with the City’s values of inclusion, integrity, service, learning and wellness, as outlined in the City’s Strategic Plan: Guelph. Future Ready. For more information about how the City of Guelph is working to address diversity, inclusion and anti-racism in Guelph, read the information report to Guelph City Council from November 27, 2020.

Resources

Media Contact

Jodie Sales, General Manager
Strategy, Innovation and Intergovernmental Services
Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
519-822-1260 extension 3617
[email protected]