Community Plan – We are community

We are community

The Guelph community developed this addition to the Community Plan in 2022 through many months of intentional learning and unlearning.

We value our community’s diversity, and we acknowledge that racism, discrimination and exclusion exist in many forms in our community including:

  • anti-Black racism
  • anti-Indigenous racism
  • anti-Asian racism
  • anti-Semitism
  • Islamophobia
  • anti-2SLGBTQIA+
  • ageism
  • ableism
  • sexism
  • sizeism

We strive to do and be better. We want everyone to have equitable access to programs, services and opportunities in Guelph. We build relationships and work together to eliminate the racism and colonialism embedded in our structural systems. Everyone in Guelph is included and treated fairly and equitably.

We understand community

  • The Guelph community includes those who found their way here, those who work and learn here, and those who have and continue to call it home.
  • We recognize and honour differences in experience, in hardships and in joys within individual communities, and we learn from and support each other.
  • We act to dismantle the colonial practices that intentionally create and magnify divisions within and across equity-deserving and rights-bearing communities in Guelph.

Build and sustain strong, meaningful and reciprocal relationships

  • We intentionally make time and space to learn about equity-deserving communities and people, and to grow reciprocal relationships with more give than take.
  • We show up for, listen to and invest in each other to build stronger relationships.
  • We honour that trust develops over time and recognize that every conversation in our community is connected.
  • We seek, value and centre the knowledge and wisdom of the community.
  • We embrace, own, apologize for and learn from the mistakes we make and the harms we cause.
  • We heal together to create sustained change.

Make Truth and Reconciliation a reality in Guelph

  • We understand and acknowledge as Truth the intergenerational trauma, and historical and ongoing impacts of colonialism on the Original Nations and Peoples, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities as a result of the attempted genocide of their peoples.
  • Our community institutions understand and take actions aligned with the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action (2015), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), and the Call to Justice of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report (2019).
  • Our community institutions continuously engage with and uphold the inherent rights of First Nations, Métis and Inuit community members under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution.
  • We honour and respect the land rights of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
  • We know and talk about the history of this land and the people who lived here before Guelph was founded, including the Michizaagiig, Huron-Wendat, Attawandaron and the Haudenosaunee Peoples.
  • Our community institutions embed Indigenous voices and ways of knowing into decision-making structures through engagement with First Nation, Inuit, Métis and mixed Indigenous ancestry individuals who continue to make this land their home today, and with Indigenous organizations and community groups (both formal and informal) and governments.
  • We understand Indigenous governance structures and undertake free, prior, informed consultation and consent with Indigenous communities as we work to build a better place for their grandchildren.
  • We understand the difference between equity and rights and demonstrate it in our actions.

Work within and across systems to eliminate discrimination and barriers

  • Our systems, practices, services, policies and governance structures are free from racism and other barriers to access. As we do this work, we will share examples for others to learn from.
  • We take an holistic view to consider and improve the interconnectedness of systems (e.g., health, education, economic) and how they are experienced by community members.
  • Our institutions (public and private) work together to take responsibility for transforming the systems they contribute to and for eliminating racism from these systems.
  • We overcome the challenges and restraints that exist in addressing systemic issues created from within.

Respect, pace and the “fierce urgency of now” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

  • We respect and allow for the time it takes to develop meaningful, reciprocal relationships that foster trust.
  • We acknowledge and balance the tension between the need for immediate, past-due action and the time it takes to rid systems and structures of racism and discrimination.
  • We honour and respect our community’s capacity to heal itself.
  • We support the growth and sustainability of community organizations working to eliminate systemic racism, and we respect their pace and capacity to do this work.

Create and hold safe, inclusive spaces

  • We have safe physical spaces for community conversations, dialogue, ceremony, sports and healing.
  • We hold safe mental health spaces for conversations about social justice, equity, and systemic racism that are fully open, inclusive, accessible and free of judgment, including spaces for relationship building and reflection centered on the community’s needs.
  • We recognize that brave spaces depend on the creations of safe spaces

Stories and information belong to the people who share them

  • Stories are used only when freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, and specific (FRIES2), and story owners have control over how this information is used and where or how it is shared.
  • Community members and organizations are recognized for their time, data, stories and contributions.
  • We clearly communicate how data will be used and we use data to make things better.
  • Our communities are not counted or discounted based solely on their size.
  • Our community institutions take an intersectional, trauma-informed and harm reduction approach for engagement and data collection related to systemic racism and other sensitive topics and provide mental health support support (traditional and non-traditional) is available to participants needing or asking for it.

Use intentional and shared language and understanding

  • We choose language with intention and consider meaning at the listener’s ear; we don’t use words and phrases that are harmful to others.
  • Community organizations prioritize accessibility (physical space, language and format) in communications and engagement so that everyone can fully participate.3
  • We continually seek clarity to make sure the right language is used in communication and engagement.
  • Our community institutions share what they learn to support the community’s collective knowledge, understanding and opportunities for growth.

Strategic directions/goals presented are draft, pending review/input by the Community Plan advisor’s circle.


1Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (page 8).

2The FRIES acronym for consent was developed by Planned Parenthood but can apply to many circumstances.

3When communicating and engaging, consider how to include everyone, for example, written material is in plain language, heading styles are used and fonts are Arial or Verdana, 11 point or larger and the contrast is easy to see. Include the contact information to request an accessible format of the material. Presentations that include a virtual option have captions available, all slide information is spoken and allow for different ways for the audience to communicate, such as speaking or in the chat, raise hand in the software or physically raise hand. Accommodate a person to fully participate as they request.

What we heard

Community conversations made it clear that a more ambitious, immediate, and necessary goal related to equity and anti-racism was needed: a resolute commitment to identify Guelph’s most vulnerable populations; to listen closely to their stories, struggles, and pain; and to commit the City not merely to work toward equity, but toward the permanent elimination of systemic racism in all forms.

What we care about

  • Setting the community standard for the elimination of systemic racism. This isn’t an easy goal, but it’s an aspiration we need to reach and achieve.
  • Addressing the significant omission of specific direction related to systemic racism in the first version of the Community Plan.

What we’re proud of

  • Our community coming together on June 6, 2021 to show solidarity with Guelph’s Black community following George Floyd’s murder. This led to conversations between the Guelph Black Heritage Society, Black Lives Matter, City of Guelph, and Guelph Police Service.
  • Developing a Community Plan advisor’s circle to learn and unlearn with community leaders with a focus on anti-racism and anti-discrimination.
  • Developing the We are Community theme that speaks to how Guelph must work as a united community to address systemic racism and build equity. This theme also highlights the importance of building relationships and trust needed so we can continue in our efforts to remove the racism and colonialism embedded in our structural systems, whether intended or not.
  • Conversing with people and communities from across Guelph to develop the eight guiding principles under the We are Community theme.
  • Recognizing that Guelph’s Community Plan was always intended to evolve and grow with the community.

How we can do better

  • Acknowledging that racism and exclusion exist in many forms including but not limited to: Anti-Black racism, Anti-Indigenous racism, Anti-Asian racism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Anti-2SLGBTQIA+, ageism and ableism.
  • Working with community members organizations and institutions to co-create an action plan to outline the specific strategies and actions that must be taken to eliminate systemic racism and barriers to inclusion from our institutions, policies and governance structures.
    • Specific actions related to well-being, mental health, housing, economic and educational opportunity, and access to services among others will be considered in that phase of work.
  • Incorporating the principles of the new Community Plan theme into the City’s engagement approach as the City continuously learns and improves its practices.
  • Shifting the City’s anti-racism work from “how we need to work together” to “what we need to do together” to set the community standard for the elimination of systemic racism.