Dear Premier Wynne:
The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (NPAS) agrees with your assertion quoted in Share newspaper from your speech at the Liberal Caucus’ Afrikan Liberation Month (aka Black History Month) annual event: “I want Ontario to be a place where everyone has the same opportunities and I want people to have the support they need. That’s what equity means. It means we have to create the conditions that will allow everybody to have that level playing field. Where it’s not level, we need to raise the floor up a bit.”
Premier Wynne, it is our position that action speaks louder than words when it comes to addressing issues of social oppression. If it is your intention to tackle systemic forms of oppression such as White supremacy (racism), patriarchy and/or class exploitation, it will have to be by way of relevant legislation and the accompanying transformative policies and programs.
NPAS is putting forward five propositions that would give concrete form to your claim that “government exists to make people’s lives better, to support people in realizing their dreams and to create the conditions for people to be great and to be able to achieve.”
Firstly, your government needs to draft and present an employment equity bill before the legislature to undermine the systemic racist, sexist and ableist employment barriers that oppress Afrikans, other racialized peoples, and indigenous peoples in the workplaces of this province.
We need a provincial employment equity law that supersedes that passed by the Ontario New Democrats in 1994 as well as the current Employment Equity Act of the federal government on the establishment of strong accountability measures, strict timelines, and measurable targets. In spite of an employment equity law governing the federal public sector, racialized workers are the only protected group that is under-represented in the core civil service.
Secondly, if the Ontario Liberals would like to “raise the floor up a bit” for Afrikans and other racialized peoples, we are demanding an increase in the minimum wage from $10.25 per hour to $15.00 per hour. Many racialized people are forced to seek employment in the secondary labour market with its low wage rates, minimal or no benefits, and limited or non-existent promotional prospects that feed into the soul-crushing racialization and feminization of poverty with which many of us must contend.
Thirdly, you should work to change the provincial labour law to make it easier for racialized workers and other members of the working class to form or join a union. By instituting automatic certification of a union where a majority of the relevant workers in a workplace have signed a union card would be a clear indication that your government cares about Ontario’s working class majority.
Tied to this, the Ontario Liberals need to significantly increase the fines imposed on employers for breaking the law that protects the workers’ right to freely join or form a union. The current low fines provide an incentive for employers to contravene and view that illegal action as the cost of doing business.
How is unionization linked to the fight against White supremacy (and sexism) in the labour market? According to Canadian Labour Congress’s economist Andrew Jackson in the research paper Is Work Working for Workers of Colour?, “workers of colour who were unionized earned an average of $33,525 in 1999. This was 29.9% or $7,724 more in 1999 than workers of colour who were not unionized.” Racialized workers are under-represented in workplaces covered by collective agreements.
Fourthly, the rates of incarceration of Afrikan and Indigenous people in this province are astronomically and oppressively high. In a March 2, 2013 expose on the subject of mass incarceration of Afrikan men, the Toronto Star states “Young black men face racism, poverty, lack of opportunity, social isolation, violence in their neighbourhoods, family challenges and unemployment.”
Your government needs to address the race, gender and class oppression that fuels the disproportionate jailing of Afrikan men and women. Tackling the systemic problem of over-policing of Afrikan peoples is absolutely necessary. Your governments should also increase educational opportunities by providing affordable, accessible and quality education for all. Free post-secondary education would be a significant anti-racist contribution that you could make to the cause of social justice in Ontario.
Lastly, the Toronto police’s racial profiling and containment of the Afrikan community through the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) and the use of the “208 card” demand your intervention as an equity advocate. Afrikan people are stopped, questioned and carded at excessively higher rates in all of the 72 policing districts in Toronto than their White counterparts. However, in the predominantly White areas of Toronto, Afrikans are racially profiled and carded at levels way above those obtained in highly racialized areas of the city. Our people should not be subjected to over-policing, apartheid policing and the trampling of our rights.
We look forward to concrete steps from you and the Ontario Liberals in advancing an actively anti-racist agenda.
Dr. Ajamu Nangwaya, Membership Development Coordinator
Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity