By TOM GODFREY
Some leaders of Toronto’s ethnic communities are frustrated and disappointed by a lack of high-paying jobs being awarded to qualified visible minority job seekers by the organizers of next year’s Pan Am Games.
Leaders of the Hispanic community are fuming and have written letters to city leaders seeking more good-paying jobs from those organizing the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, that will attract 10,000 athletes and more than 250,000 visitors to Toronto.
Members of the Black and Asian communities have also complained to political leaders and Pan Am officials that qualified applicants are being overlooked.
Toronto City Council approved almost $100 million in funding for the Games, that organizers promised will hire hundreds of workers to construct venues and operate the July 11 to 26 event.
It will cost taxpayers a record $2.4 billion, the highest amount ever spent to stage the Games.
The protesters may be partially right because it appears that some newcomers and visible minorities are being hired to build the stands and venues, but not in well-paying management or supervisory positions.
Some community leaders have taken their concerns to mayoral candidate, Olivia Chow, who they are hoping will help bring about the hiring of more visible minorities, immigrants and newcomers to Canada.
The Toronto Hispanic Chamber of Commerce points out that athletes from 41 Spanish-speaking countries will be in town for the Games, while members of the Hispanic community here are relegated to volunteering with steering committees.
Chamber of Commerce president Manuel Rodriguez said members of his community feel that they are being taken for granted by organizers.
“If they don’t do anything about it at the moment, I think there’s going to be the Pan American Games without the Pan American people,” he said.
Rodriguez said organizers are missing the boat by not giving jobs and access to community members to network with the visiting athletes.
“Members of our community could benefit greatly through employment or business opportunities for small and medium enterprises,” he said. “Now we are just doing volunteer work for the Games.”
Many excellent job applicants who are Black, myself included, with dozens of years of experience, have been refused Pan Am jobs, in a hiring process that seems to be conducted by managers recently brought in from out of town.
“I swear the person interviewing me didn’t even know where Yonge and Bloor is located,” one frustrated job seeker commented. “Most of those doing the hiring are from B.C. or the United States.”
Chow, in an interview with Share last week, said she has heard many complaints from community leaders about qualified job seekers being refused jobs to work at the Games.
“People are complaining that being placed on an advisory committee is not good enough,” she said. “People in the community need some of these good-paying jobs.”
Chow said members of Toronto’s diversified communities have to be involved for the Games to be a success.
“What’s going on now is unacceptable,” she said. “We need the local communities to be on board for all the countries that will be sending athletes here.”
Saad Rafi, CEO of the Toronto 2015 organizing committee, has said outreach has been a focus in the lead-up to the Games.
Rafi expect the Games will draw huge crowds of new Canadians cheering on their home countries as well as their new one.
Organizers of the Games said they are committed to employment equity and encourages applications from Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, members of visible minority groups and women.
It all sounds good on paper. But, just try applying for a position. Good luck.