There have been numerous reports regarding racist incidents in the KW region in the weeks following the Black Lives Matter solidarity march that happened on June 3.
The KW government decided to organize a virtual anti-racism town hall on July 30 through 31.
“We are choosing to be optimistic in terms of how the event is going to go, so we’re happy, at least there is this one step forward, but I think there’ve also been very direct requests and recommendations put forward that they can choose to follow up on,” Lang Ncube, a representative of The African Caribbean Black Network Waterloo Region, said in an interview prior to the town hall.
The public was given the opportunity to sign up to speak at the virtual town hall through the engage UW website. The delegates at the events were asked three questions and were given 10ten minutes to answer them: How has racism impacted you personally within the Region of Waterloo? What sectors do you believe need to be represented in the advisory committee, and what areas should the Region of Waterloo address immediately?
“They received a lot of applicants that it had to spill over to the second day, but it turns out that over half the people that were registered on the first day didn’t even show up,” Ncube said.
“When they’re allowing everyone to speak, they’re also opening-up the event for harm. Which did happen – the very last speaker at the event pretty much gaslighted all of the people at the prior presentations and invalidated all of the experiences that were just being shared.”
Another criticism of the town hall is that it was not focused on the next steps, but rather the re-telling of traumas.
“It really doesn’t make sense to then have to, once again, have to retell all the stories of racist incidents, have to then recall the trauma that comes with it. Because now you have to relive your trauma, and the people listening, they also are living that trauma through you,” Ncube said.
The Region of Waterloo has yet to respond to the calls to action and recommendations put up by The African, Caribbean, and Black Network Waterloo Region which included defunding the Waterloo Regional Police Service by a minimum of $293 million. This money will be reallocated to social programs such as community-led health and service initiatives.
Another recommendation that has yet to be addressed is the vocalization against the racist incidents that have been happening around the KW Region, including the anti-semitic posters at downtown Kitchener, the vandalism of Chinese characters, and many more.
“Up until today, there hasn’t been any vocalization of that support,” Ncube said. “Because whenever we experience racism, whenever we’re disenfranchised, all of that is very public and it’s very visible. However, when it comes to actually denounce all those actions, you can’t then say ‘no, I’d like to do this privately.’”
The Region of Waterloo committed to forming an advisory committee to address the racism that has been happening in the area.
“If we’re going to be engaging in this type of work, transparency is important,” Ncube said, regarding this committee.