“We are Community” is the Rallying Cry to Fight Systemic Racism

Nearly two years after Minnesotan George Floyd was killed in police custody and causing an explosion in awareness of systemic racism, the City of Guelph has delivered an important addendum to the Community Plan. Called “We are Community”, the new section released Friday will work to guide the City’s goal of creating more equity, and eliminating systemic racism to make sure everyone feels like they belong.

“The new theme speaks to how Guelph must work as a united community to address systemic racism and build equity. It also highlights the importance of building the 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,” said Sara Sayyed, the City’s senior advisor of equity, anti-racism and Indigenous relations in a statement.

The “We are Community” section has eight guiding principles: Understanding community, relationship driven, Truth and Reconciliation, working across systems, pace and urgency, safe spaces, data and story sovereignty, and shared languages and understanding. The new section was included as an information report released by the City on Friday.

This new section of the Community Plan speaks of a vision for how Guelph must work as a united community,” the report said. “It also speaks to the importance of building the relationships and trust necessary for the sustained effort required to eradicate the racism and colonialism embedded in our structural systems.”

That means acknowledging inequality in all its forms, and that could include Anti-Black racism, Anti-Indigenous racism, Anti-Asian racism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Anti-2SLGBTQIA+, ageism, ableism and sizeism. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of all the forms that inequality takes in our society.

“As a community, we have been on a journey. We have engaged in conscious unlearning, listened, and relearned from many equity-deserving and rights-asserting voices who have the knowledge, expertise and lived experiences to change these systems,” said Marva Wisdom, who was the lead external advisor to the Community Plan. “Our learning has shaped the new and important pieces of the Community Plan; addressing gaps we’ve known existed for some time and laying a strong foundation for the action planning ahead.”

The plan does not present any specific goals or directions, but creates a framework to have discussions and start to make plans about ending systemic racism and then moving on to creating a more equitable community. This includes understanding Canada’s colonial past, how to build relationships, how to create safe spaces – physical and otherwise – and tearing down barriers to communications.

There’s also an explicit reference in the new section to make sure that all online information posted by the City of Guelph can be accessed in the clearest possible way in terms of language, and in terms of being accessible to people with hearing or visual impairments.

“Guelph’s Community Plan was always intended to evolve and grow with the community,” explained Sayyed. “And it became clear, from community conversations, that a more ambitious, immediate, and necessary goal related to equity and anti-racism was needed—committing the City not merely to work toward equity, but toward the permanent elimination of systemic racism in all forms.”

In terms of next moves, the updated Community Plan will be posted to the City’s webpage, the principles will be applied to future City engagement, action plans will be created in concert with community members and organizations, and the City will start from a “how we need to work together” from to a “what we need to do together” frame so that there’s a community standard for the elimination of systemic racism.

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