United Way Thunder Bay (UNTB) has initiated a Diversity Counts community engagement project to reduce racism and discrimination in Thunder Bay, which was highlighted in its recently released Community Report on Racism and Discrimination.
“Diversity Counts is a project that we are starting up aimed at reducing racism and discrimination in the city,” says Sage Laliberte, Indigenous liaison intern with UNTB. “We’re focusing more on youth involvements and we have money set aside for youth-led projects, so different grants we can give out to support that.”
The Diversity Counts project is aimed at helping the community move towards the goal of where diversity is valued and racism and other forms of discrimination are not accepted.
“We’re hoping to get everyone together,” Laliberte says. “Rather than working in silos, bring together different groups that are already doing good work to kind of partner up and continue working on this problem.”
The Diversity Counts project is designed to bring together youth, along with adult mentors, to discuss racism and discrimination; define the problems and issues that exist in the community; hear the voices of those who are
experiencing it; and build on the good work that is already taking place in Thunder Bay.
“Over the next year we will be working with the community to carry out an audit of who is doing what around the issues of racism and discrimination, facilitate community conversations building diverse positive working relationships and partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples with an emphasis on youth, explore new and innovative place-based ideas on how Thunder Bay can reduce racism and discrimination, generate quick-win actions by offering small grants to youth working with adult mentors (and) help facilitate long-term action planning that could guide work that will help reduce racism and discrimination with an emphasis on anti-Indigenous racism into the future,” Laliberte says.
The Community Report on Racism and Discrimination, released on Jan. 25, is based on random telephone interviews conducted with 500 people and identical online surveys completed by 1,141 people. The report is designed to draw attention and to promote the tracking of performance-related data in order to measure progress in the future.
“Several years ago we carried out an initiative called Thunder Bay Counts, and from that racism and discrimination was identified as a key area where the community needed to join efforts and work,” says Sandra Albertson, director of community impact with UNTB. “From the information we gathered in Thunder Bay Counts, we realized we didn’t have much of a baseline of data to support an understanding of where Thunder Bay was at at this point in time with racism and discrimination. So the report really gives a snapshot in time of what racism and discrimination look like here in Thunder Bay today.”
The report states that 68 per cent of respondents rated Thunder Bay as a culturally diverse community, 87 per cent indicated that racism and discrimination occur in Thunder Bay, 81 per cent felt that people are treated unfairly because they look different from the majority and 83 per cent indicated that racism and discrimination are serious issues in Thunder Bay and that discrimination is perpetrated against particular groups.
“In the future, we can redo the survey every few years to actually determine whether things are getting better or things are getting worse so I invite the community to look at the challenge of how can we actually implement the survey on an ongoing basis,” Albertson says. “The report was also developed so we can generate community conversations (about) how we can bring the community together to talk more about racism and discrimination and the effects which it causes within the community so that we can actually reduce racism in Thunder Bay.”