Achieving an Equitable and Thriving CommunityMarch 24, 2021
By Suzanne Obiorah
The City recognizes that immigrants and racialized people face multiple and complex barriers to accessing services and influencing governance. These barriers are rooted in inherent colonialism and systemic racism and result in limited access to appropriate civic, cultural, educational, employment, health, and housing. In addition, immigrants face direct or subtle discrimination in their daily lives.
In September of 2020, the City of Ottawa created a new Gender and Race Equity, Inclusion, Indigenous Relations and Social Development Service to strengthen the City’s commitment to effectively address all forms of discrimination.
The newly established service includes:
The Gender and Race Equity, Indigenous Relations, Diversity, and Inclusion Branch which will advance the City’s commitments to strengthening Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, develop, monitor and implement a broad Equity Framework, and integrate organizational-wide strategies for Women and Gender Equity and Anti-Racism. It will also the Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Plan that outlines awareness-building initiatives, public-facing strategies, equitable hiring practices, data collection and reporting to further an inclusive workplace that represents the communities we serve.
The Social Development and Funding Unit, offer community programs, funding and strategies that contribute to healthier and prosperous communities and neighbourhoods by increasing access to municipal and community services, spaces, and structures. Programs include the Community Funding Framework, Youth Futures, and the Integrated Neighbourhood Services Team.
Over the course of the year, progress has been made on a variety of initiatives including:
- Continued commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action and the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The City of Ottawa Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) was developed to align with the TRC Calls to Action and the Principles of Truth and Reconciliation. The RAP includes fourteen initiatives divided into four focus areas: Culture, Employment, Children’s Services, and Education & Awareness Building. Initiatives within these areas of focus are progressing or embedded within ongoing city operations.
- The creation of a Women and Gender Equity Strategy to remove systemic barriers faced by women and gender diverse people. The strategy is focused on four outcomes: policy change, safety, equitable representation, and gender inclusivity. Indigenous, racialized, women with disabilities, older women, immigrant women and gender diverse people as priority populations.
- The Anti-Racism Secretariat Co-led the “Anti-Racism in Ottawa Public Listening Forum plan” and has hosted a series of public engagement surveys to define the secretariat’s priorities. The secretariat has facilitated a series of community action planning sessions and city staff engagement sessions to learn more about concrete steps to address racism. Upcoming sessions are scheduled with community partners and stakeholders in March to focus on employment equity, housing, equity in governance, economic development, health outcomes and youth development.
- A refreshed Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Plan outlines initiatives and commitments to become a more diverse and inclusive workplace that represents the communities we serve. The Corporate DI Plan is supported by Diversity Action Plans created and implemented by each department. In addition, the city has launched employee-led Affinity Groups, a ‘Count Me In’ employee self-identification questionnaire to better monitor workforce composition and is offering all staff a variety of learning modules such as “The Path”—a series of Indigenous awareness learning modules.
- As part of the COVID-19 emergency response, an intersectional equity lens was applied to respond to community needs through the Human Needs Task Force. City staff collaborated with Ottawa Public Health to study demographics and pandemic impacts. Targeted funding was allocated to Indigenous and equity deserving groups to support COVID response and recovery.
The City of Ottawa aligns with the vision of Equity Ottawa to create a community where immigrants and racialized people equally and fully benefit from all aspects of economic, social, cultural, and environmental prosperity and well-being, and can contribute their skills, abilities, and leadership towards the well-being of the entire community. Through continued collaboration with Council Sponsors Groups, Council Liaisons, community partners and all City departments, this new service area will integrate efforts to achieve a Thriving and Inclusive city.
Suzanne Obiorah is the Director, Gender and Race Equity, Indigenous Relations, Inclusion and Social Development at the City of Ottawa.