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City of Toronto launches campaign to fight anti-black racism

An example of a poster from the city's new anti-black racism campaign.
An example of a poster from the city's new anti-black racism campaign. OCASI / City of Toronto

Posters across Toronto will soon be combating anti-black racism in the areas of housing and employment.

They will be placed at 125 bus shelters across the city, mostly in Scarborough and Etobicoke, featuring the faces of black men and women juxtaposed with Caucasian counterparts and the phrases, “Quick, rent to one” and “Quick, hire one”.

The campaign is a joint initiative by the City of Toronto and Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, and its purpose is to get people thinking and talking about their own possible subtle biases and the micro-aggressions they may commit against the black community.

Councillor Michael Thompson at the launch of city’s anti-black racism campaign
Councillor Michael Thompson at the launch of city’s anti-black racism campaign Peter Kim / Digital Broadcast Journalist

“The long-term goal of this campaign is to create a Toronto that says ‘no’ to discrimination and racism of all kinds,” said Michael Thompson, Toronto’s only black city councillor.

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“It may not be as overt as it was in previous decades, but I can assure you that it is still present and it impedes, day-to-day, the lives of many people,” he said.

“This is unacceptable in my view in a city whose motto is ‘Diversity is our Strength’.”

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Mayor John Tory is also behind the campaign and said he welcomes the discomfort it may cause some because it will get them to reflect on their own potential biases and subconscious views.

John Tory at the anti-black racism campaign launch
John Tory at the anti-black racism campaign launch Peter Kim / Digital Broadcast Journalist

“There will be those who will be critical of these ads because they make implied suggestions. But the point of this is to get people talking,” said Mayor John Tory, who added that Toronto’s motto can only be realized when residents take the factual reality of diversity one step further.

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“Diversity has to be combined with a genuine commitment to inclusion,” said Tory.

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The posters point the public to a website with more information and resources. The campaign is also accompanied by the hashtag #BlackinTO.

Anti-black racism has come into sharper focus after Black Lives Matter Toronto staged a number of protests, most notably at this year’s pride parade.

“Anti-black racism is at the root of the social and systemic disadvantages facing far too many Black Torontonians,” said lawyer and advocate Anthony Morgan.

Tuesday’s announcement is the second phase of an earlier anti-racism campaign that focused on Islamophobia.