The City of Regina’s executive committee has sent back a report to administration on the establishment of a diversity, equity and inclusion advisory committee.
This comes after several delegates from Black in Saskatchewan told members of the executive committee that they weren’t consulted before the meeting.
Black in Saskatchewan chief financial officer Dolapo Fadare also told council the current report doesn’t seem to go far enough.
“Our primary objective here today is to show and ensure that the terms of reference in this report actually veer off from the fundamental intent of this committee, which is to be proactive and responsive to tackling the root causes of racism and discrimination in the city of Regina,” Fadare said.
“Right now, this report and terms of reference is more proficient at promoting and celebrating multiculturalism rather than addressing the focal point of the issue.”
Fadare said Black in Saskatchewan sees it “best to address and try and get it right the first time, rather than working reactively.”
As the establishment process is still in its early stages, executive committee members had the option of passing the report and looking into revising it before it was brought to city council but delegates representing Black in Saskatchewan wanted this report to be “right the first time.”
“Rather than trying to retroactively solve it in the future, given the fact that we know it’s going to create some issues around those legalities, let’s get it right and then set the committee up for success.”
As for the consultation process, Fadare is hoping to refocus the report and establishment of the committee from the lens of an anti-racism approach to tackle racism and discrimination and how that affects the well-being and safety of Regina residents.
Fadare added that the consultation process should work closely with community organizations that are at the forefront of these conversations, such as Black in Saskatchewan. Fadare stressed the importance of working in partnership with organizations to come up with how the committee and terms of reference will be stipulated.
“We really are very keen on making sure that we fully and willfully represent our community properly. A lot of the times we actually don’t completely believe in just taking up the space, rather referring members of our community to be the ones that actually have the expertise,” Fadare added.
Fadare said Black in Saskatchewan was also disappointed they only found out the report was up for executive committee approval within 72 hours of Wednesday’s meeting.
“When our city puts out initiatives like Be Heard Regina, but only hears us selectively, it is nothing short of disheartening,” said delegate Jennifer Wani, also from Black in Saskatchewan.
Ward 4 Coun. Lori Bresciani also saw this as an overarching problem that would need to be addressed.
“I think we as a council all agree that the short timeframe for allowing the information to go out on Friday and delegations have to speak on Monday is an absolute detriment, I think, to the work that we’re doing on city council.
“The point is, people need more time than this. I hope that this is something that eventually we are going to get hammered out, because at the end of the day we want people to attend.”
Mayor Sandra Masters told reporters she and other councilors will work on reaching out to different community groups in the meantime.
“I think right now it would appear by vote of council that it’s going to be sent out for consultation with the various organizations and that will be fleshed out a little more,” Masters said Wednesday.
“But again, we don’t want to be prescriptive to a committee such as this and so if the committee comes back and changes their mandate, then that is completely within reason and really what we’re looking for is for that committee to provide advice on exactly those issues.”
Process for establishing committee started in 2020
The process for establishing a diversity, equity and inclusion committee started last summer.
At a city council meeting in late August, city council resolved that such a committee would be formed.
It also resolved that the city would undertake “extensive consultations with Black, Indigenous, and other visible minority residents and representative organizations, including the LGBTQ+ community, to determine the mandate, goals, and objective of the Committee”.
Fadare added it’s important the committee be focused on anti-racism as that was the initial intent of forming the committee.
Fadare said the report on this committee was the result of meetings Black in Saskatchewan had with former mayor Michael Fougere in June 2020.
Black in Saskatchewan has had two meetings with the current city council briefing them on a report initially submitted to council and what the next steps would be.
“From our understanding from that last meeting, the next step was to have an open forum, discussion or consultations to ensure that multiple diverse communities and community-based organizations were involved. However, it came to our surprise that that report, its terms of reference was written without doing that consultation,” Fadare said.
The report initially submitted to the city in June 2020 provided details on how the Black community in Regina faces racism and discrimination.
The report highlights issues of anti-Black racism in the education and justice systems, socioeconomic development and employment.