JUNE 18, 2020
WATERLOO REGION — Black activists say they have yet to hear from regional politicians and police about a meeting to discuss their demands to defund police and invest in community-based social programs instead.
It has been two weeks since thousands of people marched to protest systemic anti-Black racism and, as of Thursday, neither regional council nor Waterloo Regional Police Services had reached out to the African, Caribbean and Black Network.
Fitsum Areguy, a member of the group, said recommendations put forward by regional council earlier this week were made without consulting the network.
“This is a pattern of disrespect,” he said in an interview Thursday, citing the need for meaningful conversation to occur.
“They have to work extra hard to engage and regain the trust of our community.”
Regional Chair Karen Redman introduced the motion at Tuesday’s council meeting and councillors voted unanimously to confirm their commitment to combatting racism by supporting policies and programs that address the inequities faced by members of the Black community.
Redman said the motion’s unanimous support showed all of council wants to see positive change.
“Council spoke with one voice and they were in solidarity with the community,” Redman said. “In one voice we said we can do something about this.”
She said she spoke to some of the rally organizers, but not all (including the ACB Network), before creating the motion.
“It wasn’t something, I think, that happened in a vacuum,” she said, acknowledging that not all organizers were consulted. “I’m happy to continue to talk to all the others.”
In an op-ed in The Record, the ACB Network said the region needs to fund social programs led by Black and Indigenous people to provide supports for these communities instead of investing funds in existing social agencies that are led by white people.
“With their actions, Region of Waterloo council has clearly demonstrated how deeply anti-Black racism is entrenched within their bureaucracy and related institutions,” it read. “The regional chair and council have ignored the expertise within, and recommendations from, Black communities and allies.”
Redman said that while council may not do everything right the first time, there is a sincere desire to take action immediately and that was embedded in the motion.
“I think the one thing council is not comfortable with is doing nothing,” Redman said.
She said she thought the rally, which drew thousands to join the call to end systemic racism, demanded a response from regional council which is in the unique position of overseeing a variety of programs in the community that support marginalized groups.
Council asked for an assessment of what the region is investing in, and if there are barriers to get funding. Redman also plans to use her community roundtable to have a discussion focused on anti-racism.
Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin has previously said he was open to discussions with the ACB Network about its demands which also include ending the School Resource Officer program as well as a Kitchener youth mentoring program called COPs.
In an emailed statement on Thursday, Waterloo Regional Police said: “This is a systemic issue that requires a systemic solution. The Chair of the Police Services Board has taken on the role of managing and co-ordinating outreach and the Waterloo Regional Police Service will play a role in that outreach.”