The City of Markham is taking steps to ensure all community members can “live their best lives” free from barriers of racism, discrimination and access.
“As Canada’s most diverse community, we have accomplished so much together,” Mayor Frank Scarpitti says. “There’s more to do and the City of Markham is actively creating impactful ways to elevate the voices of our community.”
The city released its updated Diversity Action Plan (2022 to 2027) and a new Eliminating Anti-Black Racism Plan (2022 to 2027) on June 13. Both were created through a partnership with the Ted Rogers School of Management’s Diversity Institute and based on feedback collected from several community consultations held in fall 2021.
“The city is dedicated to fighting against all forms of hate and inequities. As such, the plans inform the development of new policies, services, programs and spaces that are inclusive and accessible to all Markham residents,” Scarpitti says.
The updated Diversity Action Plan is embedded in the city’s strategic plan, entitled Building Markham’s Future Together. “A focus on diversity shows the dedication of the administrators and citizens of the city to continue Markham’s vibrancy, success and innovation,” Markham CAO Andy Taylor says. “Everyone in Markham should always have a sense of belonging to live their best lives free from barriers of racism, discrimination and access.”
The city describes the updated Diversity Action Plan as a “community-oriented strategy” that addresses diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, anti-racism and anti-discrimination in all city efforts. “The plan is evergreen and adaptable and reflects the experiences and needs of Markham’s diverse communities. The plan includes themes and recommended actions and opens the door for ongoing community conversations and transparency so everyone can feel comfortable and included.”
The Diversity Action Plan supports and reinforces the Eliminating Anti-Black Racism Plan, which was endorsed by Markham City Council, and is based on feedback from Markham’s Black communities. “The plan helps ensure members from Markham’s Black, African, African-Canadian, African-Caribbean and Caribbean communities always feel welcome and safe,” the city reports.
The time for an updated plan is ripe, maintains Mary Anne Chambers, special advisor on Anti-Black Racism, pointing to local, national and global events that have exposed “racism and community angst…An Anti-Black Racism Plan is exactly what the Black community needs and expects to achieve meaningful results for change.”
The benefits to inclusive communities are many and underscore the need to break down barriers. “Extensive research has shown that historical and systemic discrimination, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, and many forms of bias, along with lack of social capital has built complex and embedded barriers for equity-deserving groups to education, jobs and training, support services and programs,” says Wendy Cukier, founder of the Diversity Institute.
The Institute provided research support and best practices recommendations for the Diversity Action Plan. “Research also shows that inclusive environments improve workplaces, communities and the economy,” Cukier adds. “The City of Markham’s Diversity Action Plan embeds a diversity lens into everything that the city does and is a great tool for building a more inclusive and accessible city.”
During community consultations, participants listed acceptance, accessibility, accountability, cohesion, diversity, empathy, equity, fairness, harmony, inclusion, multiculturalism, transparency, representation and respect as most important values for the community.
The city credits that information with highlighting the need for “enhanced focus” on a number of communities, including persons living with disabilities, LGBTQ2+ and gender minority communities, Indigenous and religious faith communities. Learn more and download the plans at markham.ca/DiversityActionPlan.
Photo: Indigenous performance artist Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone, accompanied by Valentina Morelli, performed at the celebration launch of the Diversity Action Plan and Eliminating Anti-Black Racism Action Plan held at the Aaniin Community Centre.