Councillor Brockington releases a statement on his commitment to fight racial injustice, discrimination and racism

Councillor Brockington releases a statement on his commitment to fight racial injustice, discrimination and racism

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: ALL HUMANS ARE BORN EQUAL IN DIGNITY AND RIGHTS

I stand firmly with all members of the community and oppose injustice, discrimination and racism in every form. I am fully committed to working with all parties for a better society for all.

Like you, I was shocked to see the video from Minneapolis – a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, which ultimately took his life.  This was not a one-off.  Examples of systematic racism has happened for years, for decades, for centuries.  It not only exists in police departments.  It permeates our society.  It must end now.

Today, many residents will show their solidarity in various ways, including participating in the “No Peace Until Justice” march downtown.  I encourage everyone in the community to stand in solidarity with the marchers, in whatever way you feel most comfortable.

While we would like to think that as Canadians we are better than what we have witnessed south of the border or in other countries, our own history and legacy is filled with racism.  The relationship with indigenous/First Nation, Inuit and Metis peoples is fraught with neglect, mistreatment and overt racism.  The Canadian government interned Japanese Canadians during the second world war, treating them as enemies of the people and refused Jewish refugees seeking safety in Canada, denying permission to dock in our harbours.  Whether it be lack of educational attainment, discrimination in the criminal justice system, lack of employment, housing and other social services opportunities for Black and other racialized communities, the entire system must be over-hauled.

Earlier this week, my colleague Coun Rawlson King wrote in the Ottawa Citizen, “Canadians ought not make the assumption that our country has not been impacted by the same currents of racial injustice and entrenched, systemic inequality. Canada is also confronted by the same major and historical challenges, which include anti-black racism, police brutality, the controversial practice of carding, and the wide economic disparities encountered by Indigenous communities and people of colour.”   He is correct.

Over the last year, the City has moved to implement new anti-racism measures, including securing in the budget, creating an anti-racism secretariat to address systemic racism in our community and within the organization.  The secretariat will ensure we apply an anti-racism lens to City policies, so the decisions made and services provided are delivered to all residents equitably. It will help collect the right data, make sure the work is actively removing barriers and that resources are placed in the places they will make the most difference.

On Wednesday (June 3) Councillor King was nominated at FEDCO to be the Council Liaison for Anti-Racism and Ethnocultural Relations Initiatives. And, in the coming weeks, the City will hire an anti-racism specialist who will conduct an environmental scan to inform a set of strategic actions.

The City of Ottawa is committed to addressing discrimination and has specific policies and targeted strategies to support City staff, Indigenous, Black and other racialized and equity-seeking groups, and to train City staff to be aware of the impact of historic and current inequities in their daily work.   These include the Equity and Inclusion Lens Handbook, Diversity Snapshots and training, Reconciliation Action Plan, Municipal Immigration Strategy, and the Women and Gender Equity Strategy (in development). This work has influenced service delivery and policy changes across the organization.

 This week, several residents across Ottawa have contacted members of Council demanding that Council defund the Ottawa Police Service.  The public call that is being made asks for three things:

  1. To never again vote to increase the Ottawa Police Services budget.
  2. To propose and implement a OPS budget cut of, at the absolute minimum, $49.8 million in accordance with the city treasurer’s forecasted operating budget shortfall as we struggle to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. To prioritize the expansion of community-led health and safety initiatives over future financial investment into the Ottawa Police Services.

The request goes on to state that our city must prioritize alternatives like education, increased mental health services, housing initiatives, income security, harm reduction services, accessible rehabilitation, mutual aid, conflict resolution services, transformative justice, and other vital community-based support systems.  I support this latter request.  I believe proactive, community and social supports are investments in communities, many communities have been underserved far too long.  I have remarked to colleagues more than once how the Police budget generates so little discourse from Council, yet an additional $500,000 for an emergency fund to address critical social needs always gets the run around.

The Ottawa Police serve a critical role in our community and are very much needed.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for an internal overhaul or an honest discussion about how their budget is derived to address community needs.  Although I am not a member of the Ottawa Police Board, I have made it a point to attend multiple Finance and Audit Committee meetings to get a better understanding of their budget and to advocate for River Ward’s needs.

My colleague, Coun Jeff Leiper shared his thoughts this week and provided some information about how the Ottawa Police Services Board is structured.  I am sharing this for your information.

“The Ottawa Police Service is not a City department but is rather a separate and independent organization. It is overseen by a civilian body, the Ottawa Police Service Board (mandated by the Police Services Act), and police are held accountable as well through other provincial bodies such as the Ontario Civilian Police Commission and the Office of the Independent Review Director. City Council appoints four of the seven members of that Board. Three Councillors are appointed by Council, along with one citizen member. The other three members are appointed by the Province of Ontario. Those Councillors don’t represent Council per se and, once appointed, their responsibilities are set by Provincial legislation: the Police Services Act. Council can’t direct those Councillors in how they carry out their roles as Members of the Police Services Board, given the need to ensure that oversight of the Police is not seen as being subject to political intervention.

The Ottawa Police Services every year develops a budget, approved by its Board, that it then presents to City Council for consideration and approval. It is required, under the Police Services Act, to base the budget on ensuring that it is sufficient to provide adequate and effective policing in accordance with the needs of the municipality. While City Council ultimately determines the overall budget for the Board, it legally cannot accept or reject individual items in the police budget”

In River Ward, I pride myself on being an active and engaged Councillor.  I aim to continuously improve on how I represent my constituents – all constituents.

Our population has a diverse socio-economic mix. We have the second highest number of social housing units in Ottawa. Poverty exists and impacts racialized communities at a higher rate.

I have strived to actively engage under represented communities, by hosting social hours and breakfasts, knocking on doors, bringing consultation sessions right in to social housing complexes, participating in safety audits, endorsing the plan to expand the Carlington Community Health Centre, leading a needs assessment for the Alexander Community Centre renovation, advocating for job fairs to come right in to at-risk neighbourhoods, rebuilding local parks and truly be a champion for more resources for community partners that serve the most needy of our communities.  I engage community partners and attend community roundtables to address the on-going needs in these neighbourhoods.  I also applaud policy changes for supports like a basic universal income, improved affordable housing and more affordable child care.  As a former School Board Trustee, I remain very interested in understanding how school boards and our local schools address the needs of at-risk students, many of which are visible minorities and how I as a City Councillor can work more closely with the schools on addressing academic, social and community needs.

After the march ends today the marathon begins.

I acknowledge that racism exists.  It is far more widespread than many believe.

I am committed to listening.

I am committed to respecting all citizens.

I am committed to speaking up when I witness or learn of injustice, discrimination and/or racism.

I am committed to better understand the correlations between racism, economic prosperity and other forms of injustice.

I am committed to stand shoulder to shoulder with Black residents and other visible minorities to help ensure changes are made.

In Solidarity,

Riley Brockington

City Councillor – River Ward

City of Ottawa