Barrie, Ont., city councillors approve creation of anti-racism task force

Barrie city councillors approved the creation of an anti-racism task force at a general committee meeting on Monday.

The composition of the task force will be determined by a steering committee that’s comprised of representatives from Barrie’s racialized communities.

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“I regret that it took until now, but I think the specific instigation was the Black Lives Matter protests in Barrie,” local mayor Jeff Lehman said of the task force Tuesday.

Lehman brought the motion to council with Ward 8 Councillor Jim Harris.

“We were very lucky to work with four members of the Black community in Barrie,” Lehman said. “They were absolutely incredible in terms of being blunt with their advice and suggestions.”

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The task force will be sponsored by the mayor’s office and the Barrie police chief, who will each be providing start-up funding of $5,000. Lehman said it’s been widely misreported that his office and the police chief will be providing $5,000 in total funding.

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“Maybe the motion wasn’t clear enough in its language, but its $5,000 each for a total of $10,000, and that’s not the budget for the whole initiative in any way,” Lehman clarified Tuesday. “That is in fact the seed funding to get it started.”

The task force will work with police services, the education sector, community groups, social services, labour and government agencies, the business sector and municipal organizations to facilitate a stronger understanding of the needs of Barrie’s racialized residents.

The task force’s steering group will draft a mandate and a proposed list of activities that focus on items like accountability, policy, awareness and sustainability.

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Moving forward, Lehman said a group will be gathered from organizations within each of Barrie’s racialized communities.

“The task force should roughly look like the racialized community in Barrie itself,” Lehman said. “When you look at the visible minority community in Barrie, it’s about 12 per cent of the overall population.”

Lehman said he and the police chief will not be running or directing the task force in any way — that will be up to the representatives from the city’s racialized communities.

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