Durham Region appoints members of Anti-Racism taskforce to work at Whitby headquarters


Published November 25, 2021 at 5:13 pm

Durham Region has announced the appointees to its Anti-Racism Taskforce (DRART), a new Committee in Council to advise Regional Council on how to address systemic and interpersonal racism across Durham communities.

The quest to put the DRART together began way back in March 2019 when Durham Region hosted their first anti-Black racism town hall. The event featured representatives from the Region alongside a variety of Ontario’s pre-eminent Black leaders,  such as Vice-President of Ontario Black History Society Channon Oyeniran, who facilitated the event and would later join the DRART.

Stories shared in the engagement included everything from Black children being treated differently by teachers, school administrators and their peers, “to hate speech being directed at Black business owners,” Chief Administration Officer Elaine Baxter-Trahair said in a later report. “The stories underscore that anti-Black racism needs to be a priority focus area for the Region.”

Discussion at the town hall led to Baxter-Trahair’s follow-up in in October 2020 which recommended the creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division featuring the task force, with an initial focus on the elimination of anti-Black racism in the organization and across the community.

The Region committed to building the DRART in May 2021, when Council established the terms for what the task force would be. They decided on a 15-17 member committee with a formal structure, not unlike most other major advisory boards.

The task force was designed on a “hub-and-spoke” model that allows smaller sub-committees to then focus on racism experienced by all communities in Durham. Also in May, Council appointed Ajax Regional Councillor Sterling Lee as the council’s liaison to the committee.

Council then began accepting applications for the taskforce and more than 70 people applied. Fifteen were chosen.

Ten members were appointed to provide a citizen’s perspective to the task force:

  • Fatouma Ahmed, an expert in public policy, law and justice with a decade of public service experience
  • Shauna Bookal, Executive Director of Field Hockey Ontario
  • Shrishma Dave, co-founder and co-chair of a staff-led diversity and inclusion taskforce in Whitby
  • Laura Francis, a freelance writer often featured in area newspapers for her work regarding race relations
  • Trynée Hancock, an Intercultural Relations student with a background in non-profit work
  • Jeany Munawa, a Certified Disability Management Professional, who worked on reform measures with Toronto Police
  • Channon Oyeniran, Vice-President of Ontario Black History Society, who is pursuing her PhD at Queen’s
  • Zed Pickering, social activist and board member of North House and co-founder of Uxbridge’s anti-racism coalition
  • Kevin Vieneer, a Cadet Instructor Cadre Officer with the Canadian Forces and member of Diversity and Inclusion Council at a large telecom company.
  • Gail Wilson-Beier, an Educator currently pursuing a doctorate in cultural diversity

Four additional members were selected to represent Durham institutions and businesses:

  • Sherry Caibaiosai representing Whitby Library, former head librarian and CEO of the Mississauga’s First Nation Library,
  • Pita-Garth Case , Executive Director of DurhamOne, a local non-profit
  • Kari Garside, representing Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services, a child and social welfare expert
  • Nikhila Samuel, Director Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at Durham College
  • Jacqueline Williamson, of The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, a registered nurse and Durham College nursing faculty

A fuller overview of their work was released by Durham Region.

“Who we are in terms of our cultural identity, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, religious affiliation, age, etc. helps to shape our life experiences,” said Allison Hector-Alexander, Durham’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “It is important that the Region of Durham is a place where diversity is embraced and each one of us is valued and included.”

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