Anti-racism and anti-discrimination for municipalities: Introductory manual

1. Introduction

This document is a ”how-to” guide. It gives municipalities directions on how they can start or improve anti-racism and anti-discrimination initiatives. This manual focuses on small and medium-size municipalities but any municipality, large or small, should find it useful.

Municipalities must provide good government to the people they serve. They are the “guardians of the public interest” but they also have various roles and responsibilities. Municipalities provide services such as: social welfare, health, policing, recreation services, libraries, public transportation, road construction and water. Municipal governments enact by-laws, collect property taxes and create policies relating to zoning regulations, sidewalk regulations and land use and permits (such as parking, alcohol and use of public space). They are also responsible for emergency management.

Municipalities are employers of police, social workers, building and maintenance workers and other workers who provide municipal services. In some instances they may be responsible for rental housing units. They plan and promote economic and social development. As well, they are partners and leaders in community development.

Ontario’s communities are becoming more diverse. They are moving towards a more global outlook, in trade or to acquire workers. The media and internet make us more aware of human rights and racism issues. It can be a challenge knowing how to interact with, understand, welcome and provide opportunities to a range of different ethno-racial groups, cultures and religions within our communities, and do what is considered “right” for everyone.

Municipalities, boroughs, cities, regions, towns and villages are closely linked to the local population. They know what is needed to address the social integration of ethno-racial and culturally diverse groups in their own community.

While this manual focuses on addressing racism, the principles of anti-racism can be applied to all forms of discrimination. Racism is highlighted because there is a history of it being ignored and its existence denied.

BOX 1: Anti-racism

  • Identifies, isolates and challenges racism
  • Challenges beliefs that foster racism
  • Uses direct action at personal and institutional levels
  • Creates and implements actions to fight racism for individuals and within an organization or workforce.


  • Denies equal treatment and opportunities to individuals and groups
  • Policies or practices that exclude or limit an individual or groups from accessing services, employment, housing and enjoying all the benefits of society.

The Canadian Commission for the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is building a network of municipalities across Ontario, Canada and across the world to promote and protect human rights and fight racism through coordination and shared responsibility. The Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD) was formed in 2006 from this vision.

CCMARD’s Ontario membership grew from 3 in 2006 to 11 municipalities in 2010. It has grown slowly and there is more work to be done to make its objectives better known and to get municipalities more involved.

The United Nations, which established the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, 1966, called for communities from around the world to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

BOX 2: Racism

  • Racism is a belief that one group is better than another group because of race or colour
  • Racism can be a conscious or unconscious attitude or value based on an assumption about characteristics of a particular group or religion
  • Racism can be deeply rooted and displayed openly in racial jokes and slurs or hate crimes
  • Racism can happen on an individual level, or on a systemic or institutional level
  • Racism can be profiling or stereotyping of individuals because they belong to a certain race
  • Racism can occur when policies or practices that may seem or are intended to be neutral result
    in disadvantages for people of a certain race, ethnic, national or religious group
  • Racism can result from historical privilege of people who have power.
Print: 978-1-4435-3241-9 | HTML: 978-1-4435-3242-6 | PDF: 978-1-4435-3243-3
Code Grounds: 
Social Areas: 
Resource Type: 
Activity Type: 

2. Getting started – developing a plan

Develop a plan: Interested in starting initiatives to raise awareness about discrimination? Interested in addressing diversity issues or promoting inclusion, or anti-racism and anti-discrimination practices? If you are, you start by developing a plan of action that meets the needs. A plan is a “must” for anti-racism work because it encourages a sustained commitment and awareness; anti-racism work is not a one-time event.

BOX 3: Diversity

  • Diversity means the presence of a wide range of human qualities and attributes within
    a group
  • Diversity recognizes that each person has unique characteristics.

The words “inclusion” and “inclusive” often come up in discussions on plans, programs and initiatives about social inclusion. They can have many different meanings and be understood in different ways.

The Laidlaw Foundation’s study on Immigrant Settlement and Social Inclusion defined “social inclusion” as “making sure that all children and adults are able to participate as valued, respected and contributing members of society. It is about closing physical, social and economic distances separating people, rather than only about eliminating boundaries or barriers between us and them.”[1] In this manual, inclusion means all members of a community have equal access to the resources of their community and the opportunity to participate in all areas, regardless of their race, gender, social class, religion, sexual identity or other dimension of diversity.

While there are many models to help you plan, the basic concepts are generally the same (see reference Box 4). Each municipality has its own unique needs so plans should be changed and improved along the way depending on resources and priorities.

BOX 4: The planning process

  • Taking stock of activities
  • Research
  • Identify stakeholders/ community capacity
  • Analysis and moving forward

Reasons: Remember to identify the reason(s) for conducting anti-racism and anti-discrimination work. Is it because of a need in the community that has not been addressed? Have individuals or groups in the community identified a problem or requested support for an issue? Is it in reaction to an incident that occurred within the community? Is it a desire to ensure that the municipality is more inclusive for all its members? The reasons will help determine the goals of the work. Although the plan may be a response to a situation, the act of planning should be proactive with the aim of preventing discrimination in the future.

A clear plan of action will help municipalities decide what resources they have, how to effectively use them and how to identify the short and long term goals. It provides a blue print or guide to achieve inclusion.

[1] Omidvar, Ratna and Richmond, Ted, Immigrant settlement and social inclusion in Canada, 2003 Laidlaw Foundation, pg viii 

3. The planning process

3.1 Taking stock of activities

Know what is happening: First, look at all your existing activities. Some municipalities may already have committees set up or a city councillor or mayor who is interested in taking on issues of anti-racism. Are there departments or agencies in the city’s governance structure, such as health or the police, which have committees or individuals looking into race-related issues? Make a list of what is being done now, and by whom, to avoid duplication and to find ways of building on each other’s work.

3.2 Research: know your community make-up and current issues

It is important to know who lives in the community and what issues are facing them. Data can be collected quantitatively and/or qualitatively (see Box 5).

Data: Look at current information about the population and how it is changing. This information gives you a picture of who is living in the community. If you already have this information, update it or reorganize the data to get a better understanding of trends. Statistics Canada has census information that covers the large cities and surrounding areas in the Census Metropolitan Area. Smaller towns will find figures in rural census tracts.

BOX 5: Research

  • Data can be gathered through literature reviews, sampling, interviews, focus groups, questionnaires
  • Quantitative data is about numbers: how many people visited the mayor’s office, how many people moved into or out of a neighbourhood
  • Qualitative data talks about stories and opinions: for example, how a service was provided and whether the service was good or bad.

For more information see the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s data collection guide, Count me in!

Sources of data: To get a quick sense of what issues of racism and discrimination face groups in the municipality, consult with representatives of groups most often affected. Ask councillors and mayor’s offices what issues have been raised with them. Also, local media such as radio and community newspapers may retain recent information about important events or racism and discrimination and people’s views on specific subjects. Think about what kind of national and provincial trends exist in racism and discrimination. Organizations such as the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Human Rights Commissions and CCMARD are good sources for this type of information. Provincial and Federal websites can be very useful (see Appendix 1 for the list of websites).

3.3 Identifying stakeholders/community capacity

Who: Who in the community can provide or has access to data? Who has an interest in the results? These may be people who are affected by the need or problem or are parties that have influence or power over the issue. The successful or unsuccessful outcome of any anti-racist strategy involves looking at all members of the community as stakeholders, including people who are not members of racialized groups. This does not mean that everyone has to take part in the entire planning process. People can be involved where they can make the most valuable contribution.

Direct and indirect stakeholders: Deciding who are “direct” and “indirect” stakeholders in the community is important. The “direct” stakeholders are individuals or groups that are the most affected by issues of racism and discrimination. They are probably from particular ethnic or racial backgrounds that are not part of the majority group in the community or the power structure. They could include concerned people from the community at large, anti-racism and human rights activists, social workers, and organizations in the voluntary and faith sectors.

“Indirect” stakeholders will include most community members. They have an interest or investment in anti-racism and anti-discrimination, but may not be aware of this interest. Indirect stakeholders may include local businesses that want customers; industries that need skilled workers; schools serving pupils from different ethno-racial and faith backgrounds; hospitals and clinics that want to attract and retain professionals, or the tourism industry that wants to promote and increase tourism to the area.

Stakeholder chart: Each of these direct or indirect stakeholders may suggest solutions that will only address their own interest and needs. Use a stakeholder chart to help identify and organize information about stakeholders, their interest in the outcome and their level of involvement in the process. See Appendix 2 for an example of a stakeholder chart that demonstrates: 1) why stakeholders are interested in anti-racism work, 2) the level of interest and what benefits and 3) risks are involved.

Getting people involved: Depending on the size of the municipality and the interest
in the issue, a stakeholder group could be quite large. Committees, focus groups and community meetings can help get people interested and recruited to plan, implement and monitor chosen activities or strategies. In smaller municipalities, a single person can act as a catalyst to get the process underway. The overall goal is to make sure that there is community participation in the municipality’s anti-racism, anti-discrimination initiative at all stages. This helps the municipality identify solutions and develop strategies or action plans that meet the communities’ needs and will build better relationships between the municipality and its residents.

Working with community stakeholders early on has many advantages. It gives people a sense of ownership, links diverse groups, generates interest, heads off potential conflicts, generates local capacity building, and helps to formulate and support solutions that are meaningful to the community. Building relationships requires time to set up and to maintain, but in the long term partnering creates
a bigger impact.

3.4 Analysis – setting goals, objectives and activities – moving forward

You’ve gathered useful background information. Now what do you do with it?

Organize information: First, organize the information in a way that summarizes the most essential information. A SWOT analysis (see Box 6) is a simple way to summarize the information. It organizes information in a way that directly helps with planning.

Goals, objectives, activities: A well done SWOT analysis helps pinpoint goals, objectives, and activities that are part of a complete plan. The terms “goals” and “objectives” are often used interchangeably. However, it is useful to distinguish them. A goal is an aspiration or aim that directly relates to the plans purpose. For example, the goals of an anti-racism plan could be to reduce incidents of racial discrimination in the community and the experiences of racism. Goals are often long term aims.

An “objective” would be a step to obtaining the goal. For example, increasing awareness of the impact of racism in the community would be an objective of the goal of reducing incidents of racial discrimination. Objectives are often direct actions and may be shorter-term than goals. For example, to reach the objective of increasing awareness of the impact of racism, activities could include developing a report on the experience of individuals who have faced incidents of racism or organizing a rally to oppose racism in the community.

An effective plan has activities that lead to the goal. It aims to develop and maintain the capacity to do the work. Plans will not be successful if the work can’t be sustained throughout the life of the plan.

BOX 6: SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)

Strengths – what the municipality does well? What community supports are available to draw on?
Weaknesses – lack of resources, knowledge, awareness, lack of infrastructure
Opportunities – taking advantage of trends or incidents, business and social service needs, influx of
immigrants, tourists, professionals
Threats – challenges, concerns, opposition.

SMART: The SMART tool (see Box 7) is an effective way to set goals and objectives. Use the five elements in the SMART tool to help set your goals and objectives. Setting SMART goals and objectives should ensure that a plan is realistic and can be properly evaluated.

Activities must be clearly connected to identified goals and objectives. In detailing activities it is important to identify them in a SMART fashion too. Many activities are planned that fall short because of a failure to consider all things carefully.

BOX 7: SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed)

Specific – is the goal or objective sufficiently specific to easily understand
Measurable – Can success at achieving the goal be measured and confirmed
Attainable – Goals and objectives can be reached within resources available to the municipality
Realistic – Goals and objectives are within the realm of possibility
Timed – Goals and objectives are associate with clear timelines to guide activity

Organizational responsibility: 

4. Working with committees

Committees are often a central part of municipal anti-racism and anti-discrimination work. Establishing and running effective committees often makes a difference between some success and failure.

Box 8 contains some basic rules for effective committee work. However, municipal committees addressing racism and discrimination usually require the support of at least one elected official to have meaningful impact in the municipality. With the support of an elected official, many doors to administrative support and commitment are more easily opened, and many barriers to public recognition and support can be addressed.

BOX 8: For an effective committee

  • Have representation from community, politicians, administration
  • Involve motivated people
  • Aim for a mixture of skills, abilities, and experience
  • Define roles and responsibilities and decision making processes clearly
  • Define strategic objectives
  • Report and establish liaison relationship with municipal council
  • Provide progress reports to the community.

One of the main struggles with committees is keeping the members focused. The SMART plan described in Box 7 is one way of helping in this regard. SMART goals, objectives and activities should ensure that the committee is doing meaningful work.

Organizational responsibility: 

5. Reaching out to Aboriginal communities

Many municipalities have First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations that border the municipality or visit the municipality for services such as health care, education and business. Other municipalities have large urban Aboriginal populations within the community. Aboriginal people have historically experienced significant racism and discrimination. To address their unique historical experience as part of anti-racism and anti-discrimination work requires recognition of their unique history and status in Canada.

Aboriginal communities are different from non-Aboriginal Canadians in significant ways. They have constitutional guarantees to a system of Aboriginal governance that exists alongside other Canadian political structures. In addition, Aboriginal culture is founded on a worldview that is unique. It governs many aspects of their lives and affects how they may relate with Canadian society and government.

It is essential to understand Aboriginal communities in your area and learn about their experiences. You may want to assess your community’s current interaction with Aboriginal communities and review the services that are provided. Many different organizations, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, have information to share. See Box 9 for some organizations that may prove useful.

Some may want to but are hesitant to work with Aboriginal people because they don’t want to appear to be wrong or politically incorrect. In some situations, it can be as easy as simply visiting and inviting their participation. Keep an open mind and do expect to learn about other ways of knowing. Aboriginal peoples have learned a great deal about the non-Aboriginal world view. The learning experience needs to go both ways with mutual respect and honesty. One can build bridges and open dialogue by sharing cultural events. Youth groups in both communities will have creative ways to engage in cross-cultural activities, and it is useful to include them whenever possible.

Elders play a significant role in Aboriginal community life. It is important that they be involved. Meeting elders in their communities rather than have them come to offices will show your interest in learning and sharing. For elders to feel involved, they must feel that their views are received with respect and are being taken seriously.

It is important to respect Aboriginal governance structures and cultural norms. For example, starting a dialogue with a letter from a Mayor to the Chief of a First Nations community or the President of a Métis council shows respect. In certain regions, there may be more than one First Nations Chief and each chief should be included.

It may be useful to start with a particular need and make a specific effort to address that need from the perspective of the Aboriginal community. Work with the community to meet that need. Starting with something small and tangible will help to establish the necessary relationships and understanding to productively work together to address racism and discrimination on a longer-term basis.

BOX 9: Where to get current information?

a. Aboriginal organizations

  • First Nations Statistical Institute
  • Assembly of First Nations
  • Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
  • Métis National Council, Métis Nation of Ontario
  • Chiefs of Ontario
  • Tungasuvvingat Inuit

b. Local level

  • Community services and agencies, area YMCAs, schools, legal clinics etc.

c. Federal and provincial level

  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
  • Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs
  • Statistics Canada
  • Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
Code Grounds: 

6. Possible activities

Look at successful efforts by other municipalities as a starting point for anti-racism and anti-discrimination activities for your municipality. This section covers five key areas:

  1. Data collection, monitoring and reporting
  2. Raising awareness
  3. Encourage and support initiatives in the community
  4. Policy and by-law development
  5. Responding to incidents of racism and discrimination.

Examples of activities, based on the experiences of various municipalities across Canada, are included. Case studies describe specific initiatives in more detail. There are tips how to make the most of these types of activities.

1. Data collection, monitoring and reporting

Municipalities, in their roles as employers and service providers, should collect and analyze data on issues of racism and discrimination in the community. Gather this information through surveys, interviews, document reviews and so on. Collect information that identifies issues or gaps in services, clarifies issues and suggests possible solutions or initiatives to deal with problems. In addition, gather information to monitor the effectiveness of the municipality’s anti-racism and anti-discrimination initiatives.

Activities and examples

  • Research workforce makeup:
    • The City of Thunder Bay conducted a voluntary self-identification workforce survey of its staff to identify demographic details of its workforce and compare these with the general population.
  • Research issues and concerns in the community:
    • The Sioux Lookout Anti-racism Committee (SLARC) delivered surveys on community attitudes to every postal box in the municipality. 90% of respondents reported race-related problems in the community. This led to community discussions on what actions to take to address the issues in the survey. Sioux Lookout followed up by conducting surveys in 1990, 2000 and 2005 to assess the changing needs of the community.
    • The City of Sudbury held focus groups among the Aboriginal, Francophone, multicultural and educational sectors. Participants identified service deficiencies that are perceived to be associated with institutional racism.
  • Monitor reports of hate crimes and related incidents:
    • York Regional Police monitors the number of hate crime investigations conducted. They also record incidents of possible hate, even if they are determined not to be criminal.
    • The City of Saskatoon monitors police statistics and releases reports of incidents of racism.

Case study – Thunder Bay’s Voluntary Workforce Profile Survey

Located on the shores of Lake Superior, the City of Thunder Bay is the largest municipality in Northwestern Ontario. Thunder Bay’s population of 109,140 is the sixth most culturally diverse in North America. Deeply rooted in European and Aboriginal cultures, Thunder Bay values its diversity and continues to pursue ways of addressing racism and discrimination in its community.

In 2005, the Corporation of the City of Thunder Bay introduced its Voluntary Workforce Profile Survey, which asked municipal employees to identify if they were a member of a historically disadvantaged group. The survey collected data to compare the diversity of the workforce with the diversity of the city. Employees declared if they were members of one or more of the following groups: women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities. Participation was voluntary.

The survey clearly set out the reasons for collecting the data to address any concerns that employees might have on how the information would be used. The percentage of employees that identified themselves in each of the categories was compared with the city’s demographic information from the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of Thunder Bay. (see )

In 2008, a second Voluntary Workforce Profile Survey was conducted and the Corporation compared their workforce data with the demographic data of Thunder Bay from the 2006 Statistics Canada Census. The Corporation found that 3.8% of its employees identified as members of a visible minority group, compared to 2.71% of the population; 6.5% of its employees identified as Aboriginal, compared to 8.31% of Thunder Bay’s population.

By collecting data on its workforce, the Corporation could determine whether its workforce was as diverse as the community. The analysis did not indicate that there were significant differences between the diversity of Thunder Bay’s municipal employees and the city’s population. However, Aboriginals were underrepresented in municipal employment and they were the fastest growing segment of the designated groups in the study.

Based on these findings, the Corporation of Thunder Bay developed human rights policies and procedures that require equitable recruitment practices, hiring and employment. The Corporation reviewed its workforce policies and programs for systemic biases. The Corporation continued tracking its workforce diversity to ensure that municipal employees are representative of the community and its increasing diversity.


Municipalities should:

  • Refer to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s guide to data collection, Count me in! Collecting human rights-based data, available at
  • Encourage decision-makers to learn about data collection and the role it can play in identifying and eliminating racism and discrimination
  • Establish partnerships with academic researchers to help conducted needed research
  • Involve the community and other stakeholders in any research project that affects them
  • Ensure data is used and stored responsibly.

2. Raising awareness

Holding community dialogues, raising awareness about residents’ rights and responsibilities toward racism, and communicating the consequences of discrimination on the community and its members is an effective way for municipalities to educate the public. When municipalities raise awareness about racism and discrimination, they support their residents to better know what racism and discrimination can look like and help to prevent it.

Activities and examples

  • Host cultural events to create awareness of diversity in the community:
    • The Timmins Multicultural Society hosts annual Multicultural Festivals where local cultural groups showcase traditional cuisine, dress and custom. Performers, craft vendors, clubs and organizations from different cultural groups in the community take part in the festival. These activities support better understanding that may contribute to addressing racism and discrimination
  • Organize annual awareness commemorations:
    • Black History Month is officially acknowledged in many cities including Guelph and Wellington County, New Glasgow, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal.
    • Asian Heritage Month is recognized and celebrated in Vancouver, Ottawa. Winnipeg, London, Toronto and Calgary.
  • Establish committees that organize cross-cultural dialogue or provide access to information on racism:
    • The Town of Markham’s Race Relations Committee gathers information and consults with the community to advise the municipal council on issues involving race, ethno-cultural equity and related issues. They also partner with institutions and voluntary organizations to promote mutual trust among the town’s racial and ethno-cultural groups.
    • The Town of Ajax's Diversity and Community Engagement Advisory Committee provides a forum for residents to discuss issues of diversity and how the Town can assist or respond to their concerns.
    • The Town of Georgina’s Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee posts meeting agendas and minutes online.
    • The City of Windsor’s Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee held “Take a Stand Against Racism, an event co-sponsored by community and union groups.
  • Employ local media to raise the profile of diversity, racism, and discrimination issues:
    • The North Bay & District Multicultural Centre hosts a radio show that discusses the city’s immigration program. Current and past programs are also available on North Bay Radio’s website.
  • Create spaces where people can learn about and discuss racism and discrimination:
    • For 12 years, The National Coalition Building Institute has helped the City of Greater Sudbury hold workshops. Participants share their experiences of racism, identify community allies, and work to break down barriers between people in schools, businesses and government. .
  • Create public education campaigns:
    • The City of Toronto distributes posters on hate, equity and respect for diversity. The public education campaign is aimed at educating and providing information to the general population and showing support for racialized communities.
    • Prince George held an Anti-Racism Protocol Signing Ceremony at the Prince George Civic Centre on March 22, 2010.
  • Train and educate stakeholders:
    • The Calgary Centre for Culture, Equity and Diversity runs workshops for youth and people from diverse backgrounds and trains them to respond to racist activities in safe, non-violent and legal ways.
    • Halifax integrates anti-racism and multi-cultural content into existing, ongoing and future training sessions for staff and elected members.

Case Study – Greater Sudbury’s “Diversity Thrives Here” Campaign

The City of Greater Sudbury is the largest city in Northern Ontario with a population of 158,000. Cultural diversity is considered to be an important part of the present and future of Greater Sudbury because the city’s population is aging and the only population growth is within the Aboriginal and multicultural communities. With its increasing diversity, the City has been addressing the barriers to racialized groups to access services and make them feel welcome in Greater Sudbury. As part of its plan, the City of Greater Sudbury submitted a funding proposal to the Department of Canadian Heritage in the fall of 2003 and obtained funding in 2004 for the City’s multiculturalism project, Diversity Thrives Here!

Diversity Thrives Here! involved three stages of organized activities aimed to create cultural awareness. In the first stage of the project, the City engaged with service providers and residents to discuss and identify issues of inclusion and diversity and ways to ensure inclusivity. The City held “Conversation Cafés” and a Capacity-Building Forum to initiate dialogues on inclusion, and created an inventory mapping of municipal services and areas where racialized groups were underserved.

In the second stage of the plan, the City trained community members and youth leaders on ways to raise cultural awareness, to achieve common goals and to build coalitions for cross-cultural understanding. Activities included a three-hour dialogue, “Building Bridges to the Native Community,” on building bridges of understanding and communication with the Aboriginal community. It included ways to respectfully resolve issues. An urban Aboriginal Dialogue involved Aboriginal residents in implementing the City’s diversity plan.

The activities are designed to engage community members in developing a broader plan for anti-racism and anti-discrimination in the city. At a final ”Diversity Summit,” community champions, leaders and members created a diversity plan and governance structure that included tips to make Greater Sudbury more socially and economically inclusive. At the end of the process, City Council passed a resolution to establish the Diversity Advisory Panel and the Community Diversity Plan.


Municipalities can:

  • Collaborate with motivated community members and groups to create awareness about racism and discrimination
  • Participate in anti-racism and diversity conferences to learn about ways to raise awareness and gather tools and promote activities
  • Learn from larger organizations with experience in cross-cultural dialogues to plan events that raise awareness (e.g. The National Coalition-Building Institute; Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, Canadian Race Relations Foundation).

3. Encourage and support initiatives in the community

Municipalities show leadership by encouraging and supporting community initiatives to address racism and discrimination. They can help residents, organizations, unions, schools and businesses to begin or continue to actively address racism and discrimination. Municipalities can do this by facilitating community initiatives and providing incentives and different types of resources, including information, funding and labour. Encouraging and supporting others is a powerful way to deal with resource limits and expand the effort.

Activities and examples

  • Support cultural events and activities organized within the community:
    • For Kitchener-Waterloo’s Festival of Neighbourhoods, the municipality’s Social Planning Council supports the community in hosting and participating in events, including guidance on event planning ideas and resources.
    • Williams Lake co-hosts “Challenge Day” with community organizations and schools, where students, teachers and volunteers tackle bullying, racism and violence. The program allows students time to be heard and an opportunity for people to accept each other and realize that everyone has their own issues and differences.
  • Establish award programs for services that actively promote diversity and anti-discrimination:
    • Abbotsford Community Services in B.C. organizes the Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards Ceremony, to recognize best practices of local community organizations and businesses that work to promote inclusion and the diversity of the community. It features guest speakers from organizations that promote diversity, as well as representatives from different levels of government.
    • Hamilton recognizes leaders of faith, culture and other groups and partners with leaders
      from large institutions and organizations.
  • Develop information portals to support others as they do their work:

Case study – Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (

The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) was formed by joining two initiatives, Strengthening of Hamilton’s Community Initiative (SHCI) and the Civic and Resource Center Initiative (C&RC). SHCI was a city initiative following September 11, 2001. The City was an active member in SHCI and provided project management staff for the initiative through a secondment from the Community Services Department.

In the same year, the City of Hamilton’s Mayor’s office played an important role in coordinating community dialogues after the burning of a local Hindu temple generated concerns among Hamilton citizens. As SHCI evolved into the HCCI, the City continued to provide funding for HCCI. More notably, the HCCI maintains a connection to the Mayor’s Office and Council with the Mayor and a Councillor as members of its Governing Council.

The HCCI acts as a hub to give all Hamilton citizens access to the knowledge and resources needed to build a strong, racially diverse and welcoming city. It has built programming and tools for public education and community engagement. As well, HCCI has initiated a broad strategy to promote equity, access and participation in the key sectors of employment, education, health and housing in the Hamilton community.

HCCI programs include: youth initiatives such as poster and video competitions; Café Conversations in several Hamilton neighbourhoods that bring together politicians and non-elected community leaders to find solution-oriented activities that will help build an inclusive and welcoming community; and the Community Mobilization Team (CMT), a six-month training program for community activists and advocates, teachers and social workers. CMT graduates have been appointed to various City of Hamilton Volunteer Advisory Committees. The HCCI has also developed toolkits and facilitators’ manuals on Organizational Change and Ending Racism.

The HCCI’s work has established a base that is anchored in community engagement, institutional networks and partnerships.


Municipalities can:

  • Work through elected officials to identify and nurture partners to address racism and discrimination
  • Showcase and promote the activities of others employing their website or newsletters, etc.

4. By-law and policy development and review

Municipalities should review old and new by-laws to make sure they conform to human rights principles and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Establishing by-laws is among the most powerful tools available to municipalities. Actively ensuring that these conform to human rights principles and legislation is not only a legal requirement but also a clear signal to the community that anti-racism and anti-discrimination are real commitments. Similarly, municipalities can also develop, implement and enforce specific anti-racism and anti-discrimination policies and review existing policies to eliminate implicit discriminatory barriers.

Activities and examples

  • By-law review and development:
    • Toronto’s Affordable Housing Committee introduced a 10-year affordable housing action plan in 2009, “Housing Opportunities Toronto – An Affordable Housing Action Plan.” Part of this plan proposed a new by-law to encourage more affordable rental homes mixed within market housing developments, and to waive certain development charges.
  • Develop policies that require discriminatory practices are addressed:
    • York Region District School Board developed the Anti-racism and Ethno-cultural Equity Policy, which ensures equitable treatment for students and provides support so that academic achievement is not affected due to a combination of factors. The Board will continue to identify and eliminate systemic inequalities and barriers, including the delivery of the curriculum, student evaluations, staff development and hiring practices.
    • Halifax has established its Community and Race Relations Policy, which aims to ensure that municipal facilities will not be used by individuals and groups that may violate or promote the violation of rights.
  • Monitor anti-discrimination effects of municipal policies:
    • The City of Thunder Bay monitors the effectiveness of policies (e.g. whether employment policies help to increase retention of minority employees). This information is used while reviewing policies for revision.
    • Vancouver’s Social Planning Department requires that issues related to multiculturalism and diversity be an administrator’s priorities in all aspects or work.
  • Review policies and practices to identify and address systemic discrimination:
    • The Town of Kenora and the Kenora Police Service partnered with Grand Council Treaty 3 to review policies, practices and procedures relating to justice, and to ensure they have a positive impact on First Nations people. One goal was to increase the number of Aboriginal employees working in the justice system.
  • Develop policies that require contractors to address discrimination:
    • Saskatoon’s Race Relations Committee reviews policies, practices and programs of the City to recommend amendments and/or new actions with respect to: personnel, law enforcement, leisure services, housing and community services, education and training, use of municipal facilities, and planning and zoning.
    • The City of Toronto developed a Fair Wage Policy that requires organizations that do business with the city pay a “fair wage” and to adopt an anti-discrimination policy.

Case Study – City of Toronto’s Fair Wage Policy

Toronto is a multi-ethnic city and a primary destination for immigrants and refugees who arrive in Canada. It has gained an international reputation for its anti-racism and anti-discrimination initiatives with its inclusive vision to build on the strength of its diversity.

In 1893, Toronto City Council first adopted a Fair Wage Policy that established the rights of workers and required suppliers of goods and services to pay a “fair wage” based on a scheduled established by the City. In 1984, Toronto City Council expanded the Fair Wage Policy to further require the adoption of an anti-discrimination policy which requires suppliers “to uphold policies which prohibit discrimination and which protect the right to be free of hate activity based on race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, disability, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, marital status, family status, receipt of public assistance, political affiliation, religious affiliation, record of offences, level of literacy or any other personal characteristics by or within the organization.”

The policy covers all employees that are hired by contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers and tenants of city property operating businesses, as well as five construction sectors (ICI-industrial, construction, institutional; heavy construction; utilities construction/other non construction; roads; sewers and water main construction). However, the policy does not apply to small businesses (e.g. owner/operators, partnerships, principals of companies).

The policy requires that all organizations doing business with the City have an anti-discriminatory policy or adopt the City’s policy. This requirement is included as a clause within all City contracts and applies to every community organization that receives a grant from the City. The City’s Fair Wage Office monitors the implementation of the policy, and is authorized to investigate complaints against businesses to ensure that companies are acting on the provisions of the agreement. As part of its effort to enforce the policy requirement, the office may enter places of work without prior notice to investigate and review records pertinent to City contracts.

Through this policy, the City of Toronto has been able promote equality and anti-discrimination policies and practices, to monitor businesses to uphold equality and eliminate discrimination. Since then, other municipalities, such as Sudbury, have implemented a fair wage policy.


Municipalities can:

  • Consider regular periodic reviews of by-laws and policies and procedures to make sure that these do not contain elements with discriminatory impacts
  • Inventory complaints related to discrimination in by-laws and policies to help detect possible discriminatory impacts
  • Look at the policies developed by government bodies like the Ontario Human Rights Commission to help identify policies and by-laws that may conflict with anti-racism and anti-discrimination goals

5. Responding to incidents of racism and discrimination

Municipalities can promote the values of anti-racism and anti-discrimination in their communities by promptly and actively responding to incidents. They should do this by collaborating with community organizations and law enforcement bodies to establish and support ways to identify, monitor and respond to acts of racism, such as hate crimes. Document incidents of racism and discrimination, and describe the actions taken in response to the issue.

Municipalities can also encourage the reporting of incidents by community members who have experienced racism and discrimination. Connect with local news media such as local radio programs. Accessible reporting systems and support services can help community members deal with the effects of racism and discrimination and prevent future occurrences.

Activities and examples

  • Provide conflict resolution resources for residents:
    • The Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee provides trained community mediators to assist in achieving co-operative conflict resolution on issues such as discrimination, landlord/tenant and neighbour disputes and workplace relations. They also offer workshops for business and organizations.
  • Develop community racism and response programs:
    • Municipalities in British Columbia, including Campbell River, Kamloops, Quesnel, Terrace and Cranbrook, have adapted the British Columbia Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services Critical Incident Response Model for acts of racism, including hate crimes. A steering committee developed community-wide protocols in response to race-based incidents and created a racism preparedness manual to tell people how to effectively respond to racial incidents.
  • Involve the community in addressing hate crime:
    • The York Regional Police established a Diversity and Cultural Resources Bureau that built relationships with different ethno-racial groups within the community and has key members that they can go to for consultation. The Bureau continues to identify effective ways to communicate with communities to receive anecdotal reports and prevent emerging trends from escalating.
    • With feedback from the community, Toronto Police Service is updating the language it uses when issuing community alerts about suspects.
    • Officials of the Town of Georgina visited local schools and other members of the community to encourage people to denounce the hate crimes that took place in their area.
  • Denounce hate crimes when they occur:
    • The Mayor and City Council of Prince George responded to a request from the Intercultural Committee (appointees who advise the Mayor/City Council) and its community partner, the Multicultural Heritage Society, to create a task force to investigate hate activities. The task force was part of a larger 2000 project titled “Creating Community Awareness of Hate Activities in Prince George” that involved the Multicultural Heritage Society.
    • The Mayor of Thompson, Manitoba denounced hate materials that circulated in schools; the Mayor of Chilliwack spoke out against hate propaganda when it spread to that municipality.
    • Peterborough’s Race Relations Committee held a press conference to denounce racist assaults against Asian Canadian anglers.

Case study – Sioux Lookout

The Town of Sioux Lookout is located in Northwestern Ontario and has a population of approximately 5,000. The community acts as an important centre for health care, education, government and social services to many of the remote First Nations communities to the north. Aboriginal people have relocated from theses communities to make Sioux Lookout their home, and many others come as short-term visitors, either on business or to get services. The change from a predominately Euro-Canadian population to over 50% Aboriginal population presented the community with many challenges as diverse groups struggled to deal with cultural differences. The Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee (SLARC), inspired by a motion of the Municipality to address racial tensions in the community was established in 1988 and is composed of municipal residents. The purpose of SLARC is to help the people of Sioux Lookout learn to work and live together, respecting and celebrating their differences.

The Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee created several systems designed to meet the unique needs of their residents and to provide supports and responses to incidents of racism and discrimination. Responses to racially-motivated incidents involve community members and promote inclusion for all municipal residents and visitors. Its activities are focused on two main sectors: youth and community groups.

SLARC has developed a number of proactive initiatives and committees to respond to incidents of racism and discrimination in the community.

The REsolve Program is a confidential community mediation service. When residents and visitors to the municipality have conflicts around such issues as race and diversity, dispute resolution services are available in Ojibway or English. SLARC found that mediation resolved disputes in approximately 85% of their cases. Mediation services are free of charge or on a sliding scale basis by trained community members. Although REsolve was created for Sioux Lookout, the model was designed so that it could be applied in other communities with similar issues.


Municipalities can:

  • Borrow, study, adapt and apply tools from other programs that respond to community racism, such as a toolkit developed by the British Columbia Human Rights Coalition entitled “Responding to Incidents of Racism and Hate: A Handbook for Service Providers”
  • Partner with community groups to help record and report on incidents of hate and provide reports to the public.
Organizational responsibility: 

Appendix 1

Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC (AMSSA)

Canadian Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD)

Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCU)

Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF)

Centre for Research on Immigration, Ethnicity and Citizenship (CRIEC)

Diversity Thunder Bay

National Consultative Committee of Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI)

National League of Cities (NLC)

Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Appendix 2 – Stakeholder chart

This chart provides a useful tool to identify possible stakeholders in your municipality, and useful information related to these that should help in planning anti-racism and anti-discrimination initiatives. Questions posed in the boxes are intended to help gather the information that will specify the chart for your municipal context. You can also add other stakeholders to the chart.


Why are they interested and what
do they see as benefits in anti-racism work?

Degree of motivation


How to engage

All members of
the community

Are they interested?

Could their interest
be in social justice?

A specific type of discrimination?

As a whole are they motivated?

Are there significant groups that are motivated?

Are there people who oppose? Why?

Are there media outlets, websites, etc. available?

Can mail-outs reach them?

Are there other ways to convey information and engage?

What are these?


Is there a need for immigrant or internal migrant workers?

Would promoting
anti-racism and anti-discrimination attract workers and new customers?

Are there specific businesses that
are more motivated than others to act?

Do business owners perceive
any threat coming from a diverse community?

If so, what kind?

Are there business associations
that can help?

Are there interested individual business owners who can reach out?

City Council

Are there different voices coming from members?

Are members aware of issues of racism and discrimination?

Do members see initiatives as divisive rather than unifying?

Are they concerned about the reaction of constituents?

Are there ways to address resource concerns?

Who are the sceptics?

Why are they sceptical?

How can you convince them?


How does this relate to their work?

Are there groups particularly interested among staff, such as Aboriginal persons, racialized staff, etc.?

Is any one department
or individual particularly interested?

Are there concerns about change?

What kind?

Who is concerned?

Are there unions involved?

Are there existing tools for communication, such as newsletters?

Are there events and meetings to attend?

Ethno-racial groups or other groups that may experience discrimination

What are the main groups?

What are their specific interests?

What are they looking for?

Which groups or individual are most able and motivated to act?

Are they afraid of backlash?

Do they have the resources or time?

Where do these groups meet?

Are there events and places that draw these groups?


Abbotsford Community Services. (2010). Cultural Diversity Awards.
Retrieved from

Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. (n.d.) Welcoming & Inclusive: Communities Toolkit.
Retrieved from .

City of Abbotsford. (1993). Workplace Human Rights. In Human Resources Policy Manual.

City of Brampton. (2003). Six Pillars: Supporting our Great City.

City of Calgary. (2002). Village Square Leisure Centre Cultural Competency Strategic Plan.

City of Calgary. (2006). Fair Calgary Policy. CPS 2006-63, Attachment 1.

City of Edmonton. (2005). Building the Capital City: Edmonton City Council’s Special Initiatives

City of Edmonton. (20 July 2007). Immigration and Settlement Initiatives Update.

City of Hamilton Volunteer Committee Against Racism. (2004). A Report on The Symposium on the Reality of Anti-racism Work in the City of Hamilton. Retrieved from

City of North Bay. (n.d.). The Mayor’s Blog – Social Growth. Retrieved from

City of Ottawa. (2004). Affordable Housing Policies – Official Plan Amendment and Implementation. Retrieved from

City of Saskatoon. (n.d.). City of Saskatoon Council Policy. Retrieved from

City of Saskatoon. (1999). Ten Years in Review: Tenth Anniversary Report of the City of Saskatoon Race Relations Committee 1989-1999: Celebrating a Decade of ‘Living in Harmony’. Retrieved from

City of Timmins. (n.d.). Timmins Multicultural Festival. Retrieved from

City of Toronto. (n.d.). Fair Wage Office. Retrieved from

City of Toronto. (2001). Immigration and Settlement Policy Framework.

City of Toronto. (2003). Plan of Action for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination.

City of Toronto Auditor General’s Office. (14 October 2008). Audit of City Performance in Achieving Access, Equity and Human Rights Goals.

City of Vancouver. (28 June 2007). Annual Report for the Year 2006: Advisory Committee on Diversity Issues.

Cormier, C. (2009). “Housing as a Human Right: Understanding the Need to Align Toronto’s Legal Planning Framework with City Council’s Vision to End Homelessness & The Affordable Housing Crisis.” From Journal of Hunger and Poverty, 1(1). Retrieved from .

Diversity Thunder Bay. (2002). A Community of Acceptance: Respect for Thunder Bay’s Diversity. Retrieved from .

Diversity Vancouver. (n.d.). Municipal Diversity and Anti-Racism Programs in Canada. Retrieved from

Edgington, D., & Hutton, T. (2002). Multiculturalism and Local Government in Greater Vancouver, Working Paper Series No. 02-02. Vancouver: Centre of Excellence Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis.

Halifax Regional School Board. (2007). Working Together for Respectful Workplaces: A Handbook for Preventing & Responding to Workplace Harassment. Retrieved from

Icart, J-C., Labelle, M. & Antonius, R. (2005). Indicators for evaluating municipal policies aimed at fighting racism and discrimination. International Coalition of Cities Against Racism Discussion Papers Series #3. Montreal: Centre for Research on Immigration, Ethnicity and Citizenship, UQAM.

Kenora Daily Miner and News. (n.d.). Local project aims to curb racism in justice system. Retrieved from

Laurier Institution. (March 2004). Municipal anti-racism and diversity programs in Canada. Vancouver: The Laurier Institution.

Metroland Media Group. (2009). The Mississauga News: Help race against racism. Retrieved from .

Municipality of Chatham-Kent. (2010). Integrating Newcomers Into Your Workplace. Retrieved from

Reilly, J. (2009). Municipal Roles in Immigrant Integration: the Edmonton Experience. Our Diverse Cities: Prairies Region 6, Spring: 156-160.

Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee. (n.d.). Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee. Retrieved from

Starr, E. & Pacini, C. (2001). The Municipal Role in Meeting Ontario’s Affordable Housing Needs: An Environmental Scan of Municipal Initiatives and Practices. Retrieved from .

Tossutti, L. (2009). The language of municipal government in global communities: corporate communications policies in six cities. Plan Canada, January/February: 60-63.

Town of Ajax. (n.d.). Diversity and Community Engagement Advisory Committee. Retrieved from

Town of Georgina. (n.d.). Georgina Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee.
Retrieved from .

Town of Markham. (2010). Markham Race Relations Committee. Retrieved from .

York Region District School Board. (2002). The Antiracism and Ethnocultural Equity Policy. Retrieved from

Young People’s Press. (2007). Northern Ontario Symposium on Diversity Awareness and Race Relations. Retrieved from .