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

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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.

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