Why do we need a Coalition?
Canada along with its provinces and territories has an exceptional system of human rights laws and ratified international treaties. Nevertheless, as in other parts of the world, racism and discrimination continue to raise barriers against the development of individuals and groups. Racism and discrimination divide communities, pose a serious threat to peaceful coexistence and exchange among and within communities, imperil democratic and participatory citizenship, and entrench and aggravate inequalities within society.
Racism and discrimination continue to perpetuate the historical disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal peoples and other diverse groups, many of whom are members of Canada’s most economically and socially marginalized communities.
Municipal governments, as well as other levels of government in Canada, along with local and national organizations, share responsibility and have an important role to play in combating racism and discrimination and fostering equality and respect for all citizens.
Local communities function at the most practical level and are most involved in the lives of their residents. They are an ideal place to develop policies, programs and strategies, and take meaningful action towards eliminating racism and discrimination.
A Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination will help broaden and strengthen our society’s ability to protect and promote human rights through coordination and shared responsibility among local governments, civil society organizations and other democratic institutions.
By taking action to combat racism and multiple forms of discrimination, municipalities are able to build respectful, inclusive and safe societies where everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in the economic, social, cultural, recreational and political life of the community.
How will municipalities benefit?
By joining together in a Coalition, municipalities will be able to:
- Document and advance work within their own jurisdiction in combating racism and discrimination and building more inclusive communities
- Exchange practices and expertise among municipalities and groups in Canada and around the world
- Cooperate and share responsibility with other institutions and members of civil society to take action, including developing better tools to monitor progress
Who is involved?
The call for a Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination is part of an international movement.
In 2004, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched the International Coalition of Cities Against Racism initiative. UNESCO’s aim was to establish networks of cities in Africa, the Arab states, Latin America and the Caribbean region, North America, the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, interested in sharing experiences to improve their ability to fight racism, discrimination and xenophobia.
UNESCO is providing technical and scientific support to the development of world regional coalitions. It helped to establish the European Coalition, where more than 40 cities have joined so far. UNESCO is also providing assistance in establishing coalitions in Canada and in the Asia-Pacific region through assistance and liaison among world regional coalitions, documentation, dissemination of information, development of proposals for thematic discussions, organization of panels, development of research and evaluation tools, and other support as required.
The Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCU)
The Canadian Commission for UNESCO initiated the call for a Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination at the Roundtable on Combating Urban Racism held in Ottawa in January 2005. UNESCO’s proposal, based on the European model and adapted for Canadian realities, was initially discussed with potential partners, including the cities of Gatineau, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, as well as non-governmental organizations, researchers and human rights commissions. The idea of involving Canada in an international platform of exchange and solidarity against racism and discrimination was well received.
CCU is now working with a number of partners across the country and has had considerable success in reaching out to local communities and national networks.
Pan-Canadian Working Group
A Pan-Canadian Working Group led by CCU with partners from across Canada is spreading the word about the initiative. The Working Group has proposed a declaration of Common Commitments and sample actions and is holding workshops and consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, including communities, institutions, and various local, provincial, territorial and federal government bodies, to seek their support and input on the initiative. The Working Group has also proposed a process for municipal governments to join the Coalition and is helping to mobilize other stakeholders in these efforts. Several municipalities have already officially declared their intent to join the Coalition.
Research is key to developing indicators and standards, generating data, sharing best practices and measuring progress. Research being undertaken by UNESCO, along with other organizations and municipalities, will help to improve the capacity to track and evaluate the impact of actions taken to address racism and discrimination, and to showcase examples of effective policies and programs. UNESCO has sponsored a preliminary study to understand the use of indicators by municipalities as a means to evaluate the success of their policies and activities to combat racism and discrimination. The study, conducted by the Centre for Research on Immigration, Ethnicity and Citizenship (CRIEC), looked at indicators for the cities of Boston, Montreal, Saskatoon, Stockholm, Toronto and Vancouver. Those involved in related research are invited to contact the CCU to explore ways to contribute to the Coalition initiative.
How can municipalities participate?
Municipal governments are invited to:
- Contact the Canadian Commission for UNESCO to learn more about the Coalition
- Discuss the benefits of joining the Coalition with community organizations and other stakeholders
- Send a letter from the mayor to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO expressing the municipality’s interest in joining the Coalition
- Develop and promote the initiative within the municipality
- Take steps to have the municipal council pass a resolution to sign the Declaration of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination, supporting the Common Commitments listed in this booklet and pledging to develop or reaffirm its own plan of action
- Evaluate activities already being undertaken by the municipality that correspond to one or more of the Common Commitments
- Identify new actions relating to one or more of the Common Commitments that the municipality will undertake in the coming years
- Monitor, evaluate and report on progress made
- Encourage other municipal governments to join the Coalition
How can individuals and organizations contribute?
Eliminating racism and discrimination is everyone’s business. The role of local and national organizations, researchers, community groups, public and private institutions, other levels of government, and interested individuals is essential to the success of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination initiative. Here are some suggestions for getting involved:
- Contact the Canadian Commission for UNESCO or one of its partners to learn more about this initiative (see back cover)
- Contact your municipality to learn if there are plans to join the Coalition
- Broaden awareness by discussing and sharing information about this initiative with other local stakeholders
- Conduct a consultation on the Common Commitments and sample actions against racism and discrimination and determine how your organization could participate in the Coalition
- Write to your mayor to encourage participation in the Coalition
- Ask for this initiative to be put on the agenda of your municipal council and organize members of your community to make a presentation to the council explaining the reasons why belonging to the Coalition could reinforce action against racism and discrimination and benefit the whole community.
 Participants in the Pan-Canadian Working Group led by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO included: the Aboriginal Youth Network, the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, the City of Toronto, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the University of Montreal.
 CRIEC Centre of Research on Immigration Ethnicity and Citizenship, University of Quebec in Montreal, Feb.2005. On line: <http://www.criec.uqam.ca/pages/frame_set_f/fs_cahiers_f.html> The study is also available from CCU. Please contact Elisabeth Barot at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1-866-669-4346.