The Ontario government is launching an anti-racism council to help youth overcome socioeconomic barriers.
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford announced the formation of the Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity, a group that will advise the government on long-term actions that can be taken to support youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ford said that the government will also further support Black communities to address the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 by allocating $1.5 million in funding to organizations that support Black families and youth.
The funding will be used to provide “urgent coronavirus supports” and address the “immediate needs” of children, youth, and families.
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Ford said that it’s only by addressing issues of racism and systemic barriers that “we can address them.”
“It starts with our young people and next generation,” Ford said. “It starts with giving every young person from every neighbourhood to give them the tools to success.”
The new advisory council will have up to 20 members, including a chair and a vice-chair.
And, the membership will be intergenerational and cross-sector, and will include youth between the ages of 18 to 29 and adults with expertise from community organizations, not-for-profit businesses, education, and government services.
“At a time when the world is facing some of its most difficult challenges, we have to do everything we can to help our next generation of leaders overcome the social and economic barriers before them,” Ford said.
“Our young people are the future of this province and I truly believe this council will be a strong advocate that will set them down the path to even greater success.”
According to the province, the council will focus on the challenges facing young people today, such as completing an education, skills training, and employment.
As an immediate priority, the council will identify strategies to support vulnerable and marginalized youth to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
Jamil Jivani, Ontario’s Advocate for Community Opportunities, will serve as chair of the council for the first year.
“For decades, youth from disadvantaged communities have faced barriers to succeeding in our economy. COVID-19 has made these issues worse. As the first chair of the Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity, I will work with a diverse group of leaders to help the government give young workers, especially disadvantaged youth, a fair chance to succeed in Ontario’s workforce,” Jivani said.
Ford added that no one is better than Jivani to do the job.
He premier also amended his previous comments on Tuesday that Canada does not have the same systemic, deep roots of racism that the US has.
“There is systemic racism in Ontario. What I meant to say the other day was our history is different than that of the US, but we have our own history in Ontario of racism,” Ford said.
He acknowledged that people are “feeling pain here.”
“I just have to go in my own community up in Rexdale. These issues are deeply rooted and stem from a history of racism and abuse.”