Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Crowd Demands More Government Action on Racism at Ontario Meeting; Wynne Chides 'Lone Wolf' Tenor

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Crowd Demands More Government Action on Racism at Ontario Meeting; Wynne Chides 'Lone Wolf' Tenor

Article excerpt

Crowd demands more action on racism at Ont meeting

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TORONTO - The first public meeting of the Ontario government's new anti-racism directorate drew a packed and vocal crowd Thursday as Premier Kathleen Wynne said governments need to do more to battle discrimination.

Wynne said she believes governments haven't gone far enough to create a more equitable society.

"I understand that government institutions have not lived up to that," she said. "Part of doing my job is acknowledging that we haven't done enough."

Audience members lined up to voice their opinions during the open consultation period, some waiting past the planned 9 p.m. end time to speak. The crowd crammed into overflow spaces well beyond the 300-person capacity of the meeting room.

The room broke out into cheers of "black lives matter" several times throughout the night as people spoke, with some speakers leading chants and singing songs.

Many were critical of government officials, saying that not enough concrete action has been taken to deal with racism despite years of activism.

Akua Benjamin was the first speaker at the microphone. She credited the activist group Black Lives Matter Toronto for calling for the public meeting and bringing people together.

"There hasn't been a time in the last 50 years when we have not marched on the streets of Toronto calling out to put an end to racism," she said.

"And so here we are again. ... Here we are many years later doing the same thing, calling attention to the issue of racism. It really is a shame."

Wynne and Michael Coteau, the province's minister of children and youth services, opened the event with remarks to the crowd.

Toronto Mayor John Tory was also present at the meeting but unlike Wynne and Coteau, he did not have a formal slot to address the crowd.

However, he did speak after a woman asked him when he planned to have his own anti-racism community meeting.

Tory said he had agreed to two series of meetings in addition to the anti-racism directorate meetings, including consultations on a report on police reform in August.

Before the meeting, Wynne said that when people say "all lives matter" in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, it reminds her of people saying: "Why don't straight people have a parade? …

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