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City pouring more resources into diversity

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It would appear councillors are trying to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the city’s diversity initiatives.

After consultations and assistance from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, the City of Oshawa has developed its very first plan for diversity and inclusion. The plan acknowledges a number of programs and steps city hall can take to not only make it a more welcoming place to work for everyone, regardless of race, gender or sexual preference, but also ways to engage with residents to discuss such topics as racism and white supremacy and how they exist in the city.

With that said, many residents who took part in the process, were unsure just how serious the City of Oshawa was going to take the plan.

“It should be noted that staff received comments of skepticism from the community as to whether there would be any investment in diversity and inclusion following the plan approval,” the recently released staff report reads.

At a special meeting of council on Dec. 7, councillors considered a pair of options for moving forward with implementing the plan, by either using existing resources, or hiring a staffer who would be dedicated to making sure the plan makes concrete steps forward over the next year.

“I think that’s a really important point,” said Councillor Dan Carter, noting the residents’ skepticism. “The community has a deep desire for us to put a plan in place to implement it.”

Put simply, by hiring a staff member dedicated to implementing the plan, the city would be able to move forward a large collection of the initiatives outlined in the plan for 2018. All in all, the plan sets out approximately 100 steps that can be taken over the coming year. The only difference in the two options is finances, as hiring a staff member for one year would cost approximately $50,000 for both 2018 and 2019, and as part of that, one of the first initiatives of the new staffer would be to undertake an employee census and inclusivity survey in 2018 at a cost of $16,000.

The plan would also see the city enter into an agreement with the Community Development Council of Durham Region to develop a Black Youth Engagement Strategy.

The decision to move forward with the additional staff member was moved by Councillor Bob Chapman, who noted that while implementing the plan may be a slow process, “we can’t turn a ship around overnight,” he said, but noted moving forward with the new hire could ensure that things move ahead in a sustainable manner.

The motion carried unanimously.

As part of the chosen option, the city will also be undertaking an internal inventory and assessment of diversity and inclusion initiatives already taking place throughout the organization, investigating the potential of implementing a diversity and inclusion advisory committee, hosting one to two panels or forum sessions to discuss issues, and to develop a city “welcome kit” in consultation with the region for new citizens.