This Note is part of a series of Notes on key City issues to update City Council at the start of its 2018 – 2022 term.

Issue description

Toronto is the most diverse city in the world. However, studies continue to show that anti-Black racism still exists in this city, affecting the life chances of more than 200,000 people of African descent who call Toronto home.

Anti-Black racism is policies and practices embedded in Canadian institutions that reflect and reinforce beliefs, attitudes, prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement and colonization in Canada.

The legacy of anti-Black racism lies in the current social, economic, and political marginalization of Torontonians of African descent. It is experienced as a lack of opportunity, poor health and mental health outcomes, poor education outcomes, higher rates of precarious employment and unemployment, significant poverty, and overrepresentation in the criminal justice, mental health, and child welfare systems.


City staff are implementing the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black racism. The implementation of this five-year plan, 2018-2022, includes 22 recommendations and 80 actions to address five issue areas: children and youth development; health and community services; job and income supports; policing and the justice system; and community engagement and Black leadership.

The first year’s work plan focuses on four (4) key priorities: Creating a culture of change at the City; investing in Black children and youth; connecting Black Torontonians to Civic decision-making; and, improving customer service. These priorities are embedded in 12 Actions which are being implemented with resources approved by City Council in February 2018.

The Confronting Anti-Black Racism (CABR) Unit will report out on the implementation of the action plan to City Council annually, starting June 2019. The reports will include input from the Partnership and Accountability Circle (comprised of 12 members of Toronto’s Black community) as well as the CABR Leads Circle (comprised of City staff).


Anti-Black racism is micro (as seen in day-to-day interactions) and it is structural (as seen in laws and policies that govern this city).

Anti-Black racism is deeply entrenched in Canadian institutions, policies and practices, often making this particular form of racism appear normal or invisible to the larger society, which makes it more difficult for Black people to name their specific experiences of anti-Black racism. Often doing so comes with severe consequences such as loss of employment, targeting, isolation, violence, and emotional and spiritual injuries.

The ongoing reality of anti-Black racism in Toronto stands as an obstacle to a truly fair and just city.

Examples of the many disparities Black Torontonians face:

  • Black Torontonians are victims of 85 percent of hate crimes in Toronto where racism is the motivating factor
  • 42 percent of children in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are Black, five times their representation in the overall population
  • Black students become “early leavers” of high school at higher rates – 23 percent compared to 12 percent of white students
  • Torontonians of African descent have an unemployment rate of 13 percent, nearly two times the provincial rate
  • Black women and girls are one of the fastest growing incarcerated group

Municipal Levers

Eradicating anti-Black racism is not a task that the City can do alone. It requires collective work, collaboration and mutually reinforcing efforts from all levels of government, institutions, businesses, schools, community agencies and individuals. That is how sustainable, long-term, societal impact will be achieved.

Through this Action Plan, the City is stepping forward as one key actor in this collective work to take leadership to enact municipal levers under its influence to increase positive outcomes for Torontonians of African descent. For example,

  • The City is one of the largest employers in Toronto, with a wide variety of professional positions and entry-level jobs with pathways to middle-income earnings.
  • The City supports Canada’s financial and business capital, as one of the most business-friendly cities in North America with more than 75,000 businesses operating in Toronto.
  • The City owns a large portion of the housing stock, through Toronto Community Housing, and provides support to other social and affordable housing providers in Toronto for residents who are living with low-income and who are most vulnerable.
  • Through recreation infrastructure, the City supports the second largest system after the school system for social inclusion for children and youth.
  • Through local planning and community service investments, the City has an in-depth knowledge of 140 neighbourhoods and leads place-based planning with community partners.
  • Through the Toronto Police, the City operates the frontline service to the criminal justice system.
  • The City operates the crisis support systems for Toronto residents through Toronto Fire, Paramedics, Police, and Shelter, Support & Housing Administration.

Actions or Plans

Following decades of advocacy and organizing led by Toronto’s Black communities, as well as advocates including Black Action Defence Committee and Black Lives Matter, the City committed to developing and adopting this plan, in 2016. To begin confronting anti-Black racism in Toronto, the City partnered with community and business leaders, subject matter experts, advocates, academics, and organizations from Toronto’s Black communities to create a multi-year plan to Confront Anti-black Racism.

Whenever governments and service providers work to target the removal of systemic barriers experienced by the most disadvantaged communities, all residents benefit. The Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism follows this approach of targeted universalism, meaning setting universal goals that can be achieved through targeted approaches. The actions, when taken as a whole and executed fully, will benefit all Torontonians, especially other Toronto communities experiencing racism and marginalization.

The Toronto Action Plan lays out actions to help ensure that municipal services, facilities and policies become fully inclusive and accessible to Black Torontonians, including actions to:

  • leverage Black cultural knowledge and practices to better support positive child and youth development;
  • targeted communications and outreach to ensure City communications campaigns and recruitment efforts reach black communities;
  • assess current City policies, practices and structures to identify anti-Black bias and take preventative and corrective actions; and
  • pilot new approaches and invest in processes, programs and organizations that are already achieving successful outcomes.

City Council and committee decision are summarized below:

Date Actions
February 2018 City Council approved funding for the implementation and creation of the Anti-Black Racism unit
December 2017 City Council unanimously adopted the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism
June 2017 Executive Committee adopted the Interim Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism