Millions watched as George Floyd was murdered, and millions more are organizing to stop state-sanctioned violence and abolish racism across the globe. We support the larger movement for Black lives and echo the demands of groups like Black Lives Matter – Toronto who have been calling for racial equality since 2014, and the countless other activists, leaders, and organizers who have been leading the fight for justice for decades.

As long as powerful elites and employers try to divide working people by oppressing Black communities, we remain dedicated to the principle that “All Black Lives Matter”. It starts with us, everyday workers and union members, to commit to doing everything in our power to combat anti-Black racism. We all have an important role to eradicate white supremacy in Canada and create a new society without racial inequality.

Anti-Black racism is intricately interwoven into the fabric of our society—systemic discrimination is embedded in our attitudes, institutions, culture, laws, courts, and so on. Canada was founded on the systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples, the enslavement of Black and Indigenous people and the marginalization of immigrants and refugees who fled to Canada in search of a better life. To this day, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour are disproportionately racially profiled, incarcerated, and subject to police brutality; and they still face systemic discrimination in employment, government, schools, housing, and in other social institutions.

Our first steps to eradicate anti-Black racism must be to acknowledge that it is as prevalent here in Canada as it is in other countries, like the United States. To get to the root of anti-Black racism, we must understand our history of settler-colonialism, slavery and racism; recognize structural inequalities as they exist today; and take real, bold action to interrupt racism in every way we can.

Statements of solidarity and support are not enough. We must take action to collectively do better and commit to fixing the systems that disproportionately impact the lives of Black Canadians and all Black people living in Canada. As a union representing workers in Children’s Aid Societies (CAS), we are responsible to and for workers and their communities. Together, we have a great deal of work to do to implement an anti-racist framework for CAS, hold each other accountable, and build trust with Black communities.

To build an anti-racist CAS, we must:

  • Demand that CAS employers ensure fair representation of Black workers in this sector;
  • Provide comprehensive, mandatory training for CAS workers on anti-Black racism, white privilege, white supremacy, and how systemic inequality shows itself in their work;
  • Develop better intervention protocols that do not disproportionately impact marginalized Black families; and,
  • Lead conversations on the consequences anti-Black racism has in our workplace and community.

CAS has several issues we must fight to solve. Black, Indigenous, and racialized children are over-represented in the child welfare system, risk assessment standards and tools are biased, and white-dominated decision-making authorities tend to favour white families. The most subtle forms of anti-Black racism contribute to a culture where overt racism and violence is acceptable. When we are silent, we are complicit. It is time for us to address the systemic issues in CAS and work collectively to do better.

In the coming months, CUPE Ontario will work with CUPE members in child welfare and allies to create a manifesto outlining our commitment and call to action to combat anti-Black racism. As a union representing more than 270,000 workers across Ontario, we are here to challenge the status quo and amplify the voices of workers, particularly those who are most often marginalized, as we fight anti-Black racism everywhere.