The daylight murder by Minneapolis police of an unarmed Black man named George Floyd—and the anguished awakening that followed the shocking cruelty of the act—had an immediate impact in Guelph, as it did in a multitude of cities and towns across the continent.
Before Floyd’s killing, Guelph’s Community Plan served as internal guidance for City officials and departments as well as by partner organizations seeking to align to community priorities, values and goals. The Plan spoke to inclusion and diversity but was silent on the topic of systemic racism. The Plan was always intended to be a living document that would evolve along with the members of the communities whose aspirations it reflects.
A march in downtown Guelph on Saturday, June 6, led by Guelph Black Heritage Society (GBHS) was one of the first organized local responses to the Floyd murder. Discussions with GBHS and with local members of the Black Lives Matter movement led to expressions of support from the Guelph Police Department and the Office of the Mayor. The time for neutrality had ended.
Within days of the local march, a more ambitious, immediate, and necessary goal came into sharp focus: a resolute new commitment to identify Guelph’s most vulnerable populations; to listen closely to their stories, struggles, and pain; and to commit the City not merely to work toward equity, but toward the permanent elimination of systemic racism in all forms.
“As an employer and local government, we’re reflecting on our role and the values that guide us to ensure our workplace and our community are welcoming places for everyone; Black, Indigenous, people of colour, people who identify as members of the LGBTQ2 community, those who have disabilities, and other underrepresented groups,” said City of Guelph Chief Administrative Officer, Scott Stewart, summarizing the early stages of the commitment.
Guided by the federal State of Race Relations report that had been issued in November 2019 and alerted to the tragic and unequal burden of disease and death that the COVID-19 pandemic was imposing on Black, Indigenous, and other underserved, racialized and marginalized communities, stakeholders initiated a series of events as they worked toward a new focus on the elimination of systemic racism.
The Journey to revise the Community Plan to address systemic racism began
Evolving and revising the Community Plan has been a journey of listening and self-reflection. The journey requires us to engage in conscious unlearning and relearning from those in our broader community who possess the knowledge, expertise and lived experience to change these systems.
A full timeline of the steps and experiences leading to this point in our journey is available to download in the Community Plan elimination of systemic racism journey timeline document. Starting on June 6, 2020 (the day of the Guelph Black Heritage Society and Black Lives matter Guelph rally), this timeline visits our involvement and influence by community and world events, anti-racism conversations, partnerships, research and data collection through to today.