Ontario Construction News staff writer
The mayor of Toronto says he is committed to working with construction companies, unions and associations – to make sure the issue of anti-Black racism within the industry “is visibly and effectively addressed so that racism of all kinds and in particular anti-Black racism is eradicated.”
Mayor John Tory made the statement following a meeting with building and construction industry executives Friday morning.
“In recent months, Toronto has witnessed a number of disturbing incidents of anti-Black racism on construction sites across the city,” Tory said. “We discussed this morning the searing hatred and the very real threat symbolized by a noose, and this underlined the horrific, unsettling and unacceptable nature of these events.”
Earlier this summer, nooses were discovered on three separate construction sites throughout the city within the span of just two weeks. Toronto police are investigating the incidents as hate crimes.
Daniels Corporation president Mitchell Cohen responded immediately after a noose was found at a work site near Dundas and Sumach in June.
“We are disgusted and horrified at this heinous act, which we are treating as a hate crime,” he said.
In early August, the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO) requested and received the resignation of a union member after a noose was found hanging at an Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction site last Tuesday.
“Local 27 denounces these acts in the strongest terms and supports our industry employer colleagues in their swift removal of the individual, union president Mike Yorke said in a press release.
“Behaviour that makes anyone feel unsafe on construction worksites will not be tolerated, and accountability rests on everyone in the industry to create safe and respectful workplaces.
Ellis Don was also quick to act this summer after concluding that two nooses were found hanging at the Michael Garron Hospital site were racially motivated.
“We are standing up to anti-Black racism with key initiatives and steps that support our Black employees and inclusive diversity at EllisDon,” the company said in a statement.
President and CEO Geoff Smith said racist acts “will not be tolerated, not now, not ever.” He signed the BlackNorth Initiative CEO pledge to devote key organizational changes and actions to address, change and end anti-Black systemic racism.
“We are giving our full support to the police investigation to ensure we can hold the perpetrators accountable,” Smith said in a statement. “We are committing every resource we can muster to identify the guilty individual, or individuals, and ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Also, Ellis Don hired Rubin Thomlinson to conduct a full and independent investigation and make recommendations on additional to support our employees and address anti-Black racism.
“In today’s meeting we not only addressed these recent disturbing, racist incidents, but also discussed options for addressing the root causes of racism along with policies and approaches to be implemented in the industry to confront anti-Black racism,” Tory said, adding that he was impressed that companies have taken “potentially significant” steps to directly address the problem.
“They indicated their intention to make these initiatives public in the coming weeks,” he said. “I also indicated to them my own strong belief that significantly increased diversity of our construction workforces would help create greater understanding and momentum for action on these issues at the same time as giving greater access to opportunity for Black Torontonians who are under-represented in the construction industry.”
Representatives from the city’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit participated in the discussion, according to Tory, and the group has offered to help develop an action plan for the industry.
“This meeting was only the first of a number to follow,” Tory said.
“I will hold a similar meeting with construction union leadership in the coming days, and take note of the fact that unions and companies intend to work together on confronting racism in construction, a challenge that is an important one within the context of the larger issue we face as a city.”