March 21, 2022
Contact: Kumsa Baker

Press Release: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Toronto Community Benefits Network and allied organizations call on Metrolinx, government to change course on major transit infrastructure projects 

Call for participation and inclusion comes on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Toronto, March 21, 2022 – Today, community organizations and labour groups led by the Toronto Community Benefits Network call on elected representatives, the Province of Ontario, and its ministries, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure major upcoming transit infrastructure projects help build inclusive, prosperous communities while combatting persistent racial discrimination.  

“Ontario’s transit infrastructure boom represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Rosemarie Powell, Executive Director of the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN). “We are calling on Metrolinx to ensure these projects present meaningful employment and procurement opportunities for equity-deserving groups, especially Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, and women.  We need to ensure these transit projects lift up rather than undermine their host communities.”

TCBN and its network of community, labour and social enterprise partners are calling for immediate action, the full text of which is available here.

“I found a career path in the skilled trades by working on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, but that opportunity happened because we had a real Community Benefits Agreement in place,” explains Ahmed Abdi, a fourth year apprentice with Carpenters Local 27. “A true CBA means community organizations are at the table, helping companies realize their commitments and holding companies accountable for their targets. Without community involvement, we risk these job creation commitments being empty promises. Youth violence is increasing across the City and we need more opportunities especially for Black youth like myself to get access to the good jobs opportunities in the skilled trades” 

After TCBN and allied organizations raised the alarm, the Provincial government confirmed that a ten percent minimum equity target would be included on projects moving forward. However, community organizations are currently shut out of oversight and participation, roles they previously played, leading to concerns over transparency and accountability.

Signatories also called for project-specific anti-racism strategies designed and carried out with community participation. “Metrolinx workplaces have a history of anti-Black racism, with frequent reports of harassment, assault, and unsafe working conditions,” says Rosemarie Powell. “In 2021 alone, eight nooses were found at four Toronto-based construction sites, two of which were Metrolinx transit projects, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.”

“The lack of community engagement, strong environmental oversight, community benefits agreements, and project-specific anti-racism strategies means that equity-deserving groups may be shut out of benefits while shouldering the costs of large transit projects,” says Powell. “The first step to getting Ontario’s transit infrastructure projects back on track is to give community groups a real seat at the table.”