Councillor Wong-Tam's Statement on Member Motion 31.21 "Promoting Diversity and Social Inclusion by establishing Intersectionality Awareness Week in the City of Toronto"
In recent years, Torontonians have shifted to a more nuanced conversation about social justice that moves beyond multiculturalism and accounts for multiple forms of structural oppression including colonialism, racism, anti-Black racism, sexism and misogyny.
In the context of this shift, City Staff have tabled reports containing concrete recommendations, such as The Interim Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism and Towards an Action Plan for Transgender Youth.
During the recent budget deliberations, City Council directed Toronto's City Manager to create an “Intersectional Gender-Based Framework to Assess Budgetary Impacts,” in next year's budget.
At the same time, there have been deeply troubling City Council discussion about the notion of Sanctuary City. The vote to defund Pride Toronto was also the catalyst that magnified the need for City Council to delve deeper into the issues of identity, belonging and justice.
A dynamic young, LGBTQ2S+ racialized woman working with my office proposed the creation of an Intersectionality Awareness Week. She diligently did her research and with the input of my office staff, drafted a motion which was wholeheartedly endorsed.
Over the weekend, I was able to connect with Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, the Black feminist legal scholar who first coined the term "intersectionality" about the Toronto motion to create an Intersectionality Awareness Week. She described it as, "incredibly exciting news" and was invited to amend the motion to better reflect her work. The hope was that if the motion was adopted, City Council could partner with local universities to bring Dr. Crenshaw to Toronto to launch the initiative and create broader community engagement, programming and participation in the conversation.
As we move forward, hopefully this conversation continues to grow. The motion was never intended to absolve Toronto City Council or any of its agencies of its institutional racism, sexism or bias. On the contrary, if the perception of such a motion deters that work, then consider it withdrawn.
Toronto City Council has a long way to go counter systemic discrimination in how our city develops policy and budgets. It is what I have spent the past 7 years as a City Councillor, working to address. This motion could have been a first step to help City Council and City staff better understand the experiences that shape the lives of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized individuals in Toronto, and further shift the conversation.
The intention of the motion, which was to advance the discourse about intersectionality and a deeper understanding of who the residents of Toronto are, will ultimately help the City build better policies, programs and services to address their needs, especially those most marginalized.
The paths to true justice are bigger than any one of us and yet require all of us. There's no one perfectly timed effort but rather an accumulation of all our voices, hardwork and commitments. This is something that we can all agree upon, with or without a council motion.