At the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), we believe anti-racism and anti-oppression must be at the centre of our work. Indigenous, Black and racialized communities are disproportionately represented among people experiencing homelessness as a result of social, political and economic inequities that create pathways to homelessness, and mainstream systems that keep these communities on the margins. Therefore, to address homelessness, we need to speak to the root of racial disparities, proactively engage in courageous conversations about power, privilege and whiteness (including white supremacy and fragility); and follow through with meaningful action. This means:
- Acknowledging racism in all its forms (societal, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized) for a more nuanced understanding of how it manifests, so we can actively confront and dismantle it.
- Leveraging our privilege and influence to speak up and speak out about the intersections of race and homelessness in order to inform and advocate for research and policy, knowing that as a white settler organization, our voice will be heard differently.
- Deepening the dialogue by recognizing the impact of racial trauma, particularly how structural inequities result in the exclusion of Indigenous, Black and racialized groups. This disenfranchisement thereby limits communities’ sense of possibility and in the long-term, reinscribes intergenerational poverty.
- Using our power to create space for Indigenous, Black and racialized communities to lead through new approaches to partnership, and having the humility and open-mindedness to follow their lead.
- Ensuring that our culture and infrastructure (e.g. policies, procedures, standards) align with our values, so that all rightsholders and stakeholders feel valued and respected.
- Exercising critical self-reflection as an organization and as individuals committed to allyship, both internal and external to COH, and consistently challenging ourselves to do better.
For COH, anti-racism is not about blame, but about change. It is more than words. It is a commitment to action and accountability and calls on everyone to take part.
COH's Anti-Racism Working Group: Emma Amon, Athourina David, Melanie Lusted, Lindsay McRae, Sloane Mulligan, Jessica Rumboldt, Clementine Utchay, Ken Williams
Prepared with support from Christina Sackeyfio, Boldly Inclusive