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City of Vancouver Responds to Calls from Community with New Equity Framework
July 21, 2021, 8:31 am

City of Vancouver Responds to Calls from Community with New Equity Framework

City of Vancouver
VANCOUVER - The City of Vancouver is taking a significant step forward in acknowledging and upholding the rights and dignity of all people, addressing historic, current systemic injustice, and reducing harm by adopting our first ever Equity Framework. We centre our equity work on Indigenous rights, racial justice, intersectionality, and a systems approach to change.

The Equity Framework has been grounded in the fact that Vancouver is located on the unceded traditional territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and is built on the history of colonialism and white supremacy, a history that has and continues to negatively impact us all – but particularly Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities.

The Framework allows us to approach every aspect of our operations with a sharper and more nuanced equity lens. The Framework’s strength comes from the many community and staff voices that have engaged in its development over the last three years. The adoption of this Framework solidifies the foundations for significant internal work that we need to do.

To effectively advance equity, changes in our internal culture are required. To enact this change, we are committed to:
 
  • Doing equity work over the long term
  • Creating spaces for our staff for accountable learning
  • Reflecting equity in our leadership
  • Building relationships with equity denied communities
  • Adequately resourcing equity work
  • Ensuring shared accountability

To reflect the priorities of equity-denied communities, the Equity Framework was developed in collaboration with an External Advisory Committee made up of community leaders from sectors including non-profit, universities and academics, Indigenous-led organizations, and Council Advisory Committees including 2SLGBTQ+, Children, Youth and Families, Persons with Disabilities, Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity, Seniors’, Urban Indigenous Peoples’, and the Women’s Advisory Committee.

The Equity Team has worked across departments to test various equity concepts and processes, including targeted learning to address the specificity of anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism.

Working with Nahanee Creative, the Internal Leadership Team participated in a Decolonizing Practices workshop to reflect on daily practices and interrogating colonial narratives.

Senior staff also participated in a series of three workshops on Tackling Anti-Black Racism. Co-facilitated by a team of prominent local Black educators, this series challenged staff to reflect on how their learned experiences and their knowledge gaps regarding Black people and communities influenced their decisions in the workplace and the impact on outcomes for communities. There are plans underway to expand these important conversations across the organization.

Further examples of how we will utilize the Equity Framework internally includes:
 
  • Ensuring that equity is integrated into recruitment, professional development, performance management, advancement, and retention
  • Working with unions to ensure that job design and classification are evaluated for bias and that compensation is equitable, and that flexibility and benefits are available to our staff whenever possible
  • Providing training and ongoing internal communications to staff to socialize them on the definitions and approaches of the Framework and how to embed them into daily practices
  • Creating an overarching tracking system that explicitly names objectives and commitments and reflects progress on these actions over time

Externally, examples of how we will utilize the Equity Framework includes:
 
  • Examining several areas of our work including arts and culture, zoning bylaws and building permits, design of streets, and waste collection – with an intersectional, decolonial, racial justice, and systemic equity lens
  • Looking at how we conduct public consultation and engagement, and work with residents and partners with the Host Nations, with an intersectional, decolonial, racial justice, and systemic equity lens
  • The Park Board, Library Board, and Police Board will be asked to consider and adopt the Framework to inform their organization and service development
  • Assessing all areas of planning and service provision that focus on addressing the needs of equity-denied groups, brought together under the umbrella of the Healthy City Strategy

With the adoption of the Equity Framework, we are making a significant commitment to move in the direction of equity as one organization. Communities have asked us to make transformative shifts towards equity, and this Framework is a map to lead the City in that direction.

Quotes

Aftab Erfan, Chief Equity Officer
“The Equity Framework is somewhat of an unusual document for the City. It is not an action plan, but a foundational document that will orient us like a compass,” said Aftab Erfan, Chief Equity Officer at the City of Vancouver. “The Framework is important, because it gives us clear and shared definitions and lenses for doing equity work, and identifies focus areas where actions are needed. I am most looking forward to using this document to guide, organize, make visible, and measure the effectiveness of the internal actions we need to undertake to make the City a better organization.”

Mayor Kennedy Stewart
“Like all colonial institutions, the City of Vancouver must confront institutional and systemic racism, and the new Equity Framework will provide us an opportunity to build on our current work and renew our commitment to eradicating racism, reducing harm, and upholding the rights and dignity of all people,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “We recognize the necessity for change to the internal culture of the organization and the Equity Framework will set the tone for our efforts to advance equity and provide a basis to align our existing efforts and identify strategic next steps.”

Dr. Handel Kashope Wright, Senior Advisor to the President on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence and Director of the Centre for Culture, Identity, and Education at the University of British Columbia
“Advising on the creation of the Equity Framework, has been a sustained, at times challenging, and overall very rewarding process,” said Dr. Handel Kashope Wright, Senior Advisor to the President on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence and Director of the Centre for Culture, Identity, and Education at the University of British Columbia. “As activist academics and community activists, we engaged with each other in a conversation that was both decidedly practical, and delightfully intellectual. It was very important, for example, for us to name and work with the distinction between Indigenous Rights and the struggles of racialized groups in Vancouver, in an accurate and responsible way. I am very proud of how the Equity Framework has achieved this and the way it provides a comprehensive frame for addressing discrimination against and equitable representation of IBPOC in Vancouver. It is now time for Council and City staff to show that they are serious about the implementation of the Equity Framework in the effort to make both City office and Vancouver inclusive, equitable, and socially just.”

Michelle George, Chief Executive Officer for the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council
“The Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council (MVAEC) has a formalized memorandum of understanding with the City of Vancouver, and we work with the City within their Reconciliation Framework. MVAEC supports the Equity Framework and values its principles and stands in solidarity with other equity denied groups,” said Michelle George, Chief Executive Officer for the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council.

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