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Local agencies working together to call out and address racism

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

Working to end racism in the community is the latest commitment from the Social Services Network of Sarnia-Lambton.

“Many individual agencies have been doing anti-racist work for years, but we really started talking collectively as a network in the fall,” said Dawn Flegel, executive director at the Sarnia-Lambton Children’s Aid Society, pointing to the murder of George Floyd as a catalyst for conversation and reflection.

Dawn Flegel

“And recognizing we can probably make more of an impact if we are working collectively together, across different agencies and sectors, and learn from each other.”

Flegel, along with Community Legal Assistance Sarnia’s Andrew Bolter, will co-chair the Anti-Racism Committee, a sub group of the Social Services Network of Sarnia-Lambton, which represents some 35 local agencies and organizations.

Andrew Bolter

“Our goal is to disrupt the racism and colonialism that exists everywhere in society — and we know that is lifelong work,” said Flegel. “But to be actively participating in that, is the goal.

“And so we’ve made some specific commitments over the year to really increase our learning and making sure that our staff and agencies, our board members, have the opportunities to also be immersed in that learning and to be supporting each other.”

Members of the network, chaired by Rebound’s Carrie McEachran, have worked to develop a collective Anti-Racism statement and commitment, in an effort to call-out and address the power structures that enable and support systemic racism.

Carrie McEachran

The committee plans to provide a report in June detailing what they’ve done to educate themselves as leaders, the training and education provided to employees and boards of directors as well as what changes they’ve made to support Indigenous, Black and racialized employees.

“It’s one thing to say we’re committed, and those are just words,” said Flegel.

“We all agreed there needs to be some demonstrated action and some accountability to the people that we serve, in our communities.”

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