Saturday, November 28, 2020

Regent Park Town Hall on Confronting Anti-Black Racism on Daniels Construction Sites

The following is a summary of the November 24, 2020, Regent Park Town Hall on Confronting Anti-Black Racism on Daniels Construction Site as reported by Adonis Huggins, staff member of the FOCUS Media Arts Centre. The entire Town Hall Meeting can be viewed on the Regent Park TV YouTube Channel or click this link:

In the week following a hate crime incident at DuEast Condominiums’ Construction Site on June 26th 2020, the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association (RPNA) reached out to The Daniels Corporation (Daniels) requesting information on Daniels' response to the incident. In response to this request, Daniels prepared a comprehensive Report outlining the steps it is taking not only to address the hate crime incident but also confront systemic racism in the construction industry more broadly. The report was released in a Town Hall co-hosted by RPNA and Daniels on November 24, 2020. Daniels and RPNA were joined by Carpenters Union Local 27, LIUNA Local 183, RESCON - Ontario’s leading association of residential builders, Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and others. The following is a summarized report of the meeting.

In the hours following the June 26, 2020, discovery of a hate noose on a Daniels construction site, President & CEO Mitchell Cohen released a public statement. Cohen was unequivocal in his condemnation of the incident as a hate crime, an act of harassment and racism targeted at the Black community. He also confirmed that there was a zero tolerance for racism, prejudice and hate within the Daniel’s organization as a whole.

In addition to Cohen's statement, Daniels filed a report with police and fully cooperated with their investigations including providing access to security cameras and records of personnel on site. Daniels also initiated its own internal workplace violence investigation including interviews with supervisors and workers on site in an effort to identify the person or persons responsible. Unfortunately, investigators to date have been unable to identify the person or persons who tied the noose. Daniels is partnering with Crime Stoppers to launch an awareness campaign in hopes that an anonymous witness to the crime will come forward with information to aid the investigation. Daniels has not ruled out the possibility of offering a financial award for tips that lead to the arrest of a suspect.

In following up to this immediate response, Daniels organized a series of all workers meetings held on each of the organization's construction sites across the GTA starting with the Regent Park site where the noose was found. These meetings began on the Monday June 29, 2020 and included senior management of Daniels team, construction site management, representatives of partnering construction unions and associations as well as all the workers on the site. No one was allowed to go to their work area without first participating in the meetings. In total over 900 workers attended. As far as the content of these meetings goes, Daniels reiterated their disgust over the incident and reinforced their zero policy for racism at its construction sites and within the organization. Furthermore, it was announced that anyone found of committing a hate crime would not only be reported to the police and fired from the organization, but would be removed from their associated union making it difficult to work in the industry. Anyone with information about the hate crime was also encouraged to come forward.

According to Toronto Police Superintendent, Peter Moreira, at 51 Division, over 20 similar hate crime incidents have taken place on other construction sites around the GTA since the discovery of a noose at the Daniels site. Acknowledging the need to address the systemic nature of racism, senior executives of Daniels attended a meeting with the Mayor's Office and senior construction industry leaders to discuss incidents and prevention policies.

As part of this work Daniels industry initiatives include: signing the BlackNorth Initiative pledge, which includes commitments to diversifying the workplace and senior management (Daniels currently has no Black representatives on its executive team and admits it needs to do better in this regard); and working with Daniels’ trades, contractors and consultants to better design and implement anti-racism policies and creating a requirement for these groups to have a diversity and inclusion policy prior to working on Daniels construction sites.

Internally Daniels is also:

  • working on an additional anti-racism policy separate from their Workplace Violence Policy;

  • has initiated an employee survey that will include demographics to identify employee concerns;

  • reviewing its hiring policies to better identify and outreach to visible minority and indigenous candidates;

  • continuing its efforts to identify, hire, offer apprenticeships and train local residents in partnership with TCHC, and construction unions;

  • implementing diversity and inclusion and bias training;

  • implement a site signage policy around all its construction sites informing workers of Daniel's zero tolerance policy for racism;

  • and procurement of local artwork that prioritizes the representation of members of the Black community to be displayed in lobby of the condominium building where the hate crime took place;

Other follow up actions from the meeting were:

  • the need for Daniels and other leaders in the construction trades to work collectively with government around industry wide anti-racism policies;

  • the need for Daniels to better collaborate with contractors and sub-contractors to ensure that they have progressive hiring and anti-racism policies in place prior to working with Daniels;

  • the need for Daniels to conduct better data collection and tracking of the 195 Regent Park residents hired through the Local Labour Initiative and 179 youth that participated in training and employment programs in Regent Pari including demographic data, and duration of employment.

To view the full Report entitled, “Report Back to the Regent Park Community” please visit the following link:

By Adonis Huggins – Staff of FOCUS Media Centre

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