Toronto Black Policy Conference 2021: Reset, Rebuild, Recover

November 26, 2021
By: Lani Krantz

Founders and Executive Directors Eunice K. Yeboah and Sharnelle Morgan at the 2019 Toronto Black Policy Conference. Photo by Dewey Chang

A free day-long event will return for the first time since the pandemic, bringing together voices of Toronto’s Black diaspora to reflect on the effects of systemic anti-Black racism in Toronto.

The Toronto Black Policy Conference, to be held on Saturday, November 27, will focus on mental health, the city’s housing crisis, and economic recovery in Toronto’s Black communities.  

The event is co-sponsored by the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and founded by a group of the Munk School’s Master of Public Policy alums. Since the inaugural year, the effort has expanded and gone virtual.

Speakers, including a keynote conversation between the University of Toronto’s Tanya Sharpe and Notisha Massaquoi, will examine the challenges and opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We spoke with this year’s organizers, all graduates and students at the University of Toronto, about the 2021 conference and the big plans they have for the future:

The first Toronto Black Policy Conference, a big success, took place before the pandemic in 2019. What has changed since then for you?

On Emancipation Day on August 1, 2020, we founded the Canadian Black Policy Network (CBPN): a new non-profit organization dedicated to creating a network across Canada of individuals and organizations interested in addressing issues that impact Black communities through policy. Our organization is committed to providing collaborative and innovative spaces and events (including the Toronto Black Policy Conference) to enhance the engagement of Canada’s Black communities in the public policy process and to support the exploration of public policy’s impact on those communities with interested Black groups and allies. As an emerging non-profit organization, tCBPN is particularly keen to enhance our developments and activities in partnership building, and public policy thought leadership.

What kinds of conversations do you feel need to be had right now in order to meet the needs of Toronto’s (and Canada’s) Black diaspora?

Black Canadians continue to face clear forms of structural racism in education, employment, housing, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. Structural racism is a problem that remains active and alive and this is an issue that is deeply rooted. This year’s conference theme, Reset, Rebuild, Recover: Reimagining the Future of Toronto’s Black Communities, was chosen to provide Black community members in Toronto, and their allies, with the opportunity to reflect on how systemic racism has had a twofold effect on Toronto’s Black communities. Black Torontonians were more exposed and less protected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic due to pre-existing racial inequalities.
What role do you hope the TBPC plays in effecting change at the policy level?

For the 2021 TBPC, the CBPN is keen on providing a platform for our community members to drive change and explore ways that Black Torontonians can engage within the policy process and be active in co-developing inclusive policies and programs. Similar to the 2019 conference, our hope is that the 2021 TBPC will create a lasting, recurrent discussion of policy issues affecting Toronto’s Black communities with tangible outcomes. In addition, we would like this conference to further increase opportunities for collaboration between Black policy and other professionals and community leaders, and allies, to probe and tackle policy issues affecting Toronto’s Black communities. Finally, CBPN is focused on enhancing its partnership-building activities. As an emerging Network, CBPN intends to use the TBPC 2021 as an opportunity to meet and engage with new and existing partners to co-develop and share our vision for the future of the Network. 

The original founders are back this year and the team has expanded to include another MPP alum (as well as a PhD student with the Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing). For the MPPs, what influence does your time studying at the Munk School have on your approach to building the CBPN and the TBPC?

The Munk School provides unique opportunities for professional development. As MPP students, we were fortunate to engage in emancipatory work through the extracurricular activities we were involved in, one of the prime examples being the Harvard Black Policy Conference. Participating in the planning of this annual conference reinforced our desire to create a space where these conversations could be had in the Toronto context, and in Canada as a whole.

The Toronto Black Policy 2021 Organizers:

Read more about the Toronto Black Policy Conference