First-ever Toronto Black Policy Conference aims to effect real change


Organizers of the first-ever Toronto Black Policy Conference hope the event will foster conversations that will lead to a greater representation of black voices in the public policy process.

The conference, which takes place Saturday at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, was founded by three alumni, Eunice Kays, Anna-Kay Russell and Sharnelle Morgan.

They were inspired to organize the event after attending the Black Policy Conference at Harvard Kennedy School, the Ivy League school's longest-running conference.

"Toronto has the largest black population in the country so we thought it was very important to have a city-wide platform to discuss issues with the black community and our allies," said Kays.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Munk School's Campbell Conference facility. Tickets are sold out. It's hosted by the City of Toronto's Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit and the Munk School's Urban Policy Lab.

Kays, the conference's youth engagement and programming director, says those who make public policy decisions in Toronto don't always reflect the diversity of the city. She says that's because they don't have the experiences of visible minorities or aren't informed by those who do.  

"We really need to ensure those decisions reflect the issues different people of the population are facing, [including] ones that are exclusive to the black community," she said.

One of the speakers at the conference will be Celina Caesar-Chavannes, the former MP for Whitby, Ont. who left the federal cabinet to sit as an independent after a falling out with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Caesar-Chevannes did not run in the last election, but recently criticized Trudeau for not naming more visible-minority MPs to his new cabinet.