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Toronto carpenters, steelworkers speak up on racism

Toronto carpenters, steelworkers speak up on racism

TORONTO — Toronto’s unionized carpenters and steelworkers have joined forces to demand Toronto Police expedite charges in recent incidents of anti-Black racism.

There have been three incidents of nooses being placed at Toronto construction sites in the past month and in June the Black recording secretary of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1998 was violently assaulted and subjected to racist abuse alongside his white partner.

“This dramatic evidence of hate crime in our society must be addressed. This is not the first time that Black people have found a noose at work,” said Chris Campbell, Carpenters’ Local 27 union representative, in a statement. “Skilled workers from every background and ethnicity build this country, and we don’t want that effort to be tarnished by a few hateful individuals. No matter what the colour of your skin, everyone must feel respected and safe at work.”

The attack on steelworker employee Mark Austin took place in Toronto’s East End. Austin and his partner were attacked on June 25 while walking their dog in Dentonia Park. The partner was pushed to the ground and then kicked in the head by a white assailant before being knocked unconscious and taken by ambulance to hospital. Austin was also violently assaulted and subjected to racist abuse by the same assailant, who also uttered death threats against Austin.

Carolyn Egan, president of the Steelworkers Toronto Area Council, commented, “We recognize this is not occurring in isolation. There is a growing climate of racist brutality around the globe and systemic racism in our communities and our institutions.

“We are demanding that the Toronto Police immediately lay charges against the assailant.”

The Toronto and York Region Labour Council made a formal deputation at the Toronto Police Services Board Town Hall July 9.

“Every employer and every political leader needs to show the people of Toronto there is zero tolerance for racism and hate in our workplaces and communities,” said John Cartwright, Labour Council president. “Those with power in our society have a special duty to speak up and take decisive actions that are bold, lasting and truly transformative.”

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