Our Corporate Strategy on Equity and Anti-Racism includes eight actions that are a starting point for the City of Kitchener to meaningfully engage in equity and anti-racism work.

On this page:

  1. Actions and progress
  2. Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives staff team
  3. Mayor's Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  4. Equity and anti-racism work

Actions and progress

This strategy came out of the work done by the Mayor's Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The actions outlined below are a starting point for the City of Kitchener to meaningfully engage in equity and anti-racism work. Most of these actions are internal-focused and intended to introduce change at an organizational level.

Our Corporate Strategy on Equity and Anti-Racism is made up of these actions:

  1. Establish a full-time permanent staff team to lead Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives work at the City of Kitchener (complete, see staff report)
  2. Develop an Equity, Inclusion & Anti-Racism Policy which outlines the corporate commitment to equity, inclusion and anti-racism and specific expectations for leadership, staff and volunteers to support this commitment (complete, see staff report)
  3. Develop a Funding Opportunity for Black, Indigenous & Racialized Groups to support community-led programs, initiatives or events meant to decrease inequities and increase opportunities and well-being for racialized communities in Kitchener (complete, see staff report)
  4. Develop, Implement and Maintain a Corporate Equity & Anti-Racism Training Strategy, including ongoing, mandatory training for all staff, volunteers, leadership and members of City Council (complete)
  5. Develop and Implement a longitudinal, systematic Demographic Data Collection Strategy across the Corporation in order to better understand how representative staff, clients and stakeholders are of the community, and help identify systemic barriers and opportunities to make the workplace and services more inclusive (in progress)
  6. Develop an Equity & Anti-Racism Communications Guide for staff, leadership and the Communications Division as a practical tool and educational resource (in progress)
  7. Conduct an Equity Audit of Human Resources Policies & Practices in the area of Hiring, Recruitment & Promotion at the City and implement recommendations (complete)
  8. Develop recommendations for a revised Youth Mentorship Program for low-income youth to replace the original youth mentorship program which has been run by the City for the past 20 years (in progress)

The Task Force also recommended that an Equity and Anti-Racism Advisory Committee to Council be established. See the related staff report.

Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives team

Our Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives team provides leadership and internal staff expertise related to:

  • equity
  • anti-racism
  • discrimination
  • Indigenous initiatives
  • other social justice issues

Mayor's Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

In September 2019, we launched the Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). The Task Force included 45 members, who themselves were made up of four groups: community volunteers (selected through an application process), representatives from community organizations, city staff, and members of city council.

The demographic make-up of the Task Force included women (70%), people who are racialized (38%), people born outside of Canada (20%), those 2SLGBTQ+ identified (18%), people with disabilities (16%), and those who identify as transgender/gender non-binary or gender queer (8%).

The mandate of the Task Force was focused on four broad areas:

  1. broadening community engagement in municipal decision-making – particularly for people who are traditionally under-represented
  2. improving equitable municipal service delivery to Kitchener’s diverse population
  3. encouraging, maintaining and promoting a more inclusive workplace and diverse workforce at the City of Kitchener for both employees and volunteers
  4. celebrating the full diversity of the Kitchener community

In order to create a Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for the City of Kitchener and develop actions that support sustained, meaningful change across the corporation, the Task Force split into eight working groups. City staff supported each of these groups through collaborative dialogue, research and targeted community engagement when required.

Key areas of focus included:

  • Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Policy for the City of Kitchener
  • Equity and Anti-Racism training
  • demographic data collection
  • guidelines for Equity & Anti-Racism communications
  • recruitment, hiring and promotional practices
  • community grant program for racialized groups
  • youth mentorship program development
  • staffing model

Each of the actions outlined above were developed in collaboration with members of the Task Force, whose lived experiences and expertise in a wide variety of areas directly informed the direction, scope, and content of each.

In May 2021, staff presented a report to update council on the work of the task force.

Equity and anti-racism work

Open the accordions below to learn about what we’re doing to combat racism and support equity in our community.

2023-2026 Strategic Plan

To amplify the voices of equity seeking groups in our strategic planning process, staff have added these engagement methods:

  • Environics conducted a telephone survey with 1006 residents. For the first time, demographic criteria were used to ensure respondents better reflected the diversity of the community as a part of this statistically reliable survey.
  • A “street team” of three staff members met people where they already gathered in the community (examples: bus stops, parks, special events, food distribution locations and cricket matches) and conducted over 100 short interviews. These three staff were all from different cultural communities, with diverse experiences and skill sets.
  • Promoted online engagement and in-person neighbourhood focus groups more broadly in the community. Staff also did direct outreach to community organizations serving equity seeking groups to increase participation by residents from these communities.
  • A resident panel is providing feedback and input on the development of the Strategic Plan alongside staff and the Compass Kitchener Advisory Committee. The resident panel includes 40 randomly selected applicants who mirror the demographics of the community.

Learn more about our 2023-2026 Strategic Plan.

Access Without Fear Policy
The purpose of this policy is to outline our commitment to support access to city services by Kitchener residents with uncertain or no immigration status and who may fear detention or deportation when accessing services. The policy enables these residents to use municipal services, and to do so without fear that we will ask for and provide information about their immigration status to other institutions or orders of government.
BE U Swim program

This program provides dedicated swim times for trans and non-binary individuals, as well as their friends and family members to use our pools in a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment. These swims are available:

Learn more about the BE U Swim program and find registration links on our swimming programs page.

Bike Festivities

Partnering with five Black-identifying organizations, we hosted an event to celebrate Bike Month, an annual opportunity for people to try riding a bike for the first time, learn new skills or to have fun and connect with new people.

Racialized communities are disproportionately excluded from the health and social benefits of cycling due to issues of racial-based street harassment, profiling and poverty. This event created a safe space for people to try cycling in the city and encourage a more inclusive cycling culture.

Over 300 people attended Bike Festivities on June 11, 2022. Trained cycling instructors gave free lessons on how to ride a bike safely in the city, and then went for small group bike rides. Free bike rentals were available for people who do not own a bike. Free food and live music helped to make this a fun day for all!

Equity and Anti-Racism Committee

Our Equity and Anti-Racism Advisory Committee to Council is continuing the grassroots community involvement of the Mayor's Task Force to develop and implement equity and anti-racism work at the city, using a diverse lens and a community-driven approach.

The Equity and Anti-Racism Advisory Committee was established to:

  • advise city council on equity and anti-racism issues in collaboration with the equity, anti-racism and Indigenous initiatives team
  • support the equity, anti-racism and Indigenous initiatives team as a resource, a sounding board, and to provide review, collaboration and feedback on ongoing work
  • surface issue that are happening in the community and help identify community priorities for equity and anti-racism work happening at the city
  • serve as a connection to the larger community when additional feedback and engagement is required related to equity and anti-racism work at the city
  • support, provide review, collaboration and feedback on equity and anti-racism issues across all departments at the city
  • serve as the selection committee for the Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Equity (RISE) Fund, a community grant program created to support Black, Indigenous and racialized groups and organizations in Kitchener

The committee includes 8-12 members who live, work, attend school and/or own property in Kitchener and prioritizes the voices of historically underrepresented or excluded groups including Black, Indigenous, racialized, 2SLGBTQ+ identified, people with disabilities, religious minorities and the intersections of these identities.

Visit our advisory committees and boards page to find more information, including meeting frequency and current members.

Every Child Matters Crosswalk

In September 2022, we helped bring the resident-led Every Child Matters Crosswalk vision to life through our LoveMyHood matching grant. A ceremony was held to unveil the cross walk at Victoria Park with Orange Shirt Society representatives, members of city council and community members in attendance. During the ceremony, drums played as residents walked through Victoria Park, passing orange ribbons tied to lamp posts and orange footprints painted along the trails that lead to the new tribute crosswalk. Sheena Merling, Bin-no-g Man-na-doe Quay – Spirit of the Children, resident lead of this tribute, was among those who spoke at the ceremony. This tribute is one way to create a lasting memorial in memory of the children who lost their lives in residential schools.

Learn more on the LoveMyHood blog.

Grant writing workshop

To better support community organizations when applying for community grants the City partnered with Kind Minds Family Wellness (KMFW), a Black-led community organization that provides equitable and culturally sensitive programs and services to develop and facilitate the Grant Writing for Racialized and Indigenous Communities Workshop.

The workshop was the first of its kind in the region, a free two-part workshop specifically tailored for Black, Indigenous and racialized non-profit groups, individuals and organizations. The workshops taught the essentials for writing a successful municipal, provincial, and federal grant application, which included – what information to share in a grant proposal, strategies for writing a persuasive case for support, how to effectively tell the story of your work and its impact and general tips for applying to RISE and other grants. With such a positive reception by the community, we’ll work with KMFW to offer the workshop again in Spring 2023.

Huron Natural Area

Huron Natural Area has evidence of Indigenous settlement dating back hundreds of years. We’re working with Indigenous communities of what is today Kitchener-Waterloo to ensure that Huron Natural Area is a safe, welcoming space for Indigenous people to celebrate culture, heritage and gathering today.

We’re working with local Indigenous Artists to create new wayfinding and trail names in traditional languages. Our goal is to create an outdoor space that feels welcoming to Indigenous organizations, Indigenous student centres and Indigenous community members looking to host ceremonies, events, or gatherings.

Learn more about Huron Natural Area.

Kitchener Tech Connects

Kitchener Tech Connects is both a technology lending library and a slate of free technology training classes for adults over 55 years old. This includes free access to borrow devices that are enabled with or without cellular data.

With interpretation and translation services, we have brought this valued program and opportunity to Arabic-speaking women in the Chandler Mowat neighbourhood, a group that might not have otherwise participated.

Learn more about Kitchener Tech Connects.

Leisure Access (fee assistance)

Leisure Access is a fee subsidy program that attempts to remove some of the financial barriers residents experience when trying to access our recreation and leisure programs.

In November 2022, staff in program and resource services removed one of the barriers that newcomers were experiencing when trying to apply. Now, individuals who arrive in Canada as a refugee or a qualifying newcomer are eligible to apply within their first year (365 days) of receiving documentation that shows immigration status.

Learn more about Leisure Access.

Multi-faith rooms at City Hall and Kitchener Operations Facility

Multi-faith rooms were created to address the need for staff to have suitable spaces to pray or meditate. A multi-faith room is a shared space that is open to all faith groups.

City staff use the space for a moment of prayer, reflection, and other faith-based activities.

Permanent Indigenous spaces

Our parks and cemeteries team is working to build relationships with the Indigenous and Urban Indigenous communities to transform park spaces like Huron Natural Area into places that better represent past and present Indigenous communities, art, culture and reflect current Indigenous initiatives. These dedicated gathering spaces will be a place for communities to hold ceremonies and celebrate cultural traditions.


Learn more on our Indigenous placemaking page.
Places and Spaces: A Parks and Open Spaces Strategy

Places and Spaces is an update to the existing Parks Strategic Plan adopted by city council in 2010. It is the recasting of the parks plan to better reflect current demands of park space. It will re-evaluate all aspects of parks delivery in Kitchener down to the fundamental level - what makes a quality park in Kitchener? We’re talking to residents and community partners to better understand how parks are used, what barriers exist to using parks, and what you value most about parks. Guiding documents, created with the data collected from these engagements, will help shape more inclusive and all-welcoming Kitchener parks.

Learn more on Engage Kitchener.

Pop-up park

From October 14 to 16, 2022, Kitchener hosted a pop-up park in Carl Zehr Square. The pop-up park was a real-time testing of ideas and features we heard through Places and Spaces community engagement and conversations with community partners.

Activities and activations included:

  • a sacred fire held in partnership with Anishinabeg Outreach
  • an outdoor Jummah prayer
  • EarlyOn Programming
  • community living room conversations on homelessness in parks
  • movie nights featuring Stories from Land Back Camp and Recollections & Imagining.

Learn more about our pop-up park.

Renaming Indian Road

At the request of Grand River Collegiate Institute students and local Indigenous community members, a review of the street name Indian Road is underway. A name change would be in line with the Ontario Human Rights Commission direction to recognize the enduring impact of colonialism on Indigenous peoples and the negative impacts the discriminatory display of names and images has on individuals and groups.

Learn more on Engage Kitchener.


The RISE Fund is a community grant that provides support for Black, Indigenous and racialized community-led organizations, programs, initiatives or events meant to decrease inequities and increase opportunities and well-being for those same communities in Kitchener.

The annual budget for the fund is $100,000. In 2022, we funded 12 applicants supporting various projects, activities and core organizational costs.

Learn more on our RISE Fund page.

Staff training

We offer a variety of staff training programs, including:

  • anti-Black racism
  • various Indigenous courses
  • anti-Islamophobia
  • 2SLGBTQ+ allyship
  • bias training for hiring managers
  • inclusive leadership

In 2019, we committed to respond to the Calls to Action from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which began with the launch of intercultural competency training with a focus on history, treaties, legislation and impact on First Nations, Metis and Inuit. Programming expanded in 2022 as we sought to include representation of a variety of Indigenous People including training offered on Metis history, nation and governance, and the Mississaugas of the Credit. We also began offering training on land acknowledgements to equip staff to respectfully engage in this practice. In 2020, we launched our first Anti-Black Racism training program to equip staff to understand racism at an individual and systemic level and to develop allyship tools. At the same time, we began offering Islamophobia training to understand how it impacts Muslims, particularly women.

In addition to classroom training, we have launched programming around days of significance, such as the development of learning toolkits and resources for the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, Black History Month and during Ramadan.

Uniroyal Goodrich Park Indigenous plantings

Wisahkotewinowak and a group of Mount Hope neighbourhoods are planning to plant Indigenous plantings in Uniroyal Goodrich Park and around the nearby stormwater management pond. Our neighbourhood development office is supporting this project through a LoveMyHood grant.

The Uniroyal Goodrich Planting project is led by the Expanding our Relations group and supported by our parks and cemeteries division.

Learn more on the LoveMyHood website.

Workforce census

In June 2019, staff received a workforce census survey as part of a larger employee culture survey. The survey was administrated by a third-party company.

The mayor’s task force on EDI is using this data to:

  • identify potential systemic barriers
  • prioritize areas for focus and action
  • measure future initiatives to create a more inclusive workforce and workplace

We have a responsibility to serve everyone in our community. When our staff bring with them a broad diversity of lived experiences and perspectives, we are better able to make decisions that respond to the needs of everyone in our community. Research shows that increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace can lead to an increase in mental health and wellbeing for all employees, as well as increased employee satisfaction, retention and productivity.

Some quick facts about the workforce census:

  • our employee culture survey had an 80% response rate
  • this is the first time that we have asked these types of demographic questions of city staff
  • the Ontario Human Rights Commission encourages organizations like ours to collect this type of demographic data
  • staff participation in the census questions was voluntary, none of the questions were mandatory
  • staff could answer none, all or some of the questions

Download the census results