This task force includes community members and city staff who are working together to create an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy for the city.

On this page:

  1. Equity, diversity and inclusion strategy
  2. Project phases
  3. Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives team
  4. Workforce census

Equity, diversity and inclusion strategy

Our EDI strategy will make recommendations to council on:

  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 and supporting a more inclusive and diverse workforce at the City of Kitchener for both employees and volunteers
  4. celebrating the full diversity of the Kitchener community

Project phases

The task force’s work has three phases.

Phase 1 – launch

Time: October 2019 to February 2020

This phase focused on relationship building and priority setting. During this time, members of the task force worked together to find areas of focus and discussed approaches to engage with the larger community.

Phase 2 – engage

Time: September 2020 to April 2021

At this stage, the task force is focused on community input, research and corporate engagement to inform the development of a series of recommendations that will be included in the city’s corporate strategy.

Task force members have assembled into working groups focused on targeted engagement in several key areas including:

  • Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Policy for the City of Kitchener: outlining the city’s commitment to equity and anti-racism across the organization and with expectations for employees and direct volunteers
  • Equity and Anti-Racism Training: a training strategy has been developed for staff, volunteers and council members and three-part roll-out plan that includes two mandatory trainings: Introduction to Equity, and Systemic Racism/White Privilege. Additional trainings for priority groups at the city include: Anti-Black Racism, Anti-Indigenous Racism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism, LGBTQ2S+ inclusion, and Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion.
  • Demographic data collection: a detailed approach for demographic data collection has been developed for the corporation and includes standardized questions for collecting demographic data, educational resources, FAQs and recommendations for public reporting
  • Guidelines for Equity & Anti-Racism Communications: an Equity and Anti-Racism guide for all city staff and council is currently under development
  • Recruitment, hiring and promotional practices: an external consultant has been hired to conduct an Equity Audit of human resources policies and practices pertaining to recruitment, hiring and promotion. Work is currently underway to create a report of findings, recommendations, and an implementation strategy over three years.
  • Community grant program for racialized groups: a draft outline has been developed for a sustained community funding opportunity for racialized community members
  • Youth mentorship program development: recommendations for a Youth Mentorship Program specifically for low-income youth, sponsored and/or facilitated by the City of Kitchener is underway
  • Staffing model: recommend a staffing model for a full-time, permanent staff team to lead this work at the City of Kitchener. The recommendation for the creation of a five-person staff team to do sustained, ongoing work focused on Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives was approved by council in October 2020.

Phase 3 – report

Time: May to June 2021

Using input generated from research, community consultation and engagement, the task force will develop specific actions and recommendations related to the areas of focus above. A corporate equity, diversity and inclusion strategy focused on actionable change, including an implementation plan, timeline, key milestones, and recommendations for sustainability will be complete by the end of June 2021.

A strategy session with council was held on May 10 to provide an update on each of the bodies of work listed above and to offer council members the opportunity to ask questions and discuss specific elements of this work. The staff report is available online.

Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives team

In October 2020, city council approved a new 5-person staff team to support equity, diversity and inclusion at the City of Kitchener. The Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives team will provide the city, and city council, with leadership, expertise, advice and senior level competencies, in issues of equity, anti-racism, Indigenous initiatives, and the intersection of broader social issues such as homelessness, mental health and addictions. The mandate of this team is to:

  • lead staff across the organization in eliminating systemic barriers and racism within the corporation.
  • support the ongoing work to create an inclusive workplace and diverse workforce through foundational changes to policies and accountability mechanisms, and build a corporate culture grounded in equity, anti-racism and a commitment to long term change
  • enhance the city's engagement with members of the community who have bene traditionally excluded.
  • recommend new municipal programs and initiatives (or changes to existing ones) that support marginalized members of the community, including organizations focused on equity, anti-racism and Indigenous related issues
  • implement a multi-year evaluation and accountability strategy to monitor, measure and publicly report on the city's work on equity, anti-racism and Indigenous initiatives

Recruitment for the Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous team started in January 2021 and will continue until all five team members are hired. The members of this team will execute the recommendations and actions identified by the Task Force.

Director, Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives

Photo of Suzanne Charles Watson

On June 7, 2021, Suzanne Charles Watson joined the City of Kitchener as Director, Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives.

Suzanne is an equity, diversity and inclusion specialist living and working for equity, inclusion, human rights and social justice. Suzanne has more than 15 years of experience successfully designing and managing large-scale interdisciplinary research initiatives and developing research-driven equity responsive and inclusive policy. She has worked with a wide range of stakeholders and actors in international development, academia, government and civil society to design and implement equity-responsive policy. As a Research Fellow at the University of the West Indies (UWI), she provided technical advice as a subject matter expert around issues of Gender and Equity and most notably co-authored the university’s Gender Policy, which was adopted by the University’s Council in 2017.

Most recently, Suzanne has worked to mainstream equity, diversity and inclusion best practices across the Research Institute at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), where she held the role of Senior Program Manager. She has conducted extensive training on equity, diversity and inclusion issues and worked with the Research Institute and Hospital’s Executive teams to embed EDI principles into the organization.

In addition to her professional work, Suzanne is a strong advocate of volunteerism and mentorship and sits on community and NGO boards in the GTA dedicated to social justice.

Kitchener is thrilled to welcome Suzanne to this inaugural role, and Suzanne is delighted to be joining the Kitchener community as the City works to become more inclusive and equitable.

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