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Community Plan revision addresses equity, systemic racism gaps

Plan serves as guidance for City officials and departments as well as partner organizations seeking to align to community priorities, values and goals
01 26 2022 City Hall Stock Image

Guelph’s Community Plan is a reflection of the community’s needs and values. Today, the community shared an update, which includes new language and the theme: We are Community—a theme that speaks to equity and the elimination of systemic racism because everyone in Guelph should feel a sense of belonging.

The update is currently available through the City’s weekly update to Council on

“The new theme speaks to how Guelph must work as a united community to address systemic racism and build equity. It also highlights the importance of building the relationships and trust needed so we can continue in our efforts to remove the racism and colonialism embedded in our structural systems, whether intended or not,” says Sara Sayyed, the City’s senior advisor of equity, anti-racism and Indigenous relations.

The City and Guelph community acknowledge that racism and exclusion exist in many forms including but not limited to: Anti-Black racism, Anti-Indigenous racism, Anti-Asian racism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Anti-2SLGBTQIA+, ageism, ableism and sizeism.

In 2020, the murder of George Floyd had an immediate impact in cities and towns across North America. Calls for governments, including the City of Guelph, to listen to equity-deserving groups, build trust, enter into authentic discussions, and act to eliminate systemic racism were immediate. In Guelph, the Community Plan was the platform used for coming together on this important work.

The Community Plan serves as guidance for City officials and departments as well as partner organizations seeking to align to community priorities, values and goals. Although it spoke to inclusion and diversity, the Community Plan was silent on the topic of systemic racism.

“Guelph’s Community Plan was always intended to evolve and grow with the community,” explains Sayyed. “And it became clear, from community conversations, that a more ambitious, immediate, and necessary goal related to equity and anti-racism was needed—committing the City not merely to work toward equity, but toward the permanent elimination of systemic racism in all forms.”

Addressing gaps, laying a strong foundation

For the past 18 months, the community—supported by City staff—worked to address the significant omission of specific direction related to systemic racism in the first version of the Community Plan.

“As a community, we have been on a journey. We have engaged in conscious unlearning, listened, and relearned from many equity-deserving and rights-asserting voices who have the knowledge, expertise and lived experiences to change these systems,” says Marva Wisdom, a community leader who was also involved in the first version of the Community Plan. “Our learning has shaped the new and important pieces of the Community Plan; addressing gaps we’ve known existed for some time and laying a strong foundation for the action planning ahead.”

The We are Community theme includes eight guiding principles to support Guelph’s effort to set the community standard for the elimination of system racism, based on:

  • Understanding community
  • Building relationships and trust (relationship driven)
  • Truth and reconciliation
  • Working across systems
  • Pace and urgency
  • Safe space
  • Data and story sovereignty
  • Shared language and understanding

What comes next?

Future actions, at a high level, include:

  • Updating the Community Plan documentation and website to include the new theme
  • Incorporating the principles of the new Community Plan theme into the City’s engagement approach as the City continuously learns and improves its practices
  • Shifting the City’s anti-racism work from “how we need to work together” to “what we need to do together” to set the community standard for the elimination of systemic racism
  • Working with community members organizations and institutions to co-create an action plan to outline the specific strategies and actions that must be taken to eliminate systemic racism and barriers to inclusion from our institutions, policies and governance structures. The City committed to this next phase when it joined the Coalition for Inclusive Municipalities

About the Community Plan

Introduced in 2019, A United Vision: Guelph’s Community Plan is a celebration of the community’s diversity, shared values and direction for the future. It’s the culmination of 18 months of conversations, observations, research and writing. More than 10,000 Guelphites worked together to write the plan. Themes include We are Home, We Protect our Environment, We Create Value, We Feel Well, We Play and Explore, We Move Around Freely, and We are Community (added in 2022). The plan guides the work of Guelph’s municipal government and gives community organizations and residents a shared road map to monitor progress and share what is learned.



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