The Ford government announced $1.5 million more funding for a Black-focused council on youth opportunity, with at the same time Premier Doug Ford backtracking on a statement he made two days ago that Ontario doesn’t have the systemic racism experienced in the United States.

“Our history is different than the United States – but we have our own history of racism here in Ontario – and you can go back 60 or 70 years – and I know people out there are feeling pain and I see it,” For said. “These issues are deeply rooted – they stem from a history of racism and abuse.”

So his government is expanding funding for the Premier’s Council for Equality of Opportunity, a panel meant to connect experts with young people from marginalized communities.

Led by author, lawyer and community organizer Jamil Jivani, the panel will use the new money to help connect Black youth to training and other supports as the Black community has been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a fact the Ford government has been reluctant to admit before publicly.

“There has been a global pandemic, there are long decades-old systemic issues in the province – and we want to impact policy so that we can see real action, a lot of previous efforts from previous administrations have been about talk,” Jivani said.

Jivani said the funding announcement was not timed to coincide in response to Ford’s comments, or the ongoing protests in wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota or the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in High Park.

“We did not wait for CNN to tell us there is a problem – rather we have been working on these issues for months,” he said.

The deaths of Floyd and Korchinski-Paquet have drawn attention to the idea that some funding meant for police should be diverted to community supports or greater mental health resources.

Jivani said he had conflicting feelings about that idea.

“To say taking resources away from police inherently improves quality of life for people, I think that’s an important assumption to interrogate,” he said, later suggesting local police chiefs, especially Ontario’s prominent Black ones, needed to be involved in that discussion.

“The two largest cities in Ontario have very strong capable talented Black men in charge of policing – they are world class experts on how to improve policing and modernize policing.”

But Ford said he was in no way in favour of diverting resources from police.

“I support more funding for community resources and I don’t believe in cutting the police – everyone in our community has to be part of the solutions.”

The Liberals led by Black MPPs Mitzie Hunter and Michael Coteau, slammed Ford for attaching a funding announcement to his change in message about racism in Ontario.

“Two days ago Premier Ford refused to say that systemic racism existed in Ontario. Within 24 hours he flip-flopped and acknowledged that systematic racism continues to exist in our communities,” they said. “Today, The Premier announced the creation of a new Premier's Youth Council to replace the one he cut. This is two years of lost progress.”