WINDSOR, ONT. -- Officials with the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County (MCC) say they have decided to withdraw their proposal to lead a community anti-racism initiative because it has become “political and divisive.”

The proposal was presented by MCC executive director Kathleen Thomas at the July 19 meeting of Windsor City Council.

The “Our City, Our Culture” anti-racism proposal was approved and accepted by council, but the agency says it now feels the project has become political and divisive, no longer reflecting the spirit, intent, and purpose of the initiative.

“What council was presented with, was a proposal; an opportunity to join us in developing a comprehensive community-wide anti-racism initiative,” says Thomas. “It is unfortunate that this initiative has now become divisive, when our goal was to bring people together. The very heart of this proposal was inclusion.

Thomas adds as an apolitical organization, they feel it is in their best interest to remove themselves from the process and proceed on their own.

“We’re concerned! We don’t know what the agenda is,” the chair of Windsor's diversity committee, Peter Ijeh says.

Ijeh says some of the group’s volunteer members are contemplating quitting over the controversy, saying the process in and of itself is problematic, telling CTV News there has been a lack of conversation from the city about anti-racism with his group.

“The colonialist mentality the oppressive language that we’re going to tell you how things aught to be done,” Ijeh explains, “We cannot have an environment where people feel that they are being marginalized and further marginalized in the process.”

Ijeh hopes the pause on the proposed programming will allow for meaningful discussion between the City of Windsor, and community groups combating racism.

“The MCC is really good at doing those multicultural things in those regards, but MCC has no clue what anti-racism is,” Ijeh says.

The MCC says it will continue to combat racism, prejudice, and discrimination in all forms in Windsor-Essex. Officials say they will work along-side community partners to ensure the valuable initiatives presented in this proposal are able to reach the people who need it most.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens issued a statement about the MCC decision:

“It is truly sad that the Multicultural Council of Windsor (MCC) felt that they had to withdraw from delivering on the important work associated with the City of Windsor’s anti-racism initiative. In recent weeks, the comments made to denigrate the work of the MCC and their staff crossed the line and took on an increasingly personal and nasty tone.

Despite the strong majority of Council endorsing the proposal, efforts to undermine the anti-racism initiative forced the MCC to decline additional funding. The immediate result will be a delay in proceeding with bursaries, academic scholarships, mentorships and grants to support minority-run small businesses.

After the events of the past year, our goal was to take action to combat racism in all its forms and to generate tangible results for marginalized communities. The proposal put forward by the MCC reflected dozens of conversations with diverse stakeholder groups in Windsor and proposed meaningful steps, suggested by local individuals and grassroots organizations.

Council will need to decide how to administer the allocated resources which were first set-aside during the 2021 City budget, but it is clear that additional work will be required prior to deciding how to proceed.”

- With files from CTV Windsor's Chris Campbell.