By Dr. MUNYONZWE HAMALENGWA, Barrister and Solicitor
The Toronto Police Services Board has an unprecedented opportunity to appoint for the first time in its history and indeed the history of the City of Toronto, a chief of the Toronto Police Service that reflects change and diversity.
There has never been a time when there were two Black deputy chiefs in the Toronto Police Service, thus within striking distance of the top job. There is also a female contender from a neighbouring city.
There is no logical reason to look beyond the two Black deputy chiefs that are already in place. Toronto is a complex place. While sometimes outside infusion is absolutely called for, it is not needed in this case unless the outsider would bring a measure of diversity to the post that has been occupied by White males since the founding of this city.
It is no secret that Ontario suffers from a severe diversity deficit at the uppermost levels of power, including the judiciary, civil service, legal profession, corporate landscape, academia, medical, service industry – everywhere. This has been documented by the Government of Ontario, Ryerson University and several studies, including my own on the judiciary. The government’s solution is to hire more women and we know what that means – White women. But room must be made for male and female minorities and not only one gender from one racial background.
Toronto policing has experienced unprecedented reform initiatives and public input, interface, resistance and struggle to have to deal with an outsider who will face a lengthy learning curve about the dynamics of policing and community relations in this great city. Deputy Chiefs Peter Sloly and Mark Saunders are already involved in these dynamics and have been for a long time. As a result, they are qualified to handle the difficulties that Toronto mandates in policing and community relations.
It is beside the point whether one agrees with their predilections as to the implications of the desired direction that policing ought to take. They know change has to take place. They know what the community wants. They know dialogue is important. They know resistance will not ease up. They know racial profiling exists, as does carding.
A new police chief from outside has to learn all of this. An outsider brought in as the new chief would have to read all the commission reports that say more or less the same things and make the same recommendations from the 1980s, almost none of which have been implemented. Sloly and Saunders do not have to do this. The community has long lost the patience of non-action.
One of the products has been the class action lawsuits before the courts. Carding has supposedly lessened, but racial profiling has not. The new police chief may be a throwback to the years of the Neanderthal. Toronto is poised to move on with the leadership that we already have, a leadership that reflects diversity and perhaps a leadership that values dialogue and reform. A leadership that has already acknowledged that racial profiling and carding exist. That is the beginning point.
The federal government missed the only opportunity it had in appointing Juanita Westmoreland–Traoré (a Black woman who had been Chief Employment Equity Commissioner in Ontario and Dean of the Faculty of Law at Windsor) to the Quebec Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada by appointing her to the first tier court in Quebec, thus forever removing her from the radar of appointment to higher judicial office including the Supreme Court of Canada.
Now there does not appear to be a Black woman available for appointment to the Quebec Court of Appeal or to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Toronto Police Services Board should not behave the same as the Government of Canada by failing to appoint either Sloly or Saunders as the next Chief of Police in Toronto.
These opportunities for minorities in Canada seldom present themselves, if at all. So seize the moment. Let diversity reign in Toronto. Chiefs of Police in Toronto have always come from the ranks of the city’s police officers. There should be no difference this time.
Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa is a criminal lawyer in Toronto and is the lead counsel in several class action lawsuits involving racial profiling by the Toronto Police. He is the author of the book, The Politics of Judicial Diversity and Transformation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org