Despite its reputation as a challenging neighbourhood, Jane-Finch is one of the richest communities in Toronto and Canada, says Toronto Police Service deputy chief Peter Sloly.
Sloly acknowledges there is an element of violence that needs to be addressed in the socially diverse neighbourhood. But having being assigned to 31 Division as an Inspector just over a decade ago, Sloly is also aware of the unlimited resources and hope that abound in the community.
“Heading up to that division as a young inspector, I thought, was going to be one of my more difficult assignments,” he said in his keynote address at the Royal Bank of Canada’s Black History Month launch last week at the Toronto Board of Trade. “What good could come out of a place like that?”
He said it did not take long for his preconceived attitude to change.
Sloly pointed out that having York University, Canada’s third largest university; the National Sports Centre where some of the country’s top athletes train; Yorkgate and Jane-Finch malls which are sources of business, commerce and local entrepreneurship, a factory that provides employment and community financial support and Humber River Regional Hospital all in close proximity make the Jane-Finch neighbourhood special.
“The amount of human and financial capital and human potential that exist in that little square-footage is massive and singularly untapped,” he said. “Don’t take first impressions as I learned. Dig a little bit deeper and see what true capacity lies beneath the surface as I discovered in my time there.”
Sloly, who has an MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business, commended the police officers who work in the community.
“The division is filled with many great police officers who dedicate themselves on a daily basis to provide the best service they possibly could,” he said. “Yet, in that station, there are individuals who wear uniforms just like this who don’t deserve to wear that uniform because of their attitudes and their actions. But the vast majority of officers that work there do a tremendous job and put their lives on the line every single day to make a difference in that very difficult part of the city.”
He said the TPS has undergone significant positive change in the last five years that has seen the organization emerge as one of Canada’s best diversity employers.
In 1988, he joined the service that has been recognized in the past three years as one of the best places to work in Canada.
“We have become an employer of choice just like RBC,” said Sloly. “We have won national awards for being a psychologically healthy workplace and we have tried to create ourselves as an employer of choice within the policing, public sector and broader employment context.”
Despite its successes, Sloly said there is much work still to be done.
“We are seeing great efforts made by institutions like the banks and the police to get things right. There are more police officers doing more enforcement and crime is going down, but the fear of crime is going up and trust in police institutions is also going down.
“The Toronto Police Service may be one of the best police services in the world, but our Achilles heel is not the public safety equation. It’s in the issue of how we look at diversity, how we treat the issue of racism, how we look at all the other ‘isms’ and how we challenge ourselves to be better.”
Jennifer Tory, RBC’s regional manager, said Black History Month is a time to honour the legacy of Black Canadians while regional vice-president Mark Beckles said the event demonstrates the bank’s commitment to the Black and other ethnic communities across Canada.
“This is a huge opportunity to show we appreciate the value that diversity brings to Canada,” he added.
Visible minorities account for nearly 15 per cent of the bank’s executives and their representation in management roles doubled from 13 to 26 per cent in the last decade.
Last year, RBC was recognized with the Catalyst award for advancing women and other diverse groups.