By TOM GODFREY
Respected community elder and former Metro Toronto councillor, Bev Salmon, has joined others in calling for Toronto Police to end the practice of racial profiling and carding in a speech to kick off Black History Month.
“It is sad but this practice has to be stopped,” Salmon said afterwards. “This practice by police criminalizes a lot of young people in the community.”
Salmon, who served in municipal politics in both North York and Toronto, was a keynote speaker at a brunch last weekend at the Liberty Grand complex that was attended by hundreds of community members, leaders and politicians.
In the audience were police officers, including Toronto Police Deputy Chief Peter Sloly and colleagues from forces across Ontario, including the OPP, whose first Black female officer, Carole Ann Alfred, who served from 1978 to 1985, is featured in the Black History Month 2014 poster.
“I am glad that they (police) heard me,” Salmon told Share in an interview. “Racial profiling and carding by police is a dangerous thing.”
Some people at the event said officers in attendance seemed uncomfortable with the racial profiling part of Salmon’s speech. Toronto Police and other forces have refused to back down or stop the practice, which is now being challenged before the courts.
Salmon recalled Ontario’s first Black MPP Leonard Braithwaite being profiled by Toronto Police as a young University of Toronto law student in the early 1950s.
“It was happening then and it is happening now,” Salmon said. “Leonard went on to become a lawyer and the first Black MPP in Ontario.”
Salmon, who was the recipient of a Dr. Daniel G. Hill Award for her volunteer service, said the community is silent on the profiling issue.
“The majority of people being carded are young Black males,” she stressed. “This is an important issue and the community is being very complacent.”
Rosemary Sadlier, president of the Ontario Black History Society, said she was pleased by the turnout and not surprised by Salmon’s comments.
“People in the African Canadian community have a range of viewpoints and some of them are quite legitimate,” Sadlier said.
Salmon is a trained nurse who moved with her late husband, Dr. Doug Salmon, to Detroit for several years before returning to Canada.
Her husband was a top athlete and Canada’s first Black surgeon and the first African-Canadian president of a hospital medical staff. He passed away in 2005 at age 81.
Salmon was a co-founder of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s first Black female commissioner.
The issue of racial profiling and carding of Blacks by police is heating up in the community, with meetings planned and other lawyers joining forces to possibly help in three class-action lawsuits filed against police and three levels of government to end the practice that records the encounters between Blacks and Toronto Police for future investigations.