By TOM GODFREY
About 30 vocal members of the community attended a meeting at Toronto Police headquarters to speak out against a proposed anti-carding policy that many claim was “watered-down”.
The room was packed on April 2 as groups and activists tried to stop the Community Engagements Policy that would roll back for Toronto Police officers racial profiling and carding guidelines that was imposed by the Toronto Police Services Board in April 2014.
The meeting was deferred until April 16, when Chief Bill Blair is expected to report back with details on what personal information his officers will continue to record in traffic and other stops.
Deputants blasted the Board and Blair for trying to impose a version of the policy that they claim would benefit police and not the community. Activists are opposed to officers not having to issue receipts as promised, with their name and badge number, for every interaction with community members.
Members of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) are concerned over the outcome of the thousands of contact cards already issued by police to young Black males.
“There is a gross over-representation of African Canadians who were issued contact cards under the category of ‘general investigation’,” the OHRC said in a written statement. “The previous policy called for these records to be purged but the new policy makes no commitment to do so.”
The OHRC credited the Board and Toronto Police for taking some steps to address racial profiling but warned that much more have to be done.
“We strongly urge that the Board and Service effectively address racial discrimination now,” its officials said. “The quality of life of Black and other racialized and indigenous people in this city depends on it.”
There were comments made against the police proposal by a range of groups including the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) and Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation (JDCF).
“We would like to express in the strongest possible terms, our community’s displeasure and disapproval to some of the proposed amendments,” BADC president, Kingsley Gilliam, told the Board. “We are gravely concerned by the events that have led to this watered-down and adulterated draft policy,” Gilliam said in his submission. “The net effect of the draft policy amounts to an audacious and illegitimate attack on certain constitutional rights that Canadians hold dear.”
He said under the draft policy, the “Chief will be assuming the role of the Board to determine how this policy will be carried out, and after jettisoning years of public consultations”.
Gilliam said many recommendations made over time by a wide cross-section of the community will also be shelved.
“All police activities are engagements, however, sometimes the engaged individuals end up brutally assaulted, injured and some of them end up dead,” he said. “Mayor Tory, is this the kind of legacy you would like to leave behind?”
He said if the policy is approved “it would no further alienate the community from the police but would undermine any confidence left in the Board”.
Board chair, Dr. Alok Mukherjee, said that he was pleased with the proposal, which he claimed was “good for the community”.
JDCF president, Valarie Steele, said Tory has to take some of the heat for the policy still being on hold as young men continue to be targeted by police.
“Under Mayor Tory’s leadership policing in this city is going back to the 1960s,” warned Steele, a former president of the Jamaican Canadian Association. “Tory is allowing his friendship with Chief Blair to cloud his judgment in dealing with the police file.”
Steele questioned why Andrew Pringle remains on the Board even though she said he lives near Niagara Falls.
“Mayor Tory, you have brought conflict and divisiveness in your handling of this policy matter,” she warned. “This will dog you for the entire period of your tenure as Mayor of Toronto.”
Tory was also accused of removing Councillor Michael Thompson from the Board because he “could not be manipulated or cajoled”.