It is still early enough in the New Year to make a commitment to New Year’s resolutions, both personally and in the interest of the community.
Four years ago at this time, this city was bracing for what was to come after Rob Ford took the oath of office as mayor. The tone had been set by Ford invitee, hyperbolic hockey commentator Don Cherry, whose address at that ceremony immediately set a divisive tone.
Thankfully, those moments are now footnotes in Toronto’s history.
We open the year with new mayor, John Tory, who has come to office with a critical list of resolutions meant to heal this city after the controversies of the previous administration. That’s good because there is a sense of urgency about moving forward on issues critical not only to Toronto but also the Greater Toronto Area, including transportation, traffic congestion, hiring a new police chief, and drawing in the underserved outer edges of the city.
Tory will have to move quickly while the goodwill, or rather the immense relief, of Torontonians in welcoming change holds. Time will tell, though, whether he will hold to his resolutions.
While some of his ideas have their detractors, Tory is showing that he is ready to find ways to address some of our major concerns, and his push to get the eastern deck of the Gardiner Expressway completed ahead of schedule is welcome.
But it is not just the newly elected mayor who will have the responsibility of holding fast to important resolutions. A series of recent articles in the Toronto Star on the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) revealed that Black children are removed from their homes and placed into foster care at a higher rate than children of other ethnicities. Black children are only eight per cent of children under 18 years of age in Toronto, yet according to the Star make up over 40 per cent of those in foster care. That is, more than 9,500 children. This is troubling because we have to question how many of these removals are truly warranted.
The parenting culture and traditions CAS policymakers reference define criteria for removal of children that do not significantly recognize traditions of parenting in the Black community. The inevitable lack of understanding, of being foreign to the culture of Black parenting, ends up in this relatively high number of children being removed from their homes. Furthermore, racism in its many pernicious forms has to be considered as a factor in this pattern of separating Black children from their homes.
An important New Year’s resolution within the Black community must therefore be to remedy this predicament, because the CAS is not moving quickly enough on its own to do so, not least because the outcome for these children is often dismal well into their adult years.
We commend Police Chief Bill Blair on his announcement this week to suspend the practice of carding. Members of the community have been fighting for this for years. It just shows that we can make a difference if we get firmly behind an issue. Let’s use the same determination and resolve as we continue to struggle to end other practices that affect our community.
When African-Americans took to the streets of New York City, St. Louis, Missouri, and Washington, D.C. in protest against unfair and deadly treatment, people here in Toronto joined in protest to show support for what has been happening in the U.S. That same energy is needed to protect and support the interests and needs of the community here.
If there is no resolution to end complacency, or if the old habit of leaving the heavy lifting to the few continues to prevail, then this community can anticipate another year of more of the same.
This New Year can be the beginning of a breakthrough, but it requires personal and collective resolutions to work together for positive changes.