Ontario government striving to ensure equality for all residents

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Tom Godfrey By Tom Godfrey
Wednesday March 09 2016




The days of racial profiling and carding of Black youth by Toronto Police in street checks may be coming to an end as the Ontario government moves closer to its goal of equality for all citizens.

We were told that in a matter of weeks the province will introduce legislation to govern the way Black and brown-skinned youth are treated by cops when pulled over at the side of the road.

The community was assured by politicians that in future street checks our youths will not have to answer questions and can walk away and their personal information will not be saved to a police database.

The personal data on more than 1 million Black men are stored in police databases even though they have not been charged with any crimes.

The Liberals promised the Bill will be approved and in place by this summer to avert mounting ill-feeling and mistrust between police and minority communities.

No love was lost in the community with the disbanding of the much-despised Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) whose officers patrolled at-risk communities in a very heavy-handed approach by arresting everyone in sight.

And we were recently promised an Anti-Racism Directorate to address racism in all its forms whether individual, systemic and cultural.

The provincial Directorate “will apply an anti-racism lens in developing, implementing and evaluating government policies, programs and services”, government officials said at the launch of the project last month.

The province and Ottawa are back to the days of ensuring everyone has the same opportunities for advancement in this country.

Just look at the fairly smooth selection and resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees who recently arrived in Canada from camps abroad. Teams of officials and volunteers are now trying to get them housing and jobs.

One has to admit that we live in a great city and in a progressive province, from a human rights point of view. Others will swear differently especially with a four-cent-a-litre gas tax and other carbon tax increases looming.

That aside, Ontario was among the first to abolish slavery in 1793 and has been on the forefront in the treatment of minority communities across Canada.

Ours was the first province to adopt the Racial Discrimination Act back in 1944 that bans the publication or display of any notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation indicating racial discrimination.

That Act was passed more than 70 years ago this week and was the first of its kind in Canada. It was later used to challenge a deed that banned the selling of land to Jews, Asians and Blacks in Ontario.

That same year the province passed a regulation to ban discrimination in halls that received public funds and in 1932 the insurance law was amended to ban racial and religious discrimination in the assessment of insurance.

The Ontario government does have a long history of being progressive and on the forefront of trying to ensure equity for all its citizens. We were among the first to recognize same-sex couples and improve laws to protect women.

So much is riding in the community on the changes proposed by Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi, who is a straight-shooting man who means well and has signalled that he will be making positive and meaningful changes.

The community is only asking for what is right, lawful and fair. The practice of equality for all goes back in Ontario for more than 200 years and I don’t think the Liberals will allow an issue as wrong as carding to continue to foster and tarnish their legacy.

We are all hoping that Naqvi will step up to the plate and do what is right for all of us when he puts an end to the carding of young people by police.

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