By TOM GODFREY
My co-worker Noel is a hard-working Christian man and the father of two teenage sons who leave him fretting and sleepless at nights.
Noel, who is from Jamaica, is concerned about the carding issue and how it may affect his teens, one who is starting to drive.
He is not concerned for himself or his wife, who are getting up in age and looking forward to retirement.
The couple are more worried these days about the implications that a carding event by Toronto police may have on the future of their boys.
Young Black or Brown-skinned men can have a hard time finding jobs, apartments or seeking a loan once their names are inputted into a police database for doing nothing wrong.
Their names may come up time after time in police searches, but they are criminalized just by being added to the supersized police databank.
Just a thought of a person’s name being on a database with thousands of hardened criminals can send perspective employers, bankers or social workers running for cover. Keep in mind that most jobs these days require some sort of police clearance check.
Noel says he is disappointed and expected more of new Chief Mark Saunders, who, he says, as a Black family man with children, should have offered more compassion rather than just shutting the door on the carding debate.
He believes the policy can lead to an open season for the carding of Black males, since it has been proudly endorsed by Saunders and the Toronto Police Association.
“I am afraid for my sons,” Noel tells me. “This is not the Toronto that I used to know.”
He and many others believe that Toronto is heading for more racial unrest between police and the Black community, similar to protests raging in some U.S. cities.
“One of my kids is driving and is on the road and I am really scared for him,” he said, tightly grabbing my arm. “I see what’s going on the States and look at here. I am fearful of the cops.”
His eyes are bloodshot and in pain as he stares at me. I remain quiet because I do not have an answer to soothe the hardworking, caring father.
He, like many others I know, is unsettled by the rhetoric they are hearing from Saunders and the lines that are being drawn. They wonder if Toronto under Mayor John Tory will be remembered for its racial clashes with police.
Tory has disappeared from the scene and has left the heavy-lifting and name-blaming to others.
Members of the community are already predicting a summer of unrest in Toronto similar to that of Baltimore with the killing of Freddie Gray and the wake of anti-police protests.
“Things are only going to get worse,” predicts Kingsley Gilliam of the Black Action Defense Committee. “We want the community to understand that no one has an obligation to talk to an officer when approached.”
Many people in the community who supported Saunders are confused by his tough stance on the carding policy, a file he is familiar with and worked on with former Chief Bill Blair.
Every day more Black and Brown-skinned youths from at-risk areas are getting flagged by police and their personal information stored for further use.
We the community are the ones who are feeling the heat and being impacted every day that Saunders tries to stay the course and dismiss us as loudmouths.
There have been complaints filed and others pending against the carding policy, that has yet to be tested in Canadian or international courts.
What is encouraging about this fight is the many White and non-Black faces you see in the crowds wearing signs and chanting.
Many of these young people have never been carded by the cops but see the practice as being plain wrong.