By TOM GODFREY
Some seven organizations have joined forces to host a third town hall meeting next week to examine policing and other critical issues facing the community.
On the front-burner will be the selection of a new Toronto Police Chief and who will best serve the community. Applicants for the Chief’s job have until February 20 to get their resumes in.
Also up for discussion are the “continued racial profiling, unlawful stops and documentation of young Black men and women”.
Kingsley Gilliam, of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), said the town hall meetings “engage the community in a series of conversations about this disturbing trend of oppressive action against peoples of African ancestry”.
Gilliam said the gatherings have been a success and more community residents are taking notice or becoming involved.
The first meeting took place last month and involved BADC, the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) and the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation.
Since then other community organizations have joined a coalition, including Toronto Guardians, Canadian Alliance of Black Educators, Midaynta Community Services and the Association of Black Law Enforcers.
“Over the past year a number of critical issues involving systemic racism, racial profiling and discrimination affecting Black, African and West Indian peoples have reached a point,” Gilliam told Share by email. “We believe a co-ordinated and sustained community intervention is required.”
He said the leaders of all organizations representing Black, African, Caribbean and West Indian (peoples) are being urged to mobilize in a united front to tackle policing and other issues.
“We have to address these critical issues to the dignified survival of our people in this society,” said Gilliam.
He said the agencies will also discuss child welfare and the “significant over-representation of Black and West Indian children being removed from their families by the Children’s Aid Society”.
Research by the Toronto Star showed that 41 per cent of children in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are Black. Just eight per cent of the city’s population under the age of 18 are Black, according to the newspaper.
Some community leaders believe cultural misunderstandings, poverty and systemic racism play a large role in the child protection system. Police also play a huge role since they are the largest source of referrals to children’s aid.
Another hot topic are school boards and the large number of Black students who are being expelled, suspended and dropping out of school, and the social and economic impact of that on our community, organizers of the meeting said.
Also being looked at is the significant number of young Blacks in the prison system and the under-representation of Blacks in the Ontario Public Service.
Some of the other major issues facing the community include the problems of violence and murder among our young Black men and its impact on families; declining employment opportunities and increase of poverty and lack of community input in government policy-making.
The meeting takes place on Wednesday, February 11 at 7 p.m., at the JCA building on 995 Arrow Rd.