By TOM GODFREY
Members of the community may soon be getting some much-deserved answers into why a mentally challenged Andrew Loku was shot and killed by Toronto Police last year.
A confidential report by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) into the July 2015 slaying of Loku, 45, a refugee from South Sudan, is finally being made public after several demands from tireless community activists.
The mentally ill father and husband was shot by police at an assisted housing complex in Toronto as he was allegedly waving a hammer.
Loku had sponsored his wife and children to join him in Canada and was waiting for their arrival and a new life here when he was slain.
Tensions and protests erupted in the community after the SIU, the police oversight body, ruled the officer who pulled the trigger would not be charged. The findings were not publicly released.
That led to a 15-day boisterous protest by Black Lives Matter (BLM) outside Toronto Police Headquarters to bring attention to the systemic racism faced by Blacks, a lack of transparency and for the release of the results of the Loku probe.
The protest prompted meetings – yet to be scheduled – with Mayor John Tory and Premier Kathleen Wynne, who briefly met with the protestors outside Queen’s Park.
Wynne bowed to public pressure last week and said she will release the SIU findings. Activists claim that body is not independent and too closely aligned to Toronto Police.
The Premier has refused demands by BLM to release the identity of the officer who shot Loku. She said parts of the report will be redacted to remove the names of officers and other sensitive information.
“I want the information that is in the SIU report to be in the public realm,” Wynne said last week. “It’s not a matter of whether, it’s a matter of how we do that.”
She is not sure when the document will be released or if it will mean more public access to all SIU reports.
SIU director, Tony Loparco, has remained quiet on the Loku case as his agency prepares for a government review.
Loparco is required under current laws to submit his reports to Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur. The Ontario government has always kept the reports confidential, claiming they contain personal information.
Meilleur has been under fire by community groups and there are calls for her to resign for allegedly mishandling the Loku file. The Toronto Star reported that she had not read the file for a month even though it sat on her desk.
“She has to go,” said Kingsley Gilliam of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC). “This constitutes an abdication of duties and demonstrates that Madam Meilleur is unfit to be the Attorney General of Ontario.”
Gilliam said Meilleur is the “chief law officer of the Executive Council with important responsibilities unlike those of any other Cabinet members”.
BADC in a press release last week accused Meilleur of failing the people of Ontario and called her attitude to such a critical issue “uncaring” and “cavalier”.
Gilliam said Meilleur is unfit to hold the position since her office is in charge with oversight of the SIU and she failed to read the Director’s Report for a month.
Meanwhile, the terms of a review are being established for a probe into the SIU following complaints by BLM and Toronto City Council that most police officers are not charged by the agency in police shootings.
Record checks reveal less than six Toronto officers have faced SIU charges for incidents in the last two years.
Ontario, following years of protests by the Black community, became the first province to establish police oversight with the creation of the SIU in 1990. The agency has now fallen behind other provinces in the matter of transparency, accountability, public disclosure in its investigations and being too closely linked to police.
The SIU refused comment.