By TOM GODFREY
A noisy protest against the alleged racial profiling and carding of Black youth in the Jane-Finch community by Toronto Police was held outside 31 Division station on the weekend.
Members of the Jane-Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAAP) said area youth are being targeted even more for checks these days by officers working to secure facilities at York University that are being used for the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.
About 200 members of JFAAP and the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence chanted and while carrying signs outside the busy Norfinch Dr. station last Saturday as officers looked on from inside. They made no comment and did their best to avoid the protesters.
The protesters are angry over the treatment of Black youth by the police and staged the event to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is marked on March 21.
JFAAP spokesperson, Sabrina Gopaul, said youth in the area continue to be racially profiled in Jane-Finch even as Chief Bill Blair and the Police Services Board work on a policy designed to end the arbitrary manner in which Black youth are stopped and documented by police. The policy, which has been in the works for almost a year, is expected to provide guidelines for police officers to follow when interacting with members of the public. With the chief set to retire next month, former Chief Justice Warren Winkler has been brought in to help speed things up.
Many of the demonstrators said Black youth are being criminalized by having their personal information placed on a police database for further checks.
Gopaul said protesters are calling for an end to police violence, carding and racial profiling in the Jane-Finch community.
“There is widespread dissatisfaction with the way that police interact with members of the community,” she told Share. “The level of trust in the police is low and there is a view that community members are being racially profiled.”
She pointed to last November’s Community Satisfaction Survey of Police Practices at 31 Division that revealed a dissatisfaction and distrust for police in the community.
More than half of the 404 people surveyed said they believe 31 Division officers abused their powers and one in three felt police were dishonest and unfair in their practices. More than 40 per cent of male youth reported being intimidated by police and would not report a crime.
“We are sick and tired of being sick and tired of police brutality and the violation of our rights and dignity,” said Gopaul. “Police violence will only stop when we organize and fight back against the oppression that many feel.”
“People here are being regularly carded and profiled by police,” said Gopaul. “There is a bitter distrust between the community and officers from 31 Division.”
Many residents said they are feeling added pressure from police who are searching for possible troublemakers who may want to disrupt Pan Am tennis matches taking place July 10 to 26 at the Canadian Tennis Centre at York University.
“People here are being carded more and are feeling the police pressure as it gets closer to the Pan Am Games,” said Gopaul. “They (police) don’t want any problems in the area for the Games.”
Residents are also complaining that officers from the “TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy) Unit are stationed in the community 24 hours”.
TAVIS officers are described as an “occupation army” by residents, even though they are involved in community beautification and youth projects.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been celebrated since 1966. It stemmed from a 1960 incident when police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws.
JFAAP was formed in 2008 following a rally at the intersection of Jane and Finch to commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The group has been on the forefront in calling for an anti-carding policy to be implemented by police.