By TOM GODFREY
A series of town hall meetings are taking place in Toronto to examine “critical issues” affecting the Black, African and Caribbean communities in the GTA, organizers say.
The first meeting was slated for January 7 and another is planned for next month and a third in March, according to the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA), one of the sponsors of the event.
The meetings, to which many community activists and agencies have been invited, are being co-hosted by the JCA, Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) and the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation (JDCF).
BADC board member Kingsley Gilliam said some of the policing issues being dealt with in 2015 will have a significant effect on the community and includes the selection of a new Toronto Police chief and the racial profiling against Blacks by officers.
Chief Bill Blair will be stepping down in April and a search is underway by the Toronto Police Services Board to find a successor, one who has strong people and administrative skills.
Gilliam said the meetings will engage “in a series of conversations about this disturbing trend of oppressive action against peoples of African ancestry.
“This is a dire situation and it is getting critical,” he told Share. “There are issues that affect us that would require consultations from the community.”
Gilliam said the situation with racial profiling and carding of community members is being examined by the board which has new members this term including Mayor John Tory.
The alleged racial profiling and carding of Blacks have long been a contentious issue between the community and police. It has sparked protests and a $200 million lawsuit against the force.
Some of the other issues affecting the community that have to be dealt with this year include concerns against school boards and the Children’s Aid Society, about the large number of visible minority children dropping out of schools or being cared for.
The organizations are mobilizing “in a united front to address these critical issues to the dignified survival of our people in this society,” a release of the event said.
“We have written to all the organizations in the community that we are in contact with,” Gilliam told Share. “We are looking at strategies and how we as a community can address these issues.”
He said the welfare of Black children is a huge concern in the community.
Many community members are dismayed by the significant over-representation of Black and West Indian children being allegedly removed from their families by the Children’s Aid Society, he said.
Also of concern are school boards and the large number of Black students who are being expelled, suspended or dropping out of school and the significant amount of Blacks in the federal and provincial prison systems, the release said.
Gilliam hopes to build a coalition of organizations to deal with issues faced by the Black community.
The release mentioned the problems of violence, including murder, among young Black men and the impact on families and the community. It also cited alleged racism and an under-representation of Blacks in the Ontario Public Service.
“There is a lack of community input in government policy formulation and decision making process,” said Gilliam. “There is declining employment opportunities and increase in poverty in our communities.”
The meetings are open to the public. The next one takes place on Wednesday, February 11, at 7 p.m., at the Jamaican Canadian Centre, at 995 Arrow Rd.