by Patrick Hunter (@pghntr) in Toronto

A huge wave, represented by about 50 high-profile Canadians, rocked Mayor John Tory’s proverbial boat this week. The “wave” consisted of a former chief justice of Ontario, three former mayors (one of whom is a former chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission), several former politicians and business leaders.

Identifying themselves as Concerned Citizens to End Carding, they held a news conference steps away from Mayor Tory’s office at City Hall to denounce the controversial police practice.

The result is that the mayor has changed his tune, reversing his position on “carding,” the controversial practice by the Toronto Police Service (TPS) of collecting and retaining information about individuals with whom they engage, but who are not being detained or under suspicion of committing a crime.

In his announcement, the Mayor said: “The issue of community engagements, or carding as it has become known, has eroded public trust to a level that is clearly unacceptable.As mayor, it is up to me to do whatever I can do to restore that trust . . . And so I am announcing today my intention, at the next meeting of the police services board on June 18, to seek the permanent cancellation of carding once and for all.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"We believe carding violates the human rights of citizens, it goes against the principles of our Charter Rights ..." - Concerned Citizens to End Carding[/quote]

It is not often that political leaders reverse their positions so openly. Early reaction has been mostly positive. The damage, however, may have already been done. That will become clearer when Tory faces the electorate in another three years.  

The Use of Carding

The carding practice was revealed in a Toronto Star investigative report in 2012 under the banner headline “Known to police.” It uncovered the fact the majority of persons stopped by the police whose information was taken were young black males, and their information was being kept in a database, apparently for future reference when a crime is committed.

Earlier this year, the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) had approved a policy on community engagement, which required police officers to inform individuals who are not under suspicion of any criminal activity that they have the right to end the engagement. If officers took a person’s information, they would also be required to provide a “receipt” indicating why the person was stopped.

William (Bill) Blair, then the outgoing chief of police, had a problem with the requirement and managed to get a watered-down version – without the above requirements of the policy – approved. The reaction and subsequent heat from the black community increased.

Desmond Cole: A Catalyst

In May, Toronto Life published a cover story by Desmond Cole, “The Skin I’m In.” It catalogues his experiences with the police, and outlines the emotional impact that they had and have on him – an impact that is shared by many black men, young or old.

The article became a sensation and was, indeed, a catalyst for the Concerned Citizens group to declare its opposition to carding.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Saunders'] stance, if continued, will certainly erode any goodwill he may have earned from the black community, and the wider community, as demonstrated by the Concerned Citizens group.[/quote]

In its statement, the group notes: “We all need to oppose carding vehemently … We are offended by the notion of casually and routinely stopping citizens, outside of police investigations of actual criminal acts that have occurred, to question and record, and then store personal data in police files … We believe carding violates the human rights of citizens, it goes against the principles of our Charter Rights ..."

Last Friday, the chair of the TPSB, Dr. Alok Mukherjee wrote an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star: “We are at risk of turning into a surveillance society” in which he also declared a change of heart.

“I believe the Toronto Police Services Board must now declare unequivocally that information generated from informal contacts with members of the public, which are not related to any criminal investigation or likelihood of a criminal investigation, must not be recorded in any police database,” he wrote.

Where the Police Chief Stands

Mark Saunders, who is black, is the recently appointed chief of police, succeeding Bill Blair. He has picked up the ball, voicing support for carding as a legitimate investigative tool. He has tried to cushion this support by suggesting that there would be changes in implementing the policy by eliminating random stops.

The community is not buying it.

His stance, if continued, will certainly erode any goodwill he may have earned from the black community, and the wider community, as demonstrated by the Concerned Citizens group.

Adding to the community’s concern about Chief Saunders’ position, a recent report in the Toronto Star that revealed an internal memo prepared by Saunders while he was a staff superintendent.

In the memo, he essentially tried to debunk the notion of racial profiling and carding, suggesting that analyses did not support “notions or activities of racially biased policing practices.” According to the Star, his then-superior officer, Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, also black, took issue with Saunders’ analysis and conclusion.

Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, in the wake of Mayor Tory’s conversion, has also reaffirmed the association’s position, and that of the chief’s: getting rid of carding would have a negative impact on “community safety.” Exactly how is unclear.

It would appear that both Chief Saunders and the police association fail to make the connection that their defence of carding’s use and the fact that the majority of the carded residents are black imply that they believe that members of the black community are responsible for most of the crimes and criminal activities in the city.

If the black chief of police believes that, what chance do we have to change relations between the police and the black community?


Patrick Hunter is a communications consultant and a columnist for Share Newspaper. He is a former communications director at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and has worked in government and the news media.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Commentary
Monday, 08 June 2015 15:56

Ending Police Carding Is Just Step One

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough

“I’m afraid for my son to grow up.”

The words come via a 23-year-old woman, who sits with her six-month-old son in her arms. These words – words that no mother should have to say – drive home a heavy point.

She’s one of a dozen or so members of the Say Word youth journalism program that runs weekly in Scarborough, out of East Metro Youth Services – a group I’ve been privileged enough to coordinate since 2008.

Her comment comes after she and the group are asked to read Desmond Cole’s recently published Toronto Life article, “The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times – all because I’m black.” Raising her son in the over-policed and often negatively stigmatized neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway in Scarborough, the young mom doesn’t want her son to grow up and be victim to the racial profiling Cole’s article brings to light.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A] student – albeit a young Caucasian man who self-identified as a resident of Richmond Hill – asked the teaching assistant, very seriously, “Does racial profiling actually exist?” I answered, out of turn: “Yes, it does exist – just not for you.”[/quote]

Reading Cole’s work shifted almost the entire afternoon’s program to an open sharing circle – nearly every participant had a personal account (or several) of being carded, negative encounters with the police or witnessing disturbing interactions between police and youth in the community.

Stories of “fitting the description” and of being searched without cause, questioned and arrested abounded.

The Say Word group analyzes articles on a weekly basis so that the participants are able to think critically about how they will write their own pieces for the annual by-youth, for-youth magazine they put together for Scarborough. The consensus on Cole’s work: he hit the nail on the head – everything he wrote in that article resonated.

Racial Profiling Is Real

The afternoon’s discussion made me reflect on the many instances of negative experiences with the police I myself have had over the years growing up in Scarborough.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The disproportionate carding of young black men adds yet another layer to a narrative Canada – a country often touted as an inclusive, diverse, multicultural mosaic – seems all too comfortable with. It’s the narrative of racial profiling, over-policing and criminalizing racialized people and communities.[/quote]

It also made me flash back to a moment in one of my Intro to Criminology classes at York University, when a student – albeit a young Caucasian man who self-identified as a resident of Richmond Hill – asked the teaching assistant, very seriously, “Does racial profiling actually exist?”

I answered, out of turn: “Yes, it does exist – just not for you.”

If only he could have been with me on that Wednesday afternoon, he could have heard first-hand from the young people most affected: yes, racial profiling does exist – in a big way.

Racial profiling by Toronto Police runs deeper than the highly controversial, and deeply troubling, carding practice – which disproportionately targets young black men. So while Toronto mayor John Tory’s announcement this past weekend that he would like to put an end to carding is a step in the right direction, he’s not going to be let off the hook that easily.

The disproportionate carding of young black men adds yet another layer to a narrative Canada – a country often touted as an inclusive, diverse, multicultural mosaic – seems all too comfortable with. It’s the narrative of racial profiling, over-policing and criminalizing racialized people and communities.

Tory often speaks to the fact that carding is disrespectful and hurtful and has caused him a lot of internal conflict since he took over office, but I’ve yet to hear him really explore the deeply entrenched systemic racism that is the root cause of the deplorable practice.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

It’s not enough to just say, “Let’s end carding.” Tory, the Toronto Police Services Board, and newly appointed Police Chief Mark Saunders, need to dig deeper and take a hard look at the city’s police force. They need to do a lot of unpacking. They need to start asking the tough questions; they need to start listening to the community.

Perhaps most importantly, they need to hear, in a very real way, from the youth and young adults that I spend Wednesday afternoons with (and others with similar stories). And when they do, they need to not dismiss their experiences. They need to seriously take into consideration the irreparable scars each of those experiences leaves on a select population of our city’s young people, and the black community at large.

If that doesn’t happen then I guarantee that, even if Tory and the Police Services Board move to officially end carding at the June 18 board meeting, the real changes that Toronto’s black community deserves also will not happen. The disproportionate targeting, the racial profiling, will persist. The only difference is that it won’t be documented.


A native of Toronto’s Scarborough community, Priya is a journalist and editor with a passion for mentoring young people and thinking critically about matters of social justice. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Urbanology Magazine, a part-time instructor at the Humber College J-School and coordinator of Scarborough’s Say Word youth journalism program, a program she was integral in getting off the ground. She is NCM's production editor.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Commentary
Sunday, 26 April 2015 13:15

A Black Chief of Police for Toronto

by Patrick Hunter (@pghntrin Toronto

The largest municipal police service in Canada has a new chief. A first for the City of Toronto, Mark Saunders is of African descent – born in England to Jamaican parents. A 32-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service (TPS), Saunders succeeds William Blair.

Saunders, of course, is not the first Black police chief in Canada. That honour went to Winnipeg’s Devon Clunis. But, for Toronto, it is still an historic achievement, as Saunders’ 10-year-old son noted.

That Toronto was in line to get its first Black police chief was not so much a big surprise.

Two of the leading contenders for the job were of African descent, Peter Sloly and Saunders. Both were two of the three deputy chiefs to retiring Chief Blair. What was most surprising, particularly to the Black community in Toronto, was that it was Saunders who got the job, not Sloly.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The expectation was that the new chief should have a complete understanding of the challenges and tensions that exist between the police and the Black community in particular. The appointment of a Black chief could be a step in the right direction.[/quote]

Sloly was more known to the community, in a way that Saunders was not. Shortly before the announcement, the publisher/senior editor of Share, Arnold Auguste, wrote: “… our endorsement was based on our knowledge of Deputy Chief (DC) Sloly over many years and the expectation that he would bring, not only the right skillset, but the right attitude and sensitivity to this important job.

We couldn’t say the same for DC Saunders, because we don’t know him as well as we know Sloly. For all we know, he might make an even better chief, but we don’t know that.”

That, in many ways, summed up the general feeling of Toronto’s Black community.

The Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB), a civilian oversight body, had launched what it called a “global search”, using a recruiting agency, to find the right fit for the City of Toronto. It would have been a serious error if the new chief were someone from another part of Canada, let alone another part of the world.

The expectation was that the new chief should have a complete understanding of the challenges and tensions that exist between the police and the Black community in particular. The appointment of a Black chief could be a step in the right direction.

And herein lies one of the main challenges facing Saunders.

The Black Community and the Police

In 2002, the Toronto Star published a series of articles that highlighted the racial profiling of Blacks by the Toronto Police. The chief of police at the time, Julian Fantino, denied that the Service, with the possible exception of “a few bad apples”, practised racial profiling. When Blair took over as chief, he was more forthcoming in admitting existence of racial profiling and a pledge to stop it.

In March, 2012, the Toronto Star published “Known to Police”, articles that showed that not only was racial profiling continuing, but it had morphed to the point where individual young, Black men were being stopped, documented and entered into a database, supposedly as part of future investigations. This practice is commonly referred to as “carding”.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Chief Saunders will have very little time to get comfortable in his new chair... he has to put this carding issue to rest. That will not be easy.[/quote]

Very shortly after the Star’s revelation, Chief Blair ordered an internal review of the service’s community engagement practices. This resulted in a 90-page report: Police and Committee Engagement Review (PACER). DC Sloly coordinated the review with contributions from several members of the service, including DC Saunders.

The PACER report was to form the basis of a policy that, among other things, would inform individuals of their right to “walk away” from an engagement if they were not under suspicion or being detained. That recommendation was dropped from the policy that has just been approved by the TPSB.

Hardest Challenge: Building Trust

Chief Saunders will have very little time to get comfortable in his new chair. Apart from finding ways to deal with an ever-increasing budget, assessing and dealing with the day-to-day activities of a 5,500 “uniform strength” service and adapting the organization to better suit his vision, he has to put this carding issue to rest. That will not be easy.

Fundamentally, it will be a case of trust. The police argue that engagement with residents is an essential part of “intelligence-led” policing.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Being Black is fantastic, but it doesn’t give me superpowers.” - Mark Saunders[/quote]

The community – specifically, the Black community – is very suspicious of the police, and with good reason. Several reports over the years have acknowledged harsher treatments of Black people in the criminal justice system than their White counterparts.

Saunders comes to the office with the branding of being “a cop’s cop”, a well-respected officer among his fellow officers who has held, and excelled in, several critical command posts. As chief, he would be expected to defend and advocate for the men and women in his command.

But he is Black. As such, he should have an intimate knowledge and, perhaps, experience that none of his predecessors have. The community will therefore be watching closely to see how he balances those two realities. At his introduction to the public as the chief-designate, Saunders noted: “Being Black is fantastic, but it doesn’t give me superpowers.”


Patrick Hunter is a communications consultant and a columnist for Share Newspaper. He is a former communications director at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and has worked in government and the news media.

{module NCM Blurb} 

 

Published in Commentary

by Peter Uduehi (@kogibobo) in Toronto

From the fight against radicalization and professional roadblocks to the question of whether a Black police chief would have any impact in Toronto, here are some recent headlines in the African-Canadian diaspora media.                             

Radicals Have No Chance With Our Youth: Toronto's Somali Community

Somalis in Toronto are not taking chances. Neither will they take a wait-and-see approach.

Tired of reports of how Jihadist terrorists have successfully recruited African youths in the U.S. state of Minnesota, Kenya and several European countries, community activist Jibril Muhammed told the African World News, “We cannot pretend that our children in Canada could not be influenced by these crazy people who call themselves Muslims. We are aware of how terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab and ISIS have poisoned the minds of innocent Somali and other African youths everywhere they can find them.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada has been good to us and any terrorist trying to harm this country has no chance to use our kids against it.” - Mohammed Abdi, community activist[/quote]

Muhammed, who is also a former coordinator of many Somali community groups, said several organizations and individuals in the Somali community are working with the RCMP, the police and their parliamentarians in the Toronto area. “We have to protect our children against these bad eggs,” he says.

Another community activist, Mohammed Abdi, concurs. “Canada has been good to us and any terrorist trying to harm this country has no chance to use our kids against it. On my part, I am constantly educating my teenage children about what is the right Islam,” he explains. “I tell them always that the ISIS and Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab people they see on television are practising the wrong Islam.”

Will a Black Police Chief Really Make a Difference?

Writing in Pride News Magazine, educator and community organizer Ajamu Nangwaya says that simply having a Black police chief at the helm in Toronto is no cure for the poor relations between the force and the city’s African-Canadian community.

The organizer with the Toronto-based Network for the Elimination of Police Violence argues it’s like saying that the soured relations between American Blacks and the police would improve just because a Black president, Barack Obama, was elected the president of the United States.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“For a sobering dose of reality about race, class and policing, we may look at the behaviour of the police in major American cities that have or had African-American police chiefs or at police violence in global South countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Kenya and Jamaica.” - Ajamu Nangwaya, educator and community organizer[/quote] 

He adds: “For a sobering dose of reality about race, class and policing, we may look at the behaviour of the police in major American cities that have or had African-American police chiefs or at police violence in global South countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Kenya and Jamaica,” stressing that police-versus-society issues are institutionalized matters. 

Taking a swipe at those who are now calling for either deputy chiefs Peter Sloly (pictured to the left) and Mark Saunders (two African-Canadians in the Toronto Police Service) to replace the outgoing chief,  Nangwaya doubts that any police office that has successfully gone up the ladder would not belong to the same systemic ideology from which they emerged. “To what extent are we realistically expecting an African-Canadian police chief to be more committed to fighting institutional racism than a white one? Deputy Chiefs Peter Sloly and Mark Saunders have not made it this far up the organizational ladder, because of their tendency to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’” he writes. 

Why African Professionals Make Career Advancements Later in Canada

Many new African immigrants to Canada are often surprised to find themselves shut out of jobs in their professional disciplines.

So, not surprisingly, many African graduate and post-graduate degree holders end up driving taxis or taking menial jobs to make a living. The question is, why do newly arrived African professional immigrants to Canada make inroads to their chosen professions late?

Dr. Adeleye King (pictured to right), executive director of the Canadian Institute of Leadership and Development (Africa), told African World News the reasons are both professionally demanding and personal. He says when African professionals first come to the country as immigrants, they are shocked to learn that they must do more learning in their fields, “because Canada requires a different level of certification and designation from the ones in Africa.”

“Certain professions like engineering, for example, require a designation before you can be accepted for work as an engineer. It’s different in Africa where you are required only to be certified,” King explains. “[T]he same applies to other professions.”

King says that personal issues also prevent African professionals from making quick inroads into the Canadian marketplace. One issue is that many don’t do enough research about Canada before coming into the country. “If they did,” he says, “they would know exactly the type of skills needed to survive with their professional know-how.” He says it’s important to plan ahead before immigrating and, once here, “never lose concentration of why [you] are here, don’t straddle your life between here and the one you just left.”                                                                                                                            

Education Funding Cut May Negatively Impact African Nova Scotians

Recent cuts in funding to the Council on African Canadian Education (CACE) by Nova Scotia’s ministry of education may severely affect learning standards for Africans in the province, says the organization’s chairwoman Alma Johnston-Tynes.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The lack of staff and resources will have a detrimental impact on CACE’s ability to identify and meet the needs of African Nova Scotian learners.” - Alma Johnston-Tynes, Council on African Canadian Education[/quote]

“The lack of staff and resources will have a detrimental impact on CACE’s ability to identify and meet the needs of African Nova Scotian learners and to fulfil its mandate under the Education Act, which is to monitor and continually analyze the policies of the Department of Education with respect to the needs of Black learners,” she said in a statement reported by the African Nova Scotian News.

The axe comes as education minister Karen Casey (pictured to left) announced that staff funding to CACE will no longer continue because of an audit that, “raised questions about the body’s governance and financial situation.” Casey described the findings as “very troubling.”

CACE was set up in 1996, after race riots in 1989, and following findings that not enough attention was being paid to improving standards for African and Black school children in the province. The council’s focus was to advise the education ministry on how to improve learning in African Nova Scotian communities, after a recent statistic showing that while reading comprehension test scores for third-graders in the Halifax regional school board was 70 per cent, it was particularly lower for African students at 54 per cent.

Immigrants Change Diet After Arriving in Canada

report by Statistics Canada cites studies that show immigrants who change their traditional diet after arriving in Canada tend to become less healthy later. Overall, the studies show, newly arrived immigrants to Canada had lower mortality rates than the Canadian-born, and also reported lower levels of fair or poor health. Those mortality rates tended to rise, the further removed immigrants were from their arrival in Canada, as did the reported levels of fair or poor health. 

Tanzanian-born Toronto resident Dr. Wasira Bokore, a family physician, told African World News that generally the African immigrant succumbs to, “a new environment where time is limited for cooking your meals and begins to adopt new eating habits, eating burgers, fast foods and fatty foods and these things are not good for your health.” She adds that matters are made worse when, “an exercise regimen is absent in one’s daily existence.”


Peter Uduehi is a journalist and publisher of the African World News in Toronto.

{module NCM Blurb}

                                

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New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved