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UARR Deputation at TPSB meeting

December 15, 2014


Good afternoon everyone. Thank you Mr.Chair, members of the Board, Mr. Mayor, for this opportunity to speak. I am Jason Merai, Executive Director for the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and supported beside me is Mr. Audi Dharmalingam, Board member.

For the last 39 years the Urban Alliance on Race Relations has advocated on issues of anti-racism on behalf of communities. We are here today, to express our concerns like so many others, that police carding reforms have not been initiated.

It is extremely disturbing that Police carding has been used to systematically discriminate against persons of Black and Brown skin. From the Toronto Police service we have learnt it is a function for keeping people accountable. In fact, we would agree that it is an issue of accountability. It is a process for ensuring the Toronto Police Service is accountable to Toronto citizens.

As a new board there is a unique and real opportunity to make a bold statement at the offset of your inauguration:

Implement the community contact policy.

By doing so you will emphasize the importance of personal rights for those who are stopped by the police. Moreover, you will create an atmosphere of respect. At this time, people avoid the police. Yet the Toronto Police Service is here to serve and protect citizens. Instead, racialized people are accosted and accused of being linked to crimes.

This conversation has happened before? Many communities find it difficult to establish trust with the police services but what about the Police Services Board? How do you plan to ensure that this new community contact policy is being implemented and that members of the police service don’t abuse the power they posses? The CAPP report served as an adequate accountability mechanism but what are the next steps to ensure progress is not lost and abandoned?

Will the Police Service Board have 1) a finite definition of public safety to determine when an officer can voluntarily approach someone? and 2) can people know their rights from the police officer, including that they are free to walk away?

The Urban Alliance on Race Relations supports the findings of the CAPP report, understanding that the work of monitoring and researching how police implement this policy is an ongoing need for improving community-police relations. We encourage you to continue with Community Based Research so that this policy can be monitored ‘on the ground’, at the grassroots level.

Community policing should also focus on equitable community safety. The police need the citizens to trust them just as much as the citizens need to have trust in the police.

Deputation was prepared by Executive Director Jason Merai, Board Members Malika Mendez & Audi Dharmalingam 

December 15 – TPSB Meeting

December 13, 2014

Community policing issues and oversight leadership are top on the agenda of the upcoming Toronto Police Services Board meeting on December 15th.

We urge all with an interest in these issues to attend and to participate as the agenda allows.

Detailed Agenda

TORONTO: The next scheduled meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board will take place on Monday, December 15, 2014 at 1:30 PM in the Auditorium, 40 College Street. Copies of the agenda are available on the Board’s website at from the Board office and limited copies will be available at the meeting. To view the Board meeting via web stream, use the link on the Board’s website, or go to Rogers TV. Items of interest include:

Dr. Alok Mukherjee, Chair, will administer the oath of office and the oath of secrecy to Mayor John Tory, who has taken his seat on the Toronto Police Services Board and will serve for the term of Council and to Councillors Shelley Carroll and Chin Lee who were appointed to the Board by Toronto City Council for two-year terms.

The Board will consider the report by LogicalOutcomes entitled “A Community- Based Assessment of Police Contact Carding in 31 Division- Final Report (the “CAPP” report). This report was deferred at the November 13, 2014 public meeting. Chief Blair will provide the Toronto Police Services’ assessment of the CAPP report.

The Board will consider a report from Maureen Brown, Diversity Trainers Plus Inc. who conducted the community consultations conducted across the GTA on the hiring of a new police chief.

The Board will consider a report from Chief Blair providing an update with respect to the jury recommendations from the Coroner’s inquest into the deaths of Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Sylvia Klibingaitis, and Michael Eligon.

The Work of Winning Human Rights is Never Over

December 13, 2014

pietarthepresserPhoto Taken at OFL-UARR Joint Press Conference on August 13, 2013 with Mothers of Casualties of Lethal Use of Force by Police

December 10, 2014

By Gary Pieters and John Cartwright

December 10th is the date of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations sixty-six years ago. That important act was the result of many years of struggle against racism and colonialism, combined with the horrors of the Holocaust that were still fresh in the memories of humankind after the Second World War.

Today’s headlines remind us that the work of winning human rights is never over. From the incidents in Ferguson Missouri and New York City, to the rampant evidence of sexual harassment and violence against women, we are reeling with the knowledge that so much more needs to be done. There is welcome news at the same time – the efforts of the Canadian Olympic Committee to support gay and lesbian athletes are to be applauded, particularly in the aftermath of Sochi.

The fact is that our world was built on massive violations of human rights. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was matched in its brutality by the slave labour of indigenous people in the silver and gold mines of South America – millions died in the Pitosi mine alone. The first joint-stock corporation – the Dutch East Indies Company – included enslaving of indigenous people in its business model. That model provided an 18% average annual return on investment for two centuries.

Since the beginning of “globalization” the majority of humankind has struggled against racism and exploitation. The legacies of slavery and colonialism enshrined discrimination till long after WWII. A century ago women in Europe and North America were organizing for the right just to vote – it would be many decades before women’s equality found reflection in laws or practice. The Chinese Exclusion Act and Head Tax were a stain in our history, as were there turning away of ships bearing Sikhs or Jews in the 20th century. And we can trace a long and shameful legacy of Canada’s relations with First Nations peoples, still simmering as the federal government manipulate omnibus budget bills to undermine native rights in relation to their land and water.

But the area of Human Rights that is less frequently acknowledged is workers’ rights. The Universal Declaration states that everyone has the right to decent incomes, equal pay for equal work, and the right to join a union. The ability of working people to use their collective efforts to raise the standard of living above poverty set the stage for Canada’s relative prosperity, even though that prosperity was never fully shared.

The labour movement became a key actor in the ongoing struggle against discrimination. The Toronto Labour Committee on Human Rights was formed in 1947 to challenge practices in restaurants, clubs, workplaces and accommodations, and partnered with black community activists to demand a change to Canada’s racist immigration policies. With the growth of income inequality and racialization of poverty, the right to decent jobs must clearly be on the agenda.

But the real leadership of work on human rights has always come from the communities most affected. In 1975 community activists helped form the Urban Alliance on Race Relations in response to the increasing frequency of hate-motivated violence against African and South Asian Canadians in Toronto’s streets, subways and shopping plazas. It was often difficult to speak the inconvenient truth about the reality of discrimination, but UARR has provided decades of leadership on education policies, police conduct and employment equity. The Black Action Defence Committee found itself constantly disparaged for its role in bringing racism to light, while others toiled with less notoriety but equal effect.

The fact is that the work for human rights needs to be taken up by each generation. Those who penned the Universal Declaration had seen mass suffering at a level we can hardly comprehend. They were part of a long journey of humankind towards a more just world. We should all remember and strive to honour the first lines of the Declaration: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

Gary Pieters is President of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations; John Cartwright is President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council.

Also republished in the following media

Last night’s ‘Race, Gender and Democracy in Toronto…’ Forum a success!

December 11, 2014

Thank you to everyone who attended last night’s Human Rights Day Public Forum: “Race, Gender and Democracy in Toronto: Reflections from a Human Rights Perspective”. It was standing room only as Moderators Nigel Barriffe and Monica Varga engaged our featured panelists. Special thanks to our guest speakers Alejandra Bravo, Lekan Olawoye, Naheed Mustafa, Desmond Cole and Ari Goldkind for providing insight, personal experience and thoughts into how we can build and empower an inclusive Toronto.



Let us Honour the 25th Anniversary of December 6th

December 6, 2014
16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence

December 6th, 2014 is the 25th Anniversary of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.  
From 2010-2014, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations created and delivered community-based programs on gender-based violence in partnership with METRAC, YWCA, Sketch and other organizations for young women and men in priority neighbourhoods and at two campuses at Humber College. The Making Noise and Making Noise @Humber projects were funded by Status of Women Canada. These projects explored the intersection of gender-based violence and racism and other forms of oppression, giving voice and community-based responses to young women who negotiate these issues every day. UARR brings this particular experience and insight to ongoing and emerging community concerns.
UARR supports the White Ribbon Campaign, a men’s anti-violence group, which uses white ribbons to signal male solidarity with women by recognizing men’s responsibility for ending violence against women. 
The following two essays by Margaret Hageman (Board member) and Jason Merai (Executive Director) explore these intersections of gender and race:


Ending Violence is a united effort

December 6, 2014

white ribbon 2

You don’t talk about it. 

That was my experience with domestic violence. At an early age, it was something that happened, in my home. Several times. What I didn’t know was the impact it would have on my family and myself.

Most recently, I co-coordinated a 2-year project to raise awareness about preventing gender-based violence on Humber College campuses. Within this project, we worked closely with the Humber Students’ Federation and Humber College to train students to become familiar with violence prevention dialogue. Students were also trained to facilitate workshops on identifying violence and how to support survivours. I was particularly proud of this project – Making Noise@Humber – because it sought to not only empower women but also encourage men to speak about their role in ending violence against women and gender-based violence.

Violence against women happens. Most often at the hands of men. I know it, I saw it. As boys, it begins with the question about how we are “developed to become a man”. There is an expectation that men are to be aggressors and becoming a man is the ultimate fulfilment of our identity. If we fail, we do not become men. This concept of strength then is viewed as the primary qualification to become men. Therefore, within strength is power, one in which we have been groomed to dominate.

Furthermore, it does not help that we live in a man-dominated world (termed as patriarchy) where we believe we own everything. To borrow from Terry Crews, “men are always concerned about their wins and never their losses”. How this translates into our interaction with partners can be trying. Believing this toxic idea of masculinity can lead men to control women through multiple forms of abuse and violence. This includes verbal, emotional, spiritual, financial – and not just physical abuse. While it is important to note that not all men grow up to be this way, many do, and that has resulted in a number of lives lost and torn apart.

December 6th is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. As Canadians we commemorate the murdered lives of the 14 women from École Polytechnique as well as those who have been victims and survivours of violence. As a man with such lived experiences, I encourage you to attend a December 6th event in your community to learn about why your commitment to ending violence is not only important and influential, but also understand how violence has affected lives. To admit you have been a victim is one of the most difficult processes to experience. To reach out for help can even be a greater obstacle.

I am grateful to learn about the countless services supporting Women, including the Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, and the White Ribbon Campaign, the largest men’s anti-violence organization – both of which partnered in the Making Noise @Humber project. As a witness I wasn’t aware such support systems existed. Perhaps if I did the outcome would have been different.

It’s never too late to join in solidarity. This December 6th and everyday, join us in helping to end violence against women and gender-based violence. Help us create a space where we can not only talk about it but support each other and become survivours.

I thank my family who has given me permission to share this personal story. Thank you for reading.

Jason Merai, Executive Director, UARR





Toronto’s Many Solitudes

December 6, 2014


There is a uniquely Canadian analogy that describes people who are divided by their very different experiences – the idea of two solitudes was coined by Hugh MacLennan, back in 1945 to describe Francophones and Anglophones living side by side in Quebec, but were almost unknown to each other. Anglophones were the privileged establishment, where business and government worked in their favour, while Francophones were disenfranchised in school and work, second-class citizens in the land that they founded. It was the quiet revolution of the 1960’s that changed the legal, education and government systems to empower Francophones and stir a sense of pride and drive for self-determination.

There are experiential divides like this Anglo/Francophone one here in Toronto today.

Men/Women: In the face of high profile sexual harassment and gender-based violence faced by women and girls, and the landslide of media response (#raped, never reported; #everyday sexism), what has become clear is that sexual assault and harassment is an ongoing safety issue for most women, who know that there are no effective systems in place to mitigate the risk or address the damage.

Why? It’s a fair guess that decision-makers and those who develop criminal and justice systems were not tuned into the lived experience of women in this regard – low reporting rates on sexual assault show that the system does not meet their needs. In a strange form of denial or downplaying of misogyny, our Federal Minister of Justice openly pondered on the underlying reason the Montreal Massacre happened 25 years ago, glossing over the killer’s stated reason for this mass killing of women, his hatred of feminists.

This fundamental lack of understanding of the experience of women facing violence has a chilling effect, especially among women who have the temerity to live their lives as they want to, to speak their minds, to dress the way they wish to, to ask for equal pay or equal opportunity, to defend others against abuse, to leave their husband or boyfriend, or to ask for a better legal system to address sexual assault.

Believing the experiences of women and girls is a tipping point for change to bridge the two solitudes of men and women in our society.

But until white ribbons on December 6th become as commonplace as poppies worn on Remembrance Day, I will not be convinced that the solitudes of women’s and men’s experiences of gender-based violence are being bridged.

Racialized/White Solitudes:
Current events in Ferguson, Missouri brings to the surface those experience of anti-black racism by police and in the wider community. Ferguson has sparked a discussion on race that many people find uncomfortable to have. But have it, we must; even in Toronto.

We saw in the last municipal election, many examples of racism: racial slurs scrawled on campaign placards, racist and xenophobic remarks made at debates, homophobic and threatening letters sent to candidates. Rob Ford declared himself a ‘racist’ and Doug Ford told us that racism can be any kind of slur – anyone can be racist against anything, even “little red apples”. John Tory, who has a firmer grip on reality, disappointed many of us when he denied the existence of white privilege. Now that the election is over, and our new mayor has said all the right things to re-smooth the surface of civility at City Hall, we should all forgive and forget and get back to normal.

But I can’t forget. And I fear that Toronto’s normal is not something we should be comfortable with.

I don’t want Toronto to go down the path of Ferguson. That’s not as extreme as it may sound. There are some common problems with regard to policing: racial profiling and increasing militarization.

Remember the G20 riots in 2010? We know now that the security was a fiasco, where protesters were kettled and detained by riot police, and there were blanket violations of Constitutional rights and freedoms. Maybe you were not there, or you’ve never been involved in a protest – even if that is so, it’s disquieting to think that a militarized police can so effectively strip away foundational rights as Canadians, even for a short time.

Consider Toronto’s ‘carding’ problem, the police practice that has been found to discriminate against black and brown youth. There were so many receipts (cards) issued, that racialized youth were being stopped often multiple times, for just being on the street. This practice has been scaled back since the Toronto Star Investigation, “Known to Police”. It’s been discredited but not taken off the books, the carding has been replaced with a new “community contact policy” that still looks very much like carding.

If you are white, or have white children who spend time in public spaces between school and home, then you are privileged to escape the effect that carding has on the individual, on their families and the larger community. You don’t have the first-hand experience of being perceived as dangerous when you are not, for being suspected of crime for no good reason, and have personal information gathered about you, and kept by police, in a way that you have no control. In other words, the racial discrimination clearly disadvantages black and brown youth and advantages white youth.

It is crucial for white people to listen to the stories of black youth feeling diminished and targeted by police, and their parents, who worry about the safety of their children. Black youth are under police scrutiny, just for walking, gathering together, using the streets and parks, just for being black and brown. It is no wonder that community dissatisfaction with the police is widespread.

Concerned people of every colour should clearly call for better community policing that protects all people equally – equal treatment under the law, elimination of racial profiling, accountability for discriminatory practices and better social outcomes (not criminalizing people with mental health issues, working on underlying issues of poverty and inequality). Just as in Ferguson, racialized people in Toronto face unequal treatment in schools, in workplaces and boardrooms.

White and black residents have fundamentally different experiences in their everyday lives; we need to get behind campaigns like Stop Police Carding and Colour of Poverty to ensure that this black/white solitudes change for the better.

There are other solitudes: Persons with Disability/Able-bodied experiences; Poor/Wealthy; geographic divides – one Toronto is possible, but it requires using our human capacity for empathy and asserting our rights to bridge these divides. Quebec had their revolution; oppressed groups can do the same to address the solitudes that divide us.

Margaret Hageman, UARR Board member


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