Skip to content

Urban Alliance on Race Relations’ President Gary Pieters on racial disparities in policing #Ferguson

August 21, 2014

Source: REDI TLHABI SHOW – 21 August 2014 10:40 AM/4:40 am EST

Heard on the Redi Tlhabi Show – Toronto-based Urban Alliance on Race Relations’ President Gary Pieters on racial disparities in policing #Ferguson

A police officer’s fatal shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown, an African-American, in Ferguson, Missouri has reignited the discussion about racial injustice in America. Brown was shot by an officer six times, including twice in the head, after being stopped for walking down the middle of a street, he was unarmed at the time and according to witnesses had his hands raised in the air in surrender. But the story is not just about Ferguson, 50 years after Lyndon Johnson passed the civil rights act, the United States is still grappling with deep rooted racial inequalities which are widespread and manifest themselves in education, housing, employment, and law enforcement.

Guest: Gary Pieters
Organisation: Urban Alliance on Race Relations
Position: President
Podcast: Scroll to find podcast – then – click to listen | Or Listen Here on Sound Cloud
Archive: Click to listen  


Ceremonial Street Dedication in Honour of Nelson Mandela

August 13, 2014

The Urban Alliance on Race Relations is pleased that the City of Toronto is pursuing the option of a Ceremonial Street Dedication in Honour of Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa and Honorary Citizen of Canada (1918-2013).

On August 13th, 2014, the City of Toronto Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) met to consider the street to be ceremonially named in honour of this great citizen of the world.

Attached is our Letter of Support for the initiative involving UARR endorsement of University Avenue Option (Front St at University to College St) that was submitted to the City of Toronto Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.

Additional information on the Ceremonial Street Dedication in Honour of Nelson Mandela available online on the City of Toronto website at

We were made to understand that the University Avenue option Ceremonial Street Dedication in Honour of Nelson Mandela was approved by the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.

The final step will be approval by the full council at the meetings in late-August.


UARR Dismayed at Anti-Immigration Flyers Across the GTA

August 9, 2014

The Urban Alliance on Race Relations is dismayed at the racially motivated anti-immigration flyers being distributed across the Greater Toronto Area.

The most recent flyers were circulated at the York University Campus in the North-West Area of Toronto. See news story Racist flyers circulated at York U campus | Students condemn racist flyers distributed at York University

The problem with Immigration Watch Canada incitement of racial discord is getting bigger and bolder and we urge York University as well as other similar organizations, the Human Rights Bodies and the Police to respond to safeguard the rights of every Canadian to be free from discrimination based on a prohibited ground in the Code including race, ethnicity, place of origin, and/or national origin.

During the previous weeks, flyers with a similar theme and bearing the name of the organization Immigration Watch Canada were also circulated in Brampton with a similar racist message targeted at Sikh Canadians.

We are concerned that the racist incidents directed at the Sikh community in Brampton specifically the distribution of anti-immigration flyers by groups bent on triggering and promoting emotionally charged intolerance and bigotry in our diverse society.

The anti-immigration flyers which were distributed within Brampton in April 2014 and August 2014 clearly demonstrate manifestations of racism within our society.

We condemn the prejudice and discrimination that these flyers are promoting, and urge all within our society to respect the full diversity of the Canadian mosaic, along with the Human Rights Codes; the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and the Multiculturalism Act.

Racially Insensitive Storefront Display at Eton of Sweden in Toronto Condemned

August 9, 2014


UARR Letters to Eton of Sweden CEO Hans Davidson

On August 10th, Eton of Sweden responded with a public statement on their website to the Eton Window Instalment in Yorkville, Canada.

The CEO of Eton of Sweden emailed the President of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations the following:

August 9, 2014

Dear Mr. Pieters,

On behalf of Eton and our employees in Canada and worldwide, I extend my most sincere apology for all offense caused to you and the Canadian community by the recent window in our Yorkville office. Our company’s history is one of equal respect and appreciation of all people. It is important you know that our Canadian team had no malicious intent in constructing this window display. As described in our recent press release responding to public concern over this occurrence, the window was intended to simply show our raw material, cotton displayed with a suitcase representing the travel-readiness of our product. But in reality, it was a poor choice of both materials and design. The fact that the finished result reminded anyone who saw or read about it of the terrible memory of slavery as you describe in your letter, makes the entire Eton family very sad and remorseful. Additionally, the fact that our Canadian team did not immediately recognize that the display could in any way be associated with such a sensitive subject, reminds us that training is needed for our team in order to avoid anything like this again in the future.



Open Letter to Eton of Sweden

August 9, 2014

An American entertainer visiting Toronto, walked through Yorkville and noticed a storefront display at a boutique store Eton of Sweden, that triggered her to take a photo and post it to her social network with the question – “Ummm… Do you see??? What are they advertising for the Eton shop in Toronto, Canada??”

The storefront display contained the following – a cotton shirt amidst the visual recreation a cotton plantation from the slavery era including two nooses hanging from the store’s ceiling attached to a small suitcase resembling a casket, and surrounded by a replica of unpicked cotton bolls in a storefront display to persuade and influence buyers. What was described by Eton of Sweden as “Whimsical” in appealing to its consumers purchasing decision, is nothing short of a lack of sensitive consideration to the brutal, exploitative and destructive legacy of plantation slavery that enslaved millions of blacks on cotton plantations from the 1600s to the 1800s.

During the era of Black enslavement, enslaved Blacks toiled on cotton plantations under the whip, hunger, ill health for no compensation. By using the ropes tied in the form of two nooses, the storefront display at Eton of Sweden in Yorkville reminded those knowledgable of the slavery era of lynching, which was a form of violence against Blacks during the imperial ‘show and tell’ of the bygone era of chattel slavery.

The impact of slavery is described in an OpEd written in 2007 by the current president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations entitled Slavery’s Long Destructive Legacy

Reacting to public outrage and public condemnation of Black Canadian community leaders, window shoppers, and a television reporter who stood outside the store and spoke candidly against the historical offence of the display, an employee of the Eton of Sweden store removed the rope. “They took down the noose but the harm is incalculable”. See

The store needs to develop a better understanding of the destructive legacy of slavery and its longstanding racist impact that continues 180 years after emancipation. Using an insensitive storefront display to sell cotton shirts was a retailing advertising failure on the part of Eton of Sweden Yorkille location, and their lack of knowledge of its connection to the exploitation, pain and suffering that generations of Blacks experienced on cotton plantations in order to enrich wealthy slave owners, is inexcusable.

A full public apology is required from Eton of Sweden in Yorkville.


CTV Urged to Address, Correct & Prevent Anti-Asian Racial Bias

July 25, 2014

CTV Urged to Address, Correct & Prevent Anti-Asian Racial Bias

Friday July 25th, 2014

Mr. Phil King
CTV Programming

Dear Mr. King,

Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) are writing this letter jointly requesting that CTV respond to the concerns raised by CCNC Toronto’s Open Letter to the Community on July 18, 2014 as a result of tweets by Mr. Brent Piaskoski, executive producer of CTV’s “Spun Out”.

As reported by Tony Wong of the Toronto Star on July 15, Mr. Piaskoski made a series of racially charged Twitter postings with the Spun Out logo on July 12 aimed at ‘Chinese people’ that he had encountered at the airport and on the flight. These tweets disappeared on July 14. When contacted by the Star, Mr. Piaskoski offered a hasty apology, which he also tweeted. Since the Toronto Star piece, there has been complete silence from CTV and Mr. Piaskoski.

As a reputable Canadian broadcaster with the important responsibility of telling stories that reflect the rich and diverse cultures of our community, CTV and Mr. Piaskoski need to own up to these racist tweets and not hide from this incident.

Indeed CTV and Mr. Piaskoski should reflect on CTV’s own history in relation to the Chinese Canadian community with the broadcast of CTV’s W5 program “Campus Giveaway” on September 30, 1979, which gave rise to the Anti-W5 campaign that not only galvanized the community but also led to the establishment of the Chinese Canadian National Council.

We urge CTV and Mr. Piaskoski to fully examine the racism and xenophobia underlying the tweets and the attitudes that support them. We encourage better engagement and dialogue with the various communities that make up your audience, ongoing anti-oppression training and the development and application of organizational change frameworks regarding this issue. One significant concern for many racialized communities in Toronto, and Canada, is a lack of media representation that is non-tokenistic and non-stereotypical.

We look forward to your reply.

Gary Pieters, Urban Alliance on Race Relations
416.703.6607 ex. 1

May Lui, Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter
416.596.0833 ex. 1


Justice Iacobucci report urged changes in “Police Encounters With People In Crisis”

July 25, 2014

20140724_101358Justice Iacobucci Speaking at the Release of his Report on “Police Encounters With People In Crisis”
Justice Frank Iacobucci report on the Toronto Police use of force entitled “Police Encounters With People In Crisis” was released at Toronto Police Headquarters on Thursday, July 24th 2014 at 10:00 am. It contains 84 recommendations under 9 broad topics. Full coverage of Justice Frank Iacobucci report and the recommendations can be accessed online at

IMG_7009Representatives of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations including Margaret Hageman, Anthony Morgan and Gary Pieters along with Irwin Nanda of the Ontario Federation of Labour were present at the news conference upon release of Hon. Justice Frank Iacobucci’s independent review and report, “Police Encounters With People in Crisis”

Justice  Iacobucci’s Independent Review of the Use of Lethal Force by the Toronto Police Service Gary Pieters of Urban Alliance on Race Relations and Irwin Nanda of the Ontario Federation of Labour respond to Iacobucci’s Independent Review of the Use of Lethal Force by the Toronto Police Service.

What we would like to see is that this report gets into the hands of every single rank & file officer. We want to see that the recommendations and the steps to make those recommendations lived reality in the daily lives of policing is embedded into the culture of these officers through some form of professional training that happens immediately. – Gary Pieters (CBC News Video on the Release of Justice Iacobucci’s Report on “Police Encounters With People In Crisis”)

We note that the 84 recommendations contained in Justice Iacobucci’s report on Police Encounters With People In Crisis built upon the 27 recommendations already found in the UARR report Saving Lives: Alternatives to the Use of Lethal Force by Police Report (2000).

At the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, we are interested in a progressive approach to policing that result in equitable, positive social outcomes. In the report, we looked for:

  • Recommendations that promote better community policing and believe that many of the recommendations are the first step towards that outcome.
  • Research on racialized persons in crisis and their police contact outcomes, and this is perhaps the missing intersectional issue that was overlooked. The report did not look at the intersectionality issues of race & mental health in a diverse society along w/ culturally responsive models of support. In fact, we would have liked to see organizations with a critical race and mental health lens invited to participate in the implementation advisory group including Across Boundaries Mental Health Centre, Taibu Community Health Centre, The Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Youth Mental Health Groups, LGBTQ organizations, as well as those organizations dealing with the homeless and street involved persons.
  • Appropriate approaches and police behaviour in their interactions with people in crisis, the mentally ill, emotionally disturbed, or those that are developmentally disabled have been addressed in many of the recommendations.
  • Better collaboration between the police and CAMH to better manage the environment and behavioural interaction of police to reduce/eliminate aggression and violence in first responder contact with people facing mental health issues. This area has been alluded to in looking at the role of the mental health system in preventative approaches to serving people in crisis thereby reducing the frequency of police being the first responders to people in crisis.
  • Altering the environmental triggers of policing to better influence how police feel, think and behave in emotionally charged, crisis or critical incidents was addressed in changing the culture of policing to better respond to people in crisis.
  • We are concerned about the implementation on a pilot basis of CEWs including Tasers in the hands of frontline officers. We support the call by Justice Iacobucci for further research on Tasers. We believe that a differentiated approach or tiered approach to de-escalation which should place combined emphasis on interpersonal communications, alternatives to aggression and violence, and interdisciplinary resources including the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams, Mental Health Leads/Mental Health Champions along with ongoing professional learning and training to enable officers to be better able to respond to the built environment impact on the behaviour of persons in crisis.
  • We urge that the procedures for police contact with people in crisis be applied in an equitable and supportive manner, and that it does not criminalize mental health in any way. We all want positive social outcomes for this crucial initiative, so accountability needs to be built in to the implementation. Still, this is a hopeful development in the history of the Toronto Police Services.
  • We also would like to see Justice Iacobucci’s report on “Police Encounters With People In Crisis” adopted by the Ministry of Community Safety and implemented throughout the province. With over 52 police services in the province, it would be great to see best practices across the province harmonized in order to transform the culture of policing in Toronto and across Ontario.


Sammy Yatim report: More officers should wear cameras CBC Television

Report on use of deadly force gets mixed reviews Sharenews

Justice Iacobucci report sets roadmap for police encounters with people in crisis Toronto Star

When Police Meet People In Crisis Ottawa Citizen

Police ‘culture change’ must be matched by fixing mental health system Toronto Star

Report makes sorrowful acknowledgement — Toronto police have ‘in effect, become part of the mental healthcare system’ National Post

When Police Face Mental Health Calls, An Officer’s Brain is the Best Tool The Globe and Mail

Implementing Iacobucci’s recommendations won’t be simple: Mukherjee Toronto Sun

Iacobucci use of force report recommends Taser study Toronto Star

Groups call on gov’t to appoint more minority judges

July 24, 2014

Groups call on gov’t to appoint more minority judges

UARR Invited Comment to Sharenews July 24th, 2014

The Urban Alliance on Race Relations has sent a letter in support of the lawyers as they seek diversity in the workplace. We believe that greater effort and political will is required to bring fairness and transparency to the recruitment, hiring and appointment process of federal judges,” Alliance president Gary Pieters said. “It’s time the issue of diversity and representativeness of our communities in the judiciary become an issue of public importance.

Continue to Full Article


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,209 other followers