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OHRC letter on eliminating racial profiling in police services

April 17, 2015

Dear Chief Blair,

I am writing further to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) deputation to the Toronto Police Service Board (TPSB) on April 2, 2015 in regards to the revised Policy and Procedure on Community Engagements.

You will recall, at the TPSB meeting on April 2, 2015, I said on behalf of the OHRC:

The goal of the revised Policy and Procedure – to eliminate discrimination from Community Engagements – will not be realized without significant changes. To prevent racial profiling, the Policy and Procedure must:

  • Guide and limit officer discretion to stop and question people
  • Require that officers tell the people they stop about their right to leave and not answer questions, as much as possible in the circumstances
  • Demonstrate effective monitoring and accountability including race-based data collection to identify racial bias
  • Provide transparency through receipts; and
  • Immediately purge carding intelligence data, already collected, that lacks a
    non-discriminatory explanation.

Our commitment  to working with the TPS and TPSB to address racial profiling is unquestionable, and our position on the need to eliminate racial profiling has been clear throughout our extended participation in the development of the TPSB’s April 2014 Policy, on the PACER Community Advisory Committee, and through written and oral deputations.

Our statutory mandate under the Human Rights Code calls upon us to “make recommendations on any provision, program or policy that in [the Commission’s] opinion is inconsistent with the intent” of the Code, and to this end, we have always provided our best advice. It is clear, however, that our recommendations have not been incorporated into the Procedure in any meaningful way and even the Board’s revised Policy indicates a retreat from earlier, more progressive positions.  We believe that these recent events are an impediment to our continued engagement with you on this issue – until there is clear evidence of a willingness by the TPS to make substantive change to the Procedure to deal with the corrosive effects of racial profiling.

Deputations made at the April 2 TPSB meeting did not support the new direction of the TPSB and the TPS. This should be indication enough that the direction is inherently flawed.

I urge the Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Police Services Board to set aside the revised Procedure and Policy on Community Engagements and to take a fresh look at how to resolve these critical issues as quickly as possible. It continues to be our strong opinion that the new Procedure must address all of the critical issues we have raised before it is implemented.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these concerns.  Please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,

Ruth Goba
Interim Chief Commissioner
Ontario Human Rights Commission

Cc:  The Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Attorney General, The Honourable Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Chair Mukherjee, members of TPSB, Mayor John Tory

Original letter can be found here: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-letter-eliminating-racial-profiling-police-services

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UARR makes Huffington Post: “10 Amazing Things Happening in Canada”

April 13, 2015

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Learn more about The Bridging Project

Pieters leaving UARR for new challenges

April 3, 2015

Pieters leaving UARR for new challenges

April 2, 2015

By Jasminee Sahoye

Gary Pieters
After serving the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) as president for three years, Gary Pieters has not sought re-election but hopes to become an advocate for equity and social issues as well as economic justice in the Greater Toronto Area.

“I hope to explore future leadership opportunities on agencies, boards and commissions that are leveraging diverse members with my skill-sets, experience and expertise in the areas of race relations, equity, diversity, inclusion and their intersections,” Pieters told The Camera.

He said during his tenure, he has always been busy and productive as an agent of social change. He was instrumental in “renewing and revitalizing the UARR to make it relevant in addressing issues across the full diversity of Toronto by making a new generation of young people, newcomers and organizations aware of the UARR and our role in fostering harmonious relationships.”

He added that the UARR has collaborated and partnered with institutions such as Good Jobs for All Coalition; Labour organizations; Ryerson University Diversity Institute; Humber College; the 23 Division Somali Community Liaison Unit; Policing Literacy Initiative; Stop Police Carding Coalition; the Human Rights Legal Support Centre; the Ontario Human Rights Commission; the White Ribbon Campaign and many others.

Pieters was also integrally involved with the joint Director’s Resource Committee of the OIPRD / SIU and met with SIU Directors Ian Scott and later Tony Loparco; and OIPRD Director Gerry McNeill to look at ways to foster better civilian oversight leadership in policing.

He was involved in a press conference following the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, which looked at police response to persons in crisis and called for alternatives to the use of lethal force.

And under his leadership, a 28-month Gender-Based Violence Prevention Project was completed at Humber College with funds from the Status of Women Canada.

Pieters, who works in the education sector, said “three years later, interest in community policing is very high.

“I believe that during my term as president of UARR, I looked at policing through the lens of community accountability; effective civilian police oversight as a member of the OIPRD / SIU Director’s Resource Committee in ensuring accountability is in place; high impact, action oriented initiatives that promote better community policing and better police-community relations in neighbourhood improvement areas (priority neighbourhoods) such as the recent Somali-Canadian Policing Forum that brought Somali-American police officers from Minneapolis to Toronto to engage in discussions on community policing; monitoring the process and upcoming appointment of a new chief of police.”

Article Source: http://thecaribbeancamera.com/?p=5107

UARR Deputation on the Community Engagement Draft re: Police Carding

April 2, 2015

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On Thursday April 2nd, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations joined many community organizations and individuals to challenge the Community Engagement Report – a draft policy to replace the former “carding” program.  The gaping holes in the new policy do not reflect any of the previous recommendations made by concerned community members. Below is the Deputation delivered by Executive Director Jason Merai to the Toronto Police Services Board. Viewing of Deputations can be found at http://rogerstv.com/page.aspx?lid=237&rid=16&sid=3431&gid=231773.

 

Good afternoon members of the Board, Chief Blair, Mr. Chair, Mr. Mayor,

The Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) acknowledges the importance of the Toronto Police Services Board’s revised Community Engagement policy, which introduces specific guidelines to address the previous practice of targeting members of racialized communities.

As it stands now, there are a number of significant questions that need to be asked in order for this policy to be consistent with human rights concerns.

The revised Community Engagement policy states that it will not consider race, gender, gender identity, gender expression unless one or more of the factors are part of a witness description. However, these lived experiences are the reason communities have had issues with carding in the first place. Officers should take into account how these identities shape individuals’ experiences with police when interacting with individuals.

Furthermore, a previous recommendation required that individuals be given a carbon copy receipt of their interaction with police. Now instead of receipts they will be given the police officer’s business card. What will happen to the personal information collected in this manner, and where is the accountability in such a transaction?

With regards to personal data, what is not clear is reviewing and removal of past carding data. As the Community Assessment of Police Practices study noted, there are minors whose information is in that database. There’s the marital status of peoples’ parents, notes on peoples carding files that are barring them from getting jobs in the sectors for which they have earned an education.

What’s more is that aspects of the policy still lack clarity. Particularly troubling is the broadening of the definition of public safety and the circumstances under which “carding” can occur. The new policy is much broader, and will inevitably result in a subjective interpretation by individual police officers to approach individuals at anytime.

Finally, the previous policy included the requirement of officers to inform individuals of their right to walk away if they are not a part of the investigation. Why has this now been omitted?

The UARR understands Community Engagement as a measure to establish respectful interaction between police and individuals. While it is important to learn that the Police Service will receive training on implementing the Community Engagement policy, what will be the consequences for those officers who fail to follow this new policy

It is encouraging to learn that the Toronto Police Services Board leadership supports equitable community safety. As such we look forward to the Board’s leadership to immediately revise what can be considered a weak policy. Anything less would be unacceptable in building public trust and public confidence in policing in Toronto.

Without these changes, the community engagement policy is simply carding 2.0.

Thank you and happy to answer any questions you may have.

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Tackling Poverty And Unemployment In Toronto

March 26, 2015

 

Tackling Poverty And Unemployment In Toronto

Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell and Outgoing UARR President Gary Pieters at Poverty in Toronto Forum. Photo Credit/Lincoln Depradine.

By Lincoln Depradine
Pride Contributing Writer

TORONTO, Ontario – A Toronto City councillor has given her commitment to efforts to end poverty, which includes putting more people to work.

Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell told a forum of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) that “poverty is everybody’s business’’.

“It certainly is a business that has to be resolved,’’ she said.

“Poverty in Toronto: What are we doing about it?’’ was the title of the forum, which coincided with the annual general meeting of the UARR.

The meeting culminated a three-year term for educator Gary Pieters as UARR president.

“During 2014-2015, the UARR continued to make a positive difference in the areas of race relations, social justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and human rights. We appreciate the ongoing support of our funders and donors; collaborating partners; supporters; members and the general public who attended our public events or participated on our social media,’’ Pieters said in his report to the meeting. The UARR is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its founding.

Pieters described the organization’s events of the past year as “meaningful, purposeful, relevant, engaging and effective in the public interest of advancing harmonious relations and social cohesion in the GTA and beyond. We are pleased with the outcomes that were achieved, but we have much more to do – and we look forward to your continued support’’.

Asked to summarize his tenure as UARR president, Pieters told Pride News Magazine that it was “very busy, very productive, being an agent of social change’’.

“I think the most important as president,’’ he explained, “was ensuring that we achieve our mission, which is to promote and maintain a harmonious society; to build bridges between cultures; build bridges between the police and community groups; and build bridges between the diverse peoples who live in this city; and looking at the issues that matter most to people, whether it’s in employment, whether it’s in access, whether it’s in terms of jobs’’.

Job concerns were a constant theme at the forum, with the revelation of a 20 percent to 30 percent unemployment rate among youth and non-white residents of Toronto.

Panelists and other participants at the forum provided suggestions to Deputy Mayor McConnell, including the need for the City of Toronto to “act as a model employer’’; and increasing social assistance subsidies.

“A living wage is terribly important,’’ one person offered. “We don’t need to study poverty anymore. Let’s move forward.’’

McConnell, who has been having a series of meetings on Toronto’s city-wide poverty reduction strategy, said it will address not just unemployment among the poor, but also how to provide them with greater access to affordable housing, public transit, city services, and to food.

McConnell’s current anti-poverty work is back by $25 million in the City of Toronto’s budget.

“We have already taken the first step but by the fall we’ll have the entire roadmap finished and the funding strategy in place to continue with the work,’’ she said in an interview with Pride News Magazine.

“The plan is to put together a very strong safety net so that people don’t fall into poverty. And also, to develop a lifeline that pulls people out,’’ McConnell added.

“What is also terribly important is that the dialogue we’re having, the conversations that we’re having around the city, is to have all Torontonians understand that poverty is everybody’s business and what we’re trying to do is move everybody, so that everyone can enjoy the prosperity of the city together.’’

Article Source http://pridenews.ca/2015/03/25/tackling-poverty-and-unemployment-in-toronto/ | Tacking Poverty Article pdf version

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UARR AGM and Community Forum on addressing Poverty in Toronto a success!

March 23, 2015

On Thursday March 19th, the UARR hosted it’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) with another “standing room only” turnout. The feature of the AGM was a community forum: “Poverty in Toronto – What are we doing about it?” The keynote address was delivered by Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell whose mandate includes creating a poverty-reducation strategy for the city of Toronto. A special thank you to featured panelists: Sharon Anderson (Put Food in the Budget), Randell Adjei (R.I.S.E Edutainment), Sharon Simpson (Good Jobs for All Coalition) and Effie Vlachoyannacos (Scadding Court Community Centre) for providing shared narratives that added value to the much needed dialogue. Thank you to Councillor McConnell for listening and engaging with the issues raised by the panelists and audience members. Below are some tweets of the occasion.

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UARR Participates in Racism Free Ontario Event at Hosted by CASSA

March 23, 2015

Event Photos-24Panelists Avvy Go, Ausma Malik, and Gary Pieters discussed about race, justice and education at the 5th annual Racism Free Ontario Forum at the Mid-Scarborough HUB (Photo Credit/Raafay Ali)

On March 21st, 2015, Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) President Gary Pieters participated in a panel discussion that looked at Race, Health, Justice and Education in observance of the UN Designated International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, sponsored by The Council on Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA).

The Forum was the culmination of 5th Annual The Racism Free Ontario campaign – 100 day initiative, which was conducted from December 10th, 2014 to March 21st, 2015 with the goal to goal to involve the community in the fight against racism to ensure that:

  • people recognize that racism exists in Canada
  • share tools and resources to those who are affected by racism
  • support the people who fight against racism
  • create policy level changes against racism into actualized systemic changes against racism

The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) is an umbrella organization of agencies, groups, and individuals that provide services to the South Asian Community. CASSA envisions and strive for a Canada free of all forms of discrimination in which all communities are free from marginalization and are fully empowered to participate in defining Canada’s political, economic, social and cultural future..

During his presentation, Mr. Pieters urged members of the audience to combat bigotry and its various intersections of oppression.

He also expressed UARR support for CASSA’s campaign urging the Government of the Province of Ontario to establish an Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate.

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Citations/Quotes: Racism Free Ontario and The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA). Photo Credits: Raafay Ali

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