Mayor John Tory has arranged to meet with members of the Black Community behind closed doors on Saturday, April 22nd, 2016, according to a report today in the Toronto Star. This process must be transparent and the Mayor and Chief of Police should meet with community leaders in a public forum. The Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) feel strongly that any discussion with “Black Community Leaders” that does not include Black Lives Matter – Toronto negates their ongoing work and contribution to the conversation on anti-black racism within policing, and runs the risk of failing to include the voices of the queer and trans folks whose lives are impacted deeply by anti-black racism.
The Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) stands by Black Lives Matter – Toronto and will not attend this meeting with Mayor Tory and Police Chief Sanders behind closed doors. The continuing struggle for justice for Andrew Loku led by Black Lives Matter Toronto touched many of us within the city. We witnessed thousands of Torontonians out in the streets demanding a public meeting with Mayor Tory. For forty years, UARR has been drawing attention to systemic anti-black racism as experienced by community members who encounter the Toronto Police Service. These stories are not new – they are an unfortunate legacy that burden members of the Black community. UARR is in full support of the coroner’s inquest of Andrew Loku’s death and while we acknowledge that the coroner’s inquest will not assign blame, a jury will be asked to provide recommendations to prevent future deaths. As a leading advocacy group on race relations, we add our voice to the many others calling for an overhaul and complete review of the SIU, in addition to naming the police officers who shot Loku, and 21-year-old Alex Wettlaufer in March 2016.
The UARR applauds Michael Coteau, Ontario’s minister responsible for anti-racism, for committing the province to four public consultations across the city on the state of policing. UARR looks forward to contributing to those discussions.
Systemic racism continues to create unfair outcomes for racialized and indigenous persons in Ontario. We call for more emphasis on de-escalation techniques within police training, procedure and action, as did former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci and a Toronto coroner’s jury in 2014. This is crucial, as we know police are often responding to persons in crisis. We also note that countless community and healthcare workers across this city respond to persons in crisis everyday in skillful ways, without resorting to violence, and demand that the TPS do the same.
In solidarity with Black Lives Matter – Toronto, we also call for:
(1) the immediate release of the name(s) of the officer(s) who killed Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby;
(2) that charges be laid against the officers who killed Mr. Loku;
(3) the immediate and public release of any video footage from the apartment complex where Andrew Loku was killed;
(4) an apology to the family of Andrew Loku and appropriate compensation; and,
(5) a review of the SIU with adequate consultation from families whose lives have been impacted by police violence.
The police can no longer respond to those in crisis with “triggers over treatment” and they must be held accountable when they do.
President, Urban Alliance on Race Relations