Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) says the agency has civilian oversight through part-time Commissioners appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.
” And that includes nine people who are active in the community, among them black individuals,” she noted.
Mandhane was responding to the recent call by Kenneth Jeffers, the lone Black member of the Toronto Police Services Board, for the establishment of ” a civilian oversight Board of the Human Rights Commission with a standing sub-committee to address anti-Black racism issues.”
Jeffers spoke of the need for such a Board at a meeting of the recently formed Expose Toronto Committee (ETC) which discussed Anti-Black racism in the workplace.
He is calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn to meet with the ETC to discuss the setting up of the proposed civilian oversight Board ” in consultation with the Anti Racism Directorate and Justice Michael Tulloch” who headed the recent independent review of Ontario police oversight bodies.
In an interview this week, Mandhane said she was a ” little perplexed” by Jeffer’s call for civilian oversight of the Commission.
“Firstly he has never raised those issues with me directly and secondly, we already have civilian oversight, so to speak,” she told the Caribbean Camera.
Mandhane pointed out that the Commissioners who are appointees ” approve all of the Commission’s work.”
She said, however, that Jeffer’s concerns about Anti-Black racism are serious matters ” and deserve serious consideration.
“I do want to understand what those concerns are and I’m looking forward to meeting with him to discuss them and see if there’s any action to be taken.”
Mandhane noted that the OHRC has recently launched an inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black people by the Toronto Police.
” So obviously, we are very much alive to anti-racism being a key concern,” she added.
“What we have heard from the community for many years was that individual community members did not feel comfortable filing complaints against the police because of the real power differential between an average citizen and the police,” she said.
“And that’s exactly why we exercised our mandate to launch a public inquiry.”
She pointed out that as the part of the inquiry into policing ” we want to work in collaboration with service organizations and other community hubs to make sure the community understands what the Commission is doing and feel that is safe to engage with us on issues of racial profiling,”
She said the OHC has set up a dedicated (telephone) line for persons with concerns about racial profiling.
They can get in touch with the Commission at 416-314-4547.
They can also send an email to email@example.com
Mandhane also noted that Ontario government has announced that it will be launching an anti-racism strategy to deal with Anti-Black racism in the Ontario public service and the City of Toronto has also recently passed an initiative to address Anti-Black racism.
“And, of course, we are supportive of those initiatives in terms of our own mandate.”