A federal Commission of Inquiry to look at police killings
When more than one thousand protesters gather outside City Hall in Toronto to call for the defunding and abolition – yes, abolition – of all police forces in Canada, we should realize that something is terribly wrong.
While we believe that reform of police services in Canada is long overdue, we must immediately point out, however, that we cannot agree with the protesters who last Sunday were calling for the abolition of the police.
Beverly Bain, organizer of the protest demonstration at Nathan Phillips Square, noted that the the killings of Black, Indigenous and brown people while in police custody, or in the midst of police wellness checks, are a pressing issue for two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities in Toronto.
But clearly abolition of the police is not the answer to this serious problem, though we sympatize with all our brothers and sisters who have suffered as a result of police brutality and racism.
As we pointed out in our editorial last week, defunding the police should be seriously considered.
However, there still seems to be a great deal of confusion about the term “defunding.”
When we use the term, we mean reallocating funds from the police budget to be used in mental health programs and much needed social services.
And as we pointed out last week – and it bears repeating – police officers are not social workers and should not be the first to be called to deal with mental health crises.
We are pleased to note that Toronto city council is paying attention to the problem, even though at this stage it is not ready to defund the police.
On Monday it passed a motion proposing changes to policing that include overhauling the response to those in crisis along with anti-racism measures and the implementation of body-worn cameras.
Two councillors had put forward a motion to cut the police budget by 10 per cent — about $107 million — and use that money for community services.
But such a cut would mean the loss of about 1,000 sworn officers that could take years to implement due to collective bargaining agreements with the union.
So the council did not approve the motion.
Many concerned citizens in our Caribbean community are saying that the Torontro city council has done very little to address the problem.
We hope that it will soon reconsider defunding,
We cannot wait until more Black people and those from other ethnic minorities are shot and killed by police before we effect serious police reform to address the problem of systemic racis.
We also note with deep concern yet another matter which has attracted national attention – the beating of Dafonte Miller, a young Black man, three years ago.
Miller lost an eye as a result of the beating.
As we report in this issue of The Caribbean Camera, last Friday Constable Michael Theriault was convicted of assault in the beating of Miller..
Both Constable Theriault and his brother, Christian, had pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault in connection with the beating,
But Constable Theriault’s brother was acquitted on the assault charge,
Both men were also acquitted of obstruction of justice.
Commenting after the verdict was delivered, Julian Falconer, a lawyer for Miller pointed out that ” this is not an isolated incident. This is not about one bad apple. This is happening across North America not because all police are bad but because the ongoing victimization of racialized and Indigenous people as a result of police abuse and police violence is a systemic chronic problem.”
Falconer is now calling for a federal Commission of Inquiry ” to bring out the truth about beatings and killings of racialized and Indigenous people in police custody.”
Even as we raise our voice in support of police reform, we must realize that the situation is serious enough to warrant such a Commission of Inquiry.
And the sooner the better.