Black lives: They matter HERE

Yusra Khogali, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter. Gerald V. Paul photo.
Yusra Khogali, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter. Gerald V. Paul photo.

“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better. We cannot adhere to an unjust law.”
Those long-ago words by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King have the solid ring of truth to them today as Black Lives Matter strives for its cause in Toronto.
An example of Black Lives Matter local chapter’s issues is that of Andrew Loku who died July 5, 2015, of injuries sustained when he was shot by an officer of the Toronto Police Service. The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said in a recent release, “Dr. James Edwards, regional supervising coroner for Central Region, Toronto East Office, today announced that an inquest will be held into the death of Andrew Loku.”
And this is the crux of it: “The inquest will examine the events surrounding Mr. Loku’s death. The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.”
The inquest will not assign blame but will bring details of Loku’s last hours into the public realm, including the officer’s name. A jury will then provide recommendations to prevent future deaths. Loku, a father of five from South Sudan, was shot when police were called to a Toronto apartment building leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association to house people with mental health issues. Police found a man wielding a hammer. They ordered him to drop the weapon when he didn’t a constable fired two shots into his chest.
The inquest call is a major victory for Black Lives Matter.
Co-founders of BLM Toronto, Sandy Hudson and Pascale Diverlus, told reporters last Sunday that at a meeting last Friday with Michael Coteau, Ontario minister responsible for anti-racism, the province has committed to four public consultations across the city on the state of policing.
BLM Toronto said the meetings promised in the talks with Coteau “Will not look like other public consultations they have had before. Rather it will be a forum where Black folks can come and share stories and say what they need done differently in the city.”
Hudson noted the meeting and the decision to hold a coroner’s inquest into Loku’s death “does signify a strong commitment to addressing those demands that we had laid out.”
However, the group wants to see the names of the officers who shot Loku and 21-year-old Alex Wetlaufer in March – both being kept secret by the SIU.
“The reason for getting the officer’s names is also to track what their history of interaction with the public has been and whether or not they are still working on the streets of Toronto. It’s the public interest to have this information right away and we are going to continue to push for that.”
Also Hudson said this speaks to the need for “an overhaul and complete review” of the SIU.
“There’s no reason why such a report shouldn’t be available to the public. This is an agency that’s supposed to be working in the interests of the public,” Hudson said. Attorney General Madeline Meilleur has the report but up to yesterday was refusing to make its contents public.
Kingsley Gilliam, director of communications at the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC) said, “It’s refreshing that our young people are taking up the cause. We support some of their strategies but not all.”
Kingsley said that BADC never ventured on private property. “We respect the boundaries. So we do not condone what the BLM did on Premier Kathleen Wynne’s lawn. That’s dangerous and brings them in direct contact with the law. If you are targeting police officers, you stay on the public street.”
Gilliam also noted that because BLM Toronto is an ad hoc, mixed group, there is no direct way of controlling the movement. “That’s why BADC was so successful in their marches, because of the singleness of mind and purpose.”
Meanwhile, the African Canadian Legal Clinic said in a statement that it “proudly expresses its full support for the Black Lives Matter demonstration against anti-Black police violence and other forms of anti-Black racism directed at the African Canadian community.”