By Gerald V. Paul
“Celebrate and continue the struggle with nurturing, nurturing and nurturing,” Ontario Human Rights Commission Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall told the 39th-annual awards dinner of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR).
The UARR position is there must be mandatory public accountability reports to ensure that frequent review, practice and job-embedded professional learning become an essential indicator of policing in this increasingly diverse city, the gathering was told. Their mission is to promote a stable and healthy multicultural, multi-ethnic environment in Toronto.
Hall, a former Toronto mayor Hall, told guests last Thursday at Dum Sum King Restaurant that “this is like my adult life reunion. In the early days at the commission we wanted human rights that are being nurtured. The UARR is also such a place of nurturing. The early founders were involved in a number of areas including community, labour, education and social justice.”
Hall noted there has been success on the racial profiling front and encouraged those at the gathering to continue to be strong champions of social justice, equity and human rights.
As “changemakers in our communities,” Lloyd McKell and Debbie Douglas were named the UARR Award winners 2014 and Enzo DiMatteo and Jim Rankin received the Ashok Chanwani Media Award.
Gary Pieters, alliance president, reminded the audience of the killing of teen Sammy Yatim on a streetcar which “rekindled painful memories of similar killings in Toronto that often involved racialized men, some of whom faced mental-health issues.
“We remember victims such as Lester Donaldson, Buddy Evans, Robert Moses, Wayne, Michael Wade Lawson, Edmond Yu and many more victims.
“We wonder, why is there a disconnect between police training and the behaviour of some officers? Have we learned nothing?” asked Pieters.
In June 2000, UARR in collaboration with the then Queen Street Patients Council, organized a conference called Saving Lives: Alternatives to the Use of Lethal Force by Police and consequently a report was released. “The inquest into the death of Lester Donaldson led to recommendations for crisis resolution courses that were implemented in and around 1994,” Pieters said.
He said discussions on non-lethal technology, supports for people facing mental-health issues, the role of race in community policing, transparency and accountability and mobile crisis teams were all identified in the final report.
“But none of this saved Sammy Yatim.
“This latest shooting death, along with troubling coincidences of Toronto Police Service consultations on carding, profiling, receipting and training leads us to call for separate, civilian arms-length organization to monitor, evaluate and report on police training to ensure ongoing compliance through a comprehensive and firm approach to police-training,” Pieters noted.