By Michael Lashley
As Mayor John Tory changes his mind a second time by reverting to his support for police carding that is both discriminatory and illegal, advocates and analysts are asking a few basic questions.
Why is the mayor being so indecisive, insensitive and self-destructing on this issue? How did Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Public Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi allow themselves to get ensnared in this fiasco? And what is the role of the mainstream media in not giving greater publicity to the implications of this latest development in the carding merry-go-round?
Equity advocates are convinced this is not the first or likely the last time Tory shoots himself in the foot in an unforced error. His first change of position was bringing him much political credit for finally recognizing that no form of police carding could be acceptable.
Those advocates would still have been applauding him for his willingness to listen to a deafening chorus of appeals that carding should be completely eliminated from the Toronto Police Service. But no, he flip-flops once more and hides his betrayal of the victims of carding behind the coat-tails of an ill-advised provincial review and policy standardization of “police street checks”.
Is it that Tory has no principled convictions of his own to guide him in his decision-making? Is he being overruled or manipulated by his inner circle? Is his judgment so faulty in the selection of the members of his team that he is surrounds himself with insensitive and socio-culturally blind persons?
Either of those hypotheses and any combination thereof lead equity advocates and political analysts to award him the same mark on his dismal performance: F-minus!
One should always remember as well the strong pressure being applied by and on behalf of the Toronto Police Association whose president Mike McCormack is unrelenting in his insistence on the unique value of carding in preventing and solving crime.
It seems irrelevant to carding supporters that even without the illegitimate policy of carding, there are many experienced jurists such as Mr. Justice Romain Pitt, former Superior Court judge and board member of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, who have uprooted these false arguments for carding and demonstrated the absurdity of applying them in this and a variety of other policy areas.
But, even so, the commentators have provided no plausible explanation for the sudden intervention of the provincial government. Suffice it to say that Wynne’s reputation for having much sounder political judgment than the mayor has meant her government is not suspected of making their move for the sole purpose of doing Tory’s dirty work for him – pulling his chestnuts out of the fire.
In that regard, the other systemic questions remain. How do we interpret the relative silence of the mainstream media in this critical evolution of the carding issue? And how do we interpret the forceful and effective role of the “Concerned Citizens to End Carding” at one stage in getting Tory to see the errors of his ways and to agree to work for the elimination of carding in any form?
On that first point, it is easy to assume the mainstream media do not see the mayor’s abandonment of the communities negatively affected by carding as having any major political consequences. The equity and diversity advocates beg to disagree and are confident carding and other equity and diversity issues will dog the mayor’ pursuit of his agenda and will contribute significantly to his eventual failures as a one-term mayor.
On the second point, however, it has been eloquently argued by Neil Price that there are important lessons in cooperation and in the incisive power of the elites that we need to learn. In his extensive commentary, Price makes a convincing case that it is interesting but inadequate to claim that powerful establishment figures in the Concerned Citizens to End Carding achieved in a matter of days what the marginalized communities and their advocates could not achieve in decades of struggle.
I strongly recommended reading the full text of Price’s soul-searching commentary. He is executive director of Logical-Outcomes, a non-profit consultancy in Toronto and a member of the Tommy Douglas Institute at George Brown College.
Price certainly joins his fellow advocates in awarding the tarnished regime of Tory an F-minus for equity and diversity.