By Lincoln DePradine
Toronto Mayor John Tory has pledged to continue playing ” a leadership role ” in combating racism and discrimination in the city.
The mayor was speaking at a virtual town hall last week with Scarborough Councillor and Deputy Mayor, Michael Thompson.
During the discussions, participants raised questions about the deaths of George Floyd in the United States and of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto.
Korchinski-Paquet was found dead, lying on the ground, after police were called for assistance at the family’s 24th floor apartment.
Her death which has ignited protests, is now the subject of a probe by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ontario’s civilian police watchdog
“I am deeply concerned about the tragic death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a young Black woman with emotional and health issues,’’ said Thompson, Councillor for Ward 21. “Somehow, police intervention was followed by her falling to her death from an apartment balcony. The answers we need to bring public closure to this racially and emotionally charged incident have not yet been made public by the SIU.’’
Thompson, a five-term city Councillor, described the killing in Minnesota of Floyd as “troubling and tragic’’.
“Clearly, what happened with George Floyd, we’re all dismayed with respect to that,’’ he said.
Floyd, an African-American who died after his neck was pinned by the knee of a white police officer, was buried on Tuesday in Texas.
Massive protest marches, against racism and excessive use of force by police, have been taking place in the US, Canada and other countries since Floyd’s death.
Mayor Tory, while acknowledging the diversity of Toronto, admitted that racial challenges still exist in the city.
“All of us acknowledge that there is anti-Black racism in Toronto and anti-Indigenous racism and there are other forms of hatred and discrimination that still pop up – in some cases that are systemic – and we’re working away at dealing with those,’’ he said. “But, we’ve got to work harder and do more. I’m pledging to provide the leadership necessary to do that, because that is at the heart of the success of the most diverse city in the world.’’
Tory was invited to participate in the discussion by Thompson, who has been holding a series of online town halls. He also has been visiting businesses in his Scarborough ward, encouraging the public to patronize private sector operators in the community, including restaurant owners whose services were among those halted under protocols adopted to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
Thompson and the mayor also were guests at a recent online meeting, titled “Living Beyond COVID-19’’, hosted by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce.
The City of Toronto and the Ontario government have begun a phased reopening of businesses.
Among the city’s reopening initiatives is one called “CaféTO’’, which is aimed at helping restaurants and bars create more outdoor space when they resume serving customers.
“CaféTO represents an opportunity to expand patio culture across our city and bring people back to our main streets as the city begins to reopen and recover,” said Thompson, who chairs Toronto’s economic and community development committee.