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Wednesday, 02 August 2017 10:22

Ontario Black Youth Action Plan

By: Sam Minassie in Toronto

Ontario’s Black Youth Action Plan is taking another step forward with a new mentorship initiative. As part of its four-year $47 million-dollar project, the province will launch, “Together We Can”. The aim is to reach 10,800 black youth within priority communities outlined in regions such as the GTA, Hamilton, Ottawa and Windsor.

The province will look to tackle statistical discrepancies among young people of colour within major cities. For young Blacks, the numbers can be startling, with unemployment and dropout rates that almost double those of their Caucasian counterparts. Compounded with the fact that a black population that only accounts for about 8% of the province, makes up 41% of those receiving care at the Children’s Aid Society, there is a clear need for change.

The program has already started recruiting local organizations through a number of engagement sessions that have taken place across 13 communities. The sessions will continue throughout the summer in the hopes of collaborating with up to 25 different mentorships. As of now, four organizations have already signed up: The African-Canadian Coalition of Community Organizations, the NIA Centre for the Arts, Tropicana Community Services, and the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel Community.

“Diversity is such a beautiful thing. It makes us stronger, economically and culturally.”-Michael Coteau

MPP Michael Coteau, has been a driving force behind the project. Raised in the very community he serves today, he has helped spread awareness on several of the issues he had to overcome. Growing up in Flemingdon Park, he was exposed to many of the systemic hardships that make it increasingly difficult for so many to further their educations. He credits a lot of his success to the positive influences he started seeing in the second half of his high school career and hopes to recreate a similar atmosphere for others.

Elected to office in 2011 as MPP of Toronto’s Don Valley East ward, he is also the Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism and Minister of Children and Youth Services. He sees the initiative as an “on-the-ground” solution that will help underprivileged minors with their futures.

“Partnering with local community organizations to provide mentorship opportunities specifically for Black children and youth will help them build the skills and connect them with the opportunities they need to succeed,” Coteau explains.

The project will try to keep locals involved and is in the process of putting together a committee made up of leaders, experts and other members of the black community to help with the overall direction.

Ontario’s Youth Action Plan outlines a number of steps that must be taken into consideration in order to adequately provide the support they require. Earlier intervention was identified as one of those first steps and in response, the province has already implemented optional full day kindergarten. Employment programs will also be expanded so that they are available on a full-time basis in the summer, as well as part-time throughout the year.

The plan will also employ more outreach workers across the province. In addition, training procedures will be reviewed to ensure that employees are adequately equipped.

With a firm plan of action in place, community leaders are optimistic of the positive change that will follow. Dwayne Dixon is the Executive Director at the Nia Centre for the Arts and is more than aware of the uphill battle they are facing.

“Very early in my artistic journey, when I was coming up, there were very limited opportunities (financial or otherwise) for young black artists to make the arts a viable career choice...I'm confident, experiences like mine will be the exception and not the rule,” he says.

As more organizations continue to join the cause, it is clear that major changes are under way. It will be interesting to see what a future of equal opportunity will hold for Canada’s most multicultural province.

Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 29 October 2015 22:08

Carding Ban Clouded By Doubt

by Patrick Hunter in Toronto

It could be resistance or defiance of civilian oversight bodies, or just plain stubbornness. Either way, police organizations have been slow to change their culture around the strongly-opposed practice of carding. However, in Ontario, the provincial government has somewhat taken the matter out of police services' hands.

I say somewhat because there will be an element of distrust from community members that the police service will find a way around the new provisions of the proposed regulations.

The regulations move to take the ability to “randomly and arbitrarily” collect identifying information about citizens away from police officers.

The practice now known as carding, or “street checks” should effectively be prohibited when the regulation comes into force next March.

[T]here will be an element of distrust from community members that the police service will find a way around the new provisions of the proposed regulations.

How we got here

The practice is seen as a part of a larger issue of racial profiling by police. As investigations published by the Toronto Star discovered, the majority of subjects stopped and carded by the police are young Black men.

As a result, the Black community has demanded that the practice be stopped because it violates the rights of individuals and serves to criminalize the Black community.

But in one of his last acts leading the Toronto Police Service (TPS), former chief of police, Bill Blair, managed to reverse an accepted Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) policy from 2014 with the help of the newly elected mayor, John Tory. Elements of the original policy would have placed some of the same restrictions on the police that are now found in the recently proposed regulations.

[T]he community hoped that [the new police chief] would bring an understanding of the impact of carding on the Black community and would work to reverse the practice.

As Blair, who was recently elected to the House of Commons, was on his way out, the TPSB sought to appoint a new chief, and with two of the leading candidates being Black, the community hoped that whichever one was appointed would bring an understanding of the impact of carding on the Black community and work to reverse the practice.

Instead, the new chief, Mark Saunders, essentially endorsed the practice, saying that it is a useful investigatory tool for the police.

In early June, a group of highly influential individuals, including a former chief justice of Ontario, held a news conference condemning the practice. Around the same time of that momentous event, the mayor backtracked and left the chief dancing on the head of a pin, trying to maintain the practice’s usefulness.

More recently, the chief of the Peel Regional Police, Jennifer Evans, defied her board by saying that street checks will continue.

In stepped the province’s minister of community safety, Yasir Naqvi, who had previously proposed a series of consultations to gather community input on what can be done, with a draft regulation that works to ban ‘carding’.

What the new regulation offers

The regulations being proposed will “(1) Expressly prohibit the random and arbitrary collection of identifying information by police; and (2) Establish clear new rules for voluntary police–public interactions where identifying information is collected.”

To their credit, the regulations go as far as they can to insure against the “arbitrary and random” nature of street checks. Such information can only be gathered if there is a reasonable suspicion of illegal activities.

As Naqvi announced at a news conference, a person's race or the neighbourhood he or she lives in cannot be grounds for officers to stop an individual or record identifying information about them.

In addition, if such information is collected, the officer must provide the individual with a “document” (generally referred to as a receipt) that contains information about the officer, the time and place, and importantly, the reason for the collection of the information.

Of course, there are some exceptions such as an officer working undercover, a routine traffic stop or executing a warrant.

At any rate, the chief must review the information collected within 30 days. Officers who violate the new rules would be subject to a misconduct charge.

Despite Fantino’s denial, the fact remained that the police stopped Black people more often than anyone else, for no reason other than their race.

Elements of doubt

In 2002, when the Toronto Star published its investigation into racial profiling by the Toronto police, the then chief, Julian Fantino, and the police association, denied racial profiling existed. It was blamed on “a few bad apples” and renamed “biased policing”.

Despite Fantino’s denial, the fact remained that the police stopped Black people more often than anyone else, for no reason other than their race.

The carding practice can be seen as a “re-branding” or evolution of that racial profiling practice, with the added twist of maintaining a database of young Black men who have had contact with or are “known to” police – regardless of any connection with illegal activity.

While individuals who believe they have been wrongfully stopped and carded will have recourse by filing a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review (OIPRD), there will likely be a sense that the police, given their attachment to the activity, will find a way around the regulations.

It should not come as a shock to anyone that intimidation is part of policing practice, and that often serves as a dissuading factor in lodging complaints.


Patrick Hunter is a communications consultant and a columnist for Share Newspaper. He is a former communications director at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and has worked in government and the news media.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary
Thursday, 25 June 2015 23:00

ACLC Wins in Racial Profiling Case

By Gerald V. Paul The African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) successfully argued before three Divisional Court judges that a racial profiling settlement between Ottawa Police Service Board and the Ontario…

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Published in National

by Patrick Hunter (@pghntr) in Toronto

A huge wave, represented by about 50 high-profile Canadians, rocked Mayor John Tory’s proverbial boat this week. The “wave” consisted of a former chief justice of Ontario, three former mayors (one of whom is a former chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission), several former politicians and business leaders.

Identifying themselves as Concerned Citizens to End Carding, they held a news conference steps away from Mayor Tory’s office at City Hall to denounce the controversial police practice.

The result is that the mayor has changed his tune, reversing his position on “carding,” the controversial practice by the Toronto Police Service (TPS) of collecting and retaining information about individuals with whom they engage, but who are not being detained or under suspicion of committing a crime.

In his announcement, the Mayor said: “The issue of community engagements, or carding as it has become known, has eroded public trust to a level that is clearly unacceptable.As mayor, it is up to me to do whatever I can do to restore that trust . . . And so I am announcing today my intention, at the next meeting of the police services board on June 18, to seek the permanent cancellation of carding once and for all.”

"We believe carding violates the human rights of citizens, it goes against the principles of our Charter Rights ..." - Concerned Citizens to End Carding

It is not often that political leaders reverse their positions so openly. Early reaction has been mostly positive. The damage, however, may have already been done. That will become clearer when Tory faces the electorate in another three years.  

The Use of Carding

The carding practice was revealed in a Toronto Star investigative report in 2012 under the banner headline “Known to police.” It uncovered the fact the majority of persons stopped by the police whose information was taken were young black males, and their information was being kept in a database, apparently for future reference when a crime is committed.

Earlier this year, the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) had approved a policy on community engagement, which required police officers to inform individuals who are not under suspicion of any criminal activity that they have the right to end the engagement. If officers took a person’s information, they would also be required to provide a “receipt” indicating why the person was stopped.

William (Bill) Blair, then the outgoing chief of police, had a problem with the requirement and managed to get a watered-down version – without the above requirements of the policy – approved. The reaction and subsequent heat from the black community increased.

Desmond Cole: A Catalyst

In May, Toronto Life published a cover story by Desmond Cole, “The Skin I’m In.” It catalogues his experiences with the police, and outlines the emotional impact that they had and have on him – an impact that is shared by many black men, young or old.

The article became a sensation and was, indeed, a catalyst for the Concerned Citizens group to declare its opposition to carding.

[Saunders'] stance, if continued, will certainly erode any goodwill he may have earned from the black community, and the wider community, as demonstrated by the Concerned Citizens group.

In its statement, the group notes: “We all need to oppose carding vehemently … We are offended by the notion of casually and routinely stopping citizens, outside of police investigations of actual criminal acts that have occurred, to question and record, and then store personal data in police files … We believe carding violates the human rights of citizens, it goes against the principles of our Charter Rights ..."

Last Friday, the chair of the TPSB, Dr. Alok Mukherjee wrote an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star: “We are at risk of turning into a surveillance society” in which he also declared a change of heart.

“I believe the Toronto Police Services Board must now declare unequivocally that information generated from informal contacts with members of the public, which are not related to any criminal investigation or likelihood of a criminal investigation, must not be recorded in any police database,” he wrote.

Where the Police Chief Stands

Mark Saunders, who is black, is the recently appointed chief of police, succeeding Bill Blair. He has picked up the ball, voicing support for carding as a legitimate investigative tool. He has tried to cushion this support by suggesting that there would be changes in implementing the policy by eliminating random stops.

The community is not buying it.

His stance, if continued, will certainly erode any goodwill he may have earned from the black community, and the wider community, as demonstrated by the Concerned Citizens group.

Adding to the community’s concern about Chief Saunders’ position, a recent report in the Toronto Star that revealed an internal memo prepared by Saunders while he was a staff superintendent.

In the memo, he essentially tried to debunk the notion of racial profiling and carding, suggesting that analyses did not support “notions or activities of racially biased policing practices.” According to the Star, his then-superior officer, Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, also black, took issue with Saunders’ analysis and conclusion.

Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, in the wake of Mayor Tory’s conversion, has also reaffirmed the association’s position, and that of the chief’s: getting rid of carding would have a negative impact on “community safety.” Exactly how is unclear.

It would appear that both Chief Saunders and the police association fail to make the connection that their defence of carding’s use and the fact that the majority of the carded residents are black imply that they believe that members of the black community are responsible for most of the crimes and criminal activities in the city.

If the black chief of police believes that, what chance do we have to change relations between the police and the black community?


Patrick Hunter is a communications consultant and a columnist for Share Newspaper. He is a former communications director at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and has worked in government and the news media.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary
Monday, 08 June 2015 11:56

Ending Police Carding Is Just Step One

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough

“I’m afraid for my son to grow up.”

The words come via a 23-year-old woman, who sits with her six-month-old son in her arms. These words – words that no mother should have to say – drive home a heavy point.

She’s one of a dozen or so members of the Say Word youth journalism program that runs weekly in Scarborough, out of East Metro Youth Services – a group I’ve been privileged enough to coordinate since 2008.

Her comment comes after she and the group are asked to read Desmond Cole’s recently published Toronto Life article, “The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times – all because I’m black.” Raising her son in the over-policed and often negatively stigmatized neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway in Scarborough, the young mom doesn’t want her son to grow up and be victim to the racial profiling Cole’s article brings to light.

[A] student – albeit a young Caucasian man who self-identified as a resident of Richmond Hill – asked the teaching assistant, very seriously, “Does racial profiling actually exist?” I answered, out of turn: “Yes, it does exist – just not for you.”

Reading Cole’s work shifted almost the entire afternoon’s program to an open sharing circle – nearly every participant had a personal account (or several) of being carded, negative encounters with the police or witnessing disturbing interactions between police and youth in the community.

Stories of “fitting the description” and of being searched without cause, questioned and arrested abounded.

The Say Word group analyzes articles on a weekly basis so that the participants are able to think critically about how they will write their own pieces for the annual by-youth, for-youth magazine they put together for Scarborough. The consensus on Cole’s work: he hit the nail on the head – everything he wrote in that article resonated.

Racial Profiling Is Real

The afternoon’s discussion made me reflect on the many instances of negative experiences with the police I myself have had over the years growing up in Scarborough.

The disproportionate carding of young black men adds yet another layer to a narrative Canada – a country often touted as an inclusive, diverse, multicultural mosaic – seems all too comfortable with. It’s the narrative of racial profiling, over-policing and criminalizing racialized people and communities.

It also made me flash back to a moment in one of my Intro to Criminology classes at York University, when a student – albeit a young Caucasian man who self-identified as a resident of Richmond Hill – asked the teaching assistant, very seriously, “Does racial profiling actually exist?”

I answered, out of turn: “Yes, it does exist – just not for you.”

If only he could have been with me on that Wednesday afternoon, he could have heard first-hand from the young people most affected: yes, racial profiling does exist – in a big way.

Racial profiling by Toronto Police runs deeper than the highly controversial, and deeply troubling, carding practice – which disproportionately targets young black men. So while Toronto mayor John Tory’s announcement this past weekend that he would like to put an end to carding is a step in the right direction, he’s not going to be let off the hook that easily.

The disproportionate carding of young black men adds yet another layer to a narrative Canada – a country often touted as an inclusive, diverse, multicultural mosaic – seems all too comfortable with. It’s the narrative of racial profiling, over-policing and criminalizing racialized people and communities.

Tory often speaks to the fact that carding is disrespectful and hurtful and has caused him a lot of internal conflict since he took over office, but I’ve yet to hear him really explore the deeply entrenched systemic racism that is the root cause of the deplorable practice.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

It’s not enough to just say, “Let’s end carding.” Tory, the Toronto Police Services Board, and newly appointed Police Chief Mark Saunders, need to dig deeper and take a hard look at the city’s police force. They need to do a lot of unpacking. They need to start asking the tough questions; they need to start listening to the community.

Perhaps most importantly, they need to hear, in a very real way, from the youth and young adults that I spend Wednesday afternoons with (and others with similar stories). And when they do, they need to not dismiss their experiences. They need to seriously take into consideration the irreparable scars each of those experiences leaves on a select population of our city’s young people, and the black community at large.

If that doesn’t happen then I guarantee that, even if Tory and the Police Services Board move to officially end carding at the June 18 board meeting, the real changes that Toronto’s black community deserves also will not happen. The disproportionate targeting, the racial profiling, will persist. The only difference is that it won’t be documented.


A native of Toronto’s Scarborough community, Priya is a journalist and editor with a passion for mentoring young people and thinking critically about matters of social justice. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Urbanology Magazine, a part-time instructor at the Humber College J-School and coordinator of Scarborough’s Say Word youth journalism program, a program she was integral in getting off the ground. She is NCM's production editor.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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By Gerald V. Paul Canadian Human Rights Commission Interim Chief Commissioner Ruth Goba says “the OHRC is seeking leave to intervene as a friend of the court in the “Neptune…

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By Gerald V. Paul Sharon Douglas, director of Community Investment for United Way of Peel Region and staff lead to the Black Community Advisory Council, says feedback she has had…

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