Statement on Anti-Black Racism

Like many of you, I am deeply disturbed and I mourn with you the murder of George Floyd, the tragic death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the shooting of Chantel Moore in New Brunswick and the continuing pattern of police violence against Black, racialized and Indigenous people.

At the same time, I am inspired by the spontaneous and ongoing peaceful uprising of thousands and thousands of so many young and determined Torontonians who are standing up for our highest values and saying: This Must Stop.

Systemic racism is a reality in our society. Recognizing and naming that fact is essential if we are to fully address its impact and identify solutions.

The current political climate - the moment created by the intense global and local reaction to these tragic events - has truly created the opportunity to make change. It must be deep, thorough and fundamental change to address anti-Black racism and to implement lasting reform of policing in our City.

Police Spending I have always supported holding the Police budget to a reasonable percentage of the overall budget rather than allowing it to grow at the expense of other needs. This has often put me in a minority position on City Council but it has never deterred me, and it won't deter me going forward.

In 2016, my motion "That City Council direct the City Manager to report back to the Executive Committee on ways in which the City can strengthen its financial oversight of its large agencies, including the Toronto Police Service, in order to inform future budgets" was adopted. Clearly, this is overdue.

In the same budget deliberation, Councillor Michael Thompson moved a motion to reduce the proposed Police Services Operating Budget by $24,022,187 and instead direct those monies to youth spaces, child care subsidies, student nutrition and the City’s Youth Equity Strategy. Sadly, this motion did not pass. When Council voted on this motion in 2016 we did not have a whole movement in the streets, on the phones and on social media supporting us. Now we do. Thank you.

You can find both motions and the votes on them online here - http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2016.EX12.2

Toronto's Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism In December 2017 City Council adopted the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism, which contained 80 actions and 22 recommendations for City staff to implement to address anti-Black racism in Toronto. You can find that item online here - http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2017.EX29.11.

This Action Plan established the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit which now supports and leads City efforts to identify and remove systemic barriers and to ensure municipal services, spaces and policies are fully inclusive and accessible to Black Torontonians. You can read more about their important work on the City website - https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/get-involved/community/confronting-anti-black-racism/.

An important part of their work is to ensure that Anti-Black Racism Analysis remains high on the agenda of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) in order to change the nature, culture, training and outcomes of the TPS in its interactions with Black communities in Toronto. When they started this work the staff did not have thousands of residents like you to support them. Now they do.

Too often interactions involving police and people suffering from mental health issues also escalate into tragic consequences and the loss of innocent lives. After Michael Eligon was shot and killed by police in East York the first MCIT (Mobile Crisis Intervention Team) was formed to add psychiatric nurses to police calls for mental health crises. We need to significantly enhance and increase the capacity of that program.

As well, every citizen has a right to raise questions about accountability of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). It is critical that there be a fully independent and transparent mechanism for police accountability. Unfortunately the Ford government sidelined the process that was designed to ensure that police services are provided equitably and that the mandate of the SIU and its procedures take into account systemic racism.

City Council must require that equity be a foundational piece of the COVID-19 recovery; that the city and all of our agencies, boards and commissions invest in the Black, racialized and Indigenous communities in more meaningful ways. Recognizing the reality of systemic racism, there must be an equity lens used for the hiring, promotions and operations of our city and its many services.

You have my commitment that your concerns will not be ignored and that we all must seize this moment in time to make lasting systemic change.

I know actions speak louder than words, here are the ideas I am adding in to this ongoing and critical conversation: 

1. Reduce and reallocate the Police Budget for social, community and mental health supports in full consultation with communities of colour in our city.

2. Implement the important recommendations of expert reports – particularly the Urban Alliance on Race Relations report in 2000 on Saving Lives – Alternatives to the Use of Lethal Force by Police https://urbanalliance.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/savinglivesreport.pdf and Justice Tulloch’s Independent Police Oversight Review. https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/police_oversight_review/

3. Reform of police interactions with the Black community to be guided by the Black community

4. Demilitarize the police in favour of a community based and community led approach to policing

5. Ensure that the new Chief of police is willing and able to undertake the deep reform of our current system of policing

I have always stood up against injustice and racism. The sad events of the past few weeks have only strengthened my beliefs.

Paula Fletcher City Councillor Ward 14, Toronto-Danforth

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