The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in Canada acknowledges the apology to the Black community by Toronto Police Chief James Ramer. We further recognize that the information collected in the 2020 Race-Based Data Collection Report sheds light on the policing of Black and Indigenous communities, covering multiple years with various police chiefs at the helm.
Among the data is the finding that the Black population is 10% of Toronto’s population but five times more likely to receive force from police and twice as likely to have police pull firearms on them even when believed to be unarmed. This data is not new information to the Black community. Rather it is the far too often reality of a people whose complaints on this are historically heard, documented and later shelved by those tasked and empowered to correct it. While the acknowledgement of the incomprehensible treatment of Black and Indigenous citizens by the Toronto Police Service and the resulting apology from the Toronto Police Chief can be viewed as stepping in the right direction, an apology without corrective action and reparations is equivalent to a home without a roof.
CBTU Canada further stands compelled to disagree with the statements made by the Toronto police chief that the report does not reflect the act of individual officers. Systemic racism in policing can only be carried out by individual officers and the policies put in place by those individual officers who are eventually promoted into policy and decision-making positions within the Toronto Police Service. It is also our view that racism and white supremacy are ingrained within Canadian society and this latest apology following a long series of similar reports and findings reflects the systemic nature of racism in policing. Whereas the police services represent a microcosm of that society, police are not exempt from perpetuating those views while interacting within communities. The Toronto Police Service’s 2020 race based data collection findings is the latest report of a long list of reports, collected over decades that both tells the Black community what is already known and have historically become little more than paperweights over time. These documents were eventually shelved by police chief after police chief. The 1992 Louis Report on Racism in Ontario, the 2018 report of the Independent Street Check Review, and the 2012 Toronto Star series entitled “Known to Police” are a few examples of what we see as wake up calls effectively ignored mandate after mandate, by consecutive police chiefs, municipal, provincial and federally elected leaders. Decades after these reports were first released the relationship between the Black community and policing continues to be an area of great concern and the defunding of a policing system that continues to fail the Black community remains a point of discussion.
The CBTU in Canada continues to declare that the need for a report to tell the Black community what is already known is non-existent. The CBTU advocates for concrete action by the Toronto Police Service and all levels of government to end racism in law enforcement while creating fair and equitable policing that works for everyone.
The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists-Canada (CBTU) Executive Board