New Canadian Media

By: Marieke Walsh in Ottawa, ON

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was repeatedly under attack and on the defensive Wednesday night during a debate on issues facing the black community.

The debate in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood featured all major party leaders except Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford.

Wynne was taken to task for her government’s record on disproportionate numbers of black children facing suspension and expulsion, inequities in the health care system and the persistence of carding by police.

Throughout, the premier stuck to her talking points that the Liberal government has taken these issues “head on” and that “more needs to be done.”

At one point moderator Royson James called Wynne out for her response to systemic racism in the education system.

“You do know that whatever you’re doing isn’t working,” James asked Wynne. And he wondered if the people responsible for the school system understand the “urgency.”

Stats show almost half of the black students who graduate high school don’t have the credits and grades needed to go to university and 42 per cent didn’t apply to post secondary school. -Royson James

His follow-up was met with laughs and a shout of “clueless” from someone in the crowd of roughly 200 people.

“I get that there’s a huge frustration and I feel that frustration,” Wynne said.

At which point NDP Leader Andrea Horwath broke in with “15 years” — referencing the Liberal’s time in power.

James had previously listed several statistics pointing to the experience of black children in the Toronto District School Board in 2011.

Calling them “crushing statistics” he said the stats show almost half of the black students who graduate high school don’t have the credits and grades needed to go to university and 42 per cent didn’t apply to post secondary school. Moreover he said, of those students that apply, only one in four are accepted.

Of every 100 black students only 69 graduate, James said. Out of that number, he said only 18 end up in university or college.

He said the numbers are “worse” for boys, adding that half of the students expelled from school are black kids. “What do you plan to do about this abject failure of our schools to educate black students,” James asked the three leaders.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the “first thing you have to do is admit that there’s a problem.”

“These stats aren’t new,” Horwath said. “I’d suggest that it’s getting worse and not better.” She said the government should deal with the curriculum in schools and ensure supports are there for students.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the statistics show how much the “status quo is failing our young people.”

Meanwhile, Wynne defended her government’s record on implementing items like the Black Youth Action Plan and the Education Equity Action Plan while agreeing that more needs to be done.

“There is absolutely no doubt that there is more structural change that’s needed,” Wynne said.

Wynne got the loudest applause when she was first introduced at the event but it went downhill from there — she was at times jeered, challenged and interrupted by the crowd.

Speaking to reporters after the debate, she said the issues debated “are not simple” nor “easily dealt with.”

“What I was saying was that we have been tackling them, we have been addressing them and yes there is still more to be done,” Wynne said.

Horwath, who got a warm reception from the crowd by the end of the night, called the debate “very enjoyable.”

The Elephant not in the Room

Ford’s absence wasn’t addressed very much by the leaders during the debate, but was met with boos from the crowd when the event organizers noted his absence.

Speaking to iPolitics afterward, several audience members said his absence would hurt Ford, while another said he would still hear out the ideas put forward from the Progressive Conservatives.

Earlier in the day Wynne issued a letter challenging Ford to three debates, saying he hasn’t yet agreed to a single one ahead of the June election.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Wynne said Ford is “the one person who wouldn’t have agreed with anything that we were saying and he wasn’t there to put his position forward.”

“It is really important that he show up and that he put his opinions forward because people need to understand what that contrast is,” she said.

Ford was in Northern Ontario on a campaign-style tour.

Horwath questioned Ford’s priorities and said the “community was pretty disappointed” by his absence.


Republished under arrangement with iPolitics

Published in Politics

by Diana Manole in Ottawa 

Four hundred years ago, on April, 23, 1616, William Shakespeare passed away. His plays are so special that today we can critically reflect on any topic when reading, staging, or watching them: social inequality, politics, history, culture, love and death.

The modernization of the English language also started with his work, leading to the current standard version, in England, and the numerous variants spoken all over the world by almost 943 million people.

As the saying goes, “The best reaction to reading a poem is writing a poem.”

George Elliott Clarke, Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate (PPL), along with the Library of Parliament and the League of Canadian Poets, organized a celebration of Shakespeare and National Poetry Month (NPM) through a poetry reading. Shakespeare on the Hill was the first official poetry reading on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, according to Clarke.

He says he plans to organize other similar events on Parliament Hill during his PPL tenure. 

“Shakespeare’s English” can be heard in Canada with accents from all over the world.

I was honoured to be included among the readers, together with Monty Reid, Amanda Earl and rob mclennan. Our selected readings from Shakespeare and our own work had to relate to this year’s NPM theme, “The Road” – or travelling. 

Clarke is an award-winning Canadian writer, who has published 16 collections of poems, as well as plays, opera librettos and two novels. From Three Miles Plains, N.S., where he was born, Clarke has gone on many roads across Canada, but also around the world.

He emphasized Shakespeare’s influence on his own work. “Reading Titus Andronicus In Three Mile Plains, N.S.” is part of Execution Poems, for which Clarke received the Governor General’s Award. Inspired by Shakespeare’s perspective on crime, this poem denounces both historical violence and the persecution of black people in the 20th century. He writes:

“And History snapped its whip and bankrupted scholars,
School was violent improvement. I opened Shakespeare
And discovered a scarepriest, shaking in violent winds,
Some hallowed, heartless man, his brain boiling blood,
Aaron, seething, demanding: 'Is black so base a hue?'"

Recognizing accented writers

As a Romanian-born poet and a first-generation Canadian, this event had a special significance for me. I dedicated my reading to all “accented” writers from this country and the immigrant voyage to Canada that has changed their destinies. Indeed, my own trip to Canada in 2000 has been one of my most important journeys. 

The first poem I read, “Fleeing. Becoming,” synthesizes the redefinition of my sense of national identity: 

“I became Romanian, fleeing.
I became Canadian when the U.S.
took my fingerprints.”

“The [foreign] accent represents the democratization of language.”

Aurelia Zmeu, Diplomatic Counsellor at the Romanian Embassy in Ottawa, noted in my reading the ongoing travel between two cultures, which defines any immigrant. 

“Listening to her reading from [Shakespeare’s] The Tempest and from her own work, I perceived the two pans of the balance scale in Diana Manole’s soul,” she said. “The poet’s feelings towards Romania, her country of origin, and Canada, her adoptive country, are placed on this scale, interconnected, in a balance that was perturbed only by the applause at the end.” 

As Clarke emphasized after my reading, “The [foreign] accent represents the democratization of language.”

Indeed, “Shakespeare’s English” can be heard in Canada with accents from all over the world. It is one of the best proofs that people can find means to communicate beyond cultural barriers.

Clarke’s celebration of Shakespeare proved that poetry and politics can sometimes be on the same page – even at Parliament Hill. 

Journeys of all forms 

Earl is a poet, publisher and the author of two books of erotic fiction. 

“The road for me equals time from birth to death and the obstacles along the way, the constancy of love in times of trouble,” she says. 

Her Shakespeare selections reflect on similar experiences, including “Sonnet 116” and, from Hamlet, Gertrude’s description of Ophelia's madness and suicide. Her poem, “O’Keeffe,” deals with the reversed journey from death to life and the effort to understand its meaning:

“I seek answers in myth: Orpheus, 
Persephone, those who’ve been 
to the Underworld and back”

“The road for me equals time from birth to death and the obstacles along the way, the constancy of love in times of trouble.”

Born in Saskatchewan, Reid worked for many years in Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, and now lives in Ottawa. He focused on the theme of melancholy travel with Jacques’s monologue from As You Like It.

He also read some of his poems on the same topic, including “Very Soon, and With Someone Pleasant” from Disappointment Island. 

“I don't care where you were. I don't care about the black ice
and the big trucks and all your other travelling anxieties.
Imagine trying to pick up Singapore noodles with a single stick.
That's how it makes me feel." 

mclennan was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour in March 2016 and has won numerous awards and published nearly 30 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. He read “Two ghazals, for newborn,” an homage to the birth of his third child, Aoife: 

“Map: for she articulates
our new, invented landscapes.

A declaration of staccato kicks
and wails.

A salted, sunny membrane
of gestures, squeaks and snorts.

Dr. Diana Manole is a Romanian-born poet, translator, and scholar. She has published nine collections of poems and plays, and contributed to many national and international magazines. Her latest poetry book, B&W was published in 2015 by Tracus Arte in a bilingual edition, co-translated with Adam J. Sorkin.


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 Books

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 

A campaign to collect books and other resources to enhance educational opportunities for black children in Toronto is gaining support, while the Black Lives Matter Toronto continues to challenge anti-Black racism in the city. 

A book drive took place recently at A Different Booklist, an independent bookstore in Toronto. It encouraged people to purchase books and donate them to Black Lives Matter Freedom School, a summer program focused on teaching black children aged four to 10 about black liberation history. 

“[Children of African descent] do not get exposed enough, if at all, to the history of blacks in Canada or North America and around the world during the regular school year,” said Natasha Henry, an elementary school teacher and author. “The book drive is a way to engage them in their learning, contributing to the community, and really empowering them with knowledge that will help them to continue their education, whether at school or in the community.” 

Movement targets education, police 

“We’re fighting for justice, freedom and dignity for all black people.”

LeRoi Newbold, a director of Black Lives Matter Toronto and the organizer of the book drive, said the black community should have control over what black children are learning, independently from school boards. 

“In Toronto, 40 per cent of black children did not graduate from high school,” said Newbold. While that number has decreased recently, black students still experience high suspension rates and low graduation rates. 

“It’s alarming and unacceptable,” said Newbold. “We’re not waiting for that system to change. We’re creating our own schools, our own institutions.” 

Black Lives Matter Toronto is also collecting resources for the school through an online Indiegogo fundraising campaign. To date, the campaign has raised $10,361. 

Not far from the upbeat book drive that had a few dozen people packed into the tiny single-unit bookstore, Black Lives Matter Toronto protested for the seventh day in-a-row outside Toronto Police Service headquarters to draw attention to anti-black racism in the city.

The demonstrations began in part to protest the Special Investigations Unit’s decision not to lay charges against a Toronto officer who fatally shot 45-year-old Sudanese immigrant Andrew Loku. The group also announced a lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service for allegedly raiding and searching the home of Jean Montaque, a black mother, without warrant. 

“We’re fighting for justice, freedom and dignity for all black people, and the right for black people to not experience violence [at] the hands of the police force,” Newbold said of the protest. 

Teaching the history of black activism 

[Block quote: sharing a pioneering black activist’s accomplishments and legacy show how the struggling for freedom has evolved over time.] 

Henry was one of the presenters at the book drive, held on Mar 24. She wrote Firsts and African Diaspora as part a 15-book series on black heritage in Canada and around the world. 

“Often of times, historians are very interested in the past, yet young people will say ‘What does that have to do with us today?’” Henry told the crowd. “So it’s very important that we provide the historical context, but mix it with what is going on today in our communities and around the world.” 

In Firsts, Henry focuses on many “firsts” in the African-Canadian community and other African diaspora communities. The cover features an image of Michaëlle Jean, the first black person to serve as Governor General of Canada. 

“When we’re looking at the markers of ‘the first’ African descent, it gets us to think critically about why some of these ‘firsts’ are just happening in the 21st century, despite the fact that Africans have been in Canada since the 16th century,” Henry said. She described how the stories of “firsts” began a legacy of anti-black racism and how that is manifesting itself today. 

“Whether it is over-policing, police brutality, the unemployment rate of young black people – which is much higher than the general population – student dropout rates… these are all a legacy of how black people have been marginalized,” she says. 

“What happens to one group affects all of us in different ways.”

Henry read a part from the book about Viola Desmond, who was a black businesswoman born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the 1940s, Desmond fought for her right to sit on the main floor of a movie theatre after being told it was reserved solely for white patrons. Henry stressed that sharing a pioneering black activist’s accomplishments and legacy show how the struggle for freedom has evolved over time. 

Community’s struggles not isolated 

Another presenter, Nadia Hohn, demonstrated traditional African songs and dances during the book drive. Born to Jamaican parents, she is now an elementary school teacher and author and uses traditional music as a teaching tool for kindergarten children. 

“We want our freedom and to live in dignity,” she sang to the crowd, holding one wrist with the other hand, then taking them apart to demonstrate freedom. 

“There are many different groups in Canada that have experienced different degrees of discrimination,” Hohn said. “What happens to one group affects all of us in different ways. It might not be a direct impact, but it has ripple effects on others.” 

Similarly, improvements in one community also have a positive impact on others, she added.


 

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 Books

by John Delva in Montreal

Blacks make up Montreal’s largest visible minority. According to the 2011 census, 147,100 live in the city. Why, then, are there so few in our media?

As far back as the 1930s, black journalists in Montreal have been creating and fighting for space for their voices.

Dorothy Williams, strategic development director at Collective Community Services, a local non-for-profit community organization, traces back to 1934 Montreal’s first newspaper aimed at black readers. The Free Lance, which folded in 1941, was meant "to counter the pervasive negative portrayals of Blacks in their city's media [sic]."

Community newspapers similar to the The Free Lance are still where the black media presence is strongest in the city. In fact, Community Contact, which has been around for more than 20 years, has been home to the first bylines of many reporters who went on to high-profile roles in the news business.

Shelley Walcott is one of them. Some 50 Canadian news organizations had turned her down before CNN came knocking in 1997. During her stint there, which ended in 2003, she was first a video journalist for the network, then a reporter for the children’s show “CNN Student News.”

Initially, she attributed the rejection letters to the province’s political climate, still searing over the 1995 referendum—being part of the province’s anglophone minority felt “like I was on the outside looking in,” she said.

Since 2013, Walcott has been a main anchor at New Hampshire’s WMUR-TV. Experience has deepened her hindsight.

“I’ve been in the business for 20 years and when I see people [coming out journalism school] and how green they are, I understand what an employer is looking for. To be successful at anything, you can’t blame anyone else, because it’s very competitive out there."

Breaking into the business 

It can also be lonely. Shari Okeke, a writer and broadcaster at CBC Montreal’s “Daybreak,” recalls being the only black reporter in the Montreal newsroom when she arrived in 1999. She had reasons to be optimistic, though, she said via email.

"I landed a paid internship … at a newspaper in Ontario straight out of journalism school. After that, I was unemployed for about two months while I searched full-time for a job in television."

That’s when Okeke began at CBC’s national newsroom in Toronto in 1997. As an editorial assistant she was “splitting scripts, delivering scripts and rolling teleprompters,” she said. “Even changing toner in the printer.”

"[V]isible minorities need to push harder, do more networking and really advocate for themselves."

She became a chase producer four months in. The producer who hired her later revealed how she had stood out.

“He chose me because while working as an EA [editorial assistant] on his show, I paid attention to the program, contributed as much as I could and demonstrated a clear interest in being more than an EA.”

But while making it in journalism is difficult for hopefuls of all backgrounds, those from non-white communities shoulder heavier expectations, said CTV Montreal’s Maya Johnson via email.

“I do think visible minorities need to push harder, do more networking and really advocate for themselves. And once they get their foot in the door and pay their dues, they need to take initiative and ask for advancement opportunities."

Networking is an obstacle Shani O. Hilton, executive editor for news at BuzzFeed, also talked about—namely how many underestimate it.

"Many of us are so busy working twice as hard and hoping to get noticed that we don’t do the networking that seems like bullshit but is actually a key part of career advancement,” she wrote on Medium in March 2014. 

Understanding the Quebecois mentality

But networking does not explain the shortage of blacks in Québec media, said Reginald Rivette. The editor-in-chief of Souche magazine thinks the insular mentality of Quebecois black communities is what restricts their media visibility.

He said media organizations’ disinterest with black communities starts with the latter’s entertainment choices. He explained that while a Denzel Washington or an Oprah may appeal to many demographics in America, this kind of crossover appeal is rare in Québec.

“The idea of ‘multicultural' makes for nice speeches, but it’s a different story in everyday Montreal."

This is because second-generation Quebecois blacks favour U.S. celebrities, in addition to stars from their family’s home country—but reject local Québec culture and its celebrities. Rivette said this self-seclusion directly affects who media companies and advertisers covet.

"Québec show business should be bending over backward to sell us products, but if we’re not paying attention to local celebrities, why should they make the effort to reach out?”

He initially targeted a multicultural audience, handpicking Algeria-born Lynda Thalie, who’s based out of Montreal, for the cover of the first issue of Souche. Lack of interest shifted the magazine’s focus to a black-only readership.

“The idea of ‘multicultural' makes for nice speeches, but it’s a different story in everyday Montreal. People from different backgrounds don’t really just come and blend together."

Those who complain about the lack of black representation in the media, he said, should get more involved in local culture. Government grants available to top Québec producers are at every creator’s disposal.

“We can’t ask for the ‘establishment’ to look for us, find us, then give us work as we sit there waiting."

One glance at Johnson’s bio, and you would be hard-pressed using words like “sit" or “waiting.” The recipient of a Canadian Women's Press Club scholarship began at CTV Montreal as an intern in 2005. She was 21. The network hired her in 2012 permanently after close to a decade of freelancing, part-time and substituting work.

Neglecting minority issues comes with serious consequences.

Johnson, who begins her job as CTV Montreal's Québec City bureau chief this February, mused that none of this might have happened had CTV not reached out.

"I was hired through a visible minority internship program. There’s no shame in that. The news director and executive producer made it clear to me: I wasn’t there to be a token. They had high expectations."

Shifting the reluctance to publicly address race 

Okeke thinks minority reporters are essential to newsrooms, not just for the stories they can contribute, but what they can contribute to other reporters.

"It's...really important for journalists of colour to share what we're hearing and experiencing in our communities with colleagues in our newsrooms, in order to bring attention to those issues."

Neglecting minority issues comes with serious consequences, she said.

"When people do not feel the media reflects their reality, they can be hesitant to talk to the media at all," said Okeke.

Jean Numa Goudou, editor-in-chief of In Texto, said that ultimately the reluctance to address race publicly falls back on the shoulders of Québec officials. Goudou collided with the race wall first-hand when he asked for numbers related to blacks in the education system. The Québec government referred him to the province’s school boards. They, in turn, ignored his calls. He got an answer after approaching a non-profit organization.

“I was told that the government thinks the Haitian community would be stigmatized if such numbers were released. They do this to be politically correct—but this approach doesn’t help the community,” he said. “The mainstream media has to cover these topics, amongst others, so that people from different races learn more about each other."

Last August, Goudou broke a story on Héma-Québec, the province’s blood services agency, after it began accepting a larger pool of black female donors. The story received no attention in the mainstream media. This disinterest will affect the well-being of all Canadians, including future ones, he said.

“As more immigrants arrive, the public health system has to adapt. Blacks consume media too [and this helps] Héma-Québec to find more donors. This is a public health issue."


This article first appeared on J-Source.ca. Republished with permission.

Published in Arts & Culture

by Susan Korah in Ottawa

To some people, Canada seems like the land of American civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams. But a group of race relations activists in Ottawa contend that this belies the truth, and that Canadians need to work harder to make King’s vision a reality in this country. 

Both views were shared at an Ottawa celebration and awards ceremony that a group named DreamKEEPERS organized to mark the 30th anniversary of Martin Luther King Day. 

Originally declared a public holiday in the U.S. in 1986, the same date was chosen by the Canadian organization to honour King’s memory and raise awareness of his message, which was most eloquently articulated in his speech entitled, “I Have a Dream.” 

Recognizing King's values and principles

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, presented a lifetime achievement award to the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, the 16th Prime Minister of Canada (1979-80), described as a leader in fighting apartheid in South Africa and promoting human rights in Canada and the world. 

Most recently Clark served as an honorary witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada that reported on residential schools. 

The “beloved community,” was [King's] vision of a society based on justice, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human beings.

Daniel Stringer, a former Canadian diplomat and a founding member of DreamKEEPERS, explained that the tabletop award sandblasted with a glass gold leaf is given annually to an individual who has become a role model in Canada and beyond for embodying King's values and principles. 

These include the promotion of social justice, human rights, racial harmony, spiritual values and the advancement of his dream of the “beloved community.” 

The “beloved community,” an idea that King popularized, was his vision of a society based on justice, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human beings, said Stringer.

Community leadership awards were also presented to Larry Hill, former Deputy Police Chief of Ottawa and Désiré Kilolwa. Originally from Congo, Kilolwa works with women and children who are victims of his native country’s brutal civil war.

“[Canada is a] unique country,” Clark said in his acceptance speech. “The tradition of generosity is deep within us.” 

Clark explained that Canada’s very survival depended on all people pulling together.

“Many of us – Black [people], [Jewish people], Vietnamese, Africans – came here as refugees and we are prepared to extend a welcoming hand to others.” 

“In the 1970s, visible minorities were few and far between in Canada, but now they are becoming the majority.”

He reminisced about working with past recipients of the same award, including Jean Augustine (first African Canadian woman to be elected to Canada’s House of Commons and the first to serve in the federal cabinet) and Lincoln Alexander (first Black member of the House of Commons and later, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario). 

“In the 1970s, visible minorities were few and far between in Canada, but now they are becoming the majority,” Clark observed. 

Stepping up to fight injustice

Clark acknowledged that further work needs to be done in promoting equality for all of Canada’s diverse peoples. He cited the example of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, founded in response to the Holocaust, which promoted reconciliation and understanding between the two faith communities. 

“Perhaps we need a Council of Christians, Jews and Muslims at this time,” he concluded, making reference to the increase in Canada’s Muslim population with the arrival of Syrian refugees. 

[U]nlike the U.S., which is more open about its problem with racism, Canada is in denial.

In her keynote speech, Grégoire-Trudeau painted a similar picture of Canada, as a nation that has come a long way in terms of respecting the human rights of its diverse population. 

“The good news is that people in Canada, and indeed the world, are stepping up to fight racial and gender injustice,” she said. 

She pointed to a new generation of young leaders in Canada and the world, who are far more sensitive to past injustices and are prepared to address them. 

“Martin Luther King was an amazing speaker and champion for justice. When he made his “I Have a Dream” speech, the whole world took notice,” she said. 

“If Dr. King were here today, he would be proud of Canada because we haven’t refused entry to refugees whose expression of faith is different from ours,” she observed. 

Canada in 'denial' about racism

As a counterpoint to this image though, Stringer said that Canadian society is often in denial about the racism that occurs here. 

He referred to the recent firebombing of a mosque in Peterborough, Ontario, in the aftermath of the shootings in Paris. 

He said that unlike the U.S., which is more open about its problem with racism, Canada is in denial.

Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey of Ottawa’s Parkdale Baptist Church, who hosted the ceremony, also referred to racist graffiti scribbled on his church and racist threats he had received.  

“It’s important to celebrate what we have achieved, but also important to keep the momentum going and further the work that still needs to be done,” Bailey said. 

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 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

By Gerald V. Paul Representatives of Toronto’s Black and Caribbean business community joined recently with Mayor John Tory to promote small business and jobs in Canada’s most diverse city. Toronto’s…

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Published in Caribbean
Thursday, 02 July 2015 23:01

Black Athletes Celebrate at Exhibit

Public relations rep Michelle Halsall with event hosts Mawuli Chai and Alicia Malcolm-Anderson have fun at the Black Canadians in Sports display held recently at Metro…

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The Caribbean Camera

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Published in Caribbean

By Gerald V. Paul Dr. Akua Benjamin, a social justice activist and Ryerson University professor who “woke up in tears” over the racial and terrorist killing of nine Blacks in…

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The Caribbean Camera

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Published in National

by Sam Minassie (@SamMinassie) in Mississauga, Ontario

“Soulful.”

“It’s just the truth, it’s one of my favourite plays.”

“I look forward to seeing more from the writer and what he does in the future.”

Those were just a few of the sentiments heard from audience members leaving the showing of Secrets of a Black Boy at the Maja Prentice Theatre in Mississauga, ON Tuesday night.

Six years after its initial debut, Darren Anthony’s hard-hitting comedic drama was still met by positive feedback from the crowd that gathered to watch the first show of a tour that will eventually move on to major American cities like Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The play touches on a number of controversial themes that exist within the black community, but are rarely discussed within the public sphere. No topic is off limits as the drama portrays the everyday struggles of what it is like to be a black man within society today.

“We don’t really discuss the hard-hitting issues, issues like suicide, transgender, sexuality,” explains Anthony. “… I wanted to be a voice for the voiceless, [for] my peers, as well as the youth that I work with.”

“I find as a black man, we’ve conditioned ourselves to be strong as nails, not have any emotions or talk about our issues and those qualities are very problematic.” - Darren Anthony

The plot follows five black men as they reveal intimate accounts of events that have taken place within their lives over one last game of dominoes at their local recreational centre – right before it is scheduled to be torn down. Each of the characters represents a man at a different point in his life, who is going through problems that he has never been able to share with his peers.

Anthony says that this fear of opening up to one another served as a huge motivator behind his desire to be the one to start a dialogue on a lot of the issues covered.

“I find as a black man, we’ve conditioned ourselves to be strong as nails, not have any emotions or talk about our issues and those qualities are very problematic,” he says, adding, “I want to make sure that men seeing this realize that they can articulate their feelings and they can be vulnerable.”

Breaking Out of Society’s 'Sanctions'

The play gives viewers an in-depth look into the mind of a black man through a series of soliloquies, in which characters are able to share their innermost feelings. The pent-up emotion explodes from within the actors on stage as they reveal a side of them that is rarely, if ever, seen.

This was something that clearly resonated with several audience members including Lavelle Adams Grey, a post-secondary student who made the trip from Brampton to see the production.

“[The aspect that] I could relate to most, [would have to have been] trying to adapt to what society makes out of us as being a black man.” - Lavelle Adams Grey

“[The aspect that] I could relate to most, [would have to have been] trying to adapt to what society makes out of us as being a black man,” says Grey. “Trying to come up on your own and society putting sanctions on what you can do and trying to break out of that.”

The tension built up during the play’s dramatic scenes eventually eased through comedic interludes that provided a laugh without straying too far from the topics at hand. Edgy one-liners like, “If there wasn’t a black man around, a cop wouldn’t have a job,” kept the mood light during some very pressing discussions.

First-time viewer, Jeleesa Walker, commended the actors and Darren on this, stating, “They connected with the audience and not every movie or play that you see connects with the audience like that. They incorporate the crowd so that keeps your attention and keeps you happy.”

More Storytellers Needed

While Anthony indicates he had several motivators, he credits his older sister, Trey Anthony, as one of his biggest inspirations.

Trey, also a successful playwright, is most notably known as the mastermind behind the award-winning, da Kink in My Hair, which focuses on the difficulties black women must face and has since been remade into a television series. She was the one who initially challenged her brother to write about a lot of these issues from a black male’s perspective – something rarely seen within media outlets. Anthony’s continued appreciation for his sister’s support was put on full display during an emotional embrace following the conclusion of the play.

“I find that when it comes to urban stories, there’s a lot of people who are telling our stories, but they don’t come off as being authentic.” - Darren Anthony

Moving forward, Anthony says that in order for more realistic portrayals of black men to become prevalent within the media, more individuals from within these communities must step up as storytellers.  

“I find that when it comes to urban stories, there’s a lot of people who are telling our stories, but they don’t come off as being authentic,” Anthony says. “And I wanted to make sure that I was that individual, being in social work and being a storyteller for so many years, I have some credibility and I know what I am talking about, I’m on the front lines.”

Stage Photo By: Sam Minassie

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 Arts & Culture
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