Tag Archives: TOpoli

Rob Ford was a violent, abusive, bigoted bully. His death changes none of that.

Image description: On the left is a still from a cell-phone video, showing then-Mayor Rob Ford, in a short-sleeved shirt and tie, gesturing wildly. On the right in a transcript from that video, reading: “FORD: No hold barred, brother. He dies or I die, brother. Brother you’ve never seen me f**king go. You think so, brother? But when he’s down, I’ll rip his f**king throat out. I’ll poke his eyes out.” (Image source: YouTube)

It’s generally considered in poor taste to speak ill of the dead, especially in the immediate aftermath of their passing away. But this tradition, when applied to public figures, has a pernicious effect. It allows for that person’s defenders and apologists to praise the person in the highest possible terms, while their opponents can only grit their teeth and mouth anodyne platitudes about sympathy for the recently deceased’s family.

So, for instance, today we see folks dwelling on Rob Ford’s dedication to the high school football team that he coached, his willingness to take calls at all hours from his constituents, and (because it sells papers) the lurid addiction scandal that dogged the second half of his tenure as Toronto’s mayor. What’s missing from this sanitized version of Ford’s career is his well-established record as an abusive bully, a political opportunist who used the poor as props while undercutting city support for them, a misogynistic racist bigot, and indeed a violent person.

To be clear, my heart goes out to Rob Ford’s family today – particularly his poor children. I appreciate that the Ford family is suffering right now, and I understand why many feel that it’s crass to publish a piece with a headline like this one has.

But while in death he is provoking grief in those who were close to him, in life Rob Ford was the direct cause of a lot of pain and suffering in his role as a public official. And it is unacceptable that we allow the pain of Ford’s family to eclipse the pain of Ford’s victims as we recount his legacy and assess his life. Continue Reading

No more homeless deaths! OCAP takes the fight to City Hall…again.

One of the true downers of activism is that the same issues keep coming back around again and again.

In March of 2013 I was arrested at an Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) sit-in at Toronto’s Metro Hall protesting the chronic lack of space in city shelters. That winter, several people had frozen to death on the streets of the city, and yet homeless folks were regularly turned away from the city’s shelters due to a lack of beds. This was despite official City of Toronto policy that occupancy rates at municipal shelters should not exceed 90%. Then-mayor Rob Ford brushed off our concerns, insisting that there were available beds – an assertion which was flatly contradicted by a City report released in the months that followed.

The sit-in I participated in was the second in as many months for OCAP. In February, they also occupied the lobby outside of Mayor Ford’s office [link is to the Toronto Sun – fair warning!], demanding that shelter space be made immediately available; several people were arrested that night as well.

(Eventually, all charges related to the whole affair were thrown out – it seems that the main purpose of laying the charges to begin with was to end the sit-ins.)

That round of protests was successful, in a way; after months of delay and denial, city council voted to aim for more shelter beds and reaffirmed their target of 90% occupancy.

In retrospect, though, it’s obvious that Council was all talk and no action. Continue Reading

CityNews stoops to victim-blaming in coverage of Toronto #BlackLivesMatter protest

Yesterday afternoon and evening, a few hundred protesters organized under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter stopped traffic on an on-ramp to the Allen Expressway at Eglinton Avenue.

The protest started just metres away from the spot where Andrew Loku, a local man originally from South Sudan, was gunned down by Toronto police just a few weeks ago, shot within a minute of police arriving on the scene at his home. Ever since Loku’s death, activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement have been ramping up the pressure on both the police and the city government.

On Thursday, the activist group Black Lives Matter-Toronto occupied a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board. They demanded the mayor and the police chief apologize for Loku’s shooting. “Every single day, black bodies in this city face violence,” said the group’s co-founder, Rodney Diverlus. “Whether it’s carding, whether it’s surveillance, whether it’s physical violence, and whether it’s death. This is life and death for us.” […]

The female officer was the first up the stairs, a thin double set that goes out and back with a landing in the middle. The male wasn’t far behind. “I went in and stood at the door because I heard a commotion,” said [Leslie] Colvin[, a building resident]. “And I heard ‘Drop the hammer! Drop the hammer! Drop the hammer!’ three times. And then ‘Bap! Bap! Bap!’ — two or three shots.”

[Susan] Schofield[, another resident,] was also standing in the stairwell. “I heard them yell at Andrew to drop the hammer,” she said. “Andrew didn’t have a chance to do anything. It was that quick.”

Loku was allegedly threatening his upstairs neighbours with a hammer. In the aftermath of his death, there’s been a lot of speculation about his mental health and emotional stability, none of which is in any way relevant.

A case in point is CityNews’s coverage of last night’s road blockade: Continue Reading

Tory flip-flops, calls for carding to be abolished after pressure from elites

April 16, 2015:

In a high stakes move, the Toronto police board has passed a revised community engagement [i.e. carding] policy Thursday, rushing through a document before Chief Bill Blair leaves at the end of the month without the “progressive” citizen safeguards first sought by the board a year ago…

Board member Mayor John Tory said after the board vote that he chose to support the revised policy because it was the only way forward after an eight-month stalemate.

“That policy could not and was not operationalized,” said Tory. “Communication was diminishing, attitudes were hardening on all sides,” says Tory, although he says any suggestion that Chief Bill Blair was insubordinate were unfounded.

June 3, 2015:

After dozens of prominent Torontonians stood just steps from John Tory’s second-floor city hall office to demand an end to carding, the mayor said he heard their message “very clearly.”

But on Wednesday, Tory refused to join that call, instead doubling down on his position that the practice needs reforming, not shelving.

“Work has continued virtually non-stop on improving the procedure which governs police-community engagements and relations, and though it is a complex issue I think all sides acknowledge that we are making progress,” Tory said at a press conference held inside his office. “I have always maintained that the recently-passed policy is a beginning not an end.”

Today:

Toronto Mayor John Tory has called for an end of the controversial police practice of carding, which he said has “eroded the public trust.”

“It is my intention to see carding cancelled permanently and that we start fresh,” Tory told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.

Tory said he intends to go before Toronto’s police board on June 18 and call for the practice to be eliminated.

So what happened here? Continue Reading

Activists flood Toronto city council meeting, demand end to TPS cooperation with immigration enforcement

Toronto Police Services is in violation of the City of Toronto’s Access Without Fear policy, which guarantees access to city services to all residents of the city regardless of their immigration status. What’s more, TPS misrepresented both their policies and their obligations in a report to Toronto’s city council.

Those were the accusations levelled by a coalition of community groups and activists at a meeting of council’s Community Development and Recreations Committee this morning. In a series of well-prepared and impassioned deputations to the committee, representatives from a broad array of organizations working with different affected communities detailed the many ways in which Toronto police violate non-status immigrants’ right to access law enforcement without fear of deportation.

The consequence of this, as many of the deputations made clear, is that many communities are fearful of turning to the police even in the most severe emergencies.

TPS’s policy is that they will not ask for proof of status unless they have a “bona fide” reason for doing so – what they call their “Don’t Ask” policy. They also contend that, once they have discovered that a person is a non-status immigrant, they have a legal obligation under the Ontario Police Services Act to inform the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Both of these positions were hotly disputed at the committee meeting. Continue Reading

TPS’s new body cameras: tamper-friendly, a privacy nightmare, and a private-sector cash grab

The rhetoric of the police apology is highly distinctive.

More often than not, the apology never happens, of course, because police forces are great at not acknowledging police brutality or corruption or lawbreaking. The victims become the perpetrators, and the thin blue line is all that stands between all that is decent and the depraved anarchist thugs.

Occasionally, though, some cop does something so brazen and unforgivable that the force must respond publicly, and when they do, they do their utmost to throw the perpetrator under the bus.

One hears of bad apples, and of tireless service, and of how most cops are really great people; while “mistakes were made”, nobody particularly high-up or important made them; and if you just for God’s sake trust us, things will work out better next time.

After Sammy Yatim, a distressed teenager with the world’s tiniest switchblade, was murdered on a Dundas streetcar two years ago by a cop who had so many other options at his disposal, we heard these same tired slogans and excuses and empty promises, from police apologists in the press and from TPS spokespeople.

But there was a lot of disbelief in the community. After so many years and so many deaths, that “Trust us” rang pretty goddamn hollow. Continue Reading

Criminal ex-police chief Bill Blair will run for the Liberals

Civil liberties violator, racial profiler, and apologist for police brutality Bill Blair announced today in an exclusive interview with the Toronto Star that he will seek the nomination for the Liberal Party in Scarborough Southwest.

This is one of those times when I hate being right.

You may recall that last week I was sounding the alarm about a “grassroots initiative” led by “local Liberals” to “draft Bill Blair” to run in the upcoming federal election. It was transparently an astroturf group, but based on the respectful and widespread coverage it received, I concluded that it was essentially a beat-sweetener put forward by the Liberal Party to float the idea and get some same press. At the time I said:

So one could see this as the first step in what would essentially be a coronation of Blair as the candidate for Scarborough Southwest. And ultimately, that’s the way I’m reading this…I expect that we’ll hear something next weekend, when Blair is officially a civilian, if we’re ever gonna hear anything at all. In the meanwhile let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this is some kind of horrible nightmare.

And now here we are. I’m sad to say I’m not surprised that he’s made it official. There were a few surprises in the Star’s gushing piece, though: Continue Reading

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