Like most people that call this city home, I am deeply troubled by Sunday's shooting deaths in Toronto's Chinatown and the eight other gun-related deaths the city saw in January. This is obviously unacceptable, and police must be supported in their efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these horrific crimes.
That being said, most people would be hesitant to draw any clear conclusions about why we have seen a high number of gun crimes over the past month. Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, the union that represents police officers, feels differently.
Speaking to the press, he argued that it is the end of street checks, or "carding," that has led to increased violence in Toronto. He added that this has impaired the ability of police to investigate incidents like the Chinatown shooting "like we used to."
(While McCormack echoed former Police Chief Blair in noting that carding has ended, provincial regulations to limit carding have not yet been finalized, and it is not at all clear that discriminatory police stops and questioning have ended. But that is a debate for another day.)
The real problem with McCormack's argument is that it is meaningless without data. It has become commonplace in the debate surrounding carding for the police to point to anecdotal evidence to justify carding as an important intelligence tool or, in McCormack's case, to suggest that there is a correlation between carding and crime-solving.
Yet, despite the Ontario Human Rights Commission's requests for data to support these claims, we have received nothing that shows that carding solves or prevents crime, or even reduces violence.
"Let's not be distracted by Mr. McCormack's comments. Discriminatory police street checks and other forms of racial profiling have to stop."
In fact, research from the United States and Britain shows the exact opposite -- 99 per cent of the time, carding yields no evidence of criminal activity. What we also know is that homicides in Toronto have declined by approximately 35 per cent since 2009, and that gun violence is also declining, all this while Toronto Police have been placing less and less reliance on carding as part of their intelligence gathering activities.
Data aside, a central goal of human rights laws and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is to strike the right balance between security, on the one hand, and privacy, non-discrimination and dignity on the other.
In this case, that balancing requires that police cease arbitrarily stopping racialized individuals and asking for, recording and storing their personal information in an intelligence database. There is never room for racial profiling in finding this balance.
While Mr. McCormack may believe that this makes policing more difficult, it is simply what the law requires. These are the types of complex challenges police officers face every day on the job.
In the wake of the Forcillo verdict, the Toronto Star noted a rapid drop in public trust in the Toronto Police Service. Statements like Mr. McCormack's can only cause further damage to racialized communities and further erode their trust in police.
Without that trust, police will be further behind in meeting their goals of proactive, intelligence-based policing. Indeed, research shows that people are less likely to cooperate with police investigations and provide testimony in court if they have negative perceptions of police. This lack of trust has profound consequences for the functioning of our justice system and has a negative impact on public safety for everyone.
Perhaps this is why we have recently seen other major police forces, like the RCMP and the OPP, publicly acknowledge racism amongst their ranks and commit to addressing it. We need more of this, and less of Mr. McCormack's fear-mongering.
Indeed, in a case in which we are currently intervening before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Roberts v. Toronto Police Services Board, we are asking the police to collect race-based data for all stops of civilians and incidents of use of force to identify, monitor and address patterns of officer behaviour that are consistent with racial profiling. It is unfortunate that the OHRC has to resort to litigation to seek data that would be so clearly in the public interest.
Let's not be distracted by Mr. McCormack's comments. Discriminatory police street checks and other forms of racial profiling have to stop.
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Even teens with the same identity -- be it racial or gender -- can be guilty of bullying and discrimination. Ontario's Ministry of Education defines bullying as "a form of repeated, persistent, and aggressive behaviour directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person's body, feelings, self-esteem, or reputation."
Social media can be a platform for bullying to continue even after school is out. Cyber bullying occurs when young people take malicious actions online. through chat rooms, email, social sites and instant messaging.
"You don't need to go into full confessional mode, but have fun with it, if that helps. Or be perfectly honest," Author Jonathan R. Miller said. Miller pens e-books with multi-ethnic characters and themes. You don't have to talk about all the nuances of your family tree every time you're asked about your background, He said. That can be exhausting. Find something that works for you personally.
"I like the word 'mixed' because it's a messy word, and in my experience growing-up mixed is exactly that," Miller said. He suggests that it's important to allow yourself to truly wrestle with questions of identity in environments you consider safe.
If you are struggling with your identity, you don't have to tell the whole world, but confide in a friend that you trust. Having someone to confide in is important. "If you can, find someone who you can talk to about your most honest, ever-evolving, often-messy answer to the question, "What am I?" Miller said.
"Maybe you don't have anyone trustworthy to talk to honestly about your experiences. Write about them. It helped me, sometimes, to get those out," Miller said. It may not make a lot of sense initially and it might feel uncomfortably personal, but write. Keep a journal, write short stories and rename the characters, try your hand at poetry -- whatever feels best.
"You are likely being told at different times, more or less, to hurry up and get off the fence, pick a side and get on with it," Miller said. It's not necessarily a bad thing to be unsure of who you are, even if your peers seem to have their acts together, he said. Teenage years are discovery years. Miller also quoted author Rainer Maria Rilke: " 'Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. ...live in the question.' That's good advice. Difficult to follow, but good."
When it comes to mixed heritage, "you don't have to be 'both' or 'other' or 'all of the above' all of the time. Sometimes the only way to figure out what you are is to choose one thing and be it for a while," Miller said. Explore how it feels to fully embrace a single aspect of your identity, for short period of time. See "what stick and what slides off." It's simply learning, Miller said.
"I can't tell you how many multi-racial people I've met who have chosen a single race or ignored race entirely and been perfectly content with the decision. A biracial friend of mine used to tell me, 'I'm black and white, yes, but I'm black. Period,' " Miller said. He said he knows many people have chosen to identify with only one aspect of their multi-background, while others have embraced the blend.
Find creative ways to occupy your time, Miller said. Join a group or do an activity (with others) where you are empowered to be who you are, instead of having to act how others think you need to be in order to fit in.
Take pride in your ethnic (culture, colour or religion) heritage. You have no control over your heritage, and you can't change that fact that this is who you are. So embrace it and learn as much as you can. "You may feel like it would be an insult to your heritage to embrace one aspect of yourself above the others, but trust me, it wouldn't be. This is important: it is not your job to uphold, with perfect equity and grace, all of the elements that went into your making," Miller said.
"Often they're the 'gatekeepers' that decide whether you're 'in' or 'out.' But what you can do is have a ready answer for the 'charges' they level against you. Whether you use humour, earnestness, or self-righteous anger, it helps to have your defense lined up and ready," Miller said. Sometimes people think all the "members" of their cultural or ethnic community must behave, dress and think a certain way. But as an individual, you can do whatever you want and find your own identity.
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