Every Toronto resident should feel safe and secure without fear of discrimination says Police Chief James Ramer on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“My commitment as Chief is to demonstrate to our communities that in this city our residents can trust and have faith in the police, and feel safe in their interactions with us,” said Police Chief James Ramer. “Racial discrimination stands as an obstacle to that.”
Every year on March 21, people around the world observe the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“At the Toronto Police Service, the past year has been a time of deep reflection and a time to re-examine the services we provide through the lens of anti-racism,” said Ramer.
The Chief pointed to several steps the Service is taking to address racial discrimination.
“Our Equity, Inclusion and Human Rights Unit is the first of its kind in Canadian policing,” he noted. “Staffed with subject matter experts, they are driving ourRace Based Data Collection strategy, which is helping us to identify, monitor and eliminate systemic racism. As well, as part of our ongoing commitment to acknowledge and address the lived experiences of Toronto’s racialized communities in their interactions with police, we began working again with the Police Community Engagement Review Committee, known as PACER 2.0, to develop the recently launched ‘Know Your Rights’ video campaign.
“We are ensuring we have best-in-class training for our officers, including on racial bias, and our multi-year People Plan focuses on diversity and inclusion, culture building, leadership, and performance excellence,” said Ramer. “On this day, and every day, the Toronto Police Service is committed to addressing the harmful impacts of racial discrimination and to working with racialized and vulnerable communities, and our members, to deliver fair and unbiased policing in our great city.”
The Service is also increasing resources to fight hate crimes after a concerning increase in hate crimes in 2020.
“International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an important date that reminds us that hate should never be normalized and that racial discrimination runs completely against our Service’s core values and, in fact, Canadian values,” said Supt. Don Belanger who is in charge of the Service’s Hate Crimes Unit.
The Service established this unit in 1993.
“Significantly, hate crimes are different from many other crimes in our society because of the unique psychological impact and social stress that they can place on entire communities. Hate crimes divide communities,” Belanger said. “The Service experienced an unprecedented increase in hate crime reporting in 2020. International events, including the global coronavirus health crisis and high-profile events in the United States are believed to be key contributing factors. The HCU remains committed to combatting hate and working with the public to encourage reporting.”
On March 21, 1960, a large crowd of black South Africans assembled in front of the Sharpeville police station to protest the pass laws imposed by the apartheid government.
The pass laws were statues requiring black people to carry a reference (pass) book with them when they traveled outside of their homes.
The protest escalated into violence, resulting in police killing 69 protestors - many of whom were shot in the back - and wounding 180 in what has come to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre.
“Today, we not only remember the peaceful protesters whose lives were taken in Sharpeville while they lifted their voices up against racial bias and discrimination. We also need to reflect on the countless individuals and communities that are impacted by everyday decisions where discriminatory practices, beliefs, laws, policies, traditions and ideas hold people back from achieving their full potential because of perceptions of race and worthiness,” said Suelyn Kinght, the Service’s Diversity, Inclusion & Human Rights manager.
“Let this be the day that we recommit ourselves to the hard work that needs to be done to eradicate the ideas and actions that create inequitable outcomes in our society, our institutions and our Service.”