Media and Outreach

Gun violence in Toronto will not stop through increased police presence. Gun violence in Toronto will not stop with harsher sentences for those convicted of such crimes.

Gun violence in Toronto will not stop by the City of Toronto or any other level of government handing out a few dollars so that one or two individuals in the so called “high crime neighbourhoods” can have a summer job for two months.

Gun violence in Toronto is a manifestation of the poor policy decisions which our policy makers have continued to make in spite of the overwhelming evidence that there is a glaring absence of equality of opportunity for the vast majority of Toronto’s African-Canadians.

Last month, I wrote a post stating that I have never seen an African-Canadian firefighter in Canada. Believe it or not this is a fact. I have never. Firefighting is a very stable and well paying job.  The reality is that these stable and well paying jobs are not available to African-Canadians.

A few years ago I encountered a young African-Canadian man working as a verbatim reporter at an Examiner’s Office. He informed me that he had a Bachelor of Arts Degree from York University and had been trying to join the Toronto Police Service first as a police constable and then as a court officer without success.

The fact is I personally know individuals of European descent without high school diplomas who are court officer supervisors. Have you ever come across an African-Canadian paramedic in Toronto? I have never.

Within the past year I have come across at least three African-Canadians who have obtained their teachers certification in Ontario but for some reason are unable to obtain a position with any of the numerous school boards in the Greater Toronto Area.

As a lawyer of African-Canadian descent I am perpetually bombarded with applications from African-Canadian lawyers who inform me of their struggles in finding articling positions with law firms.

The absence of equality of opportunity is not limited to employment. There is a similarly glaring absence of equality of opportunity in terms of the resolution of both civil and criminal matters involving African-Canadians in our courts.

African-Canadians get tougher and longer sentences than anyone else even for the same crimes.  This is not E.J. Guiste’s conclusion. This was the conclusion arrived at by the Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario’s own study entitled Report of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Criminal Justice System.

Have you ever heard of an African-Canadian being awarded compensation for the violation of their rights at the hands of the police in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice? I have been practicing law in this jurisdiction for close to twenty years now and I have never.

I have observed that from time to time the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has awarded compensation to African-Canadians on racial profiling cases.

However, when one considers the number of such claims which this tribunal dismisses without a hearing even the successes are insignificant.

How can it be that a group of people who public policy and case law in Canada has recognized are victims of discrimination and unequal treatment by police are somehow unable to access redress for the wrongs committed against them in the courts which their tax dollars help fund? (See for example R  v. Brown – R  v. Parks – R  v. Spence).

Could it be that — assuming I am correct — that this reality effectively kills the spirit of these so called “at risk youth” and their parents and conveys to them that they cannot trust the administration of justice to protect them?

The absence of equality of opportunity is not limited to employment and access to justice. There exists a glaring absence of equality of opportunity in all levels of education but especially at the elementary and high school levels.

No intelligent person can argue that the quality of education which the so called “at risk” youth receive is anywhere equal to what the mainstream receive. The quality and competence of the teachers is inferior. The amount of access to extra-curricular activities is inferior.

Is there a link between the disproportionately high incidence of African-Canadian students dropping out of school and this absence of equality of opportunity in education?

The fact is that young people who are out of school and have no marketable skills are more likely to turn to crime than those in school.

In conclusion, the decision by our policy makers to close their eyes and attention to this reality is unacceptable and is not in our collective best interests. The Penn State/Sandusky-type approach being employed by our policy makers does not work.

In the same way that the now deceased Penn State head coach failed Mr. Sandusky’s victims, our policy makers are failing not only the so called “at risk” youth, but all Canadians.

Equality of opportunity for all is the small price that we as a society must pay for a safe and just society.