Toronto Election 2018: A call to action for safety not surveillance of Black communities

Residents of the City of Toronto will elect 25 representatives to city council on Monday (October 22). Many of the.


Residents of the City of Toronto will elect 25 representatives to city council on Monday (October 22). Many of the 51 per cent of racialized people who constitute the majority of the citys population will go to the polls not recognizing the names on the ballots, except for the names of incumbents, some of whom have a history of anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-poor, sexist and homophobic political positions.

In slashing the number of representatives on city council from 47 to 25, Premier Doug Ford has made it virtually impossible for Black candidates and other racialized people with progressive agendas to be elected.

For decades, city council has not reflected the racial make up of the city.

Mayor John Tory and city council put forward $7.5 million to beef up policing and surveillance technology in priority neighbourhoods. So far, neither the mayor nor most others running for re-election in wards where Black people have been targeted as thugs, sewer rats and cockroaches have offered any creative solutions to ensure the economic and social viability of our communities.

Giorgio Mammoliti in Ward 7 has gone so far as to threaten to destroy social housing rather than invest in it. What constitutes safety (and safe communities) is being driven by an agenda that imposes policing and other militarized solutions in Black communities instead of full employment, decent affordable housing, green and recreational spaces and well-funded schools.

This is a call to action to candidates running for city council especially those running in wards 1 (Etobicoke North), 2 (Etobicoke Centre), 5 (York-South Weston), 7 (Humber River-Black Creek), 13 (Toronto Centre), 15 (Don Valley West), and 25 (Scarborough-Rouge Park) to advocate for and support initiatives that will create the conditions of safety not surveillance in Black communities.

These initiatives should include:

Funds for economic programs

Mayor John Torys vision of safety focuses the allocation of funds on increased policing, a tactic that has failed for decades and criminalized and endangered Black people all over the city. Instead, councillors should commit the $7.5 million approved for surveillance equipment and other monies to initiatives that would contribute to the viability and sustainability of Black neighbourhoods, such as targeted arts funding, social programs to address issues of poverty and wellness programs.

Sustainable jobs not precarious employment

Young Black people, single mothers, and LGBTQ* Black people are among the poorest in this city, and should have access to jobs that pay more than a minimum wage. This would include access to job development. Candidates should support Bill 148, which includes a raise in the minimum wage and worker protections, which the Ford government has promised to scrap

Safe and well-maintained housing

Torys promise to evict people with convictions from public housing is discriminatory, will rip apart families and will increase homelessness.

Instead of tearing down the homes where Black residents live, and moving Black and working class people out of the city centre, the city must provide proper care-taking and maintenance of current affordable housing stock. This includes proper heating, insulated windows, proper lighting and regular repairs.

Councillors should commit to increasing the affordable housing supply including higher allocations of affordable housing in city-approved condo building projects and a definition of affordable housing based on household income, not market rents, to reflect what working people can truly afford.

Medical and mental health initiatives to combat violence

Violence in communities where Black people live must be engaged as a public health issue. Comprehensive team-based health care for Black people, with a focus on Black young people, Black women, and Black LGBTQ* people, should be a priority. Expanded and free access to wellness and recreation programs and strategies to eliminate inequity in access to specialist care would help to ensure better medical and mental health care that fosters dignity, improved health outcomes and survival of those living in predominantly Black communities in Toronto.

Education as social and intellectual growth

Schools in Black communities have been stripped of funding for books, computers, creative programs and other initiatives that foster the social and intellectual development of Black young people. Instead, schools have created ways to throw students predominantly young Black people out of schools, while funds have been poured into installing metal detectors and other forms of security. This is fostering a school-to-prison pipeline for many of Torontos young Black people.

The Toronto District School Board should augment the provincial curriculum by adding content covering sexual education, Black, Caribbean and African history, and content that reflects the citys population.

Free and safe public transportation

Transit is becoming less accessible for people with low income in Toronto, even while research shows that the city can afford to provide free public transportation to people with low incomes. The inability of working people to afford transportation costs puts working people’s livelihoods at risk. Black and vulnerable communities are also often working in jobs that have irregular working hours, and should have access to expanded, safe, dependable transit services at all hours of the day and night.

Signed,

Idil Abdillahi, assistant professor, School of Social Work, Ryerson University

Beverly Bain, Women and Gender Studies, University of Toronto, Mississauga

Dionne Brand, poet, novelist and essayist

Desmond Cole, journalist, activist

OmiSoore Dryden, chair, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Thorneloe University

Dionne Falconer, community activist

Andrea Fatona, curator

Sandy Hudson, community activist

Yusra Khogali, community activist

Robyn Maynard, author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence In Canada From Slavery To The Present

Camille Orridge, community activist

Abdi Osman, photographer, artist

Angela Robertson, community worker, activist

Christina Sharpe, Professor of Humanities/ York University

Rinaldo Walcott, director, Women & Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto

news@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto

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