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Black Lives Matter movement gets results in Toronto

“It’s unfortunate an organization like Black Lives Matter has to exist before certain things happen," said Afrofest music festival president Peter Toh.

Black Lives Matter protesters gather outside Toronto police headquarters last Wednesday.

Jessica Smith Cross/Metro

Black Lives Matter protesters gather outside Toronto police headquarters last Wednesday.

A week after it began a sit-in outside police headquarters, Toronto’s Black Lives Matter movement is gaining ground.

One of the protesters’ two major concerns was addressed last week, when the city re-instated the popular Afrofest music festival’s two-day permit in Woodbine Park.

“We had been engaged in long negotiations,” said Afrofest president Peter Toh. “It’s unfortunate an organization like Black Lives Matter has to exist before certain things happen.”

Now, the activists have found allies at City Hall.

Three councillors are asking the province to conduct an “anti-racism” review of the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Special Investigations Unit.

“People are saying that the system is not fair, that the system is not delivering services in equitable fashion,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, who authored the motion with colleagues Mike Layton and Gord Perks.

If their motion is passed by council this week, the city will ask the province’s new Anti-Racism Directorate and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to re-evaluate the SIU’s mandate in cases where victims are from racialized communities.  

The Black Lives Matter sit-in was sparked in part by the SIU’s decision not to charge the Toronto police officer who shot Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old black father of five, last July.

Wong-Tam said cases like Loku’s – and the way they’re handled by the SIU – are contributing to growing distrust between police and racial communities in Toronto.

“You have communities that are fearful of the police,” she said. “How can people report to the police if they don’t trust them?”

The review process should aim to restore that trust, Wong-Tam said, and must include a public consultation.

“You can’t have a problem identified by the community, and then shut the community out of the solution process,” she said.   

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