Groups rally in Toronto to call for action on police shootings - Macleans.ca
 

Groups rally in Toronto to call for action on police shootings


 

TORONTO – The families of police shooting victims in Ontario say the death of a young man who was shot aboard an empty streetcar in Toronto last month has “retraumatized” them and emphasized the need for real change.

They are calling for Ontario’s ombudsman to meet with them to find a “better solution” to how police deal with people in crisis so other such fatal encounters can be prevented.

Their comments came at a news conference Tuesday that was arranged by the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.

The OFL said it is demanding an independent investigation into police training, policies and practices across the province “from the highest levels of decision-making right down to the front line response.”

Irwin Nanda, executive vice president of the OFL, said the province’s police watchdog — the Special Investigations Unit — must also be investigated.

Nanda said Sammy Yatim’s death on a streetcar, which was captured on surveillance and cellphone videos, was a result of a “total breakdown of the policing system.”

“Literally decades of reports, inquests and recommendations are gathering dust on police station shelves as the bodies of victims are piling up,” he said.

Tuesday’s call for action came just a day after Toronto police Chief Bill Blair announced the appointment of retired justice Dennis O’Connor to assist the force in its review of all police practices, including use of force.

Blair said he’s asked O’Connor to make recommendations and examine best practices from around the world, citing public concern about police use of force and response to emotionally disturbed people.

But Karyn Greenwood Graham, the mother of a police shooting victim in Kitchener, lashed out at Blair, saying the review he announced is “tokenism.”

“We’re actually in a David and Goliath battle here and I’d like to ask the public to actually get behind us and actually call their MPPs and insist on change,” she said.

“All our loved ones deaths are preventable.”

Meanwhile, Ruth Schaeffer, whose son was fatally shot by police in northern Ontario, said the conclusions from studies and inquests on police shooting deaths need to be put into practice.

“All the recommendations that need to be put in place to safeguard the life of Canadian citizens are sitting in print for anybody who is interested to implement,” she said.

“I believe that it is a mark of a democracy how many of our own people are killed by our own state.”

The morning news conference, which often referred to Yatim’s death, came just a few hours before an afternoon rally in Toronto calling for justice for the 18-year-old.

Hundreds of protesters packed a major downtown throughfare, waving banners and placards carrying messages like “an empty streetcar? Whom did you protect” and “abolish the SIU.”

Chants of “justice for Sammy, justice for all” and “charge that cop,” filled the air.

Yatim’s mother, sister and other family members marched with the crowd, which headed to Toronto’s police headquarters, where the police services board was set to hold its monthly public meeting.

Dozens of police officers blocked the entrance to the building with their bicycles as protesters arrived.

On videos which capture the events which led to Yatim’s death, shouts of “drop the knife” can be heard as a few officers surround the streetcar the youth was on.

Three shots ring out and Yatim can be seen dropping to the floor, then seconds later six more shots can be heard followed by the sound of a Taser.

The incident led to a storm of outrage on Twitter and Facebook over the way authorities dealt with Yatim.

Just how frontline officers handle dangerous situations and what force they use is expected to remain in the spotlight over the coming months.

A coroner’s inquest into the deaths of three people — who may have had mental health issues, and were shot and killed after approaching Toronto police officers with weapons — is scheduled to begin in October.

And Ontario’s ombudsman will look into what kind of direction the provincial government provides to police for defusing conflict situations.

Andre Marin said many coroner’s inquests into similar deaths over the past 20 years have made recommendations that are almost “carbon copied from each other,” but — as many families of victims have said — he wondered what has happened to all the recommendations.


 
Filed under:

Groups rally in Toronto to call for action on police shootings

  1. These activists have absolutely no time for actual victims of crime. The fact that Irwin Nanda calls someone with a weapon threatening innocent people a “victim” says more about the bizarre lens he views the world through than anything else.

    The cops’ primary responsibility is (and should be) to protect the public from dangerous people. Sometimes dangerous people have mental health issues, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean the police aren’t still responsible for protecting the public from them.

    Guess what. If you get on to public transit with a weapon and start threatening people, and then taunt the police when they show up, you shouldn’t have any expectation to walk away from the scene uninjured.

    We know that criminals will use their guns, do we really want to ban the police from using theirs? How many lives would be saved if only criminals carried guns, and the cops didn’t? Less than zero.

  2. A teen holding a knife in one hand and his penis in another while threatening passengers on a streetcar and calling all the women ” Fucking bitches ” is a THUG in my world.

    • And every thug deserves summary execution by the police?

      • He was warned 9 times to drop the knife. If the cop was trigger happy, he would have shot the teen as soon as he arrived on the scene. He did NOT . How could the officer have known if the suspect had already stabbed any passengers before he arrived on the scene ? Sammy was not just a thug. He was an ARMED thug. I could have been on that streetcar with my wife. YOU could have been there as well. We should NEVER be vulnerable to the actions of ARMED THUGS. The officer did the right thing and we are in a world with ONE LESS thug. I support Police.

        • Yes, and it could have been my son on that streetcar, having a bad night after some reckless partying. In your black and white world, people behaving badly get gunned down and all is good.

          As for the shooter, he painted himself into a corner with his threat to fire if Mr. Yatim took one step forward. He ignored normal procedures for trying to de-escalate the confrontation. He kept shooting long after there was any reason to do so.

          Yes, Mr. Yatim was partly responsible for what happened to him. But the situation could have been dealt with far differently.

          • Threatening females with an exposed penis is MORE than symptomatic of a ” Black and white ” world. It is tantamount to premeditated sexual abuse and possible attempted rape of women. Sammy crossed the line and he exhibited evil intent. He deserved what he got after being warned. Another evil women-hating man referring to female passengers as ” Bitches ” with overflowing VIOLENT intentions. These jerks need to be stopped in their tracts and any woman who ” feels sorry for poor Sammy ” is a fool because EVERY WOMAN was his potential victim.

  3. My sympathy goes out to the family for having an obviously distressed (now deceased) member.
    BUT
    What about the policeman and his family.

    There is a pretty valid argument that a individual chose “death by police” as a means to his end.

    What was the policeman supposed to do? If they let the crazy guy off the bus he could have thrown grenades or a bomb at innocent bystanders and killed the attending officers. GROW UP PEOPLE.

    Don’t wave weapons and advance toward the police when you are DIRECTLY AND LEGALLY COMMANDED NOT TO DO SO.

    • I don’t like to respond to those who shout, but you do raise one important point. If the new model for police is to regard every troublemaker as a possible terrorist, then the policy must be to shoot/jolt until the bad guy stops twitching, lest he set off a bomb. This actually offers one of the few explanations, in the Yatim case, for the nine shots fired and the subsequent ghoulish application of the Taser — presuming the police involved were acting rationally, which is by no means a given.

      But if this really is to be the new policy, every confrontation with the police is going to be summarily punishable by death. After all, even if Mr. Yatim had dropped his knife, he still would have been able to throw his putative bombs and grenades, or at least blow up his underpants.

      It’s a very dangerous road to travel down.

    • There are too many young guys carrying concealed knives. Are we to be fearful of using transit because another ” Sammy ” might be lurking onboard ?

    • The suspect could have hijacked the streetcar and have caused a lot of damage. Why did he need to carry a concealed knife all the time , as was reported by Global News ? You do not carry a knife to make friends . The other passengers RAN FOR THEIR LIVES and they escaped. Sammy exposed his penis and called the women onboard ” Fucking bitches “. The suspect’s parents lied to the public as they portrayed Sammy as a nice guy. Should the cop have offered this idiot….. a Teddy bear or a Double Double so he could chill ?! The officer was courageous in facing this MONSTER. He should be re-instated into the police force. He did the right thing.

  4. How typically Canadian – take the heat off by creating a commission. Blair still needs to deal with the incident at hand, which has little to do with use-of-force training but a great deal to do with an appalling lack of leadership and coordination at the scene, to say nothing of the cowboy mentality (if it was not actual viciousness) of at least one policeman.

    I’m not a Torontonian, and I would genuinely like someone to tell me what merits Bill Blair has that have kept him in office. At G20 he oversaw the biggest violation of civil rights since the internment of Japanese Canadians 70 years ago. He has consistently allowed SIU investigations to be blocked. He has refused to comment on police knowledge of or involvement in the disappearance of the infamous crack video. His attitude seems to be that the police are above the law, and from all reports this attitude pervades the whole force. Why is there no cry for his resignation?

    • Hopefully , no other 17-year-old will think of pulling such a stunt. Sammy was a monster.

      • An Open Letter To Sammy’s Parents:
        Did you REALY know your son ? Did you know he carried a concealed knife everyday as was reported by Global News ? Were you , especially the dad , always there for him ? Do you realize how dangerous Sammy was to society with a concealed weapon….especially dangerous to the streetcar passengers ? If you knew he had a knife collection , why did you not ask him to give it up ? I could have been on that streetcar and I would have been vulnerable to Sammy’s evil intent ; so , what words of comfort do you have for the other passengers on that streetcar ? Should we fear using transit in the future because there may be another Sammy waiting for us on a bus , streetcar or subway ? In cursing the women on the streetcar , Sammy exhibited a violent and hateful attitude toward women ; so , how would you comfort the ladies who escaped from his rage ? Do you realy care or do you want to hide behind the fabricated lies that say Sammy was a ” nice guy ” ? I have spoken to several people who have no sympathy for him . They are members of the Silent Majority who fear to speak out. How would you comfort them ?

      • Now you’re just off topic.