Black Community in Toronto Demanding Justice

Junior Alexander Manon’s mother spent Mother’s Day demanding for justice. Her 18 years old son died shortly after he was pulled by the Toronto police. Even though the reason for his death was reported as cardiac arrest, many are finding it hard to believe. Given that 18 years old Junior was a healthy teen and there were testimonies that he was assaulted by the police, it wouldn’t be easy for the police to convince Junior’s family and the community at large that Junior’s death was not caused by police brutality. It was reported that, the family’s lawyer saw Junior’s body, with his neck in a neck brace, face covered with blood and eyes bruised.

On May 5th, over 200 residents of the Jane and Finch community followed Junior’s family on a march to demand justice for Junior’s sudden death.

This is not the first time the Jane and Finch community members gathered to fight police brutality and mistreatment. The police and the community have been cat and dogs for many years. Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) has been implemented since 2006 with the aim of reducing ‘illegal gang, drugs and weapons activities in communities by focusing on intervention, enforcement and community mobilization.’ Even though police reports claim that the program has been successful, police raid targeted communities like Jane and Finch see it as nothing but a strategy to criminalize the African community and further brutalize and oppress the people. The program perpetuates racial profiling and mistreatment of a certain segment of the society especially black people and other minorities.

Supporting this, Uhurunews reported in 2009, ‘For years, African people living in the city of Toronto have had to live with heavy police containment in our communities. Illegal police searches, police beatings and even police murder of young Africans are a common reality for our people.  The African community has protested over the years but all we get is more of the same.  With the 2006 implementation of the Toronto Anti-Violence Initiative Strategy (TAVIS) things have gone from bad to worse.’

Police intervention goes beyond stopping ‘suspects’ for questioning and searching. In 2009 for example, Basic News cited some incidents ‘including a youth being dragged on the ground while in handcuffs and a woman being inappropriately searched by male officers. Police have also been accused of using overly militaristic tactics when conducting arrests, raids and sweeps. Residents cited one case where during a raid the mother of a suspect was punched in the face by police, and a second case where innocent community members were burned in the face by police smoke bombs.’

Jane and Finch is a neighborhood located in northwestern North York, a district of Toronto and it is mainly associated with its dense immigrant population, gang related high crime rate and poverty. reporting from the ‘Justice for Junior Manon’ talked to black members of the Jane and Finch community, who feel that black people are particularly targeted by the police for inappropriate surveillance.

A special report ‘Race Matters’, by the Star confirms this. The Star analysis indicates that race, age and gender play important role in who gets stopped for questioning and searching. The report reveals ‘comparing blacks and whites of all ages, blacks are three times more likely to be stopped. Male blacks aged 15-24 years are stopped and documented 2.5 times more than white males the same age. In each of the city’s 74 police patrol zones, the Star analysis shows that blacks were documented at significantly higher rates than their overall census population by zone, and that in many zones, the same holds true for “brown” people — mainly people of South Asian, Arab and West Asian backgrounds.’

Yohana Otite

Yohana Otite is the co-founder of BornBlack and writers on issues that revolve around the intersection of race, gender and class. Yohana also manages the Hamilton DiverseCity onBoard program at Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion.

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