Racism, Future: Racial Profiling & the Toronto Police

By Septembre Anderson

“Blacks arrested by Toronto police are treated more harshly than whites….

“Black people, charged with simple drug possession, are taken to police stations more often than whites facing the same charge.

 “Once at the station, accused blacks are held overnight, for a bail hearing, at twice the rate of whites.

 –“Singled Out,” Jim Rankin, Jennifer Quinn, Michelle Shephard, Scott Simmie and John Duncanson, October 19, 2002

 “You were sent here to protect us but who protects us from you?”

– KRS-One

 In 2002, a team of Toronto Star journalists sorted through mounds of police data from over 480,000 incidents to put together the Race and Crime series. The collection of articles, profiles, maps and statistics unveiled an unsettling trend in the Metropolitan Toronto Police culture: racial profiling.

For Toronto’s black communities, the Star series was just quantitative evidence of their qualitative experiences. In the rest of Canada’s most populous city, the numbers on racial profiling caused an uproar. Julian Fantino, then chief of the Toronto Police Service, denied the Star’s allegations, and in 2003, the police union launched a $2.7 billion class-action libel suit against the Star (which it eventually lost).

It’s been almost ten years since the Star released its groundbreaking report and while much has changed, much has remained the same. This year, the Star series “Known to Police” revealed that black people are 3.2 times more likely than white people to be stopped by the police.

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Racism, Present: Housing, by the Numbers

By Sam Tecle


Per cent of Toronto’s poor families who were considered ethno-racial minorities in 2007


Average household income for a family living in Toronto Community housing


Average GTA household income


Salary of Chief TCHC Operating Officer Deborah Simon


Percent of newcomer renters who are in “core housing need,” meaning they spend over 30 per cent of their income on housing. Less than 25 per cent of non-immigrant renters are in the same situation.

85, 578

Households on Toronto’s affordable housing wait list in June of 2012 – an all-time high for a number that’s been steadily rising since 2008

158, 032

Total number of individuals on the wait list in June 2012


Number of single family homes owned by  Toronto Community Housing Corporation that City Council is deciding whether to sell

$751 million

Current repair backlog at the TCHC


Murders on TCHC property between 2007 and 2009


Percent of the city’s murders that occur on TCHC property


Percent of the city’s population that live on TCHC property. That means a TCHC resident is four times more likely to be murdered than the average Torontonian.


Number of TCHC community patrol officers, down from 200 in 2003. They are periodically augmented by regular police, such as anti-violence TAVIS teams.


Sam Tecle is a writer and a PhD student at York University. 

Toronto, Growing Up

By Denise Balkissoon

Launching at the Gladstone this Tuesday, December 6, is One Millionth Tower, the latest installment of Highrise, the NFB’s webstravaganza (wait, I hate made-up words. Sorry). If you haven’t seen the site yet, you know nothing about Toronto, since the Emmy-award winning project is the best bit of storytelling yet produced about the 1,000 highrise towers in Toronto’s outer suburbs, and the ten of thousands of people who live there.

Luckily, director Katarina Cizek has been doing a cracking job. The first installment, The Thousandth Tower, took us into the lives of six Torontonians who live in these vertical communities. Since then, she’s led planners, architects, musicians and many, many enthusiastic residents in putting together a next-level web project that looks at towers all over the world.

The new segment, One Millionth Tower, re-imagines what life could be like for the residents of two adjacent towers on Kipling Ave. It’s fun and energizing to walk through the virtual landscape – and Owen Pallet and Jim Guthrie helped with the soundtrack. In inspiring the hundreds of people who live here to imagine life with a vegetable garden or a dance studio, Highrise has helped instigate actual change: last summer, residents and a local charity got together to build a playground to replace a desolate and decrepit basketball court.

This is a global issue – the Highrise site points out that over a billion people worldwide live in mid-century apartment buildings that are starting to develop serious repair issues. As much as Toronto’s brown 1970s towers might be eyesores, it’s unrealistic to talk of tearing them down and replacing the majority of the city’s affordable rental housing stock (and, you know, condescending to the people that live there). But we do have to figure something out – as the United Way’s Vertical Poverty report points out, these complexes are troubled, structurally and economically. Many are out in the outer suburbs, where new immigrants and low-income communities become increasingly isolated as public transit gets increasingly crappy.

So far, Mayor Rob Ford hasn’t made an official statement about the future of the Tower Renewal project. Let’s hope that no news is good news.

Downtown vs. Suburbs: Yes, It’s An Ethnic Thing

By Denise Balkissoon

When people talk about the Great Downtown/Suburb Divide, they are also talking about ethnicity.

Don’t agree? Educate yourself on the GTA’s demographics with this extremely handy page from the blog Pundit’s Guide, which cross references long-census data with federal political ridings.

Scarborough Rouge-River (where I grew up) has the highest non-white population in all of Canada. The GTA riding with the highest population of Chinese people is Scarborough-Agincourt. South Asians are most numerous in Brampton-Gore-Malton. Those who checked “Black” and “Latin American” on the census are most populous in York South-Weston, in central Etobicoke*, while Southeast Asians are abundant in York West, a bit north. The largest congregation of Filipinos is in Scarborough Centre, while Arabs prefer Mississauga-Erindale, and West Asians and Koreans represent Willowdale.

The only “visible minority” (ugh, hate that term) group counted by the Canadian census which has more members in downtown Toronto than in the ‘burbs are the Japanese. Toronto Centre is their most populous GTA riding—it’s 19 on the list, after 18 areas in British Columbia and Alberta.

The Suburbs vs. Downtown conversation is also about income, since it’s long been known that the outer 416 has a higher concentration of poverty than downtown. In this city at this time, class always has an ethnic angle.

After last fall’s municipal election, when downtowners stung by Rob Ford’s ascendance were circling their wagons, they seemed to take comfort by trashing the stereotypical suburbanite: a gas-guzzling art-hater laughing it up in a big backyard. Ford notwithstanding, that’s not necessarily who an outer 416 suburbanite is. But it’s definitely confusing that the people with the most to lose from service-cutting governments like that led by Rob Ford—poor people of colour—seem to have voted for him.

“The Fords misled people to thinking there was gravy,” says Avvy Go, a member of Colour of Poverty, a four-year-old campaign to educated Ontarians about the racialization of poverty in the province. Last fall, Colour of Poverty gave each mayoral candidate a grade on their “race report card,” noting the candidates’ history and their stances on transit, housing and employment equity. Rob Ford got an F.

“Yes, people in the suburbs voted for a government that would cut services that they need,” says Go, who recommends that we all read The Trouble With Billionaires. “Some politicians are very skilled in dumbing down, picking an overly simplistic portrayal of the problem.” When $60 equals a week of groceries for your family, cutting the vehicle registration tax seems like a good idea. Ford is to blame, and voters are to blame, but also to blame are the mayor’s losing opponents, who obviously did not do a very good job explaining their own platforms, or picking his apart. And really, there are downtowners that drive and suburbanites that always loathed Ford. More than anything, the Harris Tories divide-and-conquer amalgamation plan is still succeeding, over a decade later.

The role of ethnicity, income and the 416/905 divide is a hot topic among politicos. Suburban Dream-type suburbanites are living in the 905, and they, too, are largely non-white (white people who want a slice of backyard are apparently skipping over the 905 in favour of exurban paradises). The erosion of ironclad Liberal support among immigrant groups is making it easier for both the Conservatives and the Ontario PCs to live without winning votes in Toronto, and to win those 905 votes, they’re playing the race card without shame. Brampton has the highest income of all of the GTA cities, and politicians are falling over themselves kissing brown ass out there.

This week, we’re talking race, ethnicity, 416 and 905 on the Ethnic Aisle. I don’t know exactly what it means, but I know that it matters.

*Thanks to Rob Salerno and Dave Scrivener for the fact check here. York isn’t Etobicoke. I don’t consider it downtown…I guess we should discuss the role of “midtown” in all of this.

Suburbs vs. Downtown: Let’s Get It Started

It’s 416 vs. outer-416 vs. 905 week on the Ethnic Aisle. We’re going to be writing about downtown, the suburbs, the much-ballyhooed divide between them, and what ethnicity has to do with it. Hopefully you’ll find it all interesting enough to come to our in-person chitchat next Monday, September 26.

To kick things off, a few links:

From last weekend’s Toronto Star, a piece by Kenneth Kidd on How the Liberal Lost Toronto in the last federal election. How much did it have to do with the Conservatives’ targeting 905 ethnic communities? How repulsive is it that Jason Kenney was supposedly labelled Minister of Curry?

The blog Blue Kennel discusses Why Non-Suburbanites Distrust Suburbanites: “people move to suburbs not just to get things, like bigger houses and yards, but to get away from things in their old neighborhood:  crime, traffic, and bad schools….And how to keep the bad things from following them?  They have to be able to control the neighborhoods around them.”

The Atlantic thinks this is The Beginning of the End for Suburban America because no one can afford to heat/cool huge houses or commute long distances the way they used to.  (Thanks to Bernie Michalik for these last two links)

Secret Republic offers up an infographic on the Suburbanization of Poverty in the U.S., which should be old news to Torontonians  familiar with the 2004 United Way report Poverty By Postal Code.

In August, Ute Lehrer and Roger Keil from the City Institute at York University were on Metro Morning discussing how suburbs are going to keep on growing–in the GTA and around the world–through the 21st century.

Will the suburban GTA decide which party wins this October’s provincial election?

Hazel McCallion once told the Star that her biggest regret as mayor was not designing Mississauga to be more dense so that the city could afford decent transit.

And in Vaughan, mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua wants to transform the 905 outpost “from a suburban municipality to a world-class city,” starting with a walkable downtown.