WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, September 18

 A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, June 19

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • At this week’s Toronto Police Service Board meeting, the board voted to adopt reforms on carding that were previously proposed in 2014 but rejected by Bill Blair. The decision to reform the practice instead of ending it contradicts Tory’s previous promise made last week. Under the new policy, officers should tell residents as much as possible that they have a right to refuse to provide their information to police, and they should only be stopping people when there is a genuine public safety concern.
  • There are still questions as to what will happen to information that has been collected thus far from carding, and how new provincial regulations may affect the practice once they’re implemented in the Fall. The TPSB meeting also brought news that chair Alok Mukherjee will resign, who has been vocal about carding reforms. His potential successor Andy Pringle has connections to both Tory and Bill Blair.
  • Stephen Harper announced federal funding for Tory’s SmartTrack on Thursday. The funds promised may cover up to a third of the proposed budget for SmartTrack. The feasibility of the the SmartTrack plan is currently being studied.
  • Women in Toronto’s food industry are taking up the hashtag #KitchenBitches and planning a September panel on harassment in the workplace. The campaign, largely spearheded by The Black Hoof’s Jen Agg, was inspired by the story of Kate Burnham who has taken her complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
  • Canada’s Chief of Defence Tom Lawson received major backlash for saying men are “biologically wired” to commit sexual assault.
  • In Ottawa, the OC Transpo service has developed a new tool to make it easier for bus riders to report incidents of sexual harassment.
  • As we all reflect on the Charleston shooting, learn more about the Emanuel AME’s tumultuous history and click here if you’d like to donate to the church itself.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, April 24

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, April 3

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • At this week’s city council meeting, council accepted Rob Ford’s apology for his racist remarks but opted not to have the councillor attend anti-racist training. Council also rejected a motion to combine accountability offices, and will seek a third party assessment to review the four accountability offices.
  • The Toronto Police Services Board met yesterday to discuss the practice of “carding”, though the board ultimately voted to defer any decisions of the new rules until its next meeting on April 16th. For more background on the issue, check out these recent pieces from VICE and NOW.
  • Cheri Dinovo’s bill to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth passed its second reading at Queen’s Park this Thursday, garnering support from all 3 provincial parties.
  • The Ontario minister of community safety and correctional services is urging the federal government to reject the recent amendments to Bill C-279, as “it’s essentially legalizing discrimination” for transgender Canadians
  • The Ontario Attorney General concluded its review of Canada’s new prostitution laws, declaring them to be constitutional. Premier Wynne had previously express “grave concerns” as to the laws constitutionality, and coalition of organizations are urging the province not to enforce the new law, for fear that it will continue to put sex workers in danger.
  • Toronto was among several Canadians cities which hosted protests this Thursday to urge a retrial in the Cindy Gladue case. Alberta prosecutors announced they will appeal the non-guilty verdict.
  • As of April 1st, approximately 70,000 temporary foreign workers lost their legal status in Canada, following the new “4 and 4” rule which forces labourers to leave the country after 4 years and wait another 4 years to re-apply for a work permit.
  • Although women are overrepresented in public service, they are noticeably underrepresented among the sector’s top earners.
  • Last weekend, the Broadbent Institute hosted the Progress Summit in Ottawa, including a keynote from feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian. Toronto school trustee Ausma Malik also attended and discussed her views on being a millennial in politics with Maclean’s.

How-To with Idil Burale: Building bridges for community safety

This is the first post in a new series on the WiTOPoli blog: a series of How-To posts with women who have made change in their communities by working with (and sometimes fighting against) the institutions that make our city work. These women inspire us and remind us that though the challenges to having our voices heard are many, they are most certainly not insurmountable.

By: Cherise Seucharan

How do we prevent crime instead of always having a reactive response to it?”

This was the question Idil Burale began to explore in the summer of 2012 when gun violence in her Rexdale community rose to an alarming high. Idil, a former MaRS Studio Y fellow and a columnist for Spacing.ca, worked to establish the Toronto Police Service’s Somali Liaison Unit. The initiative has reduced the crime rate through developing bonds between community members and police officers.

idil headshot

Step 1: Identify the issue

A longtime Rexdale resident, Idil had not been involved in her community until the gun violence in her neighborhood began making headlines. “I started recognizing a lot of Somali names in the news,” she said, referring to the almost bi-weekly reports of gun deaths that summer. She started asking questions, and was soon invited to a community meeting of mothers concerned about their children’s safety.

Step 2: Get involved

From that community meeting, an ad-hoc group called Positive Change was formed, with the goal of creating a safer neighbourhood for Somali youth.

The group created a 10-point policy for community change, and Idil involved her local MP Kirsty Duncan and MPP Mike Colle in the process, who then brought it to the federal level. However, the slow political process meant that they still were not seeing the immediate, community level change that was desperately needed.

“One thing that we could do with our two bare hands, that didn’t require money, was reaching out to our local police,” she said. The relationship between the community and the police of 23 Division in Etobicoke was tense, and fear of speaking to the police was major factor in the number of unsolved murders. For the safety of the community, it was clear to Idil and her collaborators at Positive Change that the relationship with police was in dire need of repair.

Step 3: Build a shared understanding

“We walked into our police division and we just had a frank meeting with them,” Idil explains. “We said that this is not working for us, and we don’t think its working for you either.” At the time, the Toronto Police Service was already developing a policing model that dedicated officers to high-risk neighbourhoods. Positive Change met with the two officers assigned to the Dixon area, and discussed how they could begin to develop a relationship.

The group brought the officers to community events, and set them up with cultural sensitivity training to better understand the community’s needs. The officers also got involved in local programs, such as running basketball programs for youth.  Some proved to be unexpectedly successful; an initiative in which officers helped to paint donated bikes was very popular with the young boys.

However, ingrained attitudes on both sides were still a barrier to building trust. Rexdale residents were suspicious that the officers were only there to collect information on them. The officers working in the community also struggled to work within a police culture that didn’t understand the type of “social work” they were doing. “It took a mind shift- not only for [the officers] but for the community,” Idil said.

Step 4: Improve continuously

Slowly, the project grew roots and the crime rate in the community fell dramatically. The project faced a major hurdle in 2013 when a big police raid intruded upon residents of Dixon Road. However, the local officers committed to rebuilding trust, and the continued success of the Somali Liaison Unit has attracted press coverage and political attention. The TPS has now extended the project for another two years, and scaled it across the entire service, reaching Divisions 31, 51, 12, and 32.

Idil has continued to work with the TPS, and is currently on the committee of the Policing and Community Engagement Review (PACER) which oversees improvements to policing.

You can do it!

Idil recommends that anyone with an interest in community safety to contact their local division, or attend the Community Police Liaison Committee, which occur every month at every police division. She is adamant that anyone with an interest in improving their community can make a positive contribution, no matter how small the act. “Political engagement is an everyday transaction,” she says. “You can build your city Monday through Sunday, at any time.”

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, January 30

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • The City of Toronto has rejected the line of credit offered by the province to balance the city’s budget. The draft budget Tory revealed last week was dependant on receiving this loan. As the budget continues to be debated in council, it is unclear what adjustments will be made to move forward.
  • Toronto police are investigating an incident that was caught on videotape this week, in which young black man is asked for his vehicle documents but never told why he is being investigated, and is eventually arrested. The exchange took place in an area where residents have previously complained about unnecessary police interactions, as documented in the Community Assessment of Police Practices survey.
  • Researcher David Hulchanski has updated his research on Toronto’s income inequality, revealing that the gap continues to widen. While incomes are increasing in 28% of the city, incomes are dropping in 40% – largely in the inner suburbs.
  • A Toronto police officer was acquitted of an assault charges this week, after beating a journalist during the G20 protests. After charges were dropped, the reported shared her story with the Toronotoist.
  • The University of Ottawa is taking steps to address sexual assault on campus by implementing key recommendations made by a sexual violence task force. The task force was created in part as a response to the sexual assault charges against members of the school’s hockey team.
  • On Monday, the Ontario government announced various policy revisions regarding the treatment of trans inmates, ensuring that trans prisoners will be housed with inmates of their own gender. The changes were prompted by the passage of Toby’s law in 2012, which enshrined gender identity as protected under the Ontario human right code. Activists are continuing to advocate federally for bill C-279 to protect trans folks across Canada.
  • Earlier this week, the two young activists behind the We Give Consent campaign joined Premier Wynne to discuss how the topic of consent will be integrated into the new Ontario health curriculum.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, November 28

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.