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Toronto police officers equipped with body cameras as part of a pilot project rolling out this month won’t be recording when they “card” citizens not under arrest or investigation, a police spokesperson said Monday.

It’s a restriction one activist dubs “absolutely laughable,” and one that hints at the tough choices the force may face as it seeks to balance policing and privacy with calls for greater transparency.

The one-year trial, prompted in part by the shooting death of teenager Sammy Yatim, will see 100 officers from four units wearing the cameras on shift, starting May 18. The body-mounted devices won’t be on at all times, though.

Officers will turn on the cameras “prior to arriving at a call for service or when they start investigating an individual,” according to the police. They’ll turn them off “when the call for service or investigation is complete” or when the officer determines the recording is no longer serving its intended purpose.

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Ahead of Toronto’s upcoming municipal elections, Ward 2 candidate Munira Abukar has been the target of racial hatred and vandalism. City councillors, members of the public, and other candidates have outwardly shown support for her on Twitter, including mayoral candidate Olivia Chow (who has herself been the target of racism and threats of violence on a large scale).

#IStandWithMunira trended city-wide last night, and you can donate to her campaign here to help replace the signs and pictures that have been destroyed. x

This is an actual tweet from TDSB (Toronto District School Board) trustee Sam Sotiropoulos saying that without proof that “transgenderism” (so you know he’s an expert) exists, he will not “believe in it” and hashtags it with the district’s name.

Of course, there has been backlash for his transmisoginy and general ignorance, but he refuses to apologize. A quote from an interview (found here) he states “They bring the confusion home and often what happens is this confusion creates turmoil in the home for one reason or another. They believe its almost a promotion of a certain type of, for a lack of a better term, lifestyle.”

Any attempt to call him out has been met with claims of being “bullied” on the matter, as if that’s not exactly what he’s doing. He has called students mouthpieces for their teachers and the union, not acknowledging that he has actually offended a great number of students who are perfectly capable of forming their own opinions.

Frankly, this makes me ashamed for the TDSB, that someone who is a direct employee of theirs, whose twitter account is literally @TrusteeSam and explicitly tagged the school board in the offending tweet, is spewing this hate speech onto an already marginalized group and instead of acknowledging that he has hurt them, instead plays victim.

So, what can you do? Let the TDSB and Mr. Sotiropoulos know that you won’t stand for transmisogyny in your learning environment. Tweet them (@TDSB and @TrusteeSam, respectively) and share your thoughts, Use the hashtag #SlamSam to share your outrage. This is not appropriate, it is not professional, and we will not stand for it.

Show them that the LGBTQIA+ community stands together and we will not let people like this hurt our members.

DEAR SCARBOROUGH FRIENDS

I posted this on Facebook earlier and seemed to have received a good response, so I’m sharing it with you too in light of the election tomorrow.

In school and at work, we are constantly reminded that we are responsible for our online presence and must be careful with the way we express our opinions online; personally as a potential teacher I cannot say my opinions also represent that of whatever board, school, or classroom I’m part of.

But that makes me wonder: how can a school board trustee openly hashtag ‪#‎TDSB‬ while tweeting things like this?

Sam Sotiropoulos is a TDSB trustee for the Scarborough-Agincourt ward, who recently made headlines regarding his derogatory tweets towards transgender students and gay pride, as well as his denial of the existence of “white privilege” in relation to socio-economic success. Sotiropoulos is not only completely out of touch with matters of human and gender rights as well as issues of class structure, power, and privilege, but is also entirely lacking respect for the identities, intellect, and existence of the students he is supposed to represent. 

Sotiropoulos wants students to learn things like reading and math, but god forbid they develop any critical thinking skills. When he was openly criticized for his ignorance, his first response was that he is entitled to having an opinion. When he was criticized for misrepresenting the TDSB, he argued that students were being used by their teachers and were bullying him, effectively showing his total condescension towards the students who he so desperately believes cannot think for themselves.

SO - WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT THIS?

How anyone can trust a person like this to make decisions for their children and students’ futures is beyond me, but as it stands there have been no corrective actions taken against him, nor has he faced any serious repercussions (despite multiple campaigns and formal complaints with evidence of his violation of board codes of conduct). Because he is an elected government official, it is not within the board’s power to fire him.

The only way you can help change this situation is by VOTING FOR SOMEONE ELSE ON MONDAY. 

DO NOT VOTE FOR HIM. 

VOTE FOR LITERALLY ANYONE ELSE BUT HIM.

Students today are constantly reminded that there are serious consequences for what they say on social media. It is not fair that adults who are paid to represent them are not subject to those same consequences!

But more importantly, social justice is not a fad - it is necessary to our development and growth towards proper equity and equality. 

We cannot move forward as a society if we let people like this make decisions for us. 

PLEASE USE YOUR POWER AS A VOTER.

Racist vandalism defaces Ward 2 election signs

Racism and vandalism struck the run for city council in Ward 2 on Saturday, when election signs for candidate Munira Abukar were found defaced with profanities.

The words “Go back home” were also painted on signs. It is the latest incident of racism and intolerance in the run-up to the Oct. 27 election. 

Abukar said it left her disheartened and angry — at first. 

“But it’s not matter of being sad. It’s a matter of taking anger and applying it positively and saying ‘I don’t give into hate. I don’t give into coercion and bullying,’” she told CBC News. 

“I’ll pick the sign up and put ten more where that one was vandalized." 

Abukar is one of 14 candidates in Ward 2 looking to replace Doug Ford and is going up against Rob Ford in the election. 

Another Ward 2 hopeful, Andray Domise, also had signs damaged. He too vowed to fix them and put more up in their place. 

The incident prompted a show of support from many online, including mayoral candidate Olivia Chow. 

Keep Toronto and the GTA in your thoughts tonight: they’re stressing ‘only 90k customers without power’, but each customer is approximately 2.5 people – there are still 225,000 people in Toronto alone that have no power and likely no heat, on a night when it’s likely to hit -18C/0F, and that number isn’t likely to drop far below 100,000 people without power by nightfall.

Get Loud

With the municipal election over in Toronto and the midterms done in the States, social networks are full of the usual recriminations:

“Well if you didn’t vote you can’t complain.”

“Voting doesn’t matter anyway." 

"There’s no difference between the parties.”

“I can’t make a difference.”


Wrong.

It is fitting that today is the 5th of November, another day that sparks discussions of the appropriate way to deal with representative government. That urge to lash out at our elected representatives is certainly understandable - they never seem to get it!

But of course, they do get it - they just don’t get it the same way you do. In fact, there are several forces at play here.

1) They aren’t you. You might think you have all the answers; we’re all guilty of thinking we know what’s best. But let’s be honest - while I probably have some of the answers, and I might even have a lot of the answers, I don’t have ALL the answers. You don’t either. Sometimes, they simply do know a better way than you.

2) They answer to more than you. Remember group projects? You were trying to solve a decently complicated problem among three or four or five people, and how hard was that? They are trying to solve much more difficult problems that make a much bigger difference, and they have to answer to a lot more people. There simply isn’t room for nuance when you’re answering to hundreds of thousands or millions of people - and so instead, they speak to a sort of lowest common denominator of issues. That is simply a consequence of democracy among large population groups.

3) They listen to people louder than you. Politicians can only get things done if they remain politicians, and to do that they have to answer to the people who give them that power. That means voters, sure, but it also means their political power structures, their donors, people with big platforms, and so on.

But if you take just one thing away from this post, if you remember just one sentence, make it this one: if the problem is that you aren’t loud enough, shutting up is NOT the answer.

We live in a democracy here in Canada and (to a somewhat lesser degree) in the United States. Voting isn’t just a right, nor is it just a responsibility. It is also the bare minimum expectation for civic engagement. By not voting, you’re not sending a message any more than not speaking up in a meeting tells your boss anything. You may think you’re sending “I don’t agree”, but all they’re hearing is “I don’t care.” It doesn’t matter how principled your silence is; silence cannot be loud.

But it doesn’t stop at voting. How many of you volunteer once a week? How about once a month? Even once a year, maybe for Christmas? Did you know that when I volunteer with the NDP, some members of our party are volunteering as little as an hour or two every month and are still able to have a vote on policy decisions at our convention? I started volunteering with the NDP - something I’m very proud to be part of - and quickly became a very active member with the ability to get my ideas heard by one of the most effective and powerful political parties in the country. My resolution that I wrote was a topic of discussion at the Federal Convention; our riding association is responsible for thirteen more that will be discussed by the Ontario NDP next weekend. That sounds official, doesn’t it? “Riding association”. Did you know it’s other volunteers just like me who chip in an hour here and an hour there? Did you know that you could be part of it tomorrow if you wanted?

And those resolutions could be accepted by the party membership. Now, instead of advocating my ideas in front of millions of Canadians, I’m debating in front of hundreds of party delegates. My ideas can be heard; my voice is loud.

But it goes further. If those resolutions are passed, they become policy for the party and the party will try to get them passed into law. Now we have a political party advocating for my ideas, not just generally agreeing with me but word for word what I wrote. That's loud.

I am not telling you this to brag. I’m an average dude with an average brain. I’m telling you this because democracy only works if we all pull our weight. Voting is the equivalent of doing your portion of a group project without ever attending any of the meetings or talking to any of the rest of the group. You’re doing your part, sure, but you aren’t making it easy for the teacher to see your role in it. It should be no wonder that we keep getting failing marks.

It’s easy to cop out and say that the rich people always win because they have all the money. But do you know what else rich people do? They vote. They get involved. They do their part. Of course politicians respond to them. They’re loud.

But we are many. And we are right.

And when we are engaged, when we do our parts and when we step up that little bit extra and get involved and really become active citizens instead of passive consumers, then we send a message no politician can ignore. A real message, with meaning - not just angry screaming and certainly not defeated, bitter silence.

If you want to see a better world - and you do, you know you do - then get loud.

Grade 8 students pushing for end to carding in Toronto

Meghan Sage-Wolfe and Sapphire Newman-Fogel definitely stuck out at the Toronto Police Service Board presentations earlier this month.

The pair, who both gave remarks on the board’s revised carding policy, aren’t police officers or community members who’ve experienced carding themselves.

They’re just two Grade 8 students from City View Alternative Senior School — and they’re only 13 years old.

“People of any one skin colour are not born more likely to commit crimes in our city. The Toronto Police are here to ‘serve and protect’ our community, so why are they targeting black people and contributing to a very serious divide in our city?” Newman-Fogel questioned in the pair’s deputation to the board on Thursday.

And they’re not stopping there.

The two Toronto residents are now launching a “Youth Against Carding” campaign in hopes of bringing together young people of various backgrounds — including black and brown youth — to take a stand against the controversial policing tactic.

Continue Reading.

Elected in 1994, Barbara Hall became the first mayor of Toronto to march in the city’s Pride Parade. As a lawyer in the 1980s, Hall provided legal aid for gay men arrested in the Operation Soap bathhouse raids. Earlier this year, Toronto’s Cawthra Park was renamed after Barbara Hall in recognition of her long-time support for LGBT rights. The CLGA holds materials from Hall’s mayoral campaigns, including leaflets and pin buttons.

clga.ca

Liveable cities. Food trucks. Why Toronto needs to grow up.

I wanted to live in Toronto. I worked to be here. I knew what it was going to entail. I knew it was going to be half the space for twice the money. I knew I would probably give up my car, that it would be both expensive and impractical. I knew I’d be living in an urban centre. High density. Close proximity. Public transit and some inconvenience, but I wanted to live in a really big city.

Most of the world lives this way. Hong Kong. Tokyo. Paris, London. New York. The density gives you things - amazing food, theatre, art. The city engages you. And for that you make some sacrifices.

What’s absolutely bending my brain is that I seem to be the only one to Get It. We’ve got this nasty mayor and his “war on the car” and all this Me Me Me bullshit - that basically we should try to make Toronto into something it isn’t, and has never been. 

This strikes me as bizarre - did no one get the memo? If you want wide open space, a big house and yard, and to have to use a car for absolutely everything, move to Regina. I’ve lived there. I needed my car more living there than anywhere else. Granted, this was 20 years ago, so things may have changed. But still, my point remains. If you want to live here, you’ve got to come to terms that this is high density living.

Toronto is a big, messy metropolis. Always has been, always will be. There is no “going back” to something that never existed.

There is a book out that presents this argument far better than me - it’s called Happy City. It’s pretty simple: Your city can be good for cars OR good for people. It can’t be both. Car friendly means more accidents, injuries and deaths of both pedestrians and drivers. And long car commutes make for really unhappy people - the longer you’re stuck in a car, the unhappier you will be. Unhappy with everything - your job, your marriage, your life.

Many huge cities have started to figure this out, and done everything they can to keep cars to a minimum - but Toronto seems to be grappling with this, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. In London, when they brought in the congestion charge for cars, it was remarkable. Fresher air. Quieter streets. Boris Bikes. Buses that actually could get from point A to B. rather than be stuck.

Toronto now looks, sounds and smells like pre-congestion-charge London. It’s gridlock in every direction. Drivers leaning on their horns. It’s noisy and it’s choking on exhaust. Public transit is trapped in this mess and can’t operate. We all wind up paying for it, with our time, our patience and our health.

The big issue our city council is grappling with right now are - wait for it - food trucks. For years there has been some kind of freakout about having these delicious little mobile enterprises. Much fretting, lots of red tape. What if they take away from restaurants? What if they take up our parking spaces? These are both non-starters. You don’t go to a food truck for a restaurant experience. Competition is good for business. And better a vehicle that Does Something than another parked car taking up premium space. 

What food trucks in big cities do is get people out of their condos and their offices and out into their neighborhood. We had the Caplansky’s truck (Thundering Thelma) around the corner for a few months, and it was fabulous. Go for a walk. Get some well-crafted food. Share some maple bacon doughnuts with strangers. Get some air. Move your body. Connect. 

If we want Toronto to be a liveable city, we need to accept it for what it is: A huge metropolis. Space is limited. We need to consider what we want to give that space to - cars? Or people?

If you’re still stuck catering to the needs of your SUV, try having this debate with someone who lives in a big city that *knows* it’s a big city. Go ahead, tell them how they need to make central London more friendly to cars and how that will make them happier. They’ll look at you like you’ve sprouted scales.

The city I chose to live in put people first, but somehow got confused along the way. I look at our besieged mayor and wonder, would he be less of a mess if he weren’t stuck in a car? If he went for a walk? If he had more opportunities to connect with the city he’s supposed to represent? If his daily path were broader than fortress suburban house to car to office to car to house?

We’re a big city. That’s just the way it is. We need to start acting like one.

Torontonians, go vote!

Today, October 27, marks municipal election day for Toronto. While all elections are important, today’s election is particularly important because there are far too many issues that need resolution. Voting today will allow you to back a candidate who you feel can best represent your interests in terms of transit, childcare, taxes, community safety, etc. If you are unsure on who to vote for, here is a handy dandy guide from the Toronto Star summarizing John Tory, Olivia Chow, and Doug Ford’s stances on major issues. And if you don’t know where to vote, hey, the City of Toronto has a fabulous app where you type in your address and the site will then show you the address of the closest polling station!

A few of my readers have asked me who I am voting for and why. Since polling stations open in 7 minutes and I want to rush there quickly, I don’t have time to really explain why I’m voting for Olivia Chow so allow me to share this anecdote from a recent mayoral debate. When asked what they felt was the biggest issue facing Toronto, Doug Ford said “bureaucracy,” John Tory said “transit,” and Olivia Chow said “poverty.” That, in a nutshell, captures why I think Olivia Chow should be mayor…

…That said, though, do your own due diligence and figure out who you want as mayor! I don’t care if you agree with me. Voter turn-out in the 2010 municipal elections were at 53.2%. Let’s try to beat this number, shall we?

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Desmond Cole: Black Like Me:

In a recent Toronto Life article, Desmond Cole writes that he has been stopped by police on more than 50 occasions because of his skin colour. He tells Steve Paikin about these experiences and discusses the challenges and hopes for Toronto’s new Police Chief Mark Saunders.

This is a really good interview if you’ve got about 20 minutes.

Also if you haven’t read Desmond Cole’s article on his experiences with police, I highly recommend reading it as well:

The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times—all because I’m black