Black Lives Matter welcomes Loku inquest, says more work ahead
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Sunday, April 17, 2016 7:18PM EDT
Members of the city’s Black Lives Matter movement say they are encouraged after meeting with the province this week, but say there is still more work to do to combat systemic racism.
The group held a news conference outside Toronto Police Headquarters Sunday morning to respond to the provincial coroner’s call for an inquest into the death of Andrew Loku, a mentally challenged man whose fatal shooting at the hands of Toronto police in 2015 sparked outrage among the black community. On Wednesday a release from the coroner’s office said an inquest will be held into Loku’s death.
“For us the call for a coroners’ inquest into Andrew Loku’s death does signify a strong commitment to addressing the demands that we have laid out,” said Sandy Hudson, one of the group’s leaders.
The group recently met with MPP Michael Coteau, the minister responsible for anti-racism, to discuss the next steps in a dialogue with the province. On Sunday they said details are still being worked out for a series of at least four public meetings to hear from the black community on issues related to anti-black racism in policing.
“This will not look like other public consultations they have had before,” said BLM leader Pascale Diverlus. “We are trying to make sure that this is accessible to all black folks, to all black people to come to share their stories and to say what they need done differently in this city.”
Diverlus said the group has demanded child care and transportation so that those who want to attend a meeting can do so. She said most of the time at the meeting will be devoted to listening to the public rather than giving a presentation.
“We’re hoping that a direct conversation with people in the community about how this affects them will help create meaningful policy changes that will address the issues with systemic racism that’s embedded in the current policy,” Hudson said.
Black Lives Matter held a protest outside of Toronto police headquarters for two weeks after the Special Investigations Unit, the province’s police watchdog, declined to lay charges against the officers involved in Loku’s death. They had set a deadline of Apr. 16 for their demands to be received. Hudson said the group is pleased the province has responded, but added that doesn’t mean her group is done taking action.
“This does not mean that this is the end for us here. There are still a number of demands that we need to be addressed,” Hudson said.
She said the group wants the name of the officers involved in Loku’s death released, they want data about individuals previously collected through carding to be destroyed and she said they are not satisfied with the anti-carding legislation enacted by the province.
Hudson also took aim at Mayor John Tory and said he looks “foolish” for not agreeing to a public meeting with Black Lives Matter leaders.
“The mayor – I think that he looks very foolish right now actually, given what the province has shown – you don’t have to be afraid to speak to your constituents,” Hudson said. “I think Mayor Tory is showing that we have a democracy problem in Toronto.”
Responding to the comments later Sunday, Tory told reporters that he has offered to meet privately with the group on at least five occasions and said it was “mystifying” that they had turned him down each time.
“I have no idea why anyone would turn down a private meeting with me or members of council,” Tory said.
He said Black Lives Matters doesn’t speak for the entire black community and said he’d like to see how a private meeting goes first. He added that there are many significant issues to discuss with the black community beyond policing and said he wants to be careful not to single out police as being the problem.
“I do acknowledge that there are issues to be discussed, issues to be addressed,” Tory said. “And by the way, they are not to be confined to policing.”
The city’s police union has repeatedly taken issue with the Black Lives Matter movement for singling out police tactics and policies as being racist.
Hudson said Sunday that her groups is not seeking a meeting with Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack and is “not interested in what he has to say.”