Mayor John Tory is promising to hold a public meeting on “equity issues” alongside members of Black Lives Matter and other community groups.

Members of the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter have repeatedly asked Tory to hold a public meeting to talk about the issue of police discrimination, however to date Tory had only offered to meet behind closed doors, something the group had refused.

That changed on Wednesday afternoon when Tory’s office put out a statement, announcing that he would hold a public meeting and is committed to working with Black Lives Matter “and all those working toward meaningful change.”

A date for the meeting has not yet been announced.

“City staff will be working with my office to convene an open public meeting on equity issues, where individuals and groups including Black Lives Matter will have an opportunity to share their concerns, their frustrations and their ideas,” the statement read.

“I know these important perspectives will help our city divisions and services with their on-going equity efforts in areas including social development, youth engagement, poverty reduction and policing.”

Closed-door meeting with black community leaders to be held Saturday

Last month, Black Lives Matter protesters staged a 15-day sit-in outside Toronto police headquarters following a decision by the Special Investigations Unit not to charge the officers involved in the shooting of Andrew Loku.

Following the conclusion of that sit-in, Tory said that he offered to meet with the organizers of Black Lives Matter on five separate occasions but was rebuffed.

The group, however, said that they were unwilling to meet behind closed doors and called Tory “foolish” for making that a condition of any meeting.

In his statement issued on Wednesday, Tory admitted that Toronto still struggles with “issues of racial equity, discrimination and trust” and promised to take those issues seriously.

“No one should feel left out, marginalized, targeted or unsafe in Toronto,” he said. “Addressing these issues will take time and effort, and I look forward to hearing from the public as we continue this important work.”

Tory’s promise to hold a public meeting with the organizers of Black Lives Matter comes days ahead of a planned closed-door meeting with Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders and leaders from the city’s black community.

Speaking with reporters about that meeting earlier in the day, Tory said he views it as a precursor to a more public discussion.

“Part of the advice I want to seek from this group on Saturday is how do we go forward to some kind of a public setting that can be constructive, rational and inclusive, and I specifically reference Black Lives Matter and say this could be an event that could include them,” he said.

“I will be very candid about this, though. I don’t believe this is an appropriate issue in which to suggest that there is one group – that group or any other – that should be the sole spokesperson for what is a very complicated and very challenging issue.”

In a release Wednesday night, Black Lives Matter – Toronto said the organization was “encouraged but perplexed” by the mayor’s commitment to a forthcoming public forum.

“Though Black Lives Matter – Toronto is interested in attending, they are not sure the meeting will be focused enough to address the issues of anti-Black racism in policing they have been raising,” the statement reads.

“Had we taken those private meetings Mayor Tory earlier offered, this wouldn’t be happening now, so on one hand, I’m encouraged,” Black Lives Matter – Toronto co-founder Rodney Diverlus said in the release.

“But I am not sure why the city would be reticent to having a focused discussion on anti-Black racism in policing. Avoiding the issue is anti-Blackness in itself.”

The organization said that members will “tentatively” attend the meeting “Pending more information on its format and focus.”