Toronto Mayor John Tory calling for police reform in bid to ‘stamp out systemic racism’

Toronto Mayor John Tory is calling for numerous changes to the city’s policing system, including the creation of a new non-police response team for calls that do not involve weapons or violence.

Tory revealed the list of proposed reforms Thursday morning as part of a motion he will take to council next week.

“In recent weeks, here in Toronto and around the world, people have been raising their voices and calling for an end to racism generally, to anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism, and to racism against marginalized communities,” Tory writes in the motion.

“We must fix that model by changing the way policing is done in order to stamp out systemic racism within our police service and to re-think, in some cases, whether police are the right community response at all.”

The motion also calls for increased funding of programs that support Toronto’s Indigenous, Black and marginalized communities, as well as others that provide mental health supports.

Tory’s recommendations — which you can read here — do not call for a defunding of the service, a demand that has become a rallying cry among concerned residents in recent weeks.

Tory said he instead favours the idea of “detasking” police rather than slashing the budget.

Recent police-involved deaths put ‘spotlight’ on force

Toronto police have been under increased scrutiny in recent weeks amid large protests and calls to defund the force.

The Toronto protests were ignited by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, but also the death of Toronto woman Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from her balcony after police responded to a call at her home in May.

Police in nearby Peel region are also facing scrutiny after the death of Ejaz Choudry, who was fatally shot by police last week while he was experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Finally, the world’s spotlight is on policing and people do not like what they see,” said deputy mayor Michael Thompson.

“I think what we are about to do could be the model right across the world.”

A pair of city councillors have proposed a plan to cut the service’s approximately $1.2 billion budget by 10 per cent. That motion will also be debated by council during its next meeting on June 29.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health hospital, has also called for police to stop responding to incidents involving people in crisis.

A group of more than 50 doctors also published a letter sent to city hall Thursday, in which they described policing as a “public health crisis.” The doctors are calling for the service to be defunded, with hopes the money could be directed to other community programs such as mental health supports.

Tory acknowledged the growing public appetite for major reform and cited the “tens of thousands” of residents who have written emails and made phone calls in demand of change.

“I know these calls stem from real concerns,” he said.

While Tory’s motion resists calls to deliberately defund the service or otherwise slash its budget, he argued that the proposed changes will drive budget reductions.

“I am confident it will lead to a reduction in the Toronto Police Service budget,” he says.

“We want a safe city, but we also want everyone to feel safe in our city.”


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