War Is Over, If You Want It! – Ward 33 E-Blast August 3rd

It was almost 50 years ago that John Lennon and Yoko Ono flew into Toronto and launched their international campaign to stop the war in Vietnam. A stark white billboard with the plain black letters, “WAR IS OVER, if YOU want it, Happy Christmas from John and Yoko” went up on Yonge St., directly across from the Masonic Temple. Poster sized versions of the billboard were suddenly everywhere, as John Lennon and Yoko Ono took up residence at the King Edward Hotel.

A campaign you couldn’t miss about a war you could no longer ignore.

It wasn’t as if the actions of John & Yoko were the only thing that eventually stopped that war. When their billboards broadened the anti-war conversation, the gruesome facts were already evident on the nightly news. The Tet offensive civilian massacre had happened months before, and there was plenty of anger, but those billboards empowered non-activist, everyday people to say, “Yes, I want it to stop, too.”

Activist and journalist, Desmond Cole continues his sit in at the Toronto Police Services Boardroom table.

I believe that what activist, Desmond Cole, did at last week’s Police Board meeting was designed to reach out directly to you. As a board member, I can’t condone his actions. He is a regular attendee of police board meetings and knows the rules. He knows that he can’t register to address one item and then speak to a matter not before us. He staged a sit in at our meeting last week because the attack on Whitby youth, Dafonte Miller, was not on our public agenda. At that point it couldn’t be, no matter how frustrating that is to hear. I can’t condone disruptive actions but I do feel them and hear them loud and clear.

There are some process steps to go through, and then the matter will arrive on the public agenda in a couple of months’ time. Whether I support the highly publicized standoff between Desmond and the police officers at the board meeting or not, it got your attention, and I believe that was the goal. Hopefully your focus will hold for some time because there is so much to investigate in this case.

Details of this case have been reported at length in the media. Here are three articles from The Star that provide a good overview of what has been reported publicly thus far:

This case calls into question the actions of not just Michael Theriault and his brother but all police officers who had any dealings with the case in both the Toronto Police Service and the Durham Regional Police Service. Both Police oversight boards, the TPSB and the DRPSB, have a duty to the public to follow every rule in the process to get to the bottom of it all. The lawyer for Dafonte Miller has made allegations about the beating and many other facts surrounding the incident. In order to see that justice is done for Dafonte, and that there are consequences wherever police actions may have failed the public, we need to stay on the high ground and use every tool available to us as oversight officers under the Ontario Police Services Act.

What Happens Next

Last week, the TPSB announced at our public meeting that the next step in the process is to receive a report called a Section 11 report that outlines the full details of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation. We will include the report on our public agenda when we have it.  Given that this case could possibly question the actions of both police services, Chief Saunders has offered not to author the Section 11 report as per the normal process but instead commissioned the Chief of the Waterloo Regional Police to review the SIU investigation and write a report for us.

Don’t expect that Waterloo-prepared Section 11 report on the August agenda. We want a thorough job done. Some may say that a fully objective report cannot be done by another police officer. I understand the trust issues, but Section 11 is the next step under Police Act legislation. It needn’t be the last step. If the report does not satisfy every concern the Board and the public may have, there are more potent forms of inquiry that a Police Board or even an Attorney General can exercise. Rest assured that the Board will have extensive legal advice on how to proceed at that time.

In The Meantime

I expect that Desmond Cole and others in the activist community will continue to employ campaigns that keep the violent, disfiguring treatment of Dafonte Miller top of mind for you. This case, how it was investigated, how it was officially reported, by when and to whom represents a watershed moment for police and community in the whole of the GTA. You will be asked by the activist community and the media to pay attention to this case throughout the long criminal process and government process. You should.

I don’t mind the activism, even if it is pointed squarely at me. It is designed to keep us all talking in as broad a conversation as possible about what has to change in our policing and policing legislation.