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Getting Action on Community Safety

Next week, our City of Toronto Auditor General is going to do something she’s never done before: present her findings on the internal workings of the Toronto Police Service to City Councillors. Toronto was the first municipality to install an independent Auditor General, but the Toronto Police Service was always a no-go zone. All of that changed in the summer of 2020 when Toronto and cities across the globe reckoned with much-needed changes to policing.

The Auditor General’s first deep dive into police operations is an examination of 911 dispatch. In my view, this is one area that provides a great opportunity to look at alternative models that can deliver greater service in a more cost-effective way. Transferring the management of 911 dispatch away from the police and into the City, as is done in many other jurisdictions, will help us keep costs down and improve emergency response times by ensuring the service is fully-staffed. It also aligns with Council’s commitment to look for opportunities to de-task the police, bring down their significant budget, and improve police culture. I look forward to the City’s Manager’s report on 911 dispatch that is coming forward soon.

Back to the City’s independent Auditor General: How is it that she is only now reporting on the internal workings of the Toronto Police Service? Previously, the Auditor General had to stay out of the police service in deference to the Ontario Police Services Act. However, there are plenty of administrative areas of policing where the Police Act does not constrain management choices. In response to calls for changes to policing in summer 2020, Councillor Thompson, Mayor Tory, and I introduced large-scale changes to the way policing and community safety is tackled in Toronto. We all felt that if the Police Board invited the Auditor General to investigate certain matters within the force, the resulting changes would be thoughtful and therefore effective.

A photo from the press conference where Mayor Tory, Councillor Thompson and I announced our motion for police reform in June 2020.

Over the last two years, City staff and the police have worked together with community advocates and organizations to make several fundamental changes to how we keep communities safe. This includes:

  • The creation of a non-police community safety response for people in crisis, currently piloting in four police divisions

  • Increased investments in the Poverty Reduction Strategy and Confronting Anti-Black Racism Strategy

  • Increased transparency on the Toronto Police budget

  • The expansion of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team program

  • A robust consultation process to select the next Chief of Police

  • The adoption of body-worn cameras for enhanced accountability

In addition to these measures, we created a new accountability table to oversee all of this work and gave the Auditor General the ability to come in and dig into the administration of police services. The full list of action items and their progress is being reported publicly by both the City and the Police Service:

All of this work has required consistent collaboration. For that, I would like to thank Denise Campbell, the Executive Director of the City’s Social Development division; Acting Police Chief James Ramer; Ryan Teschner, Executive Director of the Toronto Police Services Board; Jon Reid, President of the Toronto Police Association; and, most importantly, Mayor Tory for his role on both the Police Board and Council, where he has worked to move these initiatives forward with buy-in from all stakeholders. Having served on the Police Board alongside the Mayor last term, I know how challenging these reform efforts can be. The Mayor’s leadership has been significant.

All of these pieces are part of an ongoing process to continuously improve policing and community safety on a city-wide basis. They’ve also had some immediate impacts closer to home. One change I want to highlight, and one that has been called for by racialized Torontonians for some time, is the expansion of the Neighbourhood Officer program. Here in Don Valley North, we had seen this important police role reduced. Our long-time Neighbourhood Officer, Dale Swift, was spread very thin. He has now trained up three new officers for our community and has transitioned to a new role supporting the program on a larger scale. I want to thank Officer Swift and our residents here in Don Valley North who have helped expand this important program.

Me and my team at a community safety audit with community members and our local neighbourhood officers this past fall.

All of this positive change has given me and my team greater capacity to work in partnership with the community and local police to find locally-led solutions to community safety concerns. We’ve helped facilitate community safety audits, neighbourhood safety walks, enhanced youth programming and community supports, and local initiatives like the Sparroways Wellness Committee, which was formed in response to local gun violence in the summer of 2018. These partnerships help us focus on common sense solutions that are low in cost but high in impact—things like improved lighting, maintenance, and best practices for keeping people and property safe.

Going forward, it’s going to be important to stay vigilant and make sure we maintain and expand our investment in alternative models of community safety. Early interventions are always the most effective tools to keep our community safe, and often they do not require the involvement of police. Programs like the City’s FOCUS Tables have been putting social service organizations in the driver’s seat when it comes to supporting those most at risk. My goal is to continue to work with you to find local solutions to keep our neighbourhoods safe.

I had the great opportunity to meet with the Black Community Consultative Committee of Toronto Police Services last weekend.

Finally, I would be remiss to not talk about the major story about the police from last month: The collection of race-based data has proven what Black and racialized communities have been saying for decades—that they are at a disproportionate risk for police violence across all types of encounters. As someone who sat on the Police Board when we developed the policy for collecting this data, I’m glad that it is proving the necessity of the reform work we have ahead.

The next step before is accountability and action. There will always be a Toronto Police Service on duty to serve and protect you, but with a difference. It’s not enough that Chief Ramer has apologized to our BIPOC residents. We need to transform our police force to rebuild trust in police for all Torontonians.

I will leave you with this fantastic clip from Dr. Notisha Massaqoui, the expert who led the development of the Race-Based Data Collection Strategy at Toronto Police Services, on what we need to do next:

{embed twt vid here}

Planning & Development Updates

Prepared by Tom Gleason, Chief of Staff

Upcoming Community Meeting

1800 Sheppard Avenue East – Fairview Mall:

Monday, July 11 @ 6:30 PM

City Planning staff will be hosting a virtual community meeting to hear from residents about this development application. The application is proposing a Masterplan Concept consisting of four phases of redevelopment around the existing CF Fairview Mall. The proposal would create approximately 4,700 new residential units, up to 40,000 sqm of additional non-residential uses, and three new public parks. The Phase 1 Proposal would replace the existing expansive surface parking lots, driveways, and a portion of a five-storey parking structure with three high-rise buildings of 58, 48, and 38 storeys.

You can join the meeting online via WebEx or call in by phone. Please register here and you will receive further instructions by email.

Garden Suites Now Permitted in Toronto

The City of Toronto Garden Suites Bylaw is in full force after the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) dismissed an appeal earlier this week. The Garden Suites Bylaw and Official Plan Amendment were adopted by Toronto City Council on February 2, but were appealed shortly after. On June 2, the OLT heard a motion from the City to dismiss the appeal.

Permits for the construction of garden suites can now be issued, provided the application complies with the Bylaw requirements and all other applicable law. Any garden suite proposal that does not meet the Zoning Bylaw requirements can seek a minor variance application at the Committee of Adjustment. Through that process, City Planning staff review the application to determine if the proposed variances are appropriate and meet the intent of the Official Plan policies and the Zoning Bylaw.

For more information on Garden Suites, visit the link below:

Upcoming Vaccine Clinics in Don Valley North

Oriole Community Centre (2975 Don Mills Rd. W.)

North York General Hospital & Flemingdon Health Centre are continuing to operate the walk-in vaccine clinic at Oriole Community Centre every Thursday in July from 5:00 - 8:30 PM. First, second, third, and fourth doses are available for those eligible. For more information, visit the link below:


Meet Julie Boarder and Derek Allen, our Don Valley Northerners of the week!

Julie and Derek were nominated by a neighbour who is so appreciative of all the community events and initiatives they lead. Julie and Derek host great events all year round, from their hugely popular movie night in the park each summer, free pumpkin giveaway and colouring contest at Halloween, and clothing drive for those in need each winter, to name a few. Thank you, Julie and Derek, for all the ways you give back to your community here in Don Valley North!

Nominate a Neighbour! Do you know someone in your neighbourhood who makes a difference? Nominate them for Don Valley Northerner of the Week! To submit a nomination, please send a short blurb (~100 words) about the person you are nominating to My team will contact you if we select your nominee as Don Valley Northerner of the Week!


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