Calling for more diversity among police officers, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says he would require chiefs to release annual statistics showing the ethnic breakdowns of their forces and provide more funding to hire cops from under-represented groups.
The promises were part of a package to combat racism unveiled Wednesday as Del Duca campaigned in Toronto for the June 2 election. Del Duca also pledged to pass the NDP’s Our London Family Act, proposed after a Muslim family from the southwestern Ontario city was killed by a motorist last spring.
“There are far too many Ontarians who are held back, who are limited because we continue to face significant racism, discrimination and hate,” he said with several GTA candidates gathered around.
Del Duca would not say how much money a Liberal government would put into hiring more racialized police officers, promising details when his party releases a “fully costed” election platform.
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said the failure of Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government to pass her party’s anti-Islamophobia bill before the election means they “cannot see how urgent this is, and that we need to act now to fix what matters.”
But the Conservatives maintain the Our London Family Act, crafted by the NDP with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, requires improvement.
“What we saw happen in London, I think we all agree, was a tragedy, and there is a tremendous amount of work that we have to do,” Government House Leader Paul Calandra said in the legislature last week.
“The bill needs to be strengthened. In the current format it does not do what I think we all collectively want it to do. The minister of citizenship and multiculturalism has been working directly with stakeholders to ensure that the bill gets strengthened. It doesn’t end just because an election is called.”
The NDP legislation would require a provincial review of hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents, create “safe zones” around religious institutions, curb white supremacist groups by preventing them from registering as “societies,” and establish an anti-racism and advocacy council.
Del Duca said the Liberals would also extend the time period for submitting human rights complaints to five years from one, dedicate a cabinet post to fighting racism, pass new laws to protect places of worship from “violence and intimidation,” reverse cuts to anti-racism programs and give police more “regular” training in de-escalation, cultural sensitivity and mental health.
He pointed to the wounding of five Muslim men in a drive-by shooting in the Markham Road and Lawrence Avenue East on Saturday as an example of racism. Toronto police have said the hate crime unit is investigating it, although a local Muslim association told the Star it does not believe hate was a motive.
While the government has said the province will end “streaming” of students in Grade 9 starting in September, Del Duca said he would end it in Grades 9 and 10 in public schools.
Research has shown the long-standing practice of streaming students into “academic” or “applied” courses disproportionately impacts Black, other racialized and low-income students, and harms their chances of graduating and going on to higher levels of learning.
Del Duca also said he would set aside $5 million to help Black historical sites and community centres and provide $10 million in grants to Black entrepreneurs and small businesses if voters choose him to replace Ford as premier.
The former transportation minister is seeking to regain his old riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge, which he lost to PC cabinet minister Michael Tibollo in 2018. That election gave Ford a majority government and reduced the Liberals to third place in the legislature with too few MPPs to enjoy official party status.
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