From the Anti-Racism Working Group

The Trinity St. Paul’s (TSP) Anti-Racism Group is making an urgent request to TSP members to write to your city councillors about policing policy in Toronto.

TSP’s Anti-Racism Group became aware earlier this year of a report by a 28-member umbrella group, the Toronto Neighbourhood Centres (TNC), called ‘Rethinking Community Safety: a Step Forward for Toronto.’  This landmark report was endorsed by many other organizations, including Black Lives Matter, Social Planning Toronto, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. It pointed to a new direction for the City of Toronto: redirect policing resources to non-policing alternatives for four key groups – youth, and people experiencing homelessness, mental health crises, and gender-based violence.

The TNC has asked for our help in furthering the original intention of a unanimous vote last February at City Council to create a Community Crisis Support Service Pilot. The report from city staff was requested by year end 2021

Unfortunately, the intention of that motion has essentially been undermined by a decision at the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) to beef up the police response, albeit with co-located mental health nurses. Rather than the city’s getting on with the pilot projects to have a non-police community response for non-violent mental health calls, the TPS has upped the number of police involved! The TNC has asked all of those familiar with their original report to intervene now with letters to city councillors to get on with the plan for the pilot projects.

TSP has already responded with a letter from our Chair of the Church Board, Colin Phillips, and our Minister, Cheri DiNovo, to the mayor and all councillors. It is attached below, so please take a look at it

Now we need to request your help in furthering the original intention of the motion by City Council by writing to your own city councillor about this issue. 

Please copy both TSP and the TNC on your letter.  Send the TSP copy of your letter to Beverley Eadie at admin@trinitystpauls.caShe will keep a record of what we have done collectively.  Send the TNC copy to: Serena Nudel at Serena.Nudel@tngcs.org.  

On behalf of our Anti-Racism Committee, I sincerely thank you in advance for taking the time to write to your city councillor today about this issue!

Peace and love,

Betty Butterworth   

November 23, 2021

Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Councillors

City Hall

100 Queen St W.

Toronto ON M5H 2N2

Dear Mayor Tory and Councillors,

We urge you to recommit to developing a concrete multi-year plan to move interventions with vulnerable people from the police to more appropriate community services and involve the community in that process. We applauded the unanimous vote in February to create four community safety and crisis support service pilots to test a new, non-police led, approach to non-emergency, non-violent calls, including those involving persons in crisis. We thought mental health calls would receive a response by trained mental health practitioners, rather than police. The immediate implementation of what meets the original intent would be a tangible example of your recent commitment to a comprehensive mental health and addictions strategy. Rather the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) has agreed to more police partnering with mental health nurses in the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCIT), but the Toronto Police Service (TPS) continues to take the calls. This does not work, according to the excellent Toronto Neighbourhood Centres’ (TNC) report, ‘Rethinking Community Safety: A Step Forward for Toronto.’  

The 28 members of the TNC, along with others endorsing the report, are a formidable group of experts in the areas examined in that report! The Rethink Policing initiative by the TNC has a clear call to action: redirect policing resources to non-policing alternatives for four key groups – youth, and people experiencing homelessness, mental health crises, and gender-based violence. We want to see a coherent and strategic plan to expand non-police responses, adopt a timeline for engaging community, and redirect policing funds to alternatives.

Why are we interested in this issue? Trinity St. Paul’s United Church and Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts (the themes in our church mission), is located in the annex, but has members from all over the city. We are an inclusive community affirming that all, regardless of ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, or sexual orientation are full participants in our membership and leadership. Our justice activities include the Indigenous Rights Solidarity Group, climate justice activities, and the Middle East Working Group. 

After world-wide anger about George Floyd’s murder and calls by Black Lives Matter to defund the police, our members began studying our own and societal systemic racism and white privilege. Institutional racism, particularly against Black and Indigenous communities, was evident in the criminal justice system – courts, jails, and police. The TNC report prescribes the best response to the latter! 

We are currently sponsoring a 3-part series, ‘Creating our Best Future: How to Build a Genuinely Inclusive City’ (flyer attached). We will expand our efforts, along with other faith communities, to influence justice in our city. A good place to start is with a rationalization of community safety. Remove the police from responsibilities best undertaken by others! We will follow closely the city’s future gains in achieving these and other reforms.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Phillips, MSW, PhD. Rev. Dr. Cheri di Novo CM

Chair of the Church Board Minister

cc. TPSB, ARAP, TNC, SURJ, Faith in the City, Toronto Area Interfaith Council

Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church and Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts
427 Bloor St W, Toronto ON M5S 1X7  | (416) 922-8435 | www.trinitystpauls.ca | tsp@trinitystpauls.ca