HWDSB letter on racism draws criticism from Police Unions

An open letter by the Hamilton Board of Education denouncing racism has drawn fire from Police Unions in Hamilton and Toronto. The letter, signed by Board Chair Alex Johnstone and Education Director Manny Figueiredo, reads in part: “We are outraged by the acts of anti-Black racism and violence that led to the recent deaths of members of the Black community in the United States and Canada. The deaths of George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet remind us again of the ongoing, systemic injustice, inequality and violence that target Black communities.”

Police Union leaders in both communities objected to the inclusion of the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet with that of George Floyd, noting that the death of the Toronto woman is still under investigation and it has not been determined if police were responsible. Police were called to the 24th floor Toronto apartment by family members concerned that Korchinski-Paquet was having a mental health episode, asking that she be taken to the CAMH mental health facility. Initially confronted by police in the hallway outside the apartment, family members say Korchinski-Paquet asked to re-enter the apartment to use the washroom. Police escorted her inside and sometime shortly after that she fell to her death. Family members say they heard the women calling for help. A witness on the ground told the Toronto Sun that the women came out on the balcony alone, and fell as she tried to cross to the balcony of another apartment.

Board Chair Johnstone justified the reference to Korchinski-Paquet saying students are protesting her death as racism. Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association, called the letter “irresponsible and ill-informed,” “Her comment that students are protesting the death of Korchinski-Paquet might very well be the result of them receiving misinformation, such as the letter she issued,” he said. “While the letter has legitimacy and addresses real problems, using the death of Korchinski-Paquet is careless.”

Mike McCormack of the Toronto Police Association condemned the letter for attributing the woman’s death of police racism when the matter is still under investigation. “What is somebody in a position like this putting out information on an ongoing SIU investigation with absolutely no facts? It’s completely irresponsible,” McCormack said.

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  • The Board is totally wrong in jumping to conclusions regarding Korchinski-Paquet’s accidental death ( from my understanding with the available media reporting of her attempting to jump balconies ) and lumping the instance with George Floyd’s apparent murder in the United States. The Board should retract their statement with a correction as to not inflame the public.

  • A bigger issue in the background is the Police Union’s conviction in standing up for the police brotherhood under all circumstances, rather than helping its members elevate the profession by calling out and weed out the bad apples. With the power imbalance on the side of the police union, and the fact that the union is more interested in protecting its members than protecting the profession, no wonder many have so little faith in the police. Policing is a unique service to the society in it being the blunt face of the law; the union needs to re-think its real mandate. Just because everyone pays union dues doesn’t mean it should protect even the bad apples. Profession and reputation is far more important.

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