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.