Police unions blast Hamilton school board racism letter

News Jun 06, 2020 Hamilton Spectator

Toronto and Hamilton police unions are calling the Hamilton public school board “irresponsible” for characterizing the death of a woman who fell from a 24th-floor apartment balcony while officers were there as an act of anti-Black racism.

An open letter on the board’s website links the May 27 Toronto death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet to the May 25 alleged police murder of George Floyd in Minnesota that has rocked the United States since a video showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

“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,” says the June 1 letter from board chair Alex Johnstone and education director Manny Figueiredo.

“The deaths of George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet remind us again of the ongoing, systemic injustice, inequality and violence that target Black communities.”

Mike McCormack, president of Toronto’s police association, said he’s shocked the school board would “sensationalize” Korchinski-Paquet’s death as a racist act while it’s still being probed by the province’s Special Investigations Unit.

He said it’s impossible to control comments on social media, but board officials are respected in the community and “ought to know better.”

“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.

“We see what’s happening in the States, we see what’s happening down there, and now they’re exploiting that situation by contributing to social disorder, to the potential for the same kind of violence to happen here. Based on what? No information. It’s totally offensive.”

Johnstone said the letter does “not at all” accuse the Toronto officers of anti-Black racism, insisting it focuses on racism as a systemic, historic problem, including within the board, where Black students are less successful and have lower graduation rates.

She said whether McCormack likes it or not, students are protesting Korchinski-Paquet’s death, and it’s important to listen and make changes to address inequities.

“We have not made a judgment about the outcome of the Toronto investigation, but we are acknowledging the anti-Black racism that impacts the entire Black community’s lives,” Johnstone said.

“There was a whole team of people working to put that statement together, and with that I know a lot of thought went into validating the local community,” she said.

“It’s also validating what we’re reading about, what our students are reading about, what they’re watching in the media, what they’re talking about around their dinner tables.”

Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association, called the letter “irresponsible and ill-informed,” and said it’s disappointing Johnstone as a public official doesn’t appreciate that it directly attributes the same motivations to both deaths.

“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.”

Johnstone said the board has taken several steps to address racism internally, including hiring a human rights and equity officer, initiating staff and student censuses, and conducting an audit of hiring practices.

She said it’s also reviewing the use of Hamilton police school liaison officers, with a report scheduled to go to trustees on June 22.

“We have students who do not feel safe when there are police that are in our schools and we also have students who do not feel safe when they’re gone,” she said.

Twolan said the board letter makes him question the neutrality of the review and “suggests a predetermined position on policing.”


Text of board anti-racism letter

An Open Letter from HWDSB Chair Alex Johnstone and Director Manny Figueiredo:

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. We recognize that anti-Black racism impacts the daily lives of our students, staff and families in ways that are unjust and prevalent.

The events that we see in the media are not random and isolated. They are the poisonous inheritance of anti-Black racism in history, which has been known and felt by the Black community for far too long. We believe that, as education leaders, making a statement is necessary but inadequate. Although we have done some important equity work in HWDSB, we recognize that we have a lot more work to do to fight racism in our education system. We cannot be bystanders to racism; we must work against it. Anti-Black racism is a threat that erodes the dignity of all people. It requires a commitment to act. As a result, staff have committed by the end of this month to provide an update on our Equity Action Plan as it relates to anti-Black racism and the key next steps we must take for the sake of our students.

At Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, we know that anti-Black racism exists in our community and in our schools. Black students and communities have shared their experiences in our schools. Their voices reinforce the need for greater action and concrete efforts to support their lived experiences. We will support our educators and staff to make places of learning safe for Black students, staff and families. We will share further resources and supports for students and educators in the days ahead.

It is our ethical and moral responsibility to work against anti-Black racism. Statements of belief and commitment are not enough, when the well-being of our students and community demands action. We know we need to centre the voices of Black students, staff and families to make progress. We will continue to be accountable to them as we make the necessary changes.

Police unions blast Hamilton school board racism letter

Toronto highrise death tied to alleged George Floyd murder

News Jun 06, 2020 Hamilton Spectator

Toronto and Hamilton police unions are calling the Hamilton public school board “irresponsible” for characterizing the death of a woman who fell from a 24th-floor apartment balcony while officers were there as an act of anti-Black racism.

An open letter on the board’s website links the May 27 Toronto death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet to the May 25 alleged police murder of George Floyd in Minnesota that has rocked the United States since a video showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

“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,” says the June 1 letter from board chair Alex Johnstone and education director Manny Figueiredo.

“The deaths of George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet remind us again of the ongoing, systemic injustice, inequality and violence that target Black communities.”

Mike McCormack, president of Toronto’s police association, said he’s shocked the school board would “sensationalize” Korchinski-Paquet’s death as a racist act while it’s still being probed by the province’s Special Investigations Unit.

He said it’s impossible to control comments on social media, but board officials are respected in the community and “ought to know better.”

“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.

“We see what’s happening in the States, we see what’s happening down there, and now they’re exploiting that situation by contributing to social disorder, to the potential for the same kind of violence to happen here. Based on what? No information. It’s totally offensive.”

Johnstone said the letter does “not at all” accuse the Toronto officers of anti-Black racism, insisting it focuses on racism as a systemic, historic problem, including within the board, where Black students are less successful and have lower graduation rates.

She said whether McCormack likes it or not, students are protesting Korchinski-Paquet’s death, and it’s important to listen and make changes to address inequities.

“We have not made a judgment about the outcome of the Toronto investigation, but we are acknowledging the anti-Black racism that impacts the entire Black community’s lives,” Johnstone said.

“There was a whole team of people working to put that statement together, and with that I know a lot of thought went into validating the local community,” she said.

“It’s also validating what we’re reading about, what our students are reading about, what they’re watching in the media, what they’re talking about around their dinner tables.”

Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association, called the letter “irresponsible and ill-informed,” and said it’s disappointing Johnstone as a public official doesn’t appreciate that it directly attributes the same motivations to both deaths.

“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.”

Johnstone said the board has taken several steps to address racism internally, including hiring a human rights and equity officer, initiating staff and student censuses, and conducting an audit of hiring practices.

She said it’s also reviewing the use of Hamilton police school liaison officers, with a report scheduled to go to trustees on June 22.

“We have students who do not feel safe when there are police that are in our schools and we also have students who do not feel safe when they’re gone,” she said.

Twolan said the board letter makes him question the neutrality of the review and “suggests a predetermined position on policing.”


Text of board anti-racism letter

An Open Letter from HWDSB Chair Alex Johnstone and Director Manny Figueiredo:

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. We recognize that anti-Black racism impacts the daily lives of our students, staff and families in ways that are unjust and prevalent.

The events that we see in the media are not random and isolated. They are the poisonous inheritance of anti-Black racism in history, which has been known and felt by the Black community for far too long. We believe that, as education leaders, making a statement is necessary but inadequate. Although we have done some important equity work in HWDSB, we recognize that we have a lot more work to do to fight racism in our education system. We cannot be bystanders to racism; we must work against it. Anti-Black racism is a threat that erodes the dignity of all people. It requires a commitment to act. As a result, staff have committed by the end of this month to provide an update on our Equity Action Plan as it relates to anti-Black racism and the key next steps we must take for the sake of our students.

At Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, we know that anti-Black racism exists in our community and in our schools. Black students and communities have shared their experiences in our schools. Their voices reinforce the need for greater action and concrete efforts to support their lived experiences. We will support our educators and staff to make places of learning safe for Black students, staff and families. We will share further resources and supports for students and educators in the days ahead.

It is our ethical and moral responsibility to work against anti-Black racism. Statements of belief and commitment are not enough, when the well-being of our students and community demands action. We know we need to centre the voices of Black students, staff and families to make progress. We will continue to be accountable to them as we make the necessary changes.

Police unions blast Hamilton school board racism letter

Toronto highrise death tied to alleged George Floyd murder

News Jun 06, 2020 Hamilton Spectator

Toronto and Hamilton police unions are calling the Hamilton public school board “irresponsible” for characterizing the death of a woman who fell from a 24th-floor apartment balcony while officers were there as an act of anti-Black racism.

An open letter on the board’s website links the May 27 Toronto death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet to the May 25 alleged police murder of George Floyd in Minnesota that has rocked the United States since a video showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

“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,” says the June 1 letter from board chair Alex Johnstone and education director Manny Figueiredo.

“The deaths of George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet remind us again of the ongoing, systemic injustice, inequality and violence that target Black communities.”

Mike McCormack, president of Toronto’s police association, said he’s shocked the school board would “sensationalize” Korchinski-Paquet’s death as a racist act while it’s still being probed by the province’s Special Investigations Unit.

He said it’s impossible to control comments on social media, but board officials are respected in the community and “ought to know better.”

“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.

“We see what’s happening in the States, we see what’s happening down there, and now they’re exploiting that situation by contributing to social disorder, to the potential for the same kind of violence to happen here. Based on what? No information. It’s totally offensive.”

Johnstone said the letter does “not at all” accuse the Toronto officers of anti-Black racism, insisting it focuses on racism as a systemic, historic problem, including within the board, where Black students are less successful and have lower graduation rates.

She said whether McCormack likes it or not, students are protesting Korchinski-Paquet’s death, and it’s important to listen and make changes to address inequities.

“We have not made a judgment about the outcome of the Toronto investigation, but we are acknowledging the anti-Black racism that impacts the entire Black community’s lives,” Johnstone said.

“There was a whole team of people working to put that statement together, and with that I know a lot of thought went into validating the local community,” she said.

“It’s also validating what we’re reading about, what our students are reading about, what they’re watching in the media, what they’re talking about around their dinner tables.”

Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association, called the letter “irresponsible and ill-informed,” and said it’s disappointing Johnstone as a public official doesn’t appreciate that it directly attributes the same motivations to both deaths.

“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.”

Johnstone said the board has taken several steps to address racism internally, including hiring a human rights and equity officer, initiating staff and student censuses, and conducting an audit of hiring practices.

She said it’s also reviewing the use of Hamilton police school liaison officers, with a report scheduled to go to trustees on June 22.

“We have students who do not feel safe when there are police that are in our schools and we also have students who do not feel safe when they’re gone,” she said.

Twolan said the board letter makes him question the neutrality of the review and “suggests a predetermined position on policing.”


Text of board anti-racism letter

An Open Letter from HWDSB Chair Alex Johnstone and Director Manny Figueiredo:

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. We recognize that anti-Black racism impacts the daily lives of our students, staff and families in ways that are unjust and prevalent.

The events that we see in the media are not random and isolated. They are the poisonous inheritance of anti-Black racism in history, which has been known and felt by the Black community for far too long. We believe that, as education leaders, making a statement is necessary but inadequate. Although we have done some important equity work in HWDSB, we recognize that we have a lot more work to do to fight racism in our education system. We cannot be bystanders to racism; we must work against it. Anti-Black racism is a threat that erodes the dignity of all people. It requires a commitment to act. As a result, staff have committed by the end of this month to provide an update on our Equity Action Plan as it relates to anti-Black racism and the key next steps we must take for the sake of our students.

At Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, we know that anti-Black racism exists in our community and in our schools. Black students and communities have shared their experiences in our schools. Their voices reinforce the need for greater action and concrete efforts to support their lived experiences. We will support our educators and staff to make places of learning safe for Black students, staff and families. We will share further resources and supports for students and educators in the days ahead.

It is our ethical and moral responsibility to work against anti-Black racism. Statements of belief and commitment are not enough, when the well-being of our students and community demands action. We know we need to centre the voices of Black students, staff and families to make progress. We will continue to be accountable to them as we make the necessary changes.