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Mayoral candidates’ debate focuses on racial profiling, public housing & more

Issues of concern to black Canadians in Toronto were front and centre at the latest mayoral debate on Friday evening.

The Diversity Advancement Network hosted candidates Olivia Chow, Rob Ford, David Soknacki and John Tory, as well as two black candidates, Dewitt Lee and D!onne Renée, at the Novotel hotel in North York.

Many topics were covered including transit, housing, education and jobs. But the debate really heated up when the issue came to racial profiling or carding.

When the question should carding by police be abolished or permitted, Ford said, “The bottom line is we have to have more justification and a good cause to stop or start carding everyone,” Ford said. “We started it. There’s been problems. But I am not going to sit here and say everybody isn’t going to get carded…We treat everyone the same.”

Chow told Ford, “No, not everybody [sic] are treated the same way. That’s what racial profiling is about.”

She said she was a member of the police services board during her time as a city councillor and knows the mayor has the right to sit on the police board. Ford didn’t do so for the past four years.

Chow said, “As your mayor, I will sit on the police board and stop racial profiling. We must stop this practice of carding because you know who gets carded? It’s black folks and people with brown skin.”

Tory then took a jab at Chow saying, “By the way, you were on the police services board, Olivia. That’s correct. But you were forced to resign from the board.”

“Well that’s because I dared to stand up for my right. I dared to stand up against the bully,” Chow said to applause.

Tory said he wouldn’t abolish racial profiling but would continue to reform it. “And I’d would monitor the results very, very closely.”

Public housing

On the issue of social housing, Ford said that he would not build any more government housing until the existing stock was fixed. There was $876 million worth of buildings that need to be repaired, he said.

“In Toronto community housing, nobody but nobody has done more for Toronto community housing than Rob Ford,” he said, adding that he inherited a mess at TCH but hired Eugene Jones to clean up the mess.

Lee, who stated in his opening remarks that he wanted Ford to apologize for using the N-word in the past, said he was tired of the black community accepting “barbeques and football programs” and that “Ford is not a champion for the Black community. He can no longer say that.”

Both Soknacki and Tory attacked Ford asking if it’s been so successful over the last four year why do people keep asking and putting public housing on their list of top priorities?

“And the answer is it’s not being addressed. It’s still a critical problem,” Soknacki said.

Tory said if Ford has done such a great job why is the number at the end of his term still $876 million.

Africentric schools

On whether there should be more or less Africentric schools, Renée said she was in support of them, adding if the system is working, “I say expand on it.”  Lee said “we need to make sure it goes beyond brick and mortars. We need to ensure we have Africentric after-school programs.”

Tory said he was willing to look at any effective tool to reduce a dropout rate of 40 per cent among black students. But Ford said he doesn’t believe in segregating communities in a multi-cultural city.

Map of upcoming mayoral debates: