Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Michael Tibollo is being accused of stigmatizing the Jane and Finch community by wearing a bulletproof vest during a police ride-along in the area.
Tibollo, who also oversees Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate, mentioned the vest while responding to a question on carding from NDP MPP Kevin Yarde in the legislature on Wednesday,
“Personally, I went out to Jane and Finch, put on a bulletproof vest, and spent 7:00 to 1:00 in the morning visiting sites that had previously had bullet-ridden people killed in the middle of the night,” Tibollo said. “The police need tools to work with.”
Horwath said in a tweet Tibollo’s comment was “inexcusably racist.”
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner concurred.
“It is unfortunate the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and Minister in charge of the Anti-Racism Directorate would make remarks that stigmatize an entire neighbourbood in such an unfair light,” he said in a statement.
“Comments such as these reinforce unhelpful stereotypes that perpetuate racism. Minister Tibollo should issue an apology to the many people who call the Jane and Finch community home.”
On July 7, Tibollo tweeted a photo of himself in the bulletproof vest during a ride-along with police.
Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash explained why a vest was needed.
“When police do a ride-along, there is a safety assessment,” he said in an email. “That assessment takes into account a variety of factors. Since we always err on the side of caution, there is a presumption that the person doing the ride-along will be provided with a vest.”
Tibollo called Horwath’s criticism “petty partisan politics.”
“Any attempt to spin my comments this morning, is petty partisan politics. I am proud to support our police, and I will continue to work with communities and front-line officers to make sure our neighbourhoods are safe,” Tibollo tweeted.