August 21, 2013 issue
Headline News
OFL, advocacy groups agonize over latest police shootings

Safety concerns for families expressed

Jackie Christopher (right), Irwin Nanda (left) and Attorney Peter Rosenthal and Racquiah Topey (standing) at the police shooting press conference earlier last week at the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.ack home’. (William Doyle-Marshall pix)

By William Doyle-Marshall
Tears and determination accompanied serious words of advocacy at a mid-August press conference for victims of police shootings and their families at the offices of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations in downtown Toronto.
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) representing 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario co-hosted the conference with Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Black Action Defence Coalition, the families of the victims and the organization from Grief to Action.
Irwin Nanda, Executive Vice President of the OFL said his organization has been working closely with the community to take action on the Sammy Yatim case (most recent Toronto police shooting) and to call for broader action because union members expect the organization to act.
“Working people across the province are concerned about the security of our families and our children in the streets of our cities. We are demanding a full and independent investigation of police response to conflict resolution that covers right from the Attorney General’s office to the frontline response,” Nanda told the gathering of media practitioners.
“Decades of inquest reports and recommendations are gathering dust on shelves while the bodies of victims are piling up. The Ombudsman investigation is a vital step, but the province must go further,” said OFL Executive Vice-President. As a result, the public are demanding an independent investigation into police training, policies and practices from the highest levels of decision-making right down to the front line response, Nanda said.
Yatim’s family members as well as other victims of police shooting want to know why this tragedy. Why no de-escalation? Why no Emergency Task Force? Why only one officer is charged? The labour body and its supporters are calling for an independent investigation of police wrong doing and the training they are receiving.
Jackie Christopher whose son O’Brien Christopher-Reid was shot in a park by police broke down in tears before telling journalists she could not watch the news after Yatim was shot. She turned off the television because it was too close to home.
“Another mother has lost a child because the Justice System, the police system have failed us again,” she said between sobs.
Reflecting on past inquests including her son’s, Ms Christopher lamented that despite the recommendations that came out of those inquests nothing was done and the justice system that people are urged to believe in, has failed them again.
“I hope this is the last death this way. I hope the rally that’s called today, I hope all of this that’s happening is going to have an impact on the justice system. I am hoping that this is not just another show. Mothers are losing their sons. My daughter lost her brother, my son lost his brother. He’s still going through a hard time because of that. I don’t live a day without thinking about O’Brien and what he did, why he was gunned down the way he was. I can’t even begin to imagine what this (Yatim's) family is going through,” Christopher concluded.
“It is not enough,” Nanda said, “to have Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair announce a review of local policies because the reality is there are over 52 police chiefs and 52 police departments in Ontario; and each one of them has their own policies and practices but the tragedies are identical.”
It is time for the government of Ontario to take the responsibility and institute a province wide overhaul on police training, policy and practice to change the culture of police and save lives based on de-escalation rather than deadly force, Nanda counselled.
He was adamant that this isn’t a case of one bad apple or even one bad barrel. This is about the whole approach to policing that is failing the very people it is intended to protect, the labour leader observed.
“Every force must have a uniform response and it is up to the Attorney General to ensure that it shouldn’t matter where you live, if it will determine whether you end up in a psychiatric office or a body bag,” he continued.
Other speakers at the press conference included Peter Rosenthal, Lawyer for the Michael Eligon Jr. Family; Selwyn Pieters, Criminal Defense Attorney; Reuben Abib, National Conference of Black Lawyers and Toronto & Never Again Coalition; Racquiah Topey, Black Action Defense Committee (BADC)
Family members of Sammy Yatim and other well known victims of Ontario police shootings, including Trevor Graham, Byron Debassige, Levi Schaeffer, Sylvia Klibingaitis, O’Brian Christopher Reid also participated in the conference.
No hurdles for sprinter Gordon
TT track star leans into line for golden reward
Trinidad & Tobago sprinter Jehue Gordon on his way to gold.
Port-of-Spain – In a nation grieving following two of its international athletes testing positive for banned substances, Trinidad and Tobago track star Jehue Gordon leaned into the line at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on August 14, to take the gold in the 400-metres hurdles final. His herculean effort earned Trinidad and Tobago its second gold medal in the 30-year history of the IAAF World Championships.
Gordon trailed American Michael Tinsley coming off the final turn. It was at this point where he began reaching into his inner resources, drawing inspiration from two of the most influential people in his life, his mother Marcella Woods, and coach Dr Ian Hypolite.
“On the last hurdle, I just remember my coach telling me it’s going to be a foot race coming home, put my foot down on the ground; roll my arms. And I remember my mom telling me to, ‘Push yuh head Jehue. Just remember to push your head.’ So did, and so done.”Gordon added: “My head actually left my body and went over the line, and my body went behind it. I just throw my frame, as Trinidadians would say: ‘I throw my frame over the line’.”
Tinsley, too, “threw his frame”, and the two athletes, like everyone else in the stadium, had to wait until the results showed up on the giant screen to know who took the title.
“I wanted to raise up and just see my name to the top of the board,” Gordon recalled of his feelings during the agonising wait for the result. He was “ecstatic” afterward, he recalled.
Gordon struck gold in 47.69 seconds. It was a new national record for Trinidad and Tobago, and the fastest time in the world this year.
Tinsley took the silver medal in a time of 47.70. The bronze went to Serbia’s Emir Bekric in 48.05.
The gold medal was the 11th World Championship medal for Trinidad and Tobago.
Gordon was thankful to many for his victory.
“My coach has been nagging me and telling me that my body is ready to do something phenomenal. I went out there, had that belief in him, and kept my belief in Jehovah God that he’s going to bless me with his Holy Spirit and pull me through the line,” he said.
Additionally, “My coach has been there for me since I was 12 years old. And I must give this big achievement to him.”
He also acknowledged the contribution of the Trinidad and Tobago medical staff, and paid tribute to his mother.
“My mom, I must devote this to her also. She’s been there for me through thick and also through thin. Mom, I did this for you…just continue to support me and believe in me.”
As a 17-year-old, Gordon finished fourth at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany. One year later, he was crowned world junior champion in Moncton, Canada. And at the 2012 London Olympics, he was sixth in the final.
Sport Minister Anil Roberts was also ecstatic with the victory, describing it in one word, “Wow!”
“First of all, ‘Wow!’” Roberts told the media. “What an absolutely perfect race: brilliant execution, mental toughness, it was a thing of beauty, it was artistry in motion. What an iron-man race! What an incredible, mentally tough finish!”
Roberts continued, “That race epitomises all that is good in Trinidad and Tobago, all within Jehue Gordon. I don’t think anyone has ever run a 400 metre hurdles race like that. The sort of pain he endured in that last 30 metres; to lean on the tape and win by one one-hundredth of a second is simply incredible.”
He added: “Jehue Gordon showed his promise four years ago. He has delivered. And in a big way: this is 47.69 victory, a new national record, and the current fastest. He is, in fact, the man. Congratulations to him and to his family, his coach Dr Ian Hypolite.”
Roberts noted the victory was all the more sweeter because of the times the nation is facing as well as the drug doping controversy which had overshadowed the progress of the Trinidad and Tobago team at the event.
“Especially in this time in which we find ourselves as a nation, he has brought a breath of fresh air. The country should enjoy this and pay tribute to this young man,” he said.
“It makes the victory that much sweeter. I am sure Jehue would have been surrounded by negativity and all the adverse publicity coming out of the drug incidents, and this has demonstrated his ability to rise above that. He showed, rather masterfully, his ability to focus, and to put his nose to the grindstone, and perform,” he added.
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