Skip to main content

After rallying outside the provincial legislature at Queens Park, Black Lives Matter protesters march back to Toronto police headquarters on April 4 2016.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Saturday he has committed to a public meeting with Black Lives Matters Toronto after taking part in a private discussion with a number of black community leaders at City Hall.

"The Black Lives Matter of 2016 . . . are really no different than a lot of the activists who brought about so many positive changes in terms of our respect for human rights in the past," Mr. Tory said after the meeting.

The private two-hour discussion at city hall was attended by Mr. Tory, Toronto Chief of Police Mark Saunders and 15 to 20 leaders and members of the black community.

The meeting was a result of Mr. Tory and Chief Saunders coming under fire by BLMTO for not addressing their concerns of racial profiling on the Toronto police force.

The group has pointed to police carding, which they say unfairly targets people of colour, and the absence of a police indictment following Special Investigations Unit's probe into the police shooting death last year of Andrew Loku as justification of their concerns.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said on Thursday that the SIU report concerning the shooting of Mr. Loku will be made public.

Chief Saunders said that he walked away from the city hall meeting "a lot wiser," but said he was unsure if he would attend the public discussion with BLMTO. He said he has sought a private meeting with the group in the past, but his offers were refused.

A BLMTO co-founder, Pascale Diverlus, said that a private meeting with the police chief and Mr. Tory was never their goal.

"There's nothing that you can say to us that you should not be able to say to your constituents within this city," said Ms. Diverlus, at a press conference following Mr. Tory's private discussion.

She called Mr. Tory's offer to meet publicly with the group a "huge victory" for BLMTO, saying they have been asking for an open discussion with the mayor for more than a year.

Mr. Tory said the focus of the meeting was on "my becoming comfortable with the fact there are very passionate advocates out there who are going to perhaps articulate their concerns with an urgency and a passion that we cannot be afraid of, but rather embrace. We have to embrace that by having them come to the table."

One of those called in to the meeting was Neil Price, a community educator.

Mr. Price said that the message conveyed was that a dialogue cannot proceed without BLMTO being at the table.

"It was clear to me that he received that message," Mr. Price said.

He also commented on what he called a missed opportunity for Chief Saunders to address the BLMTO members who had protested for 15 days in front of the police headquarters in March.

"I think [Chief Saunders] takes that message away. And now, the expectation is that there will be action," he said.

"A lot of discussion has been made about [BLMTO's] tactics and their being boisterous and our message was 'yeah, they're frustrated. And they have every right to be,' " Mr. Price said.

The date and location of the public meeting between BLMTO and Mr. Tory has yet to be set.

Interact with The Globe