Politician mocked for wearing bulletproof vest to Jane and Finch
The new head of Ontario's anti-racism directorate is being slammed as "inexcusably racist" this week for stating that he wore a bulletproof vest to do a police ride-along in Toronto's Jane and Finch neighbourhood.
"I went out to Jane and Finch, put on a bulletproof vest, and spent 7 o'clock to 1 o'clock in the morning visiting sites that had previously had bullet-ridden people killed in the middle of the night," said Michael Tibollo, a Progressive Conservative MPP for Vaughan–Woodbridge, during question period at Queen's Park on Wednesday.
"The police need tools to work with. They're doing an incredible job ensuring that our streets are safe."
Tibollo, who is also the province's Minister of Community Safety and Corrections, was responding to a question about whether or not his party wants to bring police carding back in Toronto.
This morning, the NDP MPP for Brampton North @KevinYardeNDP asked the minister appointed to oversee Ontario's Anti-Racism Directorate about ending discriminatory carding.— Ontario NDP (@OntarioNDP) July 18, 2018
His answer is appalling. Share if you agree. #onpoli pic.twitter.com/vlDMBNtMdQ
He didn't give a direct answer about the controversial practice, which allows officers to randomly and arbitrarily stop and question anyone, but he did recount a recent trip he'd taken to one of Toronto's most reputedly "dangerous" hoods.
Jane and Finch is a predominantly black, traditionally lower-income neighbourhood that's known, among other things, for its high rate of violent crimes. It is considered a "priority area" by the City of Toronto.
Tibollo went there with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and members of the Toronto Police Service earlier this month as part of a larger, city-wide push to address gun and gang violence.
I had the opportunity to travel around 31 Division and learn about the great work of our police force. We are committed to work with our Police to ensure safe neighborhoods free of guns and gang violence. Glad to have Premier Ford join me and hear his concerns as well.@ONsafety pic.twitter.com/4fpGUfTdhD— Michael Tibollo (@MichaelTibollo) July 8, 2018
Straightforward as his intentions might have been, Tibollo's comments about wearing a bulletproof vest that day (which is standard practice for any police ride along, by the way) was immediately criticized by political opponents.
"Conservative minister Michael Tibollo's comment this morning about wearing a bulletproof vest at Jane and Finch is inexcusably racist," said NDP leader Andrea Horwath on Wednesday afternoon.
"Anyone who would say something so divisive has no credibility to continue to oversee Ontario's Anti-Racism Directorate."
Conservative minister Michael Tibollo's comment this morning about wearing a bulletproof vest at Jane and Finch is inexcusably racist. Anyone who would say something so divisive has no credibility to continue to oversee Ontario's Anti-Racism Directorate. #onpoli— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) July 18, 2018
"It is unfortunate the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services made remarks that stigmatize an entire neighbourhood in such an unfair light," wrote Green Party MPP Mike Schreiner similarly.
"Comments such as these reinforce unhelpful stereotypes that perpetuate racism."
The saddest part of @MichaelTibollo statement, is that so many people across Ontario have this same negative view of Jane Finch. The low expectations and stigma affects our young people emotionally, and mentally. My student advisory council speaks on this all the time. Enough.— Tiffany Ford (@TiffanyFordTO) July 18, 2018
Many members of the community appear to agree, and have been speaking out against Tibollo's comments on Twitter since news of them first broke.
"We would encourage Michael Tibollo to be mindful of the language he uses when addressing issues of race and marginalization," wrote an account dedicated to York Region District School Board students.
"You hold the lives of young people in your hands now, Minister. It is a tremendous responsibility."
Shame on you @MichaelTibollo Your stunt not only hurt a community, it opens the door for every racist, xenophobic wing nut to infest this province. We are better than that. If that is how you plan to conduct yourself...resign! You will not take us down this path #NotInMyProvince— Kevin Frankish (@KevinFrankish) July 19, 2018
Tibollo responded to the allegations against him on Twitter, writing that any attempts to spin his bulletproof vest comments were merely "petty partisan politics."
This only seemed to befuddle critics even more.
And here I thought you were the Minister of Community Safety. As well as the minister responsible for the Anti-Racism Directorate.— Andray (@andraydomise) July 18, 2018
And yet, you neither respond to the community, nor apologize for your racism.
This is truly awkward.
Horwath actually demanded that Tibollo apologize for his "racist" remark during a public meeting on Thursday morning, telling him that "you don't build trust with racist slurs."
An apology is not what happened.
Now, in light of the situation, Jane Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAAP) is calling upon Tibollo to resign as Community Safety and Corrections Minister, as well as from his post heading Ontario’s anti-racism directorate.
"Residents of Jane-Finch Community have been experiencing gun violence like many other neighbourhoods across Toronto and the GTA," reads a press release from JFAAP.
"What makes Jane-Finch and other low-income and racialized neighbourhoods distinct is an ongoing systemic violence perpetuated by different levels of government through years and years of disastrous planning, neglect, discrimination, high unemployment, diminishing public schools, unsafe and unaffordable housing, a broken public transit system, lack of affordable healthy foods and an overall economic apartheid that has been undeniably documented and proven."
I grew up in Jane &Finch then Rexdale I ALWAYS felt safe but more importantly the only people who ever made me feel unsafe in my own hoods were the police, especially under TAVIS It was my community &we all looked out for each other @MichaelTibollo is a racist & ignorant #ONpoli— 🇨🇦Leena 🇮🇳🇵🇰🇸🇬♥️ (@CrazedIndianW) July 19, 2018
"Thousands of residents of Jane-Finch, from over one hundred cultural backgrounds, proudly live in the neighbourhood, without bulletproof vest or fear of each other," the statement continues, "knowing that the most brutal violence imposed on them has been caused by poverty and racial discrimination reproduced by all levels of government, and years of austerity and rich-loving/poor-bashing policies."
The group says it is seeking both Tibollo's resignation and an apology from the provincial government following yesterday's comments to the legislature.
And I lived and worked there for years -- and would live there again! Me a 69 year old white woman....carrying a purse....shopping, walking, jogging! without a fucking bullet proof vest @MichaelTibollo #MichaelRibolloMustResignNow— (((Sandra))) (@sandraelleni) July 18, 2018
"Instead of scapegoating and stereotyping our community, stop cutting community programs and services, stop providing more tax breaks to the rich and corporations so they can become even richer, stop destroying our public schools and creating more precarious employment and stop justifying more policing in our neighbourhoods," advises the organization.
"FAAP calls on all community based organizations and concerned individuals in the Jane-Finch community and our allies across the City to strongly stand against these kinds of blatant racist attacks on our community and demand social and economic justice for all."
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