toronto bylaw officer

Two Black women say they were racially profiled by a bylaw officer in Toronto

A Toronto bylaw officer is under investigation after two Black women said they were racially profiled in Centennial Park on Tuesday morning.

The interaction was posted to Twitter by their friend, Teresa Agyemang, who posted two parts of the video on Twitter that afternoon.

One of the women, Deborah, said she and her friend Eva entered the park through an open gate where others were playing on the field. After an hour, two white teenagers came up to the pair saying they had to leave as a bylaw officer had pulled up.

The white teenagers decided to hop the gate to get to their car, after which they helped Deborah and Eva who followed suit.

During this time, the officer watched the teens and the women, but it was only until Deborah and Eva tried to hop over, did he approach them. In the clips, the officer claims he asked the teens for their ID, to which they deny, saying that he did not ask them for anything.

According to Deborah, the officer threatened them right from the start. He reportedly told them:"If this were my home, I would be licensed to shoot you both." He then asked for their IDs. "He threatened our lives. This could’ve been a completely different story if he actually had something on him," Deborah told blogTO. 

She sent in another video in which the teens explicitly state that the officer was not using the threatening language against them, but to the two Black women.

A report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 2018, shows that Black people are 20 times more likely than white people to have a fatal incident involving Toronto police. Yet, Black people only make up roughly 9 per cent of Toronto’s population.

When the women repeatedly asked why they were being targeted, they said the officer did not respond and continued to antagonize them. He finally gave them two options — show him their IDs or leave. They chose the latter.

When Deborah brought around her car, the officer allegedly took his phone out to try and take a picture of her license plate. It was then that Deborah finally took a stance, fed up with the harassment, that she spoke loudly to the officer so she could gain the attention of others nearby.

Witnesses started gathering around asking the Black women if they were OK and if they needed help. According to Deborah, even the witnesses were trying to get the officer to back off.

When the friends got home, they contacted 311 and spoke with the officer's manager. After that, people on social media started writing emails to the city about launching an investigation into the matter.

Within a few hours, the city tweeted a statement saying that an investigation would be held.

While it was initially supposed to be led by the Municipal Licensing and Standards division, who employs the officer, with assistance from the People and Equity division and the city’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism unit, they later retracted their statement. 

Mayor John Tory also tweeted about the incident, stating that the allegations are “extremely disturbing” and it warrants a full and complete investigation.

According to Deborah, she and Eva had not even been contacted about the investigation and she found out through social media. She says the officer reportedly told the pair that their conversation had been recorded. As the investigation is underway, she hopes they can retrieve that footage and get to the truth.

On June 8, Toronto officially declared anti-black racism a public health crisis. The news came following calls made by numerous Black health leaders in the province to confront white supremacy and address this form of racism in Ontario.

Deborah says she feels mentally drained following this ordeal, with both friends struggling to sleep at night and from the negative impact this video being on the internet has had on them mentally.

"I’d close my eyes and I’d wake up to keep reliving everything again. I'm being shown as this woman who just yells loudly on the internet. There's also been some negative comments that I'm receiving. It's a lot," she said. 

The incident occurs after weeks of protests against anti-Black racism throughout Canada and the U.S. following the murders of George Floyd and death of Regis Korchinski-Pacquet.

Lead photo by

Teresa Agyemang

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