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Keep Bill Blair out of Cabinet

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Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has stated that on November 4th, he will announce his first cabinet. Recent news coverage suggests that the cabinet has now been selected and that former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair is a likely candidate for a number of roles in Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet including Defence, Public Safety or Justice Minister. As the official, final announcement of Trudeau’s first cabinet nears, we are increasingly concerned about the actions Mr. Blair might take if given any of those roles.

We recognize that the residents of Scarborough Southwest elected Mr. Blair, and that he has earned the right to represent them and their interests, but by signing here we express our grave concern at the prospect of Mr. Blair making important decisions and policy proposals that will have the potential to negatively impact the entire country.

As Police Chief, Bill Blair’s actions included:

  • Overseeing the largest mass arrest in Canadian history during the G20 Summit in Toronto in 2010 when 1105 people were arrested. Most were released without charges; only 24 were ever convicted;
  • Refusing to cooperate with the Ontario Ombudsman who conducted an inquiry into policing tactics used at the G20;
  • Attempting to mislead the public and manipulate public opinion in the immediate aftermath of the G20 arrests by putting on a display of “confiscated weapons,” many of which were later revealed to be unrelated to the G20 or those who were arrested;
  • Championing “carding” practices in the City of Toronto which encourage police officers to stop civilians who are not suspected of any crime, to question them, and to record their personal information. Between 2008–2013, Toronto Police carded over 1 million people;
  • Defending carding even when it became clear that police were disproportionately stopping and harassing people of colour and especially black men. While only 8% of Toronto’s population identified as “black” between 2008–2012, 23% of people carded were black.

Many Canadians took pride in Mr. Trudeau’s statement that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” Mr. Blair’s actions have been in direct opposition to such a sentiment. While Mr. Blair took some commendable steps during his tenure as police chief, such as working to diversify the police force, his record demonstrates that when faced with a complex challenge, he will selectively respect the rights of some Canadians, while taking away the rights of others.

Mr. Trudeau also campaigned on increased accountability and openness in government, and Canadians voted for that kind of government. Mr. Blair has never taken responsibility for the decisions he made during the G20, or for the impact that his carding policies have had on people of colour in Toronto.

If this government truly wants to chart a new path and a return to Canada’s values of inclusiveness and a free and open civil society, then we need ministers who will champion the civil and human rights of all Canadians, even during difficult times. Bill Blair has repeatedly shown that he would not be such a Minister, so we ask the Prime Minister-designate to consider these concerns before making any official announcements, and to fill cabinet roles with Members of Parliament who better reflect the values we voted for in this past election.


(Photo by John Steven Fernandez, licensed CC by 2.0)

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