TORONTO--A town hall meeting with Toronto Police Chief William Blair was held at the auditorium of the Toronto Police Headquarters on College St. on May 21, 2008.
The Toronto Police Chief met with representatives from the Vietnamese-Canadian, Korean-Canadian, Filipino-Canadian and Japanese-Canadian communities. Chief Blair sat and listened to their issues and concerns about working with the Police Service to maintain peace and order in the city and partnering with the communities to develop proactive programs that will work to strengthen the relationships between the police and the Asian-Pacific-Canadian communities in Toronto.
Organized by a Planning Committee made up of representatives from the four Asian Pacific communities as well as the Police Service with the help of PC Philip Mendoza, the event was planned to coincide with the celebration of the Asian Heritage Month. Rey Tolentino from the Filipino Centre of Toronto along with Rowena Santos Executive Assistant to MPP Cheri Dinovo co-chaired the planning committee.
The evening began with cultural performances which included the Dragon Dance from Vietnam, a dance performance from the Korean Miyoung Kim Dance Company, the heart pounding Yakudo Drums from Japan and musical renditions from Cassie Malabanan and Ramon Torralba representing the Filipino-Canadians.
Dignitaries from different Asian countries including Consul General Alejandro Mosquera of the Philippines were in the audience. Among the speakers who addressed the large crowd that filled the main lobby of the Police Headquarters at 40 College St. were: Linda Jeffrey who represented the Office of the Premier of Ontario, Councillor Raymond Cho, Dr. Alok Mukherjee of the Toronto Police Services Board and Staff Superintendent Mike Federico who read Chief Blair's speech and key note speaker Pauline Chan who co-anchors the late local evening news on CTV.
During the Town Hall meeting that followed the cultural presentations, Rey Tolentino acted as moderator and introduced the speakers from each of the community groups who addressed Chief Blair directly and cited examples of problems with police enforcement in the past. How backgrounds and previous experiences coloured the perception of policing in the city - Where fairness and equality are still goals to be achieved when it comes to the treatment of visible minorities.
Rowena Santos, a candidate in the 2006 municipal council elections for the Ward 13 Riding of Parkdale High Park, provided an overview of the objectives and goals of the proposed Asian Pacific Consultative Committee.
The speakers included Anna Do, Vice-President of the Vietnamese Association of Toronto and Quoc Tuan Khuu, youthful representatives of the Vietnamese-Canadian community who spoke of the challenges faced by refugees of war who made their way to Canada and settled in Toronto. Many were refugees who came with families broken by the war, teenage orphans and youths whose memories with police and military encounters were very often negative and scary. They related problems with gangs and illicit drug use among the youth and their desire to offer hope and alternatives through a partnership with the Police Service.
Bok Sil Shin, Chair of the Korean Inter-Agency Network and Young Lee Ha from the Korean-Canadian Women's Association related problems related to seeming discriminatory treatment of new immigrants by police officers. How victims suffer in silence because of a lack of confidence with the police.
Rosalinda Cerrudo-Javier, President of the Filipino Centre Toronto, spoke of the growing Filipino-Canadian community in Toronto. She said that there is basic respect for the law among the new immigrants but whose confidence in the police services can be enhanced by recruiting additional Filipino-Canadian officers into the Police Service. She spoke of how the Victoria Invitational Basketball Tournament over the Victoria Day weekend with “480 screaming youth from 7 to 17” was made a success because of a partnership with the Police through the efforts of Police Constable Philip Mendoza. She noted that currently there are consultative committees that exist for the Chinese, Blacks and South Asian communities. She stated that it was time for Chief Blair to approve the formation of a consultative committee that represents the immigrants from the Asian-Pacific rim.
Sid Ikeda from the Japanese Cultural Centre of Canada spoke about the long and coloured history of Japanese-Canadians in this country. How a majority of Japanese-Canadians have integrated successfully into the Canadian way of life and could serve to help new immigrants from the Asian Pacific community adjust and integrate into life in Toronto.
In his response Chief William Blair affirmed the fact that there are many issues that exist between the many communities that come from the Asian Pacific countries of the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea and Japan.
He acknowledged that the Police Service needs the help of community leaders in these communities to identify problems, solutions, recommendations and programs that will help the Police Service effectively perform its main task of maintaining peace and order in the city. How the committee will be able to promote and enhance community involvement and make recommendations to the Chief of Police for improvements in enforcement policies, develop pro-active programs and ways to ensure that we can all live in peace and harmony in our city and help our children grow to be honest, law abiding citizens. The committee will also be the liaison for the Police Service to communicate and disseminate information to our communities.
Chief William Blair finally approved the formation of the group that will serve as advisers to the Toronto Police Service and which was publicly affirmed by Chair Alok Mukherjee of the Toronto Police Services Board who was in the audience. The group will henceforth be known as the Asian Pacific Consultative Committee.
The members of the committee are: Japan:Sid Ikeda & Jason Ying; Korea: Anne Cree & Bok Sil Shin; Philippines: Rey Tolentino and Rowena Santos; Vietnam: Anna Do & Karen Cao-Le.
Members of the Toronto Police Service who participated in the Planning Committee are: Andre Goh - Unit Commander. S/Sgt Steve Pipe, PC Philip Mendoza, Etheline Komoseng, Suzanna Aguila, Aux PC Jenniger Ying Ting
In closing, Chief Blair congratulated the members of the Planning Committee for its work in preparing for the Asian Heritage Month celebrations and the formation of the Asian Pacific Consultative Committee. He reiterated his commitment to work with the APCC and his hopes of achieving the goal of serving all of the citizens of the City of Toronto.