Weeknotes, August 25 – August 31

Last Monday, City Council met. These media stories came from the outcomes of that meeting:

I searched the news trying to find out whether Transit Windsor was now deemed an Essential Service. There was no story on the matter that I could find and so I had to go to the archived video meeting. In doing so, I realized that if I ignored the embedded recording on the front page and followed the Past Meetings link, I would find a recording that was embedded with time stamps that link to each Agenda item. Phew!

The ability to skip around the timestamps is so great but still, much is hidden from view. In regards to the matter of Transit Windsor, evidently there was some sort of email poll among the councilors that resulted in the item being removed from discussion at this meeting, to the opposition of Councillor Holt. I have no idea what happened.

I also noticed that evidently Windsor City Council passed this resolution brought forward from Dave Hall, formerly of the Windsor Star and presently of BizX.

Therefore Be It Resolved that the City of Windsor Council recognizes that a healthy, professional news media is essential to the proper functioning of democracy in our city; urges nearby municipal councils and across Canada to recognize that a robust news media is essential to the proper functioning of democracy in their jurisdictions; endorses legislation and regulations to support and rejuvenate news outlets across Canada; and urges the federal government to move quickly to pass legislation to ensure an ecosystem for a healthy news media to serve all Canadians.And that the resolution be forwarded to the area municipalities, local M.P.s and M.P.P.s and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

Item No. 7.1.6

If you are a listener of CANADALAND, you are probably already aware of the many problems that are inherent with the Canadian Federal Government bailing out the media. I’m disappointed that City Council gave an endorsement to this resolution.

While I was looking for the Transit Windsor matter, I found something of note. Under the heading of Petitions, Councillor Fabio Costante brought forward an online petition from a Mr. Kim Elliot. The minutes of this meeting have not been released and so I don’t know exactly what this petition was but it is likely this petition from Change.org from Mr. Elliot about an incident involving the Windsor Police Services from 1997.

I like this explainer of what the role a civic petition plays from the Sudbury City Council.

Speaking of the WPS, “The Windsor Police Services board and two officers face a $600,000 defamation lawsuit from an Arby’s restaurant franchise following an incident in June. The lawsuit, filed by James Laughton Enterprises Inc., names officer Tim Kettlewell, officer Shawn Farrand and the Windsor Police Services board” (CBC Windsor).

The City of Windsor is looking for feedback on phases 3 & 4 of its Cabana Road Project. I can remember watching City Council on Cogeco way back in 2014 in absolute dismay as a single petition from residents on the unsightliness of bollards was enough to kill Windsor’s first separated cycling path on its roadways – infrastructure that is necessary to prevent accidents can leave a cyclist dead. Please join me in making a suggestion to the city to live up to its commitment to be a VisionZero city, and established separated bike lanes on Cabana Road by September 4th.

The Municipal Calendar doesn’t appear to be working at the moment, so here’s what I can tell is coming up this week:

Weeknotes, August 18 – August 24

Today there is a Windsor City Council Meeting at 11am. My annotated agenda is here.

On that note, I did not know until now that the City of Windsor’s website has Municipal Calendar that looks lovely.

It would be nice if the calendar could have also been presented as a feed (although when there are three competing calendar standards I can completely understand the choice not to do so).

Also it would nice to have the agency and board meetings listed as well, and matters relating to the Windsor Police Services Board. I made a simple Google Calendar for these.

I’m pretty angry at the tepid funding that Doug Ford’s Conservative government is giving Ontario schools to keep risks down for our children. This episode of onpoli is a good summary of the government’s missteps & its refusal to spend the $ needed. And yet there is funding for more provincial police.

TVO’s The Agenda recently caught up with the executive director of the City of Guelph’s Smart Cities office who has started up four year initiative to create Canada’s first circular food economy that was funded by the federal government’s Smart Cities Challenge. Government and civic leadership in Windsor would be wise to learn from Guelph’s focused and successful bid.

I was on Windsor CBC Radio last Tuesday speaking about how we should no longer call Windsor the 4th most diverse city in Canada because it is not/no longer true. In many ways, what my work is doing is not proving or disproving numbers but trying to change the way we use the word diversity in this city. Diversity is not immigration status or whether you are a visible minority or not. As Statistics Canada states,

Ethnic origin refers to a person’s ‘roots’ and should not be confused with citizenship, nationality, language or place of birth. For example, a person who has Canadian citizenship, speaks Punjabi (Panjabi) and was born in the United States may report Guyanese ethnic origin.

Ethnic Origin Reference Guide, 2006 Census.

By the way, the example above is not as extraordinary as you might think. When I posted this quote on Facebook, my friend who was born in Sarnia and now lives in the States, described herself in a reply as this “My mom is from trini (Hindi) and dad from Guyana (Muslim/catholic parents).”

What I’ve been thinking about since that interview is how should Windsor characterize itself now that we can bring out ‘Windsor is the 4th most diverse city in Canada’ any more. I haven’t done extensive research on the matter but it seems to me that our high level of immigration is no longer exceptional in Canada. We’re not even in the top 10 cities.

What story does our city tell now itself when its “diversity” is no longer exceptional? How does the story change if we talk about our high percentage of visible minorities or refugees instead?

Since my interview with the CBC, I haven’t seen a single reference of ‘Windsor is the 4th…” but I have seen references how we are one of most diverse cities in Canada. Again, if we want to speak from evidence, this is simply not true. It might be too soon to say, but it looks to me there is a reticence to say that Windsor has the 3rd highest percentage of visible minorities in Ontario.

Speaking of diversity, there is a new Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce in Windsor-Essex and they already had the ear of two Liberal MPs. In an interview with CBC Windsor radio, two of the Taskforce’s members were asked how their group differs from the existing City of Windsor’s Diversity Committee which was not engaged by either the mayor or city council in discussions arising from recent Black Lives Matter protests.

I’m personally very curious about how this group is going to navigate the dark and turbulent waters of municipal electoral politics. They say that they want to change the make up of city council so are they going to endorse a candidate in the upcoming Ward 7 election? I also share many of the questions that Frazier Fathers raises about this task force, namely how can this group both seek government funding (6:10) and advocate for changes in political leadership?

On April 23, 2020, CCLA joined with Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre and HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario to write to the Ontario Solicitor General outlining our significant concerns with the government’s decision to provide police with access to individuals’ personal health information.

Health Information and Policing, CCLA

From this report from the Auditor General, Windsor Police Services searched the database of personal health records 1,841 times from April 17, 2020 to July 20, 2020.

On August 18th, it was made public that a constable from the Windsor Police Services had been charged with criminal harassment.

Addendum: More reason why Ontario must end for-profit long-term care:

Weeknotes, August 11 – August 17

On August 14th, civic activist (civic influencer?) Dave Meslin shared some of the work from his latest project: a Municipal Democracy Index, “ranking Ontario’s largest cities based on a series of quantifiable metrics related to how power is shared / distributed and the degree to which local democracy is accessible, responsive and representative…”

Dave Meslin has been responsible for a variety of civic engagement projects (such as Unlock Democracy) and I am a strong supporter of his work. That being said, I did share the work with some reservations. In Canada, much of our work towards equity is based on the concept of visible minority. In the context of Employment Equity that status is based on self-identification. Fred Francis’ father is Lebanese. Does Francis consider himself as non-white? I have no idea but more importantly — I would not presume to know the answer.

I don’t think this criticism negates this work. It’s important to be reminded that our city leadership does not demographically resemble our city — for one, 8 out of 9 Windsor City Councillors are male. But I think it is necessary to complicate our thinking on this matter and ask ourselves who is racialized in this city, and who is not.

In a related matter, yesterday I published the results of my research into the oft-made claim from the Mayor’s office that Windsor is the fourth most ethnically diverse city in Canada in a post entitled, Windsor is not the 4th most ethnically diverse city in Canada so stop saying it.

The agenda for the next city council meeting on August 4th is up. I’m not promising that this is going to be a regular feature of the blog, but I added some annotations to my copy to items that I found was personally interesting.

We are in a climate emergency and not every City Council Agenda reflects this reality, but this one does as there is an Energy Initiatives, Energy Projects Summary Update to Council. Of note, the city will be “will be installing 11 dual wand (22 charging connectors) electric vehicle charging stations in various locations to include downtown, east, west, and south Windsor.

And if you were ever wondering why it seems so difficult to manage student housing, the Response to CQ10-2019 Regarding Housing Development and Regulation in Near-Campus Neighbourhoods – City Wide is a good summary. TLDR: the city believes that the University is best suited to provide housing but cannot compel them to provide this service; the city is limited by The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing which states that “discrimination includes any distinction based on a prohibited ground”, and bylaw enforcement is difficult because landlords control and influence the access to properties.

There are a lot of other matters up for discussion in this document — plans for the Civic Esplanade, a report on Affordable Housing, changes to the rates in the Local Improvement Plans to matters such as crosswalks and streetlights, guidelines on swimming pool maintenance — but the outcome that I’m most curious about is this one: That City Council BE REQUESTED to consider recognizing Transit Windsor as an essential service.

Also a heads up: on August 23rd from 3 PM – 5 PM, there will be a Solidarity Rally for Migrant Workers at 1250 Walker Rd.

Windsor is not the 4th most ethnically diverse city in Canada so stop saying it

There is oft-made claim from the Mayor’s office that Windsor is the fourth most ethnically diverse city in Canada.

But no one can find the data that backs up this statement.

Citation Needed

Out of curiosity, I checked the Wikipedia entry for Windsor, Ontario to see what they say about this matter and unfortunately it lends to more confusion than clarity. It appears that there have been some attempts to find the missing ‘fourth’ that many of us have been looking for.

Windsor attracts many immigrants from around the world. In 2016, in the city 27.7% of the population was foreign-born while in the metropolitan area, 22.9% of the population was foreign-born; this is the fourth-highest proportion for a Canadian metropolitan area.

Wikipedia contributors. Windsor, Ontario [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2020 Aug 12, 20:51 UTC [cited 2020 Aug 16]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Windsor,_Ontario&oldid=972580004.

While the immigration story of our city is super interesting (“About 40 per cent of immigrants to Windsor are refugees, compared to 15 per cent for Ontario and 12 per cent for Canada…. Iraq is the place of birth for 20.2 per cent of immigrants coming to Windsor between 2011 and 2016, while Syria represents 10.5 per cent“) I am going to contest anyone who tries to equate “fourth-highest proportion of foreign-born residents” with 4th most ethnically diverse city in Canada as it would suggest that anyone who is born in Canada can no longer be considered from an ethnicity.

The Wikipedia article has a second attempt to describe how diverse we are, this time equating diversity with the percentage of a city’s population as visible minorities — that we can promptly ignore because it’s based on data from the 2001 Census.

Visible minorities make up 25.7% of the population, making it the most diverse city in Ontario outside of the Greater Toronto Area.[60][61]

Wikipedia contributors. Windsor, Ontario [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2020 Aug 12, 20:51 UTC [cited 2020 Aug 16]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Windsor,_Ontario&oldid=972580004.

Someone needs to update this Wikipedia entry. I guess that somebody should be me.

So let’s find some better data…

A measure of diversity of diversity

While looking for a better answer to the question of ‘how diverse is Windsor’ I found this statement “currently there are over 170 ethnicities and 70 spoken languages making Windsor the fourth most ethnically diverse city in Canada” from this document from the City of Windsor entitled, Cultural Diversity. This made me realize I had always assumed that the 4th most ethnically diverse statistic referred to a percentage of our city’s population and that assumption might be wrong.

With this perspective in mind, I started looking around Statistics Canada Census data for more information. I found the 2017 Census Brief, Linguistic diversity and multilingualism in Canadian homes and noticed that it makes no mention of Windsor in the document. Instead, when the authors wanted to highlight the five most‑reported immigrant mother tongues in Canada, they chose to spotlight the census metropolitan areas of Montréal, Ottawa–Gatineau, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

This inspired me to look up the Census CMA Profile of Windsor, Ontario and to compare the number of its different ethnic origin population to these cities.

The Method

If we bring up the Windsor CMA Census Profile and bring up Ethnic Origin, we can see a table of unfiltered counts that we can download as an table of data.

For my purposes, I didn’t clean up or touch the data. I used Excel’s filter option and removed the rows with zero counts of in the Total Count of Ethnic origin population column. I then used Excel to count the number of the remaining rows. Since there are several sub-totals in the table, we cannot the equate number of remaining rows as number of ethnic-origin populations, but that’s fine because I’m looking at the relative rankings of the size of similarly structured databases.

Census, census on the wall, who is the most ethnically diverse city of them all?

For the Windsor CMA, the total number of rows was 235.

Then I followed the same process for Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa–Gatineau and ranked this set of cities from the highest number of different ethnic origin population groups in the CMA to the least.:

  1. Toronto : 278 rows
  2. Ottawa-Gatineau: 278 rows
  3. Montréal: 277 rows
  4. Vancouver: 275 rows
  5. Calgary: 275 rows
  6. Edmonton: 275 rows

Just for kicks, I checked out some other Ontario CMAs for comparison’s sake and I have again listed them from the highest number of different ethnic origin population groups to the lowest:

  • Hamilton: 262 rows
  • Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo: 259 rows
  • London: 255 rows
  • St. Catharines – Niagara: 241 rows
  • Oshawa: 245 rows
  • Windsor: 235 rows
  • Barrie: 213 rows
  • Greater Sudbury: 193 rows
  • Kingston: 221 rows
  • Guelph: 217 rows

I did not do this exercise for all of the CMAs of Canada so I don’t know what the 4th most ethnically diverse city is in Canada. But I do know that is not Windsor, Ontario.

So please stop saying it.

Addendum: but what about as a percentage of Visible Minorities?

At this point, I wanted to stop looking up census profile tables, but I knew that my work was not finished because I hadn’t looked at the category of visible minorities in the census data. And so I looked up these the Census Profiles of some of the CMAs starting first again with Windsor, Ontario as a point of reference…

Windsor’s Total visible minority population is 20.5%.
For Ontario as whole, the Total visible minority population is 29.3%.

Here are the percentages for a selection of CMAs:

  • Toronto: 51.4%
  • Montreal: 22.6%
  • Vancouver: 48.9%
  • Calgary: 33.7%
  • Ottawa–Gatineau: 21.6%
  • Edmonton: 28.1%
  • Quebec City: 4.9%
  • Winnipeg: 25.7%
  • Hamilton: 17.7%
  • Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo: 19.3%
  • London: 16.1%
  • St. Catharines – Niagara: 9.3%
  • Halifax: 11.4%
  • Oshawa: 17.2%
  • Victoria: 14.1%
  • Windsor: 20.5%
  • Sudbury: 3.7%

So this is interesting. I didn’t review all the CMAs but it appears that Windsor is likely the eighth-highest city in Canada in terms of percentage of population from visible minority groups. And if we restrict the our view to just Ontario, we are the 3rd.

But remember that data point cited in Wikipedia? In 2001, Windsor was 2nd city in Ontario when ranked by percentage of visible minorities in the population. Now we have dropped to 3rd place.

If we are generous in spirit and accept that at one time it was true that Windsor Ontario was the 4th most diverse city in Canada, then it follows that that since that time, Windsor has become less diverse relative to other cities in Canada.

Or maybe “Windsor is the fourth most diverse city in Canada” was never true to begin with.

Weeknotes, August 3rd – August 10th

Inspired by both Frazier Father’s weekly editions of A Few Thoughts… as well as the valiant cohort of writers trying to keep blogging alive by publishing Weeknotes, I thought I would try to publish a set of short Windsor-related entries on a weekly basis.

Let’s see if I can make this habit stick.

Last Tuesday (August 4th), Windsor City Council unanimously approved the following recommendation from the city (found on p. 352 of the City Council Agenda [PDF]).

This is infuriating to me for three reasons. First of all, the city and our schools now have $363,642 less in their collective budgets to serve the needs of all of us during a time of extreme need. Secondly, I share some of Alan Halberstadt’s concerns that he has outlined in two Facebook posts (August 2, August 7) in which he suggests this might be a case of conflict of interest that the auditor general should look into. Thirdly, the very premise for this tax exemption is absurd. If the property of 33 Riverside Drive is now a de facto hospital, then is it going to be regulated as one? If the property of 33 Riverside Drive houses essential workers who normally live in the United States but work in Canada, are they not just another type of migrant worker? Are the hotels that currently house our quarantined migrant workers now farms?

Speaking of migrant workers, I am tempted to send this article — Migrant worker alleges ‘kidnapping’ off local farm after abuse complaints — to anyone who blithely wonders out loud why migrant workers in Essex County are reluctant to be tested for COVID-19. Actually, blithely is the wrong word. When the Mayor repeatedly blames migrant workers for not getting tested, he is deliberately using a strategy to absolve their employers from their responsibility to provide safe working conditions.

On August 7th (Friday), the Report of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission: The Windsor Police Service and The Windsor Police Services Board was made public : (PDF or HTML). Over the weekend, I gave the report a read and made note of these points that were particularly interesting to me.

Notes on The Report of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission: The Windsor Police Service and The Windsor Police Services Board

On August 7th (Friday), the Report of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission: The Windsor Police Service and The Windsor Police Services Board was made public : (PDF or HTML). Over the weekend, I gave the report a read and found these points particularly interesting to me:

From the section, The Fairness of Promotional Processes (p. 27)

“Statements made by former and current officers included the following: Officers are more likely to be successful in promotions if they served a rotation in the TAC Unit or in the Investigations Unit. This success is said to reflect the backgrounds of senior management in the TAC Unit or the Investigations Unit… The preference for officers from the TAC Unit has limited the promotion of women as no woman has ever been assigned to the TAC Unit … Women are not encouraged to apply for the TAC Unit while men are encouraged to train and run the course with TAC members.”

And on page 32:

“Nevertheless, the Commission recommends the Service examine, in a comprehensive way, the competencies for promotion. As police services move from more traditional, paramilitary models to community-based policing, they must evaluate the emphasis placed on certain competencies in preference to others. Chief Frederick acknowledged this exercise should take place. He believes competencies have not kept up with new approaches in policing. Simply put, policing is changing, and the Service needs to change with it. Very recent events, including George Floyd’s death, the arrest of Minneapolis officers, and the protests that follow, undoubtedly reinforce the timeliness of reexamining competencies in policing. In our view, the Board should play an important role in overseeing how the Service re-evaluates how competencies are weighed and evaluated.

This report is a very carefully written one. Almost every point is qualified. I say to explain why I found the last sentence of this passage found on page 35 as so damning:

“This Report cannot speak with any precision about the extent to which female officers continue to be regularly exposed to discriminatory, sexist conduct. A police service is only successful if it equally values men and women –indeed, all its officers and employees regardless of sex, gender identity or expression, and other bases for discrimination set out in the Human Rights Code. A police service is only successful if it makes officers accountable, regardless of rank, for discriminatory conduct, whether that conduct involves sexist comments, jokes, inappropriate questions, or other forms of harassment. The Service has yet to prove that officers are truly made accountable for discriminatory conduct.”

There’s a lot in the section Workplace Harassment and Accommodation Issues. I found these passages pertaining to the insufficient oversight of the Board of Governors as single-eyebrow-raising. On page 46 is this allegation which was raised by either the complainants or in interviews the Commission conducted with other officers:

The Board Chair has financially settled several human rights complaint files without the knowledge of other Board members. Board members are not provided with regular updates related to matters before the Human Rights Tribunal. Only the Board Chair is regularly aware of what is before the Human Rights Tribunal and the legal costs associated with human rights complaints.

On page 56, The Role of the Board’s Chair and Board Oversight addresses this allegation. Somewhat.

We saw no evidence whatsoever that the Board is corrupt or that its Chair acts improperly. Some questioned whether the Chair played too large a role in decision-making before the Board was consulted. In fairness, no Board member expressed that view directly to us. The current Chair has a strong personality. However, he is respected by his fellow Board members.

Here’s the response of the Commission:

The Commission saw evidence that the settlements of human rights complaints are not necessarily approached in a consistent way. It was sometimes difficult to reconcile the approach of the Board and the Service to various human rights complaints. The Board should develop some guidelines on the considerations that should inform its decision-making around human rights settlements. There should be a regular review by the Board of ongoing human rights complaints and the lessons learned in individual cases. When a human rights complaint reveals a larger issue to be addressed, the Service and the Board must be transparent in acknowledging the existence of that issue to the Service’s members as a whole, and in identifying how the Service and/or Board have addressed the issue.

I don’t understand why The Commission is being so very delicate in the first sentence of the next paragraph:

Some of the systemic issues identified in this Report also invite consideration of the Board’s role in providing robust oversight of the Service. For example, the Service’s Accommodation Directive and Workplace Harassment Directive had not been reviewed on an ongoing basis, despite requirements for review in the Directives themselves. The Board did not develop its policy on investigating the Chief or Deputy Chiefs for an extended period of time, and the ultimate development of that policy was prompted, in part, by media scrutiny. The Board appeared, at times, to accept, without sufficient scrutiny, what it was told by the Service.

There is a lot going on in this report. The Commission points to a variety of inter-related issues that the WPS as an organization needs to improve on. The language in the report is measured to the point of under-statement which have left some WPS officers disappointed.

One thing I am happy to have learned is that apparently the OCPC is going to ask for a report from the WPS Board on the organization’s progress towards its 37 recommendations in a year’s time. I hope there’s at least one local reporter out there who has put a reminder in their calendar to follow up with the Board to ask for a copy of this future report in August of 2021.

If there is no considerable movement from the Board of Governors of the Windsor Police Board on this portfolio, it suggests to me that the City of Windsor deserves a new chair of the WPS Board.

The Inspectors We Have and the Inspectors We Need

The City of Windsor employs 500 sworn officers and approximately 150 staff.

Yet the most pressing need for our region’s safety and well-being are not those kind of inspectors.

We need inspectors who are able to inspect farms in person.

The federal government has conducted mostly remote inspections of Ontario farms that employ migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of physically entering the properties to make sure the labourers’ living conditions are safe.Employment and Social Development Canada, the department responsible for the inspections, told CBC News that over the last four months, all the farms it inspected during the initial 14-day mandatory quarantine period complied with the rules as of June 12.

But the department admitted in most cases, inspectors didn’t actually travel to the farms in question.

“For the safety of everyone involved, the majority of inspections are still being conducted remotely,” the department said in a statement. By some accounts, the inspections are done virtually. CBC News has asked for details on how the remote monitoring is conducted, but so far, the department has not provided details.

“Ottawa ‘remotely’ inspected Ontario farms while COVID-19 infected hundreds of migrant workers”, Lisa Xing · CBC News · Posted: Jul 01, 2020 5:00 AM ET | Last Updated: July 1

We need inspectors of our long-term health care facilities. From the above article above:

Unions also raised concerns when a CBC News investigation found the province was doing inspections of long-term care homes by phone before determining no problems existed. So far, about 70 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths have been residents in long-term care, and many say the virus has shed light on a system that has long failed them. 

There is a terrible disconnect between what we have long-known as a problem with long-term care and our collective non-response. As I was reminded by this article from Policy Options, it was only 2017 that there was a Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in Long-Term Care Homes System (spurred by the case of a nurse-turned-serial killer in Woodstock). Had our governments followed those recommendations three years ago, I think it’s fairly safe to assume there would have been fewer deaths from COVID-19 in Ontario.

But here we are.

I know members of the police force think that they are most maligned group of good people who are only trying to do their job, but frankly, I don’t buy it. Do you know who has it worse off? Your humble public servant whose job is to enforce the rules that are set down after every tragedy and eroded and ignored until the next tragedy strikes. I can’t think of another line of work in which it is the norm for their own organization’s (elected) leadership make it a point of to routinely publicly call out their employee’s work as wasteful, ignorant, filled with red tape, and then regularly undermine them for short-term political gain.

Speaking of which, the Mayor of Windsor, continues to undermine the work of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

(Let’s not forget that cohorts after cohort of Windsor City Council underfunded our Health Unit so those politicians could tout zero-tax increases which left us the lowest funded public health unit in all of Ontario. Just in time for a pandemic. )

I support our medical officer of health, Dr. Wajid Ahmed and the other members and staff of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Politicians at every level of government have left us vulnerable during this time of COVID-19. Let’s support the inspectors who keep us safe.

Taking Suggestions Instead of Making Change

Despite the fact that the post curiously doesn’t use the words #blacklivesmatter, I like the text that introduces the Windsor Black Lives Matter Questionnaire from the Mayor’s Facebook post. I also appreciate the fact that it tells us that the questionnaire closes July 10th.

I do not like the wording of the introduction from the questionnaire itself. But it is telling. The questionnaire was created after a virtual roundtable discussion called “Windsor Black Lives Matter Panel Discussion.” The theme of the discussion, as identified by the mayor was talking with people.

On June 19, 2020, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and Windsor Police Service Chief Pam Mizuno participated in a virtual roundtable discussion with local Black and African leaders in our community. On the theme of ‘talking with people who make you see the world differently’, the open and honest discussion that followed provided an opportunity for leaders to highlight efforts, causes and communities they champion; explain and discuss local barriers to justice and equality; and identify opportunities Windsor has to become the most inclusive and respectful city possible.

Windsor Black Lives Matter Questionnaire

I watched the entire discussion in two sittings as the panel discussion is an hour and fifty minutes long. So I can tell you what was not discussed. The word defund was not used nor any discussion about the enormous size of the police budget was brought up in conversation. Despite that there are currently three WPS members and one retired WPS member with court dates in September, the criminal conduct of certain WPS police officers was not mentioned during this Black Lives Matter discussion. Nor was the June 18th event in which an officer reacted badly to two young people taking a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter — an event that the WPS addressed in a matter that impressed me while the Mayor chose to commiserate with the unnamed officer and questioned the beliefs of those taking a knee. Frankly, this makes me wonder how much the Black Lives Matter movement has made our mayor see the world differently.

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens chairs the police services board and says the young men in the photo are entitled to their beliefs.

“You know, I thought through this and certainly the young men in that picture have a perspective. Clearly there’s something that’s on thier mind and I’d appreciate hearing what they think we could do better. What could we do to improve the situation that would make them feel comfortable not to have to take a knee? At the same time, I support our police as well and I think they do a great job.”

He says he doesn’t blame the officer for returning the food.

“If I were the officer driving that car I likely would have handed the bag back as well. I wouldn’t feel comfortable eating what’s in that bag if that’s the perspective of the people who made that food. That would cause me concern as well. So I certainly appreciate the officer’s position and I appreciate the young men in there having an opinion.”

Dilkens believes something good can come from the situation.

“These types of conversations, it’s not wrong to think that there’s some good that could come out of this. What are the perspectives of those young men? They took a knee, what are their beliefs? What do they actually believe? What would they like to see made better in the community? How can we have a conversation and include their voices in that conversation to see how we can make the place we love better together?”

“Windsor Police Launch Internal Investigation After Arby’s Incident”, AM800

I was also disappointed in the responses of the Mayor during the June 19th Black Lives Matter panel. After a considerable discussion of the racism of our school systems which have poor expectations for black youth and guides them accordingly, the topic of the poor success of WPS police recruitment racialized groups came up and in response, Mayor Dilkens suggested that the qualifications to be a police officer could be reduced.

That being said, that conversation brought my favourite moment of the entire panel. It occurred when Black Historical Research Society President Irene Moore Davis responded to the Mayor’s comments by making the connection that the unnecessary stops of black men and women by police are added to a record that, if they chose to apply to join the WPS, is used against them during the regular background check of applications — a textbook example of systemic and systematic racism. Mere moments before this particular exchange, Michael Brown, the operations manager of Rapha Christian Center, told his story about how he and his friends were stopped by police not far from his Walkerville home because it was reported that there were suspicious black men in the area.

Irene also mentioned the Human Rights Project that formally concluded in 2014. Perhaps this is a good time to mention that Windsor police are among forces with highest number of human rights complaints in Ontario with “reprisal, sex complaints highest per capita at the Windsor Police Service.”

Source: Jason Viau · CBC News · Posted: May 01, 2019

With that, I thought I would share my five recommendations for the Black Lives Matter questionnaire. I’m not entirely sure where this questionnaire will go as it appears to be from the Mayor’s communication channels. This leads nicely to my first suggestion:

1. We need a new chair of the Windsor Police Board

There is no reason why the Mayor needs to be the chair of the WPS board. As the city is still in the grips of a global pandemic, now would be an appropriate time for the Mayor to step down from his duties as Chair to concentrate on one of our greatest threats to our safety and security. There are many cities in which the Mayor of the city is not the chair of the police board. In London, Ontario the chair of the London Police Services Board is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Paediatrics at the Schulich School of Medicine.

It can be problematic when a politician holds the role of chair because their actions can be seen as reacting to political problems, rather than systemic issues. Maybe it was appropriate for the Mayor to declare a zero tolerance approach to crime on October 1, 2018. Or perhaps the Municipal election date of October 22, 2018 weighed in his decision to use an approach both known for being ineffective and disproportionately affecting marginalized and racialized people.

When Drew Dilkens announced that Windsor Ontario is going to be the first community in Canada to partner with Amazon’s Ring surveillance system, in what capacity was he acting in?

2. The Mayor must step back from his pledge to bring Amazon’s Ring to Windsor

Amazon’s Ring network would bring corporate-controlled surveillance into our neighbourhoods. For more information explaining why letting them would be undemocratic and dangerous, please read Bonnie Stewart’s One Ring to rule them all: Surveillance ‘smart’ tech won’t make Canadian cities safer, CBC’s Spark’s conversation with Chris Gilliard: Smart home security could have real impacts on privacy, racial profiling, and the other conversations we’ve started at NoRingPlease.ca

3. The budget of the Windsor Police Services must be made public.

At the moment, even our own city councillors cannot read the complete WPS budget. A budget reflects the real values of an organization.

Trust is a two way street. If the WPS does not trust its community to see its budget, I’m unsure why it expects trust in return.

4. Police who remain in the service after being convicted of crime are toxic to the force and toxic to the community

Many people are shocked when they learn that members of the police who are convicted of crime are frequently suspended or demoted but are still able to remain on the force.

Addressing this challenge of bad apples spoiling the barrel will take years of sustained effort and a will to change the culture of the WPS from above and from within and with cooperation from the Windsor Police Association.

From a quick read of the Windsor Police Services Collective Agreement, I suggest that our Windsor Police Board and other parties consider addressing what articles it can to reduce harm from these menacing officers.

03-07 a) The Board agrees that if it becomes necessary to reduce the Service, this shall be accomplished in reverse order of seniority, and further, that any recall from layoff shall be accomplished in reverse order of layoff in that the last member laid off shall be the first member recalled, further that the member’s seniority shall remain intact, if he/she returns within one (1) year, subject to s03-07(c). (revised 2006)

Perhaps those with criminal convictions can be first to be pushed out?

For more insights about how Police oversight can be improved, I would suggest the reading the short policy paper, End Police Violence. Invest in Black, Indigenous and Racialized People’s Lives from the Ontario NDP. From it, I learned:

4. d) Currently, officers face no statutory penalty for not complying with an SIU investigation
4. e) Gold-standard reports full of pragmatic improvements and recommendations, including the Tulloch Report[9], have sat on the shelf gathering dust for years
4. f) In 2012 the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, noting that officer misconduct was rarely disciplined, specifically asked the justice system to punish officers for lying, misleading the court, and fabricating evidence[10]

End Police Violence. Invest in Black, Indigenous and Racialized People’s Lives

5. Defund the police. This means: move both the funding and the responsibility to provide social services such as mental health check-ins to other providers

Windsor Police Services, like many Ontario police services, also provide community services, such as training school children as cross guards. It has been argued that many of these youth oriented services could be provided by others agencies and community groups, perhaps at considerably less cost (it’s hard to tell for sure, see Reason #3 above).

Endnote: A little less conversation, a little more action

In the wake of the wave of police brutality against protesters both in the U.S. and in Canada, agencies such as the Windsor Police Services are asking the community for suggestions on how they can hurt their community less. It appears that organizations such as the Mayor’s office is unaware that by asking for the uncompensated time and expertise of racialized people, they are further burdening people who already have to dedicating too much of their energies just to survive and thrive in an anti-black world.

If you and your organization really want to make Windsor be known as the most inclusive and welcoming community, then it is incumbent on you to make an action plan that spells out how you are going to do the long-term, unglamorous, and difficult hard work in your organization. In my humble opinion, only when you have a first draft of such a plan, should you go to the community for feedback. They might send you right back to the drawing board (and if they recommend doing so, you should do so) but at least you will not ask your community to do your homework for you.

Alternatively, rather than giving people the power to make suggestions, give racialized people the power to make change in your organization.

Law and order vs. Justice and peace

I don’t know whether it is possible to understand the protests of the current moment as a single, country-wide, thing. We know that there are those protesting police brutality, those who are inciting violence to incite more police brutality, those there to loot, and there are those who are just there because they have had enough.

It strikes me that the protests across the United States are very different from each other. But there is one commonality that has been made very clear: the collective response from the police.

Mere weeks ago, police showed remarkable repose as men with automatic-weapons walked around inside various state capitols and yelled in their faces. This week, we have seen night after night of police engaging in horrendous violence. Police cruisers drove into crowds. Journalists were shot at directly with non-lethal ordnance. Non-violent protesters were kettled and tear-gassed. Police murdered more black men.

There has been so much trauma this week in a nation that will not be allowed to grieve.

In 2016, I took up a seat in a bus of mostly women who went down to the Women’s March in Washington DC to show solidarity. When I returned, I got a call from the local CBC affiliate asking for comment in regards to public statements made by certain members of our community who called us “dumb bitches” for getting involved in another country’s politics. It was as if these people did not see that we might have common cause with those women suffering in the United States.

To protest in Canada in this moment is to show sympathy with those suffering mightily in the United States. But to protest in Canada in this moment is also making a declaration that black Canadians also have a common cause in suffering from generations of systematic racism that many white Canadians refuse to see.

Canadian police perpetuate that systematic racism. From under-policing when it comes to missing indigenous women, to over-policing when it comes to black bodies, our police — much too frequently — serve power before its community.

For years, Canadian researchers and activists have been calling for the divestment of our police services and re-investing those funds into housing and other social services sorely lacking from our communities. This moment should be their moment. But white Canadians won’t let it because they will not equate what’s happening in the United States with what is happening here because they refuse to see it.

On Tuesday, many Canadians posted black squares on their social media streams in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter.

I would suggest that each Canadian who posted a black square on their social media to ask themselves, what percentage of their taxes go to police? Then, would I ask them to look up the budget of where they live to see what that percentage really is.

I know it sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t. I found the answer in a couple of minutes on this handy chart on page 7 of Windsor’s 2020 Budget.

The largest percentage of our property tax — 21% — goes to our police services. It’s three times as much as the money we allocate to community development and health services.

Since we are experiencing a global pandemic and a historically low crime rate, I believe that this is the perfect time for us to divest from police services and to invest in housing and other social services. I realize that to state it so clearly, in this moment, invites accusation of demanding retaliation.

But I am not looking for retaliation. We want justice and peace.

Living in a city with no ambition

From this morning’s installment of newsletters in my mailbox, I read a short essay from 2008 called Cities and Ambition that brought up some uncomfortable emotions for me.

The premise of the essay is that a great city sends a message of ambition to its residents and this message matters greatly.

Now we could take up arms against this claim with scrutiny and evidence but instead I will ask you, dear reader, to instead, try this idea out. Let’s get into this premise, drive around in it, and see how far we can get.

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.

The surprising thing is how different these messages can be. New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. There are other messages too, of course. You should be hipper. You should be better looking. But the clearest message is that you should be richer.

What I like about Boston (or rather Cambridge) is that the message there is: you should be smarter. You really should get around to reading all those books you’ve been meaning to.

When you ask what message a city sends, you sometimes get surprising answers.

Cities and Ambition, Paul Graham, May 2008

Years ago, I heard Suzanne Vega telling an interviewer that whenever she finds herself in a new city, she asks herself, who would be the city, if the city was a person?

This is who Windsor is to me.

Windsor is a middle aged man who lives in the suburbs of South Windsor. He loves the Tigers and/or The Lions, college football, hockey, but stopped watching basketball when the Pistons fell from grace. Before these unprecedented times, his family would make regular shopping trips in Detroit. Well, not in Detroit proper. He only goes to downtown Detroit to watch professional sports and concerts. He thinks of Motown and Bob Seger as his music. He avoids walking and walking in downtown Windsor in particular. He has never taken his family to Uncle Tom’s Cabin but they go to the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky every winter. He can afford the fanciest golf courses in the area and that makes him feel chuffed. He loves the fact that Windsor has a long-standing history of supplying vice to Detroit: prohibition, casinos, strip clubs, but he doesn’t believe bringing retail cannabis to its neighbourhoods. He is boring.

Now before I continue, please do not reply with a ‘not all Windsor residents’ comment (otherwise known as “No Tall Men”). Yes, I know that you, dear reader, you are different. You are better than this. You have listened to Detroit techno. You go to the DIA to watch foreign films. You think we should invest in new industries in the area. You think the food scene of the region is grossly undervalued. You get really annoyed by people like me who are just so negative.

But I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about Windsor as a person. And let me tell you why I believe my characterization holds. Whenever I hear of a new initiative or project from our municipal government, I ask myself, Could this project happen in the 1950s? And if it is, then I know it will come to be. And if sounds even remotely progressive, it will fail or be kneecapped.

Every day, I read of another city that has recognized that it needs to open up its parks and its streets to its residents so they can enjoy the outside, safely. Every day, I read articles of cities that are adding miles and miles of bike lanes so that people can move freely without the ever-present gut-wrenching fear that a car will take their life or the life of a loved one.

I’m discouraged by our lack of ambition when it comes to building a better city. I’m discouraged that despite having natural habitats constitute the lowest percentage of any region in all of Ontario, we cannot seem to even maintain what little we have, much less talk about a future in which we restore and expand existing habitat. I’m discouraged when reports that suggest that Windsor could do much more to improve the quality of life of its women or that child poverty is a serious problem, the mayor and others respond by taking offense and questioning the numbers. I’m discouraged that our politicians constantly remind us of a fact is no longer true — “Windsor is the fourth most diverse city in Canada” — because this fact is not self-evident when you look at our police force or our civic leadership.

How much does it matter what message a city sends? Empirically, the answer seems to be: a lot. You might think that if you had enough strength of mind to do great things, you’d be able to transcend your environment. Where you live should make at most a couple percent difference. But if you look at the historical evidence, it seems to matter more than that. Most people who did great things were clumped together in a few places where that sort of thing was done at the time….

No matter how determined you are, it’s hard not to be influenced by the people around you. It’s not so much that you do whatever a city expects of you, but that you get discouraged when no one around you cares about the same things you do.

What do you think is the ambition of the city of Windsor?