Black To The Future Summit – Reflections: Youth Justice in Black & White
On March 21st, 2022, Julian Falconer of Falconers LLP was the featured facilitator and presenter for Working Group #4: Reflections: Youth Justice in Black & White, as part of the Black To The Future Summit hosted by The CEE (Careers Education Empowerment) Centre for Young Black Professionals, the BTTF (Black To The Future) Summit Organizing Committee, the CABR (Confronting Anti-Black Racism)-led Black Resilience Cluster, the Network for the Advancement of Black Communities (NABC), and the Harriet Tubman Community Organization. This year’s theme was “Recovering Together, Building Back Stronger”.
Mr. Falconer’s working group was centered on the examination of various institutions that intersect with the Canadian legal system, and how these institutions set up Black and Indigenous youth for failure. Participants in the working group discussed various reports including:
• “Use of Force by the Toronto Police Service” – A report prepared by the Ontario Human Rights Commission that examined/analyzed patterns of Toronto Police Service use of force incidents (July 2020);
• “Report of the Independent Street Checks Review“ – A report prepared by The Honourable Michael H. Tulloch that examined “carding” and its association with “random” street checks in the city of Toronto (January 2019);
• “Indigenous People in Criminal Court in Canada: An Exploration Using the Relative Rate Index” – A report prepared by the Research and Statistics Division at the Department of Justice that examined the overrepresentation of Indigenous individuals in Canadian criminal courts (2021);
• “Two School Shootings: 15 Years Apart” – An article written by Inori Roy and published in The Local, an independent magazine exploring urban health and social issues in Toronto, which revisited the death of Jordan Manners in the wake of Jaheim Robinson’s death. (March, 2022); and
• “The Road to Health: A Final Report On School Safety” – A report prepared by the School Community Safety Advisory Panel, of which Mr. Falconer also chaired, which came to be as a result of Jordan Manners’ death in 2007 (January 2008)
In utilizing the unsurprising but shameful statistics contained in these reports, Mr. Falconer facilitated a discussion focused on the fact that, while there has been some change in the ways the criminal legal system considers race and systemic racism, a lot more work needs to be done.
The case of Dafonte Miller was a foundational component of the discussion, as Mr. Miller’s experience with the criminal justice system represents a recent example of how a young Black man’s trust in the police has been forever shattered after he was savagely beaten by Michael Theriault (an off-duty police officer with the Toronto Police Service), and his brother. Still, to demonstrate that some progress is being made, Mr. Falconer highlighted language by Justice Tulloch in the Ontario Court of Appeal decision that upheld Michal Theriault’s conviction and sentence of nine months in jail, and a period of probation for one year.
Ultimately, the audience was left thinking about the intersectionality of how health and safety are ultimately connected with the various criminal legal institutions. Specifically, how the likelihood of a young person eventually encountering these various criminal legal institutions begins with how they and their communities are treated by the state, especially in the way schools are (under)funded.
Despite history seemingly repeating itself, and despite the multiple investigations, reinvestigations, reports, and public discourse, the Black To The Future Summit gives hope to the communities that they represent. A significant outcome of the BTTF Summit is to develop tools and strategies that can be used by the various Black-led, Black Serving and Black focused (B3) nonprofit community and their organizers to develop the capacity for offering racially marginalized youth a way forward in a society not built for their ability to succeed.
Use of Force by the Toronto Police Service: Submitted to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Dr. Scott Wortley, Dr. Ayobami Laniyonu, and Erick Laming, July 2020
Report of the Independent Street Checks Review: The Honourable Michael H. Tulloch, January 2019
Indigenous People in Criminal Court: Research and Statistics Division, Department of Justice Canada, Charbel Saghbibi, Angela Bressan, and Lysiane Paquin-Marseille, 2021
Two School Shootings, 15 Years Apart: The Local, Inori Roy, March 2022