It’s cold, it’s snowy, and the sun has gone away. But as of tomorrow, you can sit in warm, dry, food-filled places and get some good deals at local restaurants thanks to the annual Winterlicious program. When you’re full of tasty, specially priced food, it’s easier to believe that spring will someday come.
A screenshot of a video taken by a local man seconds before his arrest on January 26, 2015.
We can learn a lot from the recently publicized video of a black man being confronted and ultimately arrested by Toronto police. The video shows an unidentified young man, who was arrested in the wee hours on Monday and charged with assaulting a police officer, putting his cell phone into a police cruiser, presumably to film the name badge of one of the cops who had stopped him. Moments later, the officer exits his cruiser and rushes the man filming him—the officer can be heard saying, “You do not reach inside a fucking police vehicle!” We then hear the young man screaming as his camera shakes violently. “Get this motherfucker down!” the officer says.
For some, the lesson is a simple restatement of the officer’s remark—don’t get too close to the police and their equipment. The more important lesson, though, is that young black men in our city seem unable to avoid police interactions even when they haven’t violated the laws police are sworn to uphold. It is easy to scrutinize someone’s decision to breach an officer’s personal space—but there is a much greater need to scrutinize police interventions in public spaces, and their subsequent decisions to breach the privacy, safety, and freedoms of innocent black people.
On Thursday morning, as a select few Toronto city councillors met for a fourth consecutive day to discuss the proposed 2015 budget, a small storm was brewing outside. A low-pressure system, originating somewhere above the Prairies and steered by upper-level winds, had reached Ontario and was making its way south, preparing to deposit snow, some five to ten centimetres thick, all across the GTA. Within the lengthy document under review by the budget committee was a recommendation that promised to change the City’s response to future Prairie clippers: beginning next winter, sidewalks with high volumes of pedestrian traffic—those abutting arterial roads—would be plowed after just two centimetres of snowfall, as opposed to the five centimetres presently required to put the plows in action.
Even if the City does commit to clearing its most well-travelled sidewalks more attentively than it has in the past, a curious inequality—marked, roughly, by old municipal boundary lines—will remain unaddressed: in North York, Scarborough, and Etobicoke, the City plows sidewalks on residential streets; in York, East York, and Old Toronto, residents are expected to shovel their own or risk a $125 fine.