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Ken Stone – Speech to the Hamilton Police Services Board

Ken Stone, Chair Community Coalition Against Racism
September 21, 2005.

Dear members of the Police Services Board and of the public:

The Community Coalition Against Racism regards the trip to Israel taken by Chief Mullan in March, 2005, as a grave mistake. We see it as a waste of the taxpayers’ money. We view it as harmful to the Canadian public interest. In particular, we observe it as detrimental to the interests of people of colour in Hamilton.

But it is bigger than a Hamilton issue. This junket to Israel was organized in the offices of Monte Kwinter, the Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. The stated purpose of the trip was an in-service for police chiefs to learn from Israeli anti-terrorist methods. However, that description was merely a smokescreen. If training had been its real purpose, then Mr. Kwinter’s ministry would have funded the trip in toto. Instead, he snuck the junket through the back door by arranging for sixty per cent of the expenses of the trip to be borne by his friends in the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), as well as the State of Israel. its airlines, tourism ministry, and hotels. Imagine an in-service for police, who are special members of society, allowed by law to carry arms and deliver lethal force against ordinary citizens, paid for by a foreign country! One would think that only happens in the third world! But, on top of that, it turns out that none of the executive members of the CJC or UJA, who organized this all-expenses-paid perk for Mr. Kwinter, his wife, and thirty police chiefs seem to be listed in the Lobbyists Registration, a requirement since 1996 in Ontario. So Mr. Kwinter, the minister responsible for policing in Ontario, himself may be guilty of organizing a trip, through illegal means. The Ontario Committee for Fairness in Policing, of which CCAR is a member, has lodged a formal complaint over the financing of this trip with Lynn Morrison, Registrar of the Act.

But there is still more dirt in this smokescreen. By organizing such a high-powered delegation of opinion-makers to Israel, Mr. Kwinter is making a powerful statement of support for Israel, legitimating a country that has been condemned by the world community through the United Nations over sixty times for its brutal and illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; for its numerous violations of international law; and for its abuses of the of the Palestinian people whose lands it steals, whose human rights are trampled upon on every day, and who are forced to live as virtual prisoners in apartheid-like conditions in a country that used to belong to them. During the last provincial election, I do not recall the Liberal Party of Ontario having, as one of the planks of its political platform, a promise to try to prop up the sagging international reputation of Israel through support from Queen’s Park. It didn’t because foreign policy is the prerogative of the Government of Canada and not the Province of Ontario. What Mr. Kwinter has done, then, is to abuse his political position by trying to insinuate his hidden political agenda – to promote the State of Israel at all costs – into the workings of the Ontario Legislature.

The Ontario Committee for Fairness in Policing has sent a letter to the justice critics of all three political parties at Queen’s Park asking each to approach Mr. Coulter Osborne, the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario, with a complaint about Mr. Kwinter’s abuse of authority.

Once the trip to Israel was organized, Mr. Kwinter went about soliciting police chiefs around the province (he is after all the solicitor-general) to join the junket. From the point of view of the Hamilton chief and Board, who apparently were personally approached by Mr. Kwinter, it might have been difficult to say “no” to your boss. However, many police chiefs and Boards across Ontario did just that. They must have said to themselves, “The Middle East is a hot potato. Why would we want to wade into that boiling cauldron?” Or they might have thought, “If we go on this very one-sided travel extravaganza, we will certainly lose support for policing in our rapidly-growing Arab and Muslim communities.” Or they might have asked themselves, “Since we are not running an illegal military occupation here in Ontario, what are we going to learn from the Israelis?” Or they might have noted, as did Bill Dunphy of the Hamilton Spectator, that Israel anti-terrorism is doomed to fail: a political solution, not policing, is the only way to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

But that is not what happened in Hamilton. Chief Mullan make a serious error in judgment and you, the members of the HPS Board, forked over the other forty per cent of the expenses from the taxpayer’s money to send him on his way.

As a result of your support for his trip, ladies and gentlemen of the Board, you have accomplished three things: you have aggravated the problem of racial profiling in Hamilton, you have weakened the practice of community policing, and you have made the lives of the public, and particularly, those of visible minorities less safe.

For years, CCAR has been trying to get the HPS to acknowledge that it suffers from a systemic problem of racial profiling. We know it does because every year we are approached by persons of colour with heart-rending stories of bias and sometimes injury inflicted on them by Hamilton police officers. Unlike the courageous stand taken by Chief Closs of Kingston who acknowledged the problem in his own force, our Hamilton police chiefs and Board members insist that racial profiling in Hamilton is limited to isolated incidents confined to a few “rotten apples” in the force. And we get this line in the face of every study and Royal Commission conducted over the last fifteen years in this province which found that racism permeated every facet of policing, courts, and correctional services in Ontario.

Since 9/11, Arabs and Muslims have been increasingly singled out for racial profiling, not only at work, in the school yard, on the street, in the movies and in the media, but also at the hands of the authorities: at customs, from CSIS and the RCMP, and, according to anecdotal evidence, our local police.

The effect of Chief Mullan’s trip can only worsen the problem. It will translate into increased racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims in Hamilton because it feeds into the stereotype of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists. The cop on the beat can read between the lines of the news story. He or she knows that, despite the token two-hour meeting with representatives of the Palestinian Authority, tacked onto last day of the chief’s trip to Israel, like the figleaf over the genitals of characters in mediieval church paintings, the real point of the trip was to depict the Israelis as the good guys, who have to fight the evil of terrorism. Conversely, the beat cop can figure out that, if the Israelis are held up as “the good guys”, then the Palestinians, who are mostly Arabs and Muslims, must be “the bad guys”. In this way, Brian Mullan’s trip to Israel translates into a stereotypical mindset of officers patrolling the streets of Hamilton.

For the record, I was raised in a Jewish home in Forest Hill Village in what is now Toronto. Until I reached university, I was not even aware that there was a difference between Zionism and Judaism. During my childhood, I used to collect coins to fill little blue boxes for the Jewish National Fund, the main instrument used to expropriate the lands of Palestinian farmers. In my valedictory speech for the graduating class at the Beth Sholom Synagogue School, I praised the project of building a Zionist state in the Land of Palestine. Zionism is the political philosophy first espoused by Theodore Herzl in a book published in 1894 called The Jewish State. In it, he proposed a plan to colonize Palestine with Jews and to deport the Palestinian inhabitants to beyond the Tigris and Eurphrates, that is, to present -day Iraq.

However, since my own visit to the Middle East in 1972, during which I toured Palestinian refugee camps and witnessed the racist treatment and segregation of the Arabs within Israel, I do not regard the Palestinians as the problem. Rather, in my opinion, it is Israel that is a terror state: it terrorizes the Palestinian people whom it has virtually jailed and brutalized within the confines of its illegal military occupation and it routinely terrorizes its neighbouring Arab countries with its huge military might, complete with nuclear weapons.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Board, community policing is your official philosophy of policing. In it, you rely upon the goodwill and support of all the minority communities, which make up the whole Hamilton community, to support the HPS. Needless to say, by sending the chief on the Israeli junket, you have alienated the support of a large segment of the Arab and Muslim community. One of the most fundamental rights of citizenship in Canada is equality before the law. The Arab or Muslim youth on the street, whose family arrived in Canada five years ago, is entitled to expect that the cop on the beat will treat him with just as much respect as a white adult descended from six generations of immigrants from the British Isles. But that trust is no longer going to be in the youth’s mind or his parents’. The effects of the junket to Israel were poisonous to better relations between police and minority communities in Hamilton. It will take a while for the poison to dissipate. But the best antidote would be for you, members of the Board, to admit your error in approving of the chief’s visit to Israel.

Finally, the junket to Israel has been a waste of taxpayers’ money because it has resulted in the community becoming less safe, rather than more safe. I say this because of the nature of Israeli policing from which Brian Mullan has admitted he has learned a lot. Israeli policing methods include home invasions without warrants, arrest without charges, indefinite detention without trial, home demolitions, curfews, selective assassination, and shooting to kill suspects. Believe me, the taxpayers of Hamilton want no part of any of these. But the very fact that the minister of policing for Ontario, Mr. Monte Kwinter sent thirty police chiefs to Israel to observe these methods put these repugnant policing tactics on the agenda. In the context of an emergency, for instance, like the subway bombings in London, England, innocent people can be killed. Jean Charles de Menezes, the 28 year old Brazilian electrician was shot in the head eight times in front of hundreds of horrified transit riders by two London cops, who, according to Jimmy Burns of the Financial Times of July 25, 2005, were instructed by trainers, trained in Israel. The HPS must renounce the use of such tactics here in Hamilton.

CCAR has enjoyed a working relationship with the HPS over the years. Both Chief Robertson and Chief Mullan have maintained an open-door policy for us whenever we feel we need to raise our concerns about racial equality and policing in Hamilton. Chief Robertson spoke at our public forums and we have spoken at meetings organized by the HPS. We have worked together to fight hate crimes and to recruit visible minorities into the Hamilton Police Service. We are not in the business of cop bashing. So, when we say that Chief Mullan’s trip to Israel was a big mistake, our general motivation is to promote harmonious race relations in Hamilton and our immediate aim is to improve policing in Hamilton.

Brian Mullan and you members of the Board need to fess up and admit you all made a serious error of judgment. It is always difficult for public officials publicly to acknowledge mistakes. However, it should be slightly easier in this case because you at least have the excuse that your boss, Mr. Monte Kwinter, advised you to do it. We all make mistakes. To err is human, goes the old adage. Even I am willing to own up to one or two mistakes in my last six decades.

In our complaint, CCAR has proposed several remedial actions which are reasonable and cost the taxpayers very little. They are:

  1. the recovery of public funds spent on this trip;
  2. an apology to the Hamilton community, and especially to Hamilton’s Palestinian community, which has seen relatives and families under Israeli occupation subjected to multiple abuses;
  3. a program of education and sensitivity training for the police chief and members of the Police Service Board on the special problems of racial discrimination faced by members of Hamilton’s Arab and Muslim communities;
  4. the establishment, through a careful review, of criteria for sending officials of the HPS on trips outside of Canada.

In conclusion, rather than send the police chief to Israel to learn Israeli anti-terrorist methods, it might have been a better idea to invite Israeli police here to learn about anti-racism and policing in a multicultural setting.

Thank you for your attention.