Mark Saunders talks police carding at African Canadian Summit

Mark Saunders talks police carding at African Canadian Summit

Toronto's new police chief promised it was his "end goal" to ensure every resident is treated with respect and dignity when dealing with the police.

Mark Saunders made the remarks during a speech to some of the city's black community at the second African Canadian Summit on Wednesday morning.

Saunders' short speech touched on how he wants to work with the community to help the police better interact with Toronto's citizens. He also answered a few questions about police issues like carding and racial profiling.

The new police chief has already sat down with community members to listen to their concerns about the direction of the Toronto Police force. He wants to continue having those conversations, as well as examine training practices.

Saunders said he wants "to eliminate the word 'random'" from the police lexicon, referring to the city's controversial carding policy, which allows officers to collect information from residents even if they have committed no offence.

There is no reason that word should be in the police lexicon, he said.

But, his primary concern remains the safety of Toronto's citizens.

"I will not compromise community safety," he said.

Saunders is the city's first black police chief. He is stepping into the role during a turbulent time between the force and some minority communities. His predecessor, Bill Blair, oversaw the implementation of the city's carding policy.

After his selection, Saunders told reporters that he will do everything in his power to provide a bias-free, respectful police force.

"Community relationships determine the success or failures of our service," he said. "I do not take this lightly."

Summit wants to start dialogue

The summit aims to bring to light how African Canadians in the greater Toronto area experience higher rates of socioeconomic disadvantage. It will address violence reduction, outcome equity and good jobs in a changing economy, according to a site describing the event.

It seeks to start a dialogue with government leaders and others.

"We aim to address the root causes of youth violence and the ongoing disparities affecting our community, and develop an action plan that features concrete measures and long-term solutions to ameliorate the imperilled conditions and disparities facing too many in the black community," said Janice Gairey, of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, in a statement.

The summit is organized by the African Canadian Legal Clinic, Midaynta Community Services, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress.