The City of Toronto has launched an investigation after two Black women alleged they were racially targeted by a bylaw enforcement official during a visit to Centennial Park in Etobicoke.
Videos which were posted to Instagram on Tuesday show the women repeatedly asking the bylaw official why he asked them to provide identification as they were accessing the park, and no one else.
The videos also caught the attention of Toronto Mayor John Tory. “No bylaw officer should ever threaten or even suggest violence,” Tory posted on Twitter on Tuesday night. “While we await the results of this investigation, I want to be clear that as Mayor I will not tolerate any City of Toronto employees engaging in behaviour that threatens residents or demonstrates anti-Black racism.”
Eva, who declined to give her last name because she said she feared retribution, told the National Post the incident occurred on Tuesday morning after she and a friend had worked out on a running track at the park. When they had arrived at the park earlier that morning, she said, the gate to that area of the park was already open, and she could see several other people working out there. City workers could also be seen working on a nearby stadium.
However, once they finished their work out and headed back to the parking lot, the gate that they had entered through, was closed. Two boys, who walked with the women, hopped over the gate and offered to help the women with their workout gear. As Eva and her friend handed over their equipment to the boys before hopping over themselves, the bylaw officer approached them.
Eva alleged that the first thing the officer said to her was, “Do you know you’re trespassing right now and if you were at my home, I could shoot you?.”
“I was so shocked,” Eva told the Post. The alleged remark by the officer is not shown in the video.
In one video, Eva and her friend chastise the park official for asking for their identification, but no one else’s. The official, whose City of Toronto badge can be seen in clips, can be seen denying that he was only targeting the women, saying he asked everyone for their I.D. One of the boys, however, says on the video that they weren’t asked for identification. “As soon as we hopped over, he only starting making comments at you guys,” he can be seen saying.
In the same video, the officer denied saying that he could shoot the women for trespassing.
“Again, I said no such thing,” he said. In another video, he said he “believed (he) was addressing these people,” when he mentioned trespassing. However, one of the boys is seen saying in the video that the official had not been addressing him and his friend.
The officer also said in the video that he would write the womens’ license plate down, because it is his job. But Eva told the Post that after the incident attracted attention from passersby, the official let the women go without taking down their plate number.
The videos have since been viewed more than 41,000 times on social media.
Brad Ross, communications officer for the City of Toronto, said the incident is now under investigation.
“ The City of Toronto is aware of this incident, and has seen the video, involving two Black residents and a bylaw enforcement officer at Centennial Park this morning,” reads the statement provided Tuesday.
“The City immediately initiated an investigation, which is being led by the Municipal Licensing & Standards division with help from People & Equity, and the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit.”
Eva said she didn’t believe the comments were racially motivated at first. “I had to tell myself, Eva, this is racial,” she said.