HWDSB to review police-school liaison program

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is presenting a motion to its Board of Trustees to review its Police Liason program and submit a report by staff in October.

Black Lives Matters protests and previous complaints from students and activists spurred the motion

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board director of education, Manny Figueiredo, and chair Alex Johnstone are facing criticism from Hamilton and Toronto police associations for a letter sent to parents that compares the murder of George Floyd with the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is poised to start deliberating its police liaison program amid pressure to end the arrangement.

HWDSB is presenting a motion to its board of trustees to review its police liason program and submit a report by staff in October.

Shawn McKillop, an HWDSB spokesperson, told CBC News that calls from the community spurred the motion for the review.

The liaison program allows for police to be called in to schools as needed or provide proactive sessions.

It has been criticized by students and activists for perpetuating racism in schools, with a report calling for an end to the program coming out earlier this year.

Some of the more recent calls came in the form protests from local Black Lives Matters activists last week.

The news of the motion follows criticism from the Hamilton Police Association after the board published a letter denouncing anti-Black racism and compared the murder of George Floyd to the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old who fell to her death from a Toronto high-rise while police were in her home responding to a 911 call. The Special Investigations unit is reviewing how police responded.

"We are outraged by the acts of anti-Black racism and violence that led to the recent deaths of members of the Black community in the United States and Canada. The deaths of George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet remind us again of the ongoing, systemic injustice, inequality and violence that target Black communities," read the HWDSB letter from director of education Manny Figueiredo, and chair Alex Johnstone.

Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association, expressed disappointment in how HWDSB compared the Toronto death with the murder of George Floyd. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association, told CBC News that HWDSB comparing the two case was "disappointing." 

"It was pretty irresponsible ... using those two incidents in the same statement and attributing them both to the same cause or the same motivations that led to the death of both these people, they're two different incidents," he said.

"It brings a lot of distrust to our police officers here in Hamilton and it's based on misinformation."

Twolan said he received a voicemail message from Johnstone, but isn't sure if he will return the call.

"We are never looking to get into disagreements with other publicly funded institutions, but when something like this comes out, it's important they're challenged," he explained.

HWDSB has declined interviews about the letter and provided a joint, written statement from Johnstone and Figueiredo.

"HWDSB joins other faculties and school boards in condemning Anti-Black racism ... we look forward to continuing the conversations with Hamilton's Black community, Hamilton Police Service and all HWDSB partners to build the schools and community we all want together," read part of the statement.