Toronto

'I deserve better:' Black man pinned by fare inspectors wants TTC to meet with him, apologize

A young black man who was tackled and pinned to the ground by TTC fare inspectors has penned an open letter asking that the transit agency "right the wrong it did," stop ignoring him and meet to discuss a resolution to his lawsuit.

TTC CEO says he wants to meet Reece Maxwell-Crawford once his lawsuit 'is concluded'

Police and TTC fare inspectors are seen on a video posted to Facebook holding Reece Maxwell-Crawford on the ground in February of 2018. (Bethany McBride/Facebook)

A young black man who was tackled and pinned to the ground by TTC fare inspectors is asking the transit agency to apologize and "right the wrong it did," so it can meaningfully address what he says are its racial profiling problems.

Reece Maxwell-Crawford, who has filed a lawsuit in connection with the incident, said the TTC has made "absolutely no effort" to reach out or apologize after three fare inspectors pinned him to the ground on a Toronto streetcar platform, in what he believes was an unjustified assault based on racial profiling and bias.

"The TTC cannot continue to ignore me." said Maxwell-Crawford in an open letter to CEO Rick Leary and chair Jaye Robinson released Thursday.

"I deserve better than this."

While the TTC says it is trying to tackle racism on a broad level, Maxwell-Crawford said that's meaningless unless they actually account for what happened to him.

Reece Maxwell-Crawford sent an open letter to the TTC asking for a meeting and an apology. (Submitted by Reece Maxwell-Crawford)

He released the open letter Thursday after his lawyers said the TTC did not respond to their request to discuss settling his lawsuit, which has not been tested in court.

Video shot by streetcar rider Bethany McBride shows two TTC fare inspectors pinning the teen to the ground 0:10

Three TTC fare inspectors tackled and pinned Maxwell-Crawford to the ground on a streetcar platform near St. Clair Avenue West and Bathurst Street in February 2018. 

Maxwell-Crawford, who was 19 at the time, was forcibly detained before eventually being released by Toronto police officers who had arrived at the scene.

He is suing the TTC and the Toronto Police Services Board, as well as the individual inspectors and police officers.

CEO says they can meet later

After the open letter was released, TTC CEO Rick Leary emailed Maxwell-Crawford later on Thursday saying they can meet face-to-face once the legal matter is over.

"I hope once the matter between us is concluded, you and I can sit down face-to-face and discuss ways to make the TTC even more welcoming for all customers," Leary's email reads.

A TTC spokesperson told CBC News that "any other comment would be inappropriate as the matter is before the courts."

That's "a dodge," said Maxwell-Crawford's lawyer Cory Wanless, who called the response "woefully inadequate and frankly disrespectful."

There's no reason the TTC leadership can't have a good-faith discussion about what the agency did wrong and how to fix it, Wanless said, accusing the transit agency of using the legal system as an excuse.

TTC investigation not good enough: ombudsman

The city's ombudsman recently said the TTC investigation into the incident was inadequate, after it found the inspectors' use of forces wasn't excessive.

The TTC has since said it would develop a system-wide anti-racism strategy, "aimed directly at preventing racial profiling." 

"We will do better," Leary said, speaking on CBC's Metro Morning earlier this month. He acknowledged that young black men don't feel comfortable riding the TTC.

"We can't let young black men, and all those minorities that feel uncomfortable, continue to feel that way."

'What's the point?'

Leary has said the TTC will hold public consultations, set up an anti-racism task force and strengthen its anti-racism training for fare inspectors and special constables.

While Maxwell-Crawford said he's glad the TTC is taking steps to address racism, it means nothing if the TTC doesn't also confront the incident that prompted the change it wants to make.

"If the TTC is not going to address an actual incident of racial profiling, then what is the point?" he wrote in the letter.

"Why would anyone trust the TTC to actually fix the larger problem of racial profiling?"

Still trying to get over it

After the incident, Maxwell-Crawford had to take time off work and school, and he's still nervous about riding public transit.

"Psychologically, physically, I'm still trying to get over it," he told Metro Morning.

He tries not to ride the TTC, instead taking Uber, Lyft or riding his bicycle — but he's still in some pain on the bike.

"It just happened so out of the blue, really," Maxwell-Crawford said. "It's quite frightening."

Maxwell-Crawford wants the TTC to acknowledge its responsibilities and account for what happened. He feels somewhat vindicated by the ombudsman report saying the TTC investigation fell short, he said.

'Just talk'

Until the matter gets resolved, the TTC's efforts are "just talk," Wanless said, and the TTC does not have much credibility when it talks about addressing racial profiling.

"You can't say that you are going to address systemic racial profiling without addressing the specific incident," said Wanless.

The fare inspectors "didn't see him as a human being, but rather it was just about the colour of his skin,"he told Metro Morning.

"From the very start they treated him differently."

The Toronto Police Service conducted a separate investigation into the 2018 incident. Police decided not to lay criminal charges against the fare inspectors involved.

Wanless said his client would also like an apology from police for their role in the incident.

 

With files from Metro Morning

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