Doug Ford interrupted at Somali event over support for controversial police unit


Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford was booed and interrupted this weekend when he told members of Toronto’s Somali community that he supports resurrecting a controversial police unit disbanded in 2017.


The Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy, known as TAVIS, was set up in 2006 to curb violence in high crime areas determined by police. It’s formation came in the wake of the summer of 2005, the so-called ‘summer of the gun’ in the city. 

TAVIS was disbanded in January 2017, according to police, two years after the province cut the unit’s annual funding nearly in half. 

Critics of the unit’s tenure say TAVIS increased tensions between police and residents of targeted neighbourhoods, many of them people of colour, because officers often used carding as a policing tool. The much-maligned practice is now prohibited in many circumstances under provincial law.

At a meeting dedicated to ending violence in Etobicoke on Saturday, Ford said he supports the creation of a similar program.

“I’m in favour, 100 per cent, as a premier, to get involved with the TAVIS program as well. The TAVIS program was good, but then it was cut,” Ford said on Saturday at the event organized by the Somali Canadian Forum. [embedded content]

Ford added that the TAVIS program meant extra funding for community policing. 

“That is absolutely critical,” he said. 

TAVIS called ‘racist police division’

One audience member injected: “I actually disagree. The TAVIS program actually has traumatized many community members,” he said. Video of the interaction was posted to YouTube on Saturday. The man speaking is off-camera. 

“TAVIS was a racist police division. The amount of youth that I talked to, that told me about their experiences, Mr. Ford, you have to listen to these young men. There is no way we should go back to that.”

Ford replied that he would put additional money into community policing and the unit could be renamed. 

TAVIS officers used carding as a policing tool. The practice created rifts between some residents, many of them people of colour, and police. (CBC)

In a scrum with reporters following his remarks, Ford said he supports the kinds of services that were provided by a program like TAVIS.

“As premier, I’ll make sure we have a task force. I’ll make sure that we have TAVIS involved police community services that the Liberals cut,” Ford said.

“We have got to have a task force with the police. We have to get more community policing. We have to make sure we engage the community in all aspects in every single ministry.

“We have to make sure we have great employment for youth across this city. I believe strongly in after school programs. These are some of the ideas.”

“Nothing breaks my heart more than when young people get shot.” 

Hundreds of people attending the forum in Etobicoke on Saturday. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Ford said the issues of the Somali community in Etobicoke are very important to him. 

“There is no politician in this entire country that has more interaction with the Somali community than Doug Ford. I live here, right down the street.”

The Somali Canadian Forum, a coalition of mosques, community leaders and advocates, held the meeting with the aim of finding solutions to ongoing gun violence in the community.

After months of consultations with residents hosted by the organization, one idea that has emerged is the formation of a task force that would be focused on youth violence.

Hundreds, including Mayor John Tory, attended the meeting at Kipling Collegiate Institute.