Report cites reasons for racial unrest in Regent Park
Seven News, October 23, 1976
The long awaited Board of Education report on racial unrest in Regent Park was made public last week. It cites a number of reasons for unrest in Regent Park and makes a wide variety of both specific, immediate and long-range recommendations to solve the problems.
The report was commissioned by the Toronto Board early in July after some allegedly racial conflicts the previous month in Regent Park. Three people – Henry Clarke, a teacher at Parkview Secondary School; John Woodroof, principal of Davenport Road Junior School; and Lois de Shield, a community worker with the Black Education Project – were appointed to conduct the study at a cost of $2,000.
The report lists eleven potential causes of conflict in Regent Park:
“The low economic positions of the residents of Regent Park is directly related to many of the conflicts. The high rate of unemployment of adults and teenagers creates tension in the Park.
“The shortage of single family houses and the system of allocating houses to residents leads to frustration and resentment. Whether true or not, white residents believe that non-white immigrants are given priority.
“The youth of Regent Park generally lack the basic academic and technical skills to obtain steady work. Boredom is the result.” The report adds that boredom leads to a feeling of being trapped. It adds, “Although fights are inevitable, fights along racial lines need not be.”
“The lack of recreational facilities and programs is a constant source of frustration and irritation. The facilities, especially the baseball diamond (in North Regent Park) have become a focal point of territorial rights, and are important enough to fight over.” The report suggests that the Board convert its vacant lot at Oak/Cornwall into a playing field for soccer and football.
“The lack of rapport between residents and agencies creates a mood of suspicion and a state of hostility. Residents resent the professional outsiders telling them what to do and how to live their lives.”
“The residents are critical of the police generally, but view the local community relations officers more favourably.”
The Community Guardians (OHC-hired security guards) are seen by many residents as being ineffective, devious and weak.
The daily news media is criticized because of its overuse of sensationalism. The report states, “The residents feel they are exploited by reporters since the only time they come to the Park is when there is trouble.”
Both pre-teens and older teenagers are confused by the double standards and hypocritical behaviour of adults in regard to inter-racial dating.
Residents in Regent Park tend to blame local schools for some of the trouble. They believe that if the schools used more discipline and trained children better in academic and technical skills, it would solve some of the problems.
The Report makes a number of immediate recommendations to the Toronto Board of Education for solving these problems. These recommendations include:
Extending the community relations program to the Ward 7 area, concentrating on the Regent Park area.
Make work experience programs available to all students who wish to participate in them.
That school staff, in cooperation with its students and their parents, establish standards of acceptable language and behaviour.
That guidelines be issued to school principals and staff with regard to the possession of weapons on school property.
That schools encourage integration in sport activities.
That schools make more extensive use of house league programs.
That guidance and counselling services help secondary students identify the real job possibilities in today’s world.
That teachers and principals be held accountable if they promote children who haven’t got the necessary skills to cope successfully.
That the amount and reasons for kids “playing hookey” from school be looked into.
More far reaching are its long-term recommendations:
Set up a program in or near Regent Park for school drop-outs and adults who want to upgrade their academic skills.
Run a series of pre-employment training programs for unemployed youth in Regent Park.
Obtain for Regent Park the services of a youth-oriented vocational counsellor form Canada Manpower.
Help the RPCIA get more innovative employment programs for the Regent Park area.
Look into the possibility of setting up an actual boarding school for children in Regent Park.
Encourage older and more experienced teachers to work in Regent.
Increase the percentage of male teachers in inner-city schools.
Encourage more men to teach junior and primary classes where they are needed.
Develop an in-service program for teachers in multiculturalism and racism.
The report makes a number of strong recommendation to the Ontario Housing Corporation (OHC) which owns and operates Regent Park.
It says that OHC should clarify its policy on tenant admission to Regent Park in general and to the units knows as “houses” in particular. It asks that OHC start an in-service training program for security guards and unit representatives on multiculturalism. It asks that OHC build or establish a community centre in Regent Park. It suggests OHC provide recreational facilities in South Regent equal to those in North Regent.
Also, it suggests that OHC and the RPCIA establish recreation programs suitable for people of all age groups and ethnic backgrounds and that the people concerned have a say in the programs designed for them.
The report recommends that the police put more community relations officers in Regent Park., and “at least one aware and sensitive black officer be hired for Regent Park”. It also suggests that the police clarify to Regent residents the laws on drinking and property rights.
Finally, under general recommendations, the report suggests that the Jamaican-Canadian Association become more involved with the black teens in Regent Park, that the RPCIA try to involved more residents in the activities of the association, reestablish the drop-in centre in South Regent and operate it by a teen committee and finally reestablish the summer program held at Park School in 1975.
Since its release on Monday, the report has caused a storm of protest by local school teachers and principals. They object to statements in the report that racial incidents occur in their schools and are ignored by them. The concerned teachers and principals are expected to meet in mid-November with representatives of the Board to deal with the report.
Published in Seven News, Volume 7, Number 9, October 23, 1976