Putting the emphasis back on diversity for the London Police Services Board

For a time, the London Police Services Board was a model of diversity; with Black, Muslim and Indigenous representation. But the new interim-chair says that’s not the case now.

“If I am the face of diversity on the board, then we’re in trouble,” says Lawyer Susan Toth.

Toth was born in South America and is proud of her Latin American roots. Appointed on Thursday as interim-chair, she says the board has to have broader representation.

“I identify as a person of colour but I can’t possibly be the most diverse person there,” she says.

Former chair Mo Salih stepped away from the board last year, saying he wanted to make room for more representation by women and others of colour.

Javeed Sukhera has just ended his term as chair of board, as he heads to the U.S. for employment reasons. Sukhera says he has valued his time at the helm.

“The work is not easy and it’s not always rewarding but the impact just one of us can have can hopefully be long-lasting,” he says.

As a Muslim, Sukhera helped give voice to the impact the Afzaal family deaths had on that community after the alleged targeted killings on June 6.

Alexandra Kain, organizer of London’s Black Lives Matter protests, says, it’s why diversity should be a priority for all boards, “Especially when you’re an agent of care, you’re responsible for the community, the care of the community. It needs to be reflected in the folks that make the decisions for the community.”

The London Police Services Board has seven member, four filled by city hall and three appointed by the province.

In a controversial move in February 2020, the province declined to renew its appointment of Vanessa Ambtman Smith, the first Indigenous woman to be named to the board.

And while Toth doesn’t want to diminish their work or their commitment to the board, she notes the two most recent provincial appointments didn’t reflect diversity.

Toth believes another Indigenous appointment needs to be one part of the broadening of representation on the board.