Ontario Independent Police Review Director Gerry McNeily, the keynote speaker at a fundraising brunch last Sunday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), told supporters that the organization is today respected and widely consulted by government.
But he reminded them that their work ” is still unfinished.”
“And the road ahead still needs to be walked.”
“We must stay strong and never accept the status quo.”
Recalling the struggles of the late Dudley Laws. in whose name a scholarship fund has been established , McNeily said that while Laws, who served as executive director of BADC, was instrumental in its creation, ” he did not do it alone.”
“ You can’t achieve the impossible when you’re working alone. You can only achieve the impossible when working in groups, when working with others,” he told the gathering at the Jamaican Canadian centre in Toronto.
McNeily recalled the BADC marches back in the 1980s when the organization was calling for an independent oversight of the police.
Several young black men in Toronto had died at the hands of the police.
“At first it seemed impossible. It seemed like the Impossible Dream that anything was ever going to happen but the hard work of BADC and others paid off and lo and behold, the government decided to create the Special Investigations Unit in 1990 .
“This was an outstanding achievement and it did not come easy,” he noted.
McNeily said that while some considered the work of BADC as controversial,
others ultimately saw its effectiveness.
“They saw the need for change, the need for more social justice. ”
In his address, McNeily recognized the contributions of longstanding supporters of the organization. Three of them – Kingsley Gilliam, Nancy Simms and Oliver Rose – received awards at the event.
Gilliam, a former national chairman of the National Black Coalition of Canada, is a widely known advocate for social justice.
Simms is the Director of the Centre for Human Rights & Diversity at Humber College in Toronto and an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Rose, popularly known as “Chef Man Oliver,”provides catering services for numerous trade union events and has catered the Dudley Laws Scholarship Brunch since its inception in 2012.
In addressing the gathering, Gilliam noted that ” through fighting and advocacy, we have built our organizations and institutions.”
But he said that ” we are deficient in negotiating skills, cooperative skills, collaborative skills and consensus building skills.”
“These are learned skills which are absolutely necessary if we are to solidify our social and economic and institutional base in this and any society.”
BADC was established following ” the shooting death” in 1988 of Lester Donaldson, a 44-year old mentally ill Black man.”
Donaldson was shot in a Toronto rooming house by Police Constable David Deviney who was charged with manslaughter in connection with the shooting but was acquitted.
A news release from BADC recalls that this was ” a catalyst for the community to mobilize for community action and the establishment of BADC resulted from that community mobilization.”
Since then, BADC has championed numerous issues involving police conduct, human rights and the justice system.