TORONTO — The Parole Board of Canada Aug. 13 granted day release to imprisoned former cop James Forcillo, less than two years into his six-and-a-half-year sentence for killing Sammy Yatim in 2013. This ruling was a topic of discussion among working people who Communist League candidates Pierre-Luc Filion and Steve Penner met as they campaigned here a few days later.
Yatim, an 18-year-old Syrian immigrant, was alone on a streetcar brandishing a small knife and appeared to be in a disturbed mental state when Forcillo shot him nine times.
A public outcry and a series of protests forced authorities to charge Forcillo, who was tried and convicted of attempted murder in 2016. Over 460 people were killed by cops in Canada between 2000 and 2017, according to CBC News, but Forcillo is one of only two cops convicted for any of these killings.
Yatim’s family says they were shocked by the parole board’s decision.
Penner, the Communist League’s candidate for the federal riding of Papineau in Montreal, and Filion, its candidate in the Montreal riding of Longueuil–St. Hubert, campaigned in York Township, Toronto, the day after the announcement of Forcillo’s discharge. Several working people there told the CL candidates they were opposed to Forcillo’s early release.
“No one jailed for murder gets out of prison after less than two years,” said Amerigo, a retired construction worker.
Truck driver Shane Rickett told Filion and Penner that Forcillo’s release from prison shows that the police “can get away with doing whatever they want.”
Rickett, who is black, said he thought that having “more people of color” on the police force might help.
Filion pointed out that Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders is black and his appointment hasn’t done anything to change the anti-working-class or racist character of the cops.
“Giving more money to the cops is not going to help,” Rickett said. The municipal, provincial and federal government announced a $4.5 million increase in funding for Toronto cops Aug. 13. Saunders said the money was needed for the cops to respond to a rise in gang-related shootings. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed the funding package would “keep Canadians safer.”
Rickett got a copy of a statement the CL candidates released Aug. 15. “Trudeau’s proposals are aimed at working people,” Penner says in the release. “More police mean more arbitrary arrests, frame-ups and cop violence against us — especially black and Indigenous workers.”
In the statement Filion explains, “There’s only one way to respond to anti-social violence. When working people in our millions stand up and fight for better working conditions, against police brutality, for women’s rights, against imperialism’s wars around the world — when we fight for something and win — crime and senseless acts of violence will diminish.”
Filion said that to bring about fundamental change working people need to wage a fight to take political power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers and establish their own government.
“That’s what we need,” Rickett said. “The masses shouldn’t have to live in fear. They should be able to live in dignity.” He encouraged the CL candidates to return for more discussion and bought a 12-week subscription to the Militant and the book The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record: Why Washington Fears Working People by Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes.