November 16, 2018 – Public Statement: Toronto resident files new civil rights lawsuit against the TTC and Toronto Police for racial discrimination, battery and false imprisonment —
TORONTO, November 16, 2018 – Toronto resident Reece Maxwell-Crawford has filed a new civil rights lawsuit against the Toronto Transit Commission and the Toronto Police Service for racial discrimination, battery and false imprisonment regarding a February 18, 2018 attack in which a TTC fare inspector violently shoved Mr. Maxwell-Crawford to the ground as he was exiting a street car. After Mr. Maxwell-Crawford resisted the initial assault, the TTC fare inspectors threw him to the ground face first, piled on his back and pinned him there for several minutes as Mr. Maxwell-Crawford cried out in pain. Several Toronto Police Service officers then arrived and continued the illegal detention and assault.
Mr. Maxwell-Crawford believes that the attack against him was motivated by racial profiling.
“I was minding my own business. I had my headphones on and was listening to loud music,” said Mr. Maxwell-Crawford. “I walked towards the TTC fare inspectors so I could get to the only exit on the platform. The attack came completely out of the blue. I was shocked, scared and angry. They had no reason to lay hands on me. I think I was attacked because of who I am and how I was dressed. They didn’t treat me as a person. They treated me like I was nobody. That’s why when they pinned me on the ground I was yelling ‘I am somebody,’ I wanted people to know who I am and that I matter, and that I shouldn’t be treated like I don’t.”
“When I first watched the video, I was utterly shocked at what I saw,” said Mr. Maxwell-Crawford’s mother, Cheryle Maxwell. “What really stood out for me was the deplorable way in which they treated my son despite his screams for help. When Reece cried out, ‘Look at me, I’m somebody,’ it broke my heart, because he is definitely Somebody.… He is MY Somebody, my child. The TTC has justified their actions by citing fright as a reason for such a violent display. I see biased perceptions and a total disregard for my son’s safety or even for his life. I am quite saddened that Reece as a young black man will often find himself placed under a microscope of suspicion regardless of character and is now very aware that there are many people of colour who have the same experiences every day. Sadly, incidents like this one all too often end with deadly consequences at the hands of those who are supposed to be in a position of authority and power. I am very proud of Reece’s courage and resolve in taking a stand and fighting for his rights and freedoms as a young Canadian.”
Mr. Maxwell-Crawford had paid his fare. The TTC fare inspectors were not conducting proof of purchase inspections at the time they assaulted Mr. Maxwell-Crawford, and had no reason to interact with Mr. Maxwell-Crawford, let alone use force against him. TTC fare inspectors do not have any more rights to use force or detain individuals than regular citizens do.
“What is particularly distressing about this case is that Reece couldn’t have been any less threatening if he tried,” said Cory Wanless, one of Mr. Maxwell-Crawford’s lawyers. “He did nothing to attract the attention or concern of the TTC fare inspectors. The TTC fare inspectors had no business engaging with any member of the public, including Reece, and yet from the moment the TTC fare inspector entered the street car, he had a laser-like focus on Reece. Why? I challenge anyone who is fair minded to watch the whole video and then tell me Reece did something that should have made him a target for their attention, or that justified the physical violence used against him.”
An internal TTC report released in June 2018 found that the use of force by TTC fare inspectors was “reasonable.” Mr. Maxwell-Crawford and his lawyers reject the findings of this report.
“The TTC report is an embarrassment,” said Mr. Wanless. “It is an after-the-fact attempt to paper over a serious and inexcusable incident. Worse, the TTC report relies on what appear to be racist tropes to excuse the violence used by TTC fare inspectors. For example, the report says TTC fare inspector who attacked Reece was fearful in part because of the possibility that Reece might have a weapon, apparently because he had his hands in his pockets. Notwithstanding the fact that Reece never had his hands in his pockets, why on earth would hands in pockets equal a weapon? Because Reece is black and was wearing a hood? There doesn’t appear to be any other reason for such an outlandish ‘fear.’”
“Astoundingly, the TTC report accepts that somehow these three large men were so fearful of this kid with his hood up that there was no choice but to violently assault him to defend themselves. To justify the use of force, the TTC fare inspectors point to a number of things that the video proves did not happen. For example, two of the inspectors state that Reece was clenching his fists. Not true. One inspector states he was making aggressive faces. Not true. The inspectors state that Reece lunged at them in an ‘aggressive and threatening manner’ with his ‘hands clenched in fists.’ Again, not true. What the video actually shows is Reece standing passively with his hands open, his arms by his side, and a neutral expression on his face. It also shows him exiting the street car slowly in the direction of the exit, which was also the direction of the TTC inspectors, with his arms by his side and his hands open. How is that threatening behavior?”
Mr. Maxwell-Crawford has brought this lawsuit to affirm and vindicate his civil rights, and hopefully to promote reform within the TTC.
“This isn’t just about what happened to me,” said Mr. Maxwell-Crawford. “It is about how law enforcement polices members of the black community. I am worried that what happened to me is experienced by other people of colour on a regular basis all over Toronto. Racial profiling punishes innocent people and it saddens me how people choose to treat each other. I wish we could be empathic, not apathetic. We should try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, and to feel for our fellow man or woman standing beside us regardless of our position towards others because we all belong to one race and that is the human race. Discriminatory treatment by law enforcement has to stop, and I am hoping this lawsuit will help to illuminate this and stop it.”
The Statement of Claim can be found here.
A video from the Toronto Star showing the entire incident from three different cameras can be found here.
For more information, contact
Cory Wanless, Waddell Phillips PC