Families of Ontario police shooting victims call for action

WATCH: Hundreds march on Police HQ in another protest of Yatim shooting. Mark Carcasole reports. 

TORONTO – Family members of Sammy Yatim and other historic victims of Ontario police shootings are demanding an independent investigation into police training, policies and practices following the death of the 18-year-old aboard a Toronto streetcar last month.

The comments came at a news conference Tuesday morning arranged by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.

The gathering brought together family members of past police shooting victims in a show of effort to call for immediate changes in the way law enforcement authorities use force to handle arrests.

Ruth Schaeffer, whose son was fatally shot by police in northern Ontario, said the conclusions from studies and inquests on police shooting deaths need to be put into practice.

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“All the recommendations that need to be put in place to safeguard the life of Canadian citizens are sitting in print for anybody who is interested to implement,” she said.

They are also calling for Ontario’s ombudsman to meet with them to find a “better solution” to how police deal with people in crisis.

A rally is also planned for noon in downtown Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square followed by a march to the Toronto Police Services Board.

On Monday, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair announced the appointment of retired justice Dennis O’Connor to assist the force in its review of all police practices, including use of force.

Karyn Greenwood Graham, the mother of a police shooting victim in Kitchener, lashed out at Blair, saying the review he announced is “tokenism.”

“We’re actually in a David and Goliath battle here and I’d like to ask the public to actually get behind us and actually call their MPPs and insist on change,” she said.

“All our loved ones deaths are preventable.”

Yatim’s death on an empty streetcar was captured on surveillance and cellphone videos in which shouts of “drop the knife” can be heard as a few officers surround the streetcar.

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Three shots ring out and Yatim can be seen dropping to the floor, then seconds later six more shots can be heard followed by the sound of a Taser.

Watch: Split screen view of two angles of the streetcar shooting of Sammy Yatim by Toronto police

O’Connor’s probe into Toronto police practices is one of several to be conducted over the next several months.

A coroner’s inquest into the deaths of three people who may have had mental health issues, and were shot and killed after approaching Toronto police officers with weapons is scheduled to begin in October.

Ontario’s ombudsman Andre Marin will also be looking into what kind of direction the provincial government provides to police for defusing conflict situations.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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Review the LIVEBLOG of Global Toronto reporter Mark Carcasole at the press conference Tuesday morning.