Celebrating Community Contributions
Retired Const. Ojo Tewogbade launched the event in 1994 with support from the Division that he spent his entire 35 years with the Service before retiring in 2014, the British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Christ Church and community members.
The event was held on February 27.
Chief James Ramer commended his members, saying “the recognition is well deserved.”
He also said Black History Month is a time to reflect on the legacy and achievements of Black Canadians and to recognize the vital and unique contributions they have made and continue to make in the city.
“Toronto’s strength stems from the diversity of its residents and Black History Month is an opportunity to embrace that diversity, to learn and listen to one another and to work together to build a more inclusive society,” he said.
It is for that reason, said the Chief, that members of his Service are being recognized.
“It is for the contributions in furthering our communities and continuing to build and maintain the bridge that is needed for mutual trust and respect,” Ramer said. “At the TPS, we understand that commitment all too well as we have many of our own goals to reach when it comes to implementing reform and bridging the divide that exists between police and Black communities.”
Acting Superintendent Susan Gomes also joined in the celebration.
“This is a place where congregations have gathered over decades to share and celebrate not unlike us now for these community awards. As we all continue to move forward in working together to improve our communities, let us not forget to stop, pause and reflect on what has brought us as a community here in this moment in time, our accomplishments, what we have learned and continue to learn from one another and be sure to share in our collective achievements.”
Supt. David Rydzik, who was among the members honoured, spoke on behalf of the Service’s honourees.
“I have been blessed in the latter half of my career to have been able to work very closely with so many members of our diverse communities, including the Black community, to address the complex community safety issues affecting our city and to improve the trust, confidence and relationship between the community and the police” said the 43 Division Unit Commander. “It has been an absolute highlight of my career. So for me and I am sure I speak for all the recipients, to be able to stand here today and to be recognized during Black History Month, especially knowing the recognition comes from the community, is something that I will cherish forever.”
While leaders like Jean Augustine and the late Lincoln Alexander and Viola Desmond are often referenced in conversations surrounding Black history, Rydzik said there are some unheralded leaders who are making significant impacts and are deserving of recognition.
He singled out Swabir Sharrif who started ‘Good Guides Inner City Youth Mentoring’, Lorna Colkwan who runs a food bank out of her building in the Lawrence Ave. E. and Orton Park community, Stephen Mensah who chairs the Toronto Youth Cabinet, Celita Sealy Gibson who runs an afterschool program in the Glendower community and retired Justice of the Peace Sylvia Hudson.
“Their stories and circumstances are often different, but they all share in a common goal in that they want to make a difference and bring about positive change in our communities,” he said. “I have personally seen the difference their efforts have made in helping shape, change and in some cases even save lives.”
Rev. Chester Searles is the General Superintendent and Senior Pastor of the BME Christ Church that is celebrating its 177th anniversary this year.
The inaugural Rev. Chester Searles Awards of Excellence were presented to Staff Sergeant John Stockfish, Constables Rui Simoes and Lindsay Cook, Special Constable Corneal Tomlinson and Chaplain Vashti Mascoll.
Inspector Stefan Prentice was the recipient of a TPS Unit Commander Special Award.
Other officers honoured were Sergeant Peter Wallace and Constable Enis Egeli.