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Intolerant Cops Contribute Towards a Stronger Community

Like you, late last year I was appalled to hear two Toronto Police Constables Matthew Saris and Sassa Sljivo dashboard camera recordings as they denigrated a young woman with a developmental disability. Disfigured, different, artistic, half-human – these were some of the comments they made while laughing. This story has made local and international headlines.

I suppose you don’t have to look far to find other examples of ignorance and intolerance especially with the present day political climate. But believe it or not, you could say constables Saris and Sljivo have contributed in a positive way to disability rights, if only inadvertently. Why? Because every example of morally reprehensible behaviour, especially by those in a position of power towards people who are vulnerable, emboldens those who oppose such intolerance. The Constables’ actions serve as lightning rods to all who promote acceptance and inclusion.

It seems to me that for every story of intolerance and exclusion there are hundreds of stories of generosity, acceptance and inclusion. We see it often in our work. Every day, people opening their doors and sharing their lives with others who, in the past, were neither understood nor welcomed.

  • An employer offering a chance to someone who has never held a job
  • One neighbour checking in on their vulnerable neighbour
  • A commuter stepping up when a fellow passenger looks lost
  • A theatre group opening their doors to an actor with a developmental disability
  • A server supporting someone without speech to place an order

These are not media worthy events nor are they acts of charity. They are simply the types of things that caring, community-focused people do. At Partners for Planning we see many people stepping up, supporting one another and strengthening their communities by their actions. Sometimes they require an invitation, often they’re spontaneous.

Are we there yet? Not by a long shot. 

However, by modelling such archaic attitudes, Constables Saris and Sljivo have done their bit to further raise our consciousness of intolerance. As a result of these two officers’ actions, we’re all more likely to speak and behave in ways that support one another and strengthen our communities. We’re more likely to speak up when witnessing such behaviour, to demand accountability and change – and to serve as watchful stewards on behalf of our fellow citizens who are vulnerable, whether that individual is our own family member, a friend, or a stranger in our community.
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