WHAT WORLD DO YOU LIVE IN? Gabriel Jacobs, G20 excerpt

BEYOND THE CAGES: In Loving Memory of Gabriel Jacobs (June 28, 2015)

Gabriel Jacobs, a striking Ojibway man known publicly for his severe mistreatment by Toronto Police five years ago during Toronto’s G-20 summit, died of disability and alcohol related ailments on Thursday evening May 21st just before 9pm at St. Michael’s, the hospital in which he was born on the 28th of May 1964.

According to his own reckoning, an incredibly young Gabriel was often to be found prowling the streets of early 1970s Toronto with his older brother Leo. Every time they were so found, Children’s Aid Society (CAS) would split them up and send them to different, non-indigenous foster homes. First chance they had, Leo and Gabe would escape to rendezvous at one of many downtown haunts.

I met Gabe three decades later on my first outreach walk as a street pastor with Sanctuary Toronto, a church, drop-in, health clinic and arts collective near Yonge and Bloor. He was growling along in a broken, manual wheelchair, buffeted by addictions to alcohol and cocaine, and hell-bent as ever on doing things his way while avoiding further confinement at all costs. “They won’t fix my goddam electric chair,” he shouted; “will you call these people and see what’s going on?”

Gabe’s time unjustly and mercilessly jailed in Toronto’s G-20 cages in June 2010 led to several media articles, a complaint with Ontario’s Human Rights Commission, and a settlement with Toronto Police for $25,000 on the agreement that he not announce the amount or release details of changes they agreed to make to internal policies around treatment of prisoners with disabilities.

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