by Graham Green Introduction In previous sections of this blog, I talked about the History of slavery in Canada. Today, even though slavery has been abolished in our country, coloured people still face racism and discrimination that is an after-effect of the Historical phenomenon of slavery. In this post, I talk about the Black Lives Matter Movement and its purpose. I will also cover a bit of the police brutality that is being committed by law enforcement on black individuals and communities. Finally, I close the post by talking about how COVID-19 is revealing the systemic and institutional racism that is directed toward Black communities in Canada. Black Lives Matter!
The Black Lives Matter Movement was founded in 2013 after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, who was a white police officer. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation inc. can be found in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The goal of this movement is to combat racial injustices that are meted out on Black communities around the globe.1 They strive to build up the power among people in communities to fight back against racial and discriminatory actions by the state and other forms of authority. The movement seeks to create spaces in which Black imagination and innovation are recognized, and they incorporate the concept of Black joy in their actions.
The Black Lives Matter Movement believes that we need to overcome nationalistic ideas in this global and liberal movement. The only way for this movement to be effective is if everyone comes together under one banner to fight the oppression of Black Lives.2 Black Lives Matter supports all types of coloured people such as those who are gay, undocumented, and disabled. The movement strives to create a world where: “Black Lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.”3 The Black Lives Matter Movement in Canada believes that the police should be defended. According to them, taxpayers pay around 41 million to maintain police services throughout our nation. They believe that funding the police to this extent is causing Black and Indigenous communities to be put under increasing surveillance.4 This causes Black and Indigenous people to be constrained in their actions, targeted, and killed. They believe that funding the police in this way is not enhancing the security in our communities and that the money can be utilized in better ways to improve society for all peoples, while countering the dangerous threat that police pose to Black and Indigenous lives.
Retrieved from https://www.dezeen.com/2020/06/03/graphic-designers-illustration-resources-black-lives-matter/ and Illustrated by SacréeFrangine They wish to see a world where police are disarmed like they are in the United Kingdom.5 The movement also wants to see investments made into women’s shelters where women who are experiencing domestic violence can seek refuge. 300 women in Canada have turned away each night because of space limitations. They also believe that we need more emergency services that help survivors of sexual assault, rather than depend on the police for this because of the rampant sexual assault convictions of police officers. Police should also not be allowed to engage with children in educational environments.6 The movement wishes to see drugs decriminalized and those that suffer from addiction rehabilitated.
It’s also important to stop policing poverty and to utilize more funding for things like social housing, free transit, and food security. By implementing these goals through defunding the police, the movement believes that we can make our country a safer place. The movement is not only working toward seeing law enforcement defunded but also jails, prisons, and detention centers for immigration.7 They also wish to see the Canadian Intelligence Service defunded and the Canada Border Service Agency. This reallocated funding can also be implemented into marginalized communities such as Black and Indigenous ones to improve their well-being. It is also recognized by the Canadian Black Lives Matter movement that there cannot be the liberation of Black people on Turtle Island without also the liberation of Indigenous people as well. 8 Vancouver’s Black Lives Matter Movement calls upon the city to dismantle structures of racism and oppression. They state that it is unjust to suggest that Canada and British Columbia as a whole is not as bad as the United States when it comes to racism and discrimination. Our society has been subjected to a type of cultural amnesia, where we refuse to acknowledge, or forget our History. This nation was built upon stealing the lands of Indigenous peoples and implicitly threatening violent actions along with enslavement.9 The movement believes that the current model of justice under the VPD is punitive and causing harm to minority communities through frequent surveillance of these areas.
Black Lives Matter Vancouver recommends a shift to a restorative justice framework, in which the cycle of harm and violence wrought by the current policing structure can be put to an end. They oppose the institutional racism and harm against Black bodies imposed by police at the micro and macro levels.10 These are some of the demands that the movement has issued to the City of Vancouver: They wish to see a reallocation of financial resources to services that produce other forms of community safety such as restorative justice organizations, child-care support, and employment programs. They wish to see social conditions improved in Vancouver and over the course of time, the abolishment of prisons and the police department which are seen as oppressing minority groups and protecting wealthy minorities.11 It is also expected that the city will condemn the colonial violence committed toward Black people by police forces and seek to enact systemic change. The city must recognize that its forced destruction of Hogan’s Alley caused the suffering of many Indigenous and Black Canadian communities. It is also expected that the Vancouver Pride society will stop working with police officers and to ban all police in and out of uniform from the pride parades.12 The police department must also work toward demilitarization, and police statistics on things like arrests are to be more thorough and transparent with the numbers produced. The movement wants to see the Vancouver school board acknowledge its disregard in addressing situations of anti-black racism. The school board is also expected to work with Indigenous and Black organizations in creating anti-racist policies and practices.13
The police officers involved in Manon’s case were cleared by the special investigations unit in 2011 and the death was proclaimed an accident, despite the officers being recognized as contributing to the cause of his death.15 This case exemplifies the injustices committed against Black people by police officers all over Canada. In Toronto, there is an over representation of policing both Indigenous and Black communities.
Retrieved from: https://www.ghlf.org/racism-is-a-pandemic/ Police Brutality Against Black People in Canada In May of 2010 in Toronto, Junior Manon, an 18-year-old black man who was driving with an expired license plate sticker, was killed after being pursued in anon foot chase by police. At a public coroner’s inquest involving Manon’s death, officers who were involved in the chase claimed that they did not apply excessive force to his back or chest. However, witnesses told the public inquest that officers put their knees into Manon’s back and put their full weight on him.14 Ontario’s chief forensic psychologist determined that Manon had died from restraint asphyxia which causes the victim to experience a severe difficulty to breathe due to weight added to their back or chest.
A 2018 report done by the Ontario human rights commission it was determined that Black Canadians in Toronto are 20 times more likely to be killed by police when compared to white people.16 It’s been shown in a report that even though Black people in Toronto make up 8.8% of the population, they make up 61% of cases where use of force by police officers resulted in the death of that person. Black people also make up 70% of the cases where a police officer has shot and killed the victim.17 this report also conveyed how black people are being wrongly stopped and searched by police and the lack of cooperation that the police have with the SIU. The police were founded in the 1830s on a basis of French and British colonialism. Police participated in the seizing of Indigenous lands. They contributed to the Nation building of Canada, which is founded on White principles. There is a strong connection between the White person’s mentality toward a Black person’s potential for criminality and slavery. When slavery existed in Canada, we would often consider those who were freed slaves as deviants and thieves. Those who were free and in public areas were considered as runaways. The fact that Black people were used in Canada as slaves means that Black people and freedom is to this very day seen as abnormal.18
Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/erinfitzgerald/status/1268284909191196672 Studies have also shown how the poor access to healthcare that Black people experience can leave them wondering why they are treated different when compared to other ethnicity. One study of emergency room records in the United States showed that employees at hospitals were less likely to rate the symptoms of black patients as serious. Physicians also spent less time with their Black patients compared to White ones, and they were more likely to see their claims of symptoms as more untrustworthy compared to White patients.21 It’s not farfetched to think that this trend would express itself similarly in Canada. Racism and Discrimination Toward Black People in Canada During COVID-19 When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many thought that the rates of sickness and death didn’t discriminate. However, in June of 2020, this changed when analysis revealed that racialized groups, particularly Black people were seen as being more at risk of obtaining the virus compared to White people.19 Reports also revealed that there was a correlation between higher rates of COVID-19 and low income, poor education, varying fields of employment, and ethnicity. It’s been shown that Black people are experiencing a large part of these social conditions due to anti-black racism that is systemic. Unlike the United States, race-based data on COVID-19 infections have not been collected. However, on April 22, 2020 Toronto public-health announced that they would start collecting this data, because it was determined that Black people were dying at higher rates when compared to the rest of Toronto’s population.20 Communities where there are high concentrations of Black residents are more prone to have higher COVID-19 cases when compared to others. Predominately Black neighborhoods in places like Montreal and Halifax have some of the highest COVID-19 cases.
Eglton street which is called “Little Jamaica” in Toronto has been hit particularly hard economically by the pandemic. Many of the businesses in this area are owned by Coloured people and have been in operation since the 1960s. Due to industrial projects, their revenue had been declining for years prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 has only amplified this process with over 40% of the businesses already having shut down in this area since construction began.22 If the trend continues like this, Toronto will lose a vital piece of its Black history. Dr. Elieen De Villa, who is the chief medical officer of health, determined in her study that 71% of hospitalization cases were racialized. Households that had lower incomes and were racialized were also seen as disproportionally more likely to contract COVID-19.23 Racial discrimination is reported the most in Canada by Black and Indigenous people. In fact, discrimination due to race is reported by one in five Canadians, and another three in ten stating it has happened to them, but under rare circumstances.25 Statistics like this kill the false notion that Canada is a paradise of racial equality. Many institutions have already admitted to anti-Black racism being prevalent in them. Hopefully, COVID-19 will be a lesson for Canada to strengthen their approach in combating racism and discrimination.
Notes 1-3. “About.” Black Lives Matter, October 16, 2020. https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/. 4. Black Lives Matter Canada. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://blacklivesmatter.ca/. 5-8. Black Lives Matter Canada. 9. “Black Lives Matter Vancouver Calls on the City to Dismantle Systems of Violence and Oppression.” BLACK LIVES MATTER VANCOUVER. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://blacklivesmattervancouver.com/vancouver-dismantle-systems-of-violence/. 10-13. “Black Lives Matter Vancouver Calls on the City.” 14. Bowden, Olivia. “’Cogs in the Colonial Wheel’: Why Racism in Canada’s Police Force Is as Old as Policing.” Global News. Global News, January 29, 2021. https://globalnews.ca/news/7048298/policing-in-canada-colonialism-anti-black-racism/. 15-18. Bowden, Olivia. “Cogs in the Colonial Wheel.” 19. Wane, Njokie N. “COVID-19: The Pandemic & Histories of Inequities Unveiled Impact on Black Communities.” COVID-19: The Pandemic & Histories of Inequities Unveiled Impact on Black Communities | The Royal Society of Canada, November 12, 2020. https://rsc-src.ca/en/covid-19/covid-19-pandemic-histories-inequities-unveiled-impact-black-communities. 20-25. Wane, Njokie N. “COVID-19: The Pandemic.”
Bibliography “About.” Black Lives Matter, October 16, 2020. https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/. Black Lives Matter Canada. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://blacklivesmatter.ca/. Blacklivesmattervancouver. “Black Lives Matter Vancouver Calls on the City to Dismantle Systems of Violence and Oppression.” BLACK LIVES MATTER VANCOUVER. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://blacklivesmattervancouver.com/vancouver-dismantle-systems-of-violence/ Bowden, Olivia. “’Cogs in the Colonial Wheel’: Why Racism in Canada’s Police Force Is as Old as Policing.” Global News. Global News, January 29, 2021. https://globalnews.ca/news/7048298/policing-in-canada-colonialism-anti-black-racism/. Wane, Njokie N. “COVID-19: The Pandemic & Histories of Inequities Unveiled Impact on Black Communities.” COVID-19: The Pandemic & Histories of Inequities Unveiled Impact on Black Communities | The Royal Society of Canada, November 12, 2020. https://rsc-src.ca/en/covid-19/covid-19-pandemic-histories-inequities-unveiled-impact-black-communities.