The death of George Floyd has shone a light on the notorious history of police brutality, violence, and murder of unarmed Black folks in the United States. We have now witnessed 10 days of demonstrations around the globe in support of the end of this horrifying reality.
Though the global lens is on America, this is an important time for reflection on our own challenges with police violence and murder. Amazingly, Canada does not keep statistics on violence committed by police against it’s citizens, unless that violence results in a murder charge.
A recent report showed that in Toronto, a Black Canadian is 20 times more likely to be shot by the police than a white Canadian. Across the country, Black people are disproportionately policed with a host of laws and minor charges enforced against them, many of which include the use and possession of Cannabis, a now legal and essential service.
Black folks, however, regardless of the presence of an assumed crime, are disproportionately mistreated by Canadian police. On May 27th, an Afro-Indigenous woman named Regis Korchinski-Paquet died after falling 24 stories from her building while in the sole presence of two police officers. She was 29 years old. The police were called to her home by her mother after a domestic disturbance that left her concerned for her daughter’s mental health. After speaking with the family in the hallway, the police took Korchinski-Paquet into her apartment alone where she was allegedly pushed from her balcony by police.
When looking at the presence of increased policing and police violence, we have to pause to acknowledge that Black Canadians are not the only group at risk of police violence. First Nations, Metis and Inuit people suffer greatly at the hands of the police. Between 2007 and 2017, more than one-third of the people shot to death by the RCMP were Indigenous.
These instances of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous police violence are not rare. The presence of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous policing extends beyond police brutality to the lack of investigation into cases of violence against Black and Indigenous people, namely into the thousands of cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit folks.
Institutionalized racism is a byproduct of colonialism, and as such has existed in western society for centuries. Institutionalized racism is reflected in disparities in wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, and education, among others. Unfortunately these conditions that create crises among minorities are often overlooked, and minorities are blamed for their position.
We are complicit in this. All it takes to support this system is indifference and inaction. When injustice is observed and ignored, this is silent consent.
What this implies is that to end this system of institutionalized racism, we need to draw on our compassion and raise our individual voices to strengthen the collective call for change.
This is the task in front of us. Together we need to reject injustice, together we can forge a new expectation of how our society works, one that is truly fair to citizens of all races.
Past President, ACCRES
On behalf of the ACCRES Board