In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrations have taken place around the world in response to police brutality and systemic anti-Black racism in the United States.
This weekend saw a wave of police brutality in response to protests and demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, suffocating him, according to an independent autopsy report. Floyd’s death follows a slew of cases of Black people killed by police, including Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and also of Ahmaud Arbery, where one of the white men charged is a former police officer.
For Canadians, it can often feel overwhelming to watch what’s happening in the U.S. from afar. But anti-Black police violence and discrimination happens here too.
WATCH: Police violence against protesters. Story continues below.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs compiled police data in the province from 2008 to 2017 and found that, despite First Nations people making up two per cent of the population, they accounted for 15 per cent of police stops. And while Black people make up just one per cent of the population in the province, they accounted for five per cent of police stops.
Black people made up only 8.8 per cent of Toronto’s population in 2016, a 2018 report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission found they were involved in seven out of 10 cases of fatal shootings by police between 2013 and 2017.
Last week, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black woman, died under mysterious circumstances; police were in her Toronto home when she fell to her death from the balcony of her 24th floor apartment. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which examines death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault involving police, is investigating the case.
There are specific organizations or resources Canadians can engage with closer to home. Because Canada has a racism and police brutality problem too, whether we’re good at acknowledging it or not.
Black Lives Matter regional chapters
Black Lives Matter was originally created in the U.S. by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza as a call to action for Black people after the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. It’s grown into an international movement, with chapters around the world working to oppose anti-Black racism and police brutality in their local communities.
Here are links to some regional chapters of Black Lives Matter across Canada. If you’re interested in contributing money, many chapters accept donations, while others are looking for volunteers or support in other ways.
Black Lives Matter Toronto: Canada’s largest BLM chapter. In their own words, they aim “to forge critical connections and to work in solidarity with black communities, black-centric networks, solidarity movements, and allies in order to to dismantle all forms of state-sanctioned oppression, violence, and brutality committed against African, Caribbean, and Black cis, queer, trans, and disabled populations in Toronto.”
Black Lives Matter Vancouver: The Vancouver chapter of BLM, that works “to draw attention to our largely invisibilized communities, celebrate people of colour and work in solidarity with other Black Lives Matter chapters across North America.”
BLM Vancouver did not organize Vancouver’s protest Sunday night, which saw over 3,500 people come out. However, they gave their blessing alongside information to keep it safe for everyone.
It’s a good reminder that it’s important to take cues from the people you’re trying to support, especially if you are a white ally. There can be dangerous misinformation and disinformation circling (this was not the case in Vancouver). Before you attend a protest or event, know who the organizers are and how you can keep yourself and those around you safe.
Other Black and anti-racism organizations
Beyond specific BLM movements in response to police brutality, here are some other Black organizations you can support any time. This list is by no means exhaustive, but is a jumping-off point if you’re looking to generally support Black communities and organizations in your area.
Black Legal Action Centre (Ontario): a non-profit community legal clinic that provides free legal services for low or no income Black residents of Ontario.
Black in BC Community Support Fund for COVID-19 (B.C.): A fundraiser for a low-barrier, emergency, micro-grant program for Black people in B.C., who are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nia Centre for the Arts (Toronto): Canada’s first Black art centre, committed to fostering and promoting Black identity and community in Toronto through art.
Hogan’s Alley Society (Vancouver): A non-profit organization committed to researching, preserving and publicizing Black history in Vancouver and B.C.
Black Space Winnipeg (Winnipeg): Black Space Winnipeg is a grassroots organization that looks to “spread perspectives of Afrocentrism, and Pro-Black conversation, Black Space Winnipeg creates safe spaces for people of colour through hosting community events, artist demonstrations and workshops.”
Black Liberation Collective (various universities): Black Liberation Collectives are an international movement of students challenging anti-Black racism in post-secondary institutions The BLC began in Canada at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto in 2015.
Black Health Alliance: A community-led charity looking to reduce the racial disparities in health access and care in Canada, focusing on the broad determinants of health, including racism.
The Come Up (Edmonton): A youth collective focused on empowering Black youth in Edmonton through community events and organizing.
Black Film Festivals (various): Cities across Canada including Toronto, Halifax, Montreal and others host annual festivals devoted to celebrating and promoting Black cinema.
Black Youth Helpline (Canada-wide): Originally started in Manitoba, the Black Youth Helpline focuses on community development and support for Black youth across Canada.
Black Women In Motion (Toronto): A organization that support the advancement of Black women in Toronto through educational tools, economic opportunities and cultural content.
Black Boys Code: An organization that provides workshops and volunteer opportunities to Black boys looking to learn more about coding and computer science.
Vancouver Black Therapy And Advocacy Fund (Vancouver): A non-profit initiative raising funds to make mental health support more accessible to Black community members in the Lower Mainland.
There are also some broader Canadian equity and anti-racism organizations you can support.
Read Black Canadian authors
If you want read or engage with more Black and anti-racist work, be sure to read up on Black Canadian thinkers, writers and activists in addition to all of the American and international resources circulating on social media right now.
Here are five non-fiction books by Black Canadian authors to start with:
“Policing Black Lives” by Robyn Maynard.
“The Skin We’re In” by Desmond Cole.
“Blank: Essays and Interviews” by M. NourbeSe Philip.
“In the Black” by B. Denham Jolly
“Queer Returns: Essays On Multiculturalism, Diaspora and Black Studies” by Rinaldo Walcott
And always remember that you can enact change in your city, personal life and workplace too.
Check in on your own inherent biases, call out racism from friends or family when you see it, and think critically about how your politicians, police and society function. Listen more than you talk, and step back when you’re asked to.
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