We stand on the precipice of change. We are looking down an untravelled path that will lead us from the darkness of hate and racism into the light of a loving, caring and just society. Will we finally have the courage to walk together and say enough is enough? After this immediate crisis is over, we must commit and follow through with the needed action so that it never happens again. This is the work required by all people in Canada.
Together we watched George Floyd’s tragic and heart-wrenching murder at the hands of the Minneapolis Police on May 25, 2020. Two days later, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Anishinabe-kwe/Black woman, fell to her death during a ‘wellness’ check-in Toronto attended by the Toronto Police Service. Then on Thursday, June 4/20, Chantal Moore, a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, was shot and killed by the RCMP during a “wellness” check-in Edmundston, New Brunswick. These represent the types of tragic outcomes attributed to systemic racism toward Black Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC).
We stand with the Black community.
Canada in the midst of an identity problem. To the rest of the world, Canada is one of the most peaceful, progressive, inclusive societies in the world. It is a society that the rest of the world envies. But the reality is systemic racism runs rampant and is deeply rooted in Canadian society. This is most evident in the race relations between many police services (RCMP, SQ, TBPS, OPP) and BIPOC. Despite the mandate to protect and serve, the current policing system is often used to oppress our peoples, which is demonstrated by the overrepresentation of BIPOC in the criminal justice system. Calls by the Black community to defund the police is a call to action that we must examine and support.
I ask Canadians to be aware of how racism lives and moves and looks in everything around you. Make a personal commitment to change the narrative by listening, challenging racism, educating yourself and sharing your power, space and platforms. Call upon your leaders to include the true history of how this country was founded. Include in the curriculum the past injustices inflicted upon BIPOC. Include the racist Acts and pieces of legislation that helped to oppress BIPOC and continues to feed the Colonial state allowing only a select few to benefit. This is a moment to learn.
Indigenous Elders have said, this coronavirus has come for a reason, it has come to teach us something. One thing is obvious; this pandemic has reminded us of our shared humanity. As the world experienced lockdowns, the majority of us stayed home and expressed a collective concern for our fellow humans’ health and well-being. Perhaps for the first time in our modern human experience, we understood we are truly in this together. As such, it was especially shattering to watch a fellow human killed when we were all working toward preserving health and saving lives. George Floyd became ‘everyman,’ who was experiencing real anguish, and when he cried out for his mother, we all understood.
In the days ahead, we must hold onto our collective concern and do more than dream a new dream together. We must create concrete plans that include investing in safety and security for everyone, and this means moving away from paramilitary organizations. We must construct the new reality rather than just talk about it, or take a knee in a protest. The real work is beginning, and that is the untravelled path that we must take. If you feel small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, remember change is possible. Will you continue to participate in this change? Long after the cameras have stopped rolling and the protesting in the streets has stopped? Will you look at what changes you can begin to make right in your own homes to make the lives of all Canadians, including BIPOC, as wonderful as the rest of the world believes Canada to be. It is essential to harness our collective compassion to create a more just society and root ourselves in a deep and abiding love and care for one another. I’ll do my part. What about you?
Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald