Friday, 11 March 2016 19:23

‘Fredy’ Takes on Racism in Quebec

by Elvira Truglia in Montreal

The death of 18-year-old Fredy Villanueva, shot at the hands of police in Montreal North, inspired Fredy, a documentary play by Annabel Soutar about the 2008 shooting and the response from the local immigrant community.

The playwright set out to look at what happened from all sides and leaves audiences to reach their own conclusions about a story that provokes anything but indifference.

Const. Jean-Loup Lapointe shot Villaneuva during an altercation that started after police found Villaneuva and his group of friends playing an illegal game of dice. Villanueva’s death provoked a riot, stirred allegations of racial profiling and immersed the Villanueva family into legal battles with the Montreal police that lasted for years.

A coroner’s inquest was launched into Villanueva’s death. After a five-year wait, the coroner’s report came out in 2013 and says mistakes were made all around, but there was no foul play by the police.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The dynamics of power relations within the legal system and between the police, majority communities and immigrant communities are at the heart of Fredy.[/quote]

The report left many unanswered questions about the circumstances and investigation surrounding Villaneuva’s death. Written by Annabel Soutar, Fredy was created as a space to look at these questions and encourage audiences to reflect on race relations.

Fredy plays in French at Théâtre La Licorne until March 26.

One of the play’s main themes is how Montreal immigrant communities believe they are targeted and treated unfairly by police. In 2011, a Quebec Human Rights Commission report backed these claims, calling out the systemic racial profiling and discrimination of racialized youth.

In the eight years following Villanueva’s death, reports on migration issues have made regular headlinesin Quebec. Last year, Quebec Human Rights Commission surveys raised red flags about religious intolerance, as well as ethnic and racial discrimination.

”I think Quebec should have a deeper conversation about how to integrate immigrants into our society, and if our institutions treat people equally and if we are indeed a racist society,” says Soutar, who was recently named one of Canada’s 2015 artists of the year.

A contentious play

The dynamics of power relations within the legal system and between the police, majority communities and immigrant communities are at the heart of Fredy.

Seven actors play multiple characters and cover five years’ worth of court transcripts and verbatim texts from judges, lawyers, police, media, hospital staff, family and the youth questioned by the police on the night of the shooting.

“We don’t really have access to the court, and all of a sudden to have access…to hear the facts, what was really said about this subject…I learned a lot of things,” says theatre-goer Yannick Chapdelaine.

What makes documentary theatre so powerful is the verbatim text, the voices of real people, as spoken in private interview or public record.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The play you will never write already exists, it is in the memory of those who didn’t give you access.”[/quote]

In Fredy, whose voices are actually heard remain a subject of contention. Notably absent is the voice of Fredy Villanueva. And, although his mother Lilian Villanueva collaborated early in the documentary process, she withdrew her support when she found out the playwright interviewed a police officer.

Theatre-goer Angel Mota thinks one of the strengths of the play is hearing many perspectives. “I was moved when the anonymous police officer said Fredy’s death also affected the police officers involved and their families,” says Mota.

“I do think that Fredy is a victim, but you have to prove it, and I think the play proves it very well,” he adds.

What stood out for Florence Blain was how the play brought out the human perspective, even on the police side because we tend “to put people into boxes right away; there is immediate judgement,” says Blain.

But Lilian Villaneuva is seeking justice for her son and, according to the play, questions the motives of the playwright to include the police perspective in her documentary.

“The play you will never write already exists, it is in the memory of those who didn’t give you access,” says Ricardo Lamour speaking as himself on stage. He is both an actor in the play and member of the family support committee, a citizen group created after Villaneuva’s death.

Lamour was also the person mandated to pull the plug on the support committee’s participation in the play. Soutar’s last minute efforts to reach out to Le comité de soutien à la famille Villanueva worked to restore trust and landed Lamour a role as the judge in Fredy.

 

Soutar’s choice to include the tension between the family and herself in the play acknowledges her self-described position of privilege writing about a poor immigrant neighbourhood in Montreal North.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Things won’t change if we don’t change representation in Quebec, in the public sphere.”[/quote]

Casting several actors in colour-blind, age-blind and gender-blind roles was another important theatrical decision that questioned assumptions about social roles.

“We had a vision that a black person should be able to play a white person, an old person should be able to play a young person and men should play women. In fact…sometimes you hear the language more clearly if you`re not thinking about the physical envelope of the person who’s speaking,” says Soutar.

Fredy’s legacy

Lamour wants theatre-goers to remember that “they (the police) killed this guy representing diversity, representing the new face of Quebec, this young bright man by the name of Fredy who was protecting his brother.”

“The support committee would like to see bolder action for social change. I think they remain skeptical about the theatre’s ability to provoke that change,” says Soutar.

“Prejudices about minorities killed Fredy Villaneuva,” says Mota. “Things won’t change if we don’t change representation in Quebec, in the public sphere.”

He wants the conversation to go beyond Théâtre La Licorne. “We need to start representing minorities in the movies in Quebec, in TV, in other plays,” says Mota.

Debates about Quebec’s lack of diversity on screen recently resurfaced during the Oscars whitewashing controversy.

“We need to…have a reflection on police, on its purpose and its inability to create wealth for our popular neighbourhoods; they actually kill it,” says Lamour.

The real litmus test will be to see what happens after Fredy closes.

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Published in Arts & Culture

by Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: celebrated deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service quits the force, mainstream grocery stores make concerted efforts to become one-stop shops for ethnic consumers, and Filipinos in Alberta get their long-awaited consulate. 

Toronto Deputy Police Chief’s resignation a loss for local black community

Members of Toronto’s Black community view the recent retirement of deputy chief of police, Peter Sloly, from the Toronto Police Service (TPS) as a major loss.

Community advocates and activists who worked with Sloly over the years “think his departure is a blow to the city, especially in fractious police-community relation matters,” writes reporter Neil Armstrong in Pride, Canada’s weekly African-Canadian and Caribbean news magazine.

Sloly, who immigrated to Canada from Jamaica, was the TPS’ second Black deputy chief. He was passed over last year when he applied for the position of police chief, which was awarded to his fellow deputy chief at the time, Mark Saunders

Known as a staunch supporter of community policing, Sloly was instrumental in leading the TPS’ Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER), which made several recommendations to reform current policing practices, including creating a new core value articulating the service’s commitment to bias-free policing. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"His departure is a blow to the city, especially in fractious police-community relation matters."[/quote]

He has also been recognized as one of the first individuals "on the inside" to describe the highly controversial practice of police carding as a problem that has to be addressed. 

“He had such a connection to the community and he understood, he empathized and he was willing to make changes so there was a sense of loss,” Audrey Campbell, co-chair of the PACER review committee told Pride.

Many community members share this sentiment. In a Share News article, Dave Mitchell, the former president of the Association of Black Law Enforcers, stated that Sloly contributed enormously to 21st century policing.

“He will be missed in terms of his innovative approach to modern law enforcement and community-based policing,” said Michell. “He’s also a role model to other Black officers because of his myriad [of] significant achievements.”

Loblaws’ new motto, offerings reflect focus on diversity

Grocery chain Loblaws’ new motto “30/30” is a reference to estimates that 30 per cent of Canada’s population will be born outside of the country by 2030. 

As reported by Neil Sharma in The Epoch Times, to celebrate this year’s Chinese New Year, Loblaws’ North Mississauga Real Canadian Superstore decorated its store with hanging lanterns and dragons and sold items like dumplings and red envelopes.

“Chinese people will put money inside for gifts and give them to the younger generation,” Stew Chang, senior category manager of Loblaws, told The Epoch Times. “It suppresses evil and ensures the children will be healthy and have good fortune throughout the year.”

According to Won Suk Ha, senior category manager of Multicultural Fresh, Loblaws used the Mississauga location, being that it's in a highly diverse city, as a pilot to get a sense of what customers gravitated to most.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]30 per cent of Canada’s population will be born outside of the country by 2030.[/quote]

To date, the Superstore’s seafood department has fared well with Chinese-Canadian shoppers. The Mississauga location has the largest seafood section of any Loblaws-operated store, with fish like tilapia and green bass on display.

Also stocked on the grocery store’s shelf: a wide selection of tea brands imported from Taiwan and mainland China; a variety of soy sauces; rice and noodle imported brands; and items like dried lily flower and Chinese peppers in the bulk food section.

Unlike initiatives such as Sobeys launching a South Asian store and the forthcoming Seafood City Supermarket catering to Filipinos, Loblaws aims to become a “one-stop shopping destination for customers,” merging “mainstream” Canadian foods with a wide range of multicultural selections. 

“Whether it’s Canadians whose families are from different places around the world or Canadians who have traveled the world and have an extended palette, it’s important to us that when they come to our store, they find [what they need],” Ha said. 

Philippines consulate to open in Calgary

It’s been a long time coming, but a Philippine consulate will be open for business in Alberta sometime next month.

According to a recent article published by The Filipino Post, the Philippines’ department of foreign affairs (DFA) will open the office in Calgary to serve the more than 120,000 Filipinos living in Alberta, something community members have been demanding for years. 

Calgary was selected as the home of the consulate office due to its high concentration — approximately 40,000 — of Filipinos, DFA assistant secretary Julius Torres told the Philippine Inquirer in a telephone interview.

The aim of the office will be to bolster relations with commercial establishments, major industries and other diplomatic offices located in the area, Torres explained. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Calgary was selected as the home of the consulate office due to its high concentration of Filipinos.[/quote]

After a 2009 economic boost brought more temporary foreign workers to Canada from the Philippines, the Vancouver office became busier and over capacity, reports the Philippine Asian News Today. In 2014, added pressure was placed on the Lower House of Congress to find room in the budget to open a consulate in Alberta.

Torres, who was appointed as consul general, will arrive in Calgary on Feb. 23. The office is expected to be fully operational by the beginning of March and will offer services like passport applications and renewals and document authentication. 

The office will be the fourth Philippine post in Canada outside of the embassy in Ottawa and consulates in Vancouver and Toronto and is expected to ease the workload of the other offices. 

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Published in Top Stories
Friday, 30 October 2015 02:08

Carding Ban Clouded By Doubt

by Patrick Hunter in Toronto

It could be resistance or defiance of civilian oversight bodies, or just plain stubbornness. Either way, police organizations have been slow to change their culture around the strongly-opposed practice of carding. However, in Ontario, the provincial government has somewhat taken the matter out of police services' hands.

I say somewhat because there will be an element of distrust from community members that the police service will find a way around the new provisions of the proposed regulations.

The regulations move to take the ability to “randomly and arbitrarily” collect identifying information about citizens away from police officers.

The practice now known as carding, or “street checks” should effectively be prohibited when the regulation comes into force next March.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]here will be an element of distrust from community members that the police service will find a way around the new provisions of the proposed regulations.[/quote]

How we got here

The practice is seen as a part of a larger issue of racial profiling by police. As investigations published by the Toronto Star discovered, the majority of subjects stopped and carded by the police are young Black men.

As a result, the Black community has demanded that the practice be stopped because it violates the rights of individuals and serves to criminalize the Black community.

But in one of his last acts leading the Toronto Police Service (TPS), former chief of police, Bill Blair, managed to reverse an accepted Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) policy from 2014 with the help of the newly elected mayor, John Tory. Elements of the original policy would have placed some of the same restrictions on the police that are now found in the recently proposed regulations.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he community hoped that [the new police chief] would bring an understanding of the impact of carding on the Black community and would work to reverse the practice.[/quote]

As Blair, who was recently elected to the House of Commons, was on his way out, the TPSB sought to appoint a new chief, and with two of the leading candidates being Black, the community hoped that whichever one was appointed would bring an understanding of the impact of carding on the Black community and work to reverse the practice.

Instead, the new chief, Mark Saunders, essentially endorsed the practice, saying that it is a useful investigatory tool for the police.

In early June, a group of highly influential individuals, including a former chief justice of Ontario, held a news conference condemning the practice. Around the same time of that momentous event, the mayor backtracked and left the chief dancing on the head of a pin, trying to maintain the practice’s usefulness.

More recently, the chief of the Peel Regional Police, Jennifer Evans, defied her board by saying that street checks will continue.

In stepped the province’s minister of community safety, Yasir Naqvi, who had previously proposed a series of consultations to gather community input on what can be done, with a draft regulation that works to ban ‘carding’.

What the new regulation offers

The regulations being proposed will “(1) Expressly prohibit the random and arbitrary collection of identifying information by police; and (2) Establish clear new rules for voluntary police–public interactions where identifying information is collected.”

To their credit, the regulations go as far as they can to insure against the “arbitrary and random” nature of street checks. Such information can only be gathered if there is a reasonable suspicion of illegal activities.

As Naqvi announced at a news conference, a person's race or the neighbourhood he or she lives in cannot be grounds for officers to stop an individual or record identifying information about them.

In addition, if such information is collected, the officer must provide the individual with a “document” (generally referred to as a receipt) that contains information about the officer, the time and place, and importantly, the reason for the collection of the information.

Of course, there are some exceptions such as an officer working undercover, a routine traffic stop or executing a warrant.

At any rate, the chief must review the information collected within 30 days. Officers who violate the new rules would be subject to a misconduct charge.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Despite Fantino’s denial, the fact remained that the police stopped Black people more often than anyone else, for no reason other than their race.[/quote]

Elements of doubt

In 2002, when the Toronto Star published its investigation into racial profiling by the Toronto police, the then chief, Julian Fantino, and the police association, denied racial profiling existed. It was blamed on “a few bad apples” and renamed “biased policing”.

Despite Fantino’s denial, the fact remained that the police stopped Black people more often than anyone else, for no reason other than their race.

The carding practice can be seen as a “re-branding” or evolution of that racial profiling practice, with the added twist of maintaining a database of young Black men who have had contact with or are “known to” police – regardless of any connection with illegal activity.

While individuals who believe they have been wrongfully stopped and carded will have recourse by filing a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review (OIPRD), there will likely be a sense that the police, given their attachment to the activity, will find a way around the regulations.

It should not come as a shock to anyone that intimidation is part of policing practice, and that often serves as a dissuading factor in lodging complaints.


Patrick Hunter is a communications consultant and a columnist for Share Newspaper. He is a former communications director at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and has worked in government and the news media.

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Published in Commentary
Tuesday, 18 August 2015 01:23

Increased Concern Over Policing Immigrants

by Leah Bjornson (@leahjuneb) in Vancouver, British Columbia

An expert in policing suggests that more training is required to support law enforcement officers intervening in immigrant-related situations, following renewed interest in the death of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

This incident is one of many in the past few years that involved excessive use of force by Canadian police during confrontation with immigrants.

Almost eight years after Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) killed Robert Dziekanski, this issue has come under scrutiny now that the widow of a late Mountie has filed a civil suit against the RCMP.

Sheila Lemaitre is claiming that her husband, who became the face of the Dziekanski case, committed suicide as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma exacerbated by the RCMP following the incident.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The filing of the civil case has spurred renewed concerns as to the use of excessive force by police officers, in particular with racial minorities and immigrants in Canada.[/quote]

In her statement of facts, filed on July 30 in British Columbia’s Supreme Court, Lemaitre claimed that her late husband’s death was a “result of severe conditions, which were a direct result of his service in the RCMP and the negligence of the RCMP.”

Lemaitre’s husband, Pierre, who was the spokesperson for the RCMP following Dziekanski’s death, took his own life on July 29, 2013.

Due to the ongoing nature of the civil suit, the RCMP nor Lemaitre or her lawyer were willing to comment.

Not an isolated incident

The filing of the civil case has spurred renewed concerns as to the use of excessive force by police officers, in particular with racial minorities and immigrants in Canada.

The death of Dziekanski gained international media interest after it was revealed that the RCMP had misled the public as to the circumstances around his death.

On October 14, 2007, a disoriented Dziekanski wandered YVR for several hours before being detained by RCMP officers.

Dziekanski, who had just arrived from Poland and did not speak English, became agitated and was later killed during an attempt by police officers to subdue him.

Pierre described Dziekanski to the media as combative and stated that the police's quick use of a Taser stun gun was justified. Press releases also stated that Dziekanski had only been tasered twice.

However, an amateur video of the incident contradicted the RCMP’s claims, revealing that Dziekanski had been tasered five times, several of which occurred after he had fallen to the ground. It was this excessive use of force by police that ultimately led to Dziekanski’s death.

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CR_k-dTnDU[/youtube] 

Police use of force against racial minorities has been a controversial topic in the media, particularly in the United States, following the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Dziekanski is not the only time police have had fatal interactions with immigrants suffering from apparent mental illness.[/quote]

While police use of force is much more prevalent in the United States, Dziekanski is not the only time police have had fatal interactions with immigrants in Canada.

Just this year, Andrew Loku, a South Sudanese immigrant, was shot and killed by Toronto police officers in his apartment complex. Like Dziekanski, witnesses suggest that Loku may have been in crisis at the time of his death.

When police responded to a call about unknown trouble, Loku allegedly refused to comply with their demand to drop the hammer he was holding and he began approaching the police. One witness claims police only gave this order once before one of the officers began shooting.

Loku was a new immigrant to Canada, working so that he could eventually bring the rest of his family over from South Sudan. He was living in an apartment complex subsidized by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

In another incident last year, Vancouver police shot and killed Phuong Na (Tony) Du, an immigrant from rural Vietnam.

Du had been acting distraught and waving a piece of lumber when police confronted him at an intersection in Greater Vancouver. It was later revealed that Du had been suffering from schizophrenia.

Training not adequate enough

In a study conducted at the University of Toronto, researchers found that certain racial minorities were overrepresented in instances of police use of force.

African Canadians were at particular risk, for example, representing almost 50 per cent of all deaths caused by police use of force and two-thirds of all deaths caused by police shootings.

However, South Asian, Asian and West Asian Canadians were underrepresented.

While there may be many explanations for these trends, political scientist Stuart Farson maintains that these fatal shootings reveal a serious need for special training within the RCMP.

“Individual police officers often have only moments to respond to a person who appears to be threatening someone,” he explains.

“There is evidence to suggest that training has not been as adequate as it should have been. Given that the mentally ill have a tendency to come into contact with the police in potentially life threatening situations, such training should be an essential part of ongoing training.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Political scientist Stuart Farson suggests that recruiting officers that better reflect the communities they serve and who can speak the languages of Canada’s immigrant populations may mitigate such incidents.[/quote]

A professor at Simon Fraser University and author of numerous articles on security, intelligence, policing and political violence, Farson conducted research into the security operations at YVR several years ago.

He says the department was a “very cosmopolitan place” with members representing various ethnic groups. As such, he was surprised that officers at the time failed to properly intervene with Dziekanski. 

“While it is clear to me that what happened to Robert Dziekanski was utterly shameful, I believe it should never have happened,” he states.

Farson suggests that recruiting officers that better reflect the communities they serve and who can speak the languages of Canada’s immigrant populations may mitigate such incidents.

However, he adds recruiting from visible minorities is no easy feat. “Some communities have tended to be very reluctant to join.”

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Published in Top Stories

Canada has announced an additional P128 million (C$3>58 million) of security assistance to the Philippines to further support the Bangsamoro peace process and address regional and global security threats.

Canada will deploy additional Canadian police officers to chair the Independent Commission on Policing for the Bangsamoro to provide strategic advice on the development of policing options for the Bangsamoro under the National Police.

This was made following its deployment of Randy Beck, former assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“These police support projects will further strengthen relations and connections between Canadian and Filipino law authorities facilitating cooperation and information sharing on transnational organized crime, which is expected to improve safety conditions in Canada and the Philippines.” - Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder[/quote]

Canada will also provide training to Filipino police officers to address transnational organized crime, including major case management, evidence handling and interview techniques.

These projects, valued at P54 million, are funded by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs’ Trade and Development’s Anti-Crime Capacity-Building Program and Global Peace and Security Fund.

“These police support projects will further strengthen relations and connections between Canadian and Filipino law authorities facilitating cooperation and information sharing on transnational organized crime, which is expected to improve safety conditions in Canada and the Philippines,” Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said.

“This additional commitment from the Canadian government was announced during the meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Aquino held in Ottawa last month, and we are committed to working with trusted allies and partners to address international security issues,” he added.

Future Initiatives 

Two other security-related projects were announced during President Aquino’s state visit to Canada.

Announced were the capacity-building for port and maritime security in the Philippines project worth P41 million and the counter-improvised explosives devices training that will cost P33 million.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada will work with Filipino officials to build tactical and operational relationships.[/quote]

Funded by the Canadian government’s Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program, the three-year project to be implemented by the International Police Organization (Interpol), is part of an ongoing effort to address the threats of piracy, terrorism and organized crime to maritime security in Southeast Asia.

The project will seek to enhance front-line law-enforcement institutional capacity by strengthening the ability of the Philippines to gather, collect, analyze and share essential law-enforcement data. This will help ensure that the Philippines can provide more information to Interpol’s database, thus benefiting other countries in their efforts to counter terrorism worldwide.

The three-year counter-improvised explosive devices training, led by Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) with the Canadian Armed Forces’ Joint Counter Explosive Threat Task Force as implementing partner, looks to increase Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) institutionalization in the Philippines and increase the survivability of C-IED first responders.

As part of this project, Canada will work with Filipino officials to build tactical and operational relationships. DND will undertake subject matter expert exchanges and exercises to assess current C-IED capabilities with a view to developing detailed project plans. Canada will also provide training sessions focused on building individual technical skills, as well as training a cadre of trainers so that C-IED programs remain sustainable.

Published in Partnership with The Filipino Post.

Published in The Philippines

by Eternity Martis (@iratemixedchick) in Toronto

While Caribbean, black and ethnic media as a whole may never be mainstream, they offer a fundamental contribution to racial discussions in Canada by bringing together communities, tying Canada to other countries and establishing a minority voice on a visible platform.

Over the last few months here are just a few of the headlines Caribbean media outlets broke in Canada, that went under reported by the larger outlets.

Caribbean Immigrants Most Affected by New Canadian Citizenship Changes

According to CICS News, new data shows that changes in the citizenship process have caused a drop in the number of immigrants wanting to be citizens.

In 2008, only 26 per cent of permanent residents in Canada received citizenship. That is down from 44 per cent in 2007, and 79 per cent from 2000.

The decline is attributed to the harsher rules and fees established in 2010. The score to pass a citizenship test has increased from 60 per cent to 75 per cent (or 15 out of 20 multiple-choice questions).

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has also raised the citizenship application fee to $530 per adult, more than five times the cost in 2013.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The extra financial hurdle of the citizenship application fee may also deter certain groups of applicants more than others.[/quote]

What is most shocking is the ethnic breakdown of the test’s pass rates before and after the reform. While those from South Asian, Southern and East African communities all experienced a decline of more than 15 per cent, immigrants from the Caribbean had their pass rate go down by almost 20 per cent.

Andrew Griffith, former citizenship director-general who retired in 2013, found these trends through extensive research. While he does not give a reason why Caribbean immigrants experience less of a pass rate than other immigrants, he says education and income levels often determine who passes.

The extra financial hurdle of the citizenship application fee may also deter certain groups of applicants more than others.

Town Hall Meetings in Toronto Tackle Community Issues

According to Share News, the Jamaican Canadian Association, the Black Action Defence Committee and the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation have organized three town halls to discuss and work on community issues, education, unification of African and Caribbean communities and policing.

The meetings were held at the Jamaican Canadian Association in Toronto. The first meeting in January brought a smaller number; however, the following month drew in over 200 people. By the last meeting in March, fewer seats were filled.

Regardless, over a dozen community groups have signed up to partake in the town hall’s coalition group for future changes in the Black community, and activists and various members of African and Caribbean communities in the city have come together to help create solutions.

The town halls also featured discussion on the disproportionate number of Black people in Ontario public service sectors; violence and murder among young Black men and the impact on families; the lack of employment opportunities; and subsequent government policies that don’t reflect the experiences of Black communities.

Diabetes Expo Targets Caribbean-Canadians

Research on diabetes has shown many Caribbean-Canadians are diabetic, or are prone to developing the disease in their lifetime.

In order to raise awareness of diabetes in the Caribbean community, the Canadian Diabetes Association and its Caribbean Chapter hostedtheir sixth annual Black Diabetes Expo on April 25 at the Jamaican Canadian Association in Toronto.

This year’s theme was high blood pressure and its relation to diabetes. Dr. George Dresser, a clinical pharmacologist at Western University, delivered the keynote speech, “Taking control of your blood pressure will control your diabetes management.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The study found that diabetes is the leading cause of death amongst Caribbean-Canadians.[/quote]

Partners of the Expo included the Caribbean Camera, Rogers TV, and TAIBU Community Health Centre.

In addition to the research done on Caribbean-Canadians and diabetes, CERIS, an Ontario research group, conducted a study in 2013 on a group of Torontonians, both Black Caribbean and Canadian-born.

The study found that diabetes is the leading cause of death amongst Caribbean-Canadians. The study also revealed that Black Caribbeans were better at maintaining their physical health.

Black Canadians (and Caribbeans) You Should Know

Just because Black History Month has passed doesn’t mean we have to stop learning. A recent Share article by Murphy Browne titled “Blacks must learn about their history before enslavement” highlighted the importance of understanding African history – not in relation to slavery, but to the culture, progress and celebration of all Africans.

While Browne alludes to several well-known Black historical figures, as well as facts about African history, across the globe, he makes note that there is not much information available on the Caribbean community.

Here is a list of several Caribbean men and women that have contributed to Canadian history:

Lincoln Alexander (pictured above): Child of a Jamaican mother and St. Vincent father, Alexander was a politician and statesman who served as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, the federal Minister of Labour and the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

Dudley Laws: A Jamaican-born Canadian civil rights activist and executive director of the Black Action Defence Committee.

Charles Roach: A Trinidadian-born Canadian civil rights lawyer and activist in Toronto.

Sherona Hall: A Jamaican-born Canadian Black feminist, activist, youth advocate and political figure.

Lennox Farrell: A Trinidadian-born community activist, retired Toronto teacher and head of the Caribbean Cultural Committee.

Herbert Carnegie: Born in Toronto to Jamaican parents, Carnegie was a Canadian hockey player who played despite racial discrimination. He founded Future Aces, one of Canada’s first hockey schools.

Calvin Ruck: Born in Nova Scotia to Barbadian parents, Ruck was an anti-racism activist and Canadian senator.

Stanley G. Grizzle: Born in Toronto to Jamaican parents, Grizzle was a citizenship judge and labour union activist.

Leonard Braithwaite: Lawyer and Liberal politician in Ontario, who served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Bromley Armstrong: A Jamaican-born civil rights leader who played a prominent role in Canada’s civil rights movement upon his arrival in 1947.

Commentary: Can Ethnic Media Ever be Mainstream Media?

Last month, Premier Kathleen Wynne (pictured to right, credit: Share News) spoke in Mississauga about the importance of ethnic media in Canada. Wynne addressed the ethnic media organizations present, saying, “The stories that you tell and the work that you do are absolutely vital to shaping the society we all take enormous pride in today.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Ethnic media has the simple key element that mainstream media doesn’t: the “ethnic” perspective. [/quote]

This discussion is both timely and fundamental to journalism surrounding Caribbean culture, and Black communities as a whole.

Ethnic media has the simple key element that mainstream media doesn’t: the “ethnic” perspective. These outlets can report from a position of personal experience and compassion, and are more likely to understand the complexity of stories on race. They ask the questions that mainstream journalists often overlook: What's beneath the surface? How do we cover race issue fairly?

Take for example the Ferguson protests – often poorly covered by Canadian mainstream media, painting protesters as violent, looting animals and anti-white racists, while Caribbean media has helped shine light on the reality.

Or the fact that in mainstream news outlets immigrant success stories are saved for weekend features, while Caribbean media frequently congratulates members of the community.

Caribbean media outlets take what little importance Caribbean issues may have in larger media outlets and place them at the forefront, making them a necessity, rather than a token issue.

That is, of course, if they follow independent reporting standards, and not the models set out in mainstream media.


Eternity Martis is a Master of Journalism student at Ryerson University. She currently writes for The Huffington Post and Bustle. Her work has also been featured on Salon.com, xoJane and Vice Canada with a focus on race and gender issues.

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Published in Caribbean

by Daniel McNeil in Ottawa

For better or worse, much of our Canadian media, culture and society can be understood as a response to the media, culture and society of the United States. In sickness and in health, Canadians distance themselves from the types of violence and racial injustice that they associate with their neighbours to the south. Following the death of Michael Brown – the unarmed 18-year-old black man killed in August by police in Ferguson, Missouri – the Canadian media reported violent protests that damaged the properties and businesses of their largest trading partner. Following the more recent decision of a U.S. grand jury not to indict the police officer who killed Brown,Canadian journalists emphasized the non-violent nature of Canadian vigils held for Brown and his family.   

Since it does not challenge narratives of Canadian peace, order and good governance, Canadian journalists have also been able to pay close attention to the different stages of grief expressed by Americans on the news. They highlight portrayals of angry American conservatives who treat the social activism of young people of colour as a threat to the harmony of their nation. They note the anger with which American pundits trot out the red herring of “black on black crime.” And they acknowledge the types of bargaining in which calls for truth, justice and the American way are replaced with pictures that are more in keeping with hugs, smiles and the sentimental way.  

Yet Canadians rarely stop to consider whether sentimentality – the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion,” “the mark of dishonesty” and “the signal of secret and violent humanity” – might be a global problem rather than an American one. We don’t consider why America’s racial divisions are treated as a national shame when its multiracial military and cultural products are understood to be issues of global concern. We don’t ask why American journalists call for a national conversation about race even when their articles appear in global news outlets that discuss the fatal shootings of Black Britons by white police officers. Nor do we point out the arrogance of people in the West who bristle at the thought of comparing the United States with nations in the global South, and are shocked by statistics that show similar levels of racial segregation between Chicago and Johannesburg, or a greater wealth gap between black and white in the United States than in South Africa under Apartheid.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The erasure of African Canadians – and the dismissal of African Canadian grievances – is nothing new. There remains a rather grotesque silence about slavery in Canada, as is evident in the erroneous claim of the well-known film director David Cronenberg that one of the reasons Canada is different to the United States is because it “didn’t have slavery.[/quote]

High moral ground

If such damning statistics mean that Americans can no longer claim to be “less racist” than South Africans, many Canadians are still able to assume a moral high ground in regards to the United States because police forces in Canada do not consider the collection of race, ethnicity and other characteristics “beneficial or appropriate,” and only tend to report race and ethnicity in regards to  Aboriginal victims or perpetrators of crime. Rather than question these practices, Canadian journalists tend to simplify their message and claim that Canadians “have nothing to learn from Americans about the subject of race.” Even more disconcertingly, some of their articles exclusively compare the treatment of African Americans to the experiences of indigenous people in Canada, and omit to mention the social reality of racial discrimination for many African Canadians.

The erasure of African Canadians – and the dismissal of African Canadian grievances – is nothing new. There remains a rather grotesque silence about slavery in Canada, as is evident in the erroneous claim of the well-known film director David Cronenberg that one of the reasons Canada is different to the United States is because it “didn’t have slavery.” There are also attempts to disparage Black radicals in histories of Black Canada. In Robin Winks's account of African Canadian history, which is still used in schools and stocked in Chapters and Indigo bookstores across the country, Black immigrants are chastised for trying to apply the insights of militant thinkers to the Canadian context. To go further, such radical campaigns were considered part of a campaign to stir up “militant, noisy, pushy protests” that caused “thoughtless, needless, and frustrated destruction.”

Militant protest

Such desires to guide immigrants and Canadian-born Blacks away from radical protest often ignore the fact that many of the gains of a liberal, non-violent civil rights movement in the United States were linked to the threat of militant pressure. The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 is inseparable from the threat of riots, just as the housing bill of 1968 was a direct response to the riots that swept American cities after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Gloria Richardson, an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, remembers that she could go into meetings and say, “well, either deal with us or you will have Malcolm X coming into here.” As I found in my own research on sex and race in Canada during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, moderate Canadian leaders in the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People also sought to use the threat of a Black United Front and revolutionary violence in order to resist racial discrimination in  Canadian housing, education and employment.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Such desires to guide immigrants and Canadian-born Blacks away from radical protest often ignore the fact that many of the gains of a liberal, non-violent civil rights movement in the United States were linked to the threat of militant pressure.[/quote]

Given the connections and overlaps between the United States and Canada, it is understandable that Canadians have sought to reaffirm a national identity that is defined against the types of violence witnessed in Ferguson over the past few months. It is also understandable that others undercut these myths by flippantly noting the recent riots in Canada in response to the result of a hockey game. Yet, it may be more productive – morally as well as politically – if recent media coverage of events in the United States forces us to confront our deeply entrenched stereotypes about race and nation. To imagine new ways of belonging – with space and time, and to each other.

Daniel McNeil is the new strategic hire in Migration and Diaspora Studies at Carleton University, where he teaches in the Department of History and the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies.  He is also affiliated with the Institute of African Studies and Institute for Comparative Studies of Literature, Art and Culture at Carleton. His transnational and trans-disciplinary research  engages with the intellectual and cultural history of the Atlantic world during the 20th and 21st centuries, and his publications include Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic: Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs (Routledge 2010), the first book to explore the self-fashioning of mixed race individuals in a trans-Atlantic context.

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Published in Commentary
Friday, 15 August 2014 17:58

Blinded by “Merit”

by Hamlin Grange (@HamlinGrange) in Toronto

Few people would disagree that Blacks and other non-whites are treated differently than whites by the criminal justice system.  All the statistical data show that Blacks get harsher penalties, longer sentences and are over-represented in prisons .

Many people blame police for this disparity and they are partly right; but the average cop on the beat is just one part of a criminal justice system.

As important a role as police play in enforcing the law, it’s judges who interpret the law and hand out sentences. That’s why the findings of new research by a law professor about the racial and ethnic makeup of judges are so important.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Meritocracy is often used with a positive connotation: “If you work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you too can succeed.”[/quote]

Rosemary Cairns Way, of the University of Ottawa, found a stunning lack of racial diversity among judges appointed to the bench by the Canadian government.

She found that between April 2012 and March 2014, of 94 appointments, only one non-white judge was selected.  In the past five and a half years, the federal government has appointed only three non-white judges out of nearly 200.

It’s not that lawyers of colour aren’t available. In Ontario and British Columbia, for example, they represent up to 17 per cent of  all lawyers. Yet, if a spokesperson for the justice minister is to be believed, those lawyers just aren’t good enough to be judges. She says the federal government is “guided foremost by the principles of merit and legal excellence in the appointment of judges…”

This response is both predictable and regrettable.

Pulling the “merit” card is the last refuge of those who believe Blacks and other people of colour don’t have the ability or credentials to do certain jobs or hold positions of authority.

In today’s stratified society, meritocracy – that it’s the best-qualified who gets selected – sounds great — in theory.  In practice, it’s often a myth.  Other factors often prove more powerful: connections and comfort-level are just two.

Meritocracy is often used with a positive connotation: “If you work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you too can succeed.”

However, when meritocracy first appeared in Michael Young’s book Rise of the Meritocracy in 1958, he envisioned a world in 2034 when society was ruled by people with a sense of  entitlement while those at the bottom of  the system were incapable of protecting themselves against the abuses of the “merit elite”.

As Young states, those at the bottom  “… can easily become demoralized by being looked down on so woundingly by people who have done well for themselves … No underclass has ever been left as morally naked as that.”

Statistics Canada  projects that by 2035 – one year later than Young’s fictional world – “visible minorities” in major Canadian cities will become “visible majorities.” This means  major institutions — the courts, governments, etc. — should better reflect the demographics of all Canadians, if they are to be seen as credible and relevant.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Pulling the “merit” card is the last refuge of those who believe Blacks and other people of colour don’t have the ability or credentials to do certain jobs or hold positions of authority.[/quote]

More than a decade ago in a documentary I did for CBC television about the criminal justice system in Ontario, a white defense lawyer said he made sure he made his Black witnesses appear “as white a possible” because he knows that white judges would be more “comfortable” with them.  He tells his witnesses to dress and speak in a particular (white) way.

The notion that justice must be blind to be fair is a good one. However, the reality is — at least for some people in our society — justice is not blind. And now it seems the glare of “merit” is also blinding those who decide who one day will become judges.

Hamlin Grange is president and principal consultant with DiversiPro Inc. He is recognized as a subject matter expert in diversity, inclusion and intercultural competence development of teams and individuals. He has worked with organizations in a wide range of sectors, including law enforcement, social services, post secondary education and corporations.

This piece was re-published with permission from the author. 

Published in Commentary
by Yaa-Hemaa Obiri-Yeboah
 
U.S. President Barack Obama remarked unexpectedly on the Trayvon Martin case during a recent White House press briefing. His statement was eloquent, empathetic and thoughtful, and was reminiscent of the Obama persona many came to know and love when he was on his first campaign for the White House.
 
While Obama did discuss the ruling in which George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch coordinator, was acquitted of shooting dead Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old African-American, what was remarkable about his speech was his bold step to establish a more intimate connection with Martin.
 
Obama directly identified with the dead youth assumed by a large portion of the U.S. public to be a hoodlum.  He said that “Trayvon Martin could have been [him] 35 years ago,” a step up from his earlier remark that “Trayvon could have been my son.” Obama legitimized the personal experiences of many blacks in the U.S. (and in Canada too) with these remarks. His statements rang true for so many blacks and other ethnic minorities – most of whom have had the experiences when he said:
 
“There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.”
 
Obama’s statements lend credence to the experience of so many ethnic minorities. Even (arguably) the most powerful man in the world faces the same challenges of discrimination and prejudice as the everyday man and woman.  He confirmed what many already know to be the truth and their lived experience. If he weren’t a public figure, he too could suffer the same treatment that is a commonplace occurrence for so many.
 
Obama is no stranger to discussions on race. He notes that as an Illinois senator, he passed legislation on racial profiling which collected data on traffic stops and the race of the individuals who were stopped. The legislation also provided resources for training police departments to think about “potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.”
 
Ottawa Police study
 
Obama’s remarks are timely in a Canadian context, given that the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) began its traffic stop study at the end of June to address the issue of racial bias and racial profiling by police. Obama states what is already known by racially profiled citizens from Ottawa to London, England to Washington, DC: “there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws.”
 
Whether the OPS study ends up being effective in addressing the problems in this city remains to be seen; but, regardless of the study’s conclusions, ethnic minorities already know that policies aren’t always applied fairly. A study isn’t required to inform citizens of this fact. All law-abiding citizens want, as Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post says, to see “those policies applied fairly” – regardless of race.  – New Canadian Media
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Published in Commentary

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved