EVA Canada stands in solidarity with Black and Indigenous communities in calling for justice and accountability for the long history and ongoing practice of police brutality and other forms of systemic racism.
The recent acts of police brutality resulting in the deaths of Black and Indigenous people in the United States and Canada are distressing evidence of the way that racist and colonial systems continue to uphold conditions in which violence – including violence occurring at the hand of the state – is a daily threat and reality for Black and Indigenous people. As Robyn Maynard writes, “similarly to the United States, racism in Canadian policing does not begin and end with violent encounters and loss of life. Racially biased policing occurs within a broad continuum of injustices from police stops to arrests.” The overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous people in provincial, territorial and federal correctional institutions; pervasive racial profiling by police, and the absence of action on existing recommendations and findings related to reforming and addressing racism and colonialism within the justice system, including the National Inquiry’s Calls for Justice and the Report of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its visit to Canada, are just some of the indicators of a long-standing indifference to dismantling systemic racism in Canada and the ways it plays out within the justice system.
As an anti-violence organization that works regularly with survivors of gender-based violence when they report domestic and sexual violence to the police, we know that survivors may well have their experience of violence questioned, minimized, and, at times, denied. For Black and Indigenous women, girls, trans and non-binary people, as well as people of colour (BIPOC), the dangers of reaching out to the police or engaging with the criminal justice system following violence can extend far beyond not being believed; in addition, reporting domestic and sexual violence to the police must be weighted against the potential for criminalization; investigation or involvement from child protective services; deportation; being subjected to racist comments and attitudes, and, in some cases, cases physical or sexual assault. Systemic racism within policing and the criminal justice system that puts BIPOC survivors of gender-based violence at risk for further violence and criminalization is a pernicious reality within this system.
Recognizing that anti-racism work must be a foundational part of anti-violence work, EVA Canada will continue to press government to act on existing legislative and policy opportunities and recommendations that if enacted could contribute to a more equitable and anti-racist justice system, including:
- Urging the passing of Bill C-5, An Act to Amend the Judges’ Act and the Criminal Code,that will require judicial education on sexual assault with amendments to the bill recommended and submitted to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that judicial education be developed in consultation with frontline workers, survivors, and organizations that reflect a diversity of backgrounds and those with direct experiences of oppression, and that judicial education about the “social context” of sexual assault include factors contributing to systemic inequality, including colonialism and racism.
- Requiring that in the implementation of its plan to respond to its handling of sexual assault cases outlined in The Way Forward: The RCMP’s sexual assault review and victim support action plan, the RCMP’s commitment to the development of a sexual assault training curriculum include mandatory education about the history of colonialism and racism in Canada; the role of racism in sexual assault myths and misconceptions; and that this training be developed in consultation with frontline workers, survivors, and organizations that reflect a diversity of backgrounds, including Black and Indigenous women, girls, trans, and non-binary people.
- Demanding that government fulfill its legal obligation to respond to the findings of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and its 231 Calls for Justice, including the 25 Calls for Justice specific to reforming the justice system (see Calls 5.1-5.25), and the 11 Calls for Justice specific to reforming police services (see Calls 9.1-9.11), and in particular findings that “the relationship between Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people and the justice system has been largely defined by colonialism, racism, bias, discrimination, and fundamental cultural and societal differences” (see Call 9.1).
- Pushing for action on the findings and recommendations outlined by the Office of the Correctional Investigator, including recommendations calling for accountability, oversight, and institutional changes directed toward addressing the over-representation and treatment of Indigenous people within the federal prison system; ensuring that the full diversity of individuals currently serving sentences is respected, including Black and Indigenous people; and ensuring access to trauma-informed and culturally-relevant approaches to programming and interventions.
- Supporting the prioritization of financial support and resources to equality-seeking organizations, informal and grassroots networks, and other groups led by Black and Indigenous women, trans, and non-binary people as those holding expertise necessary to leading the transformation of racist and colonialist policies and institutions.
- Requiring mainstream anti-violence organizations to acknowledge and address power dynamics, privilege, and white supremacy within their own organizations and methods of service delivery that create barriers for Black and Indigenous women, girls, trans and non-binary people in accessing anti-violence support services.
For resources and reading examining the history, treatment, and experiences of Black women and girls in relation to the police and justice system in Canada and the United States, see the following:
- Jen Katshunga; Notisha Massaquoi; Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), & Justine Wallace, (2020). Black Women in Canada
- Andrea J. Ritchie, (2017). Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color
- Nicole Pietsch, (2010). ‘I’m not that kind of girl’: White femininity, the Other, and the Legal/Social Sanctioning of Sexual Violence Against Racialized Women
- Robyn Maynard. Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present. Black, NS: Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing, 2017.
- Robyn Maynard, Over-policing in black communities is a Canadian crisis, too
- Johnson, Kalimah. 2018. The SASHA Model: Black Women’s Triangulation of Rape. SASHA Center-Model Committee, Detroit. August 29, 2018.
- Senator Kim Pate, Policy4Women: Rising Incarceration Rates of Racialized Women.
- Michelle S. Jacobs, (2017). The Violent State: Black Women’s Invisible Struggle Against Police.
- Charmaine Nelson, (2017). Modern Racism in Canada has Deep Colonial Roots.
- United Nations General Assembly, Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Canada.
- Anthony Morgan, (2018). Doing justice by Black Canadians.
- Office of the Correctional Investigator. A Case Study of Diversity in Corrections: The Black Inmate Experience in Federal Penitentiaries, Final Report..