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Canadians who follow the news are used to seeing scenes from the United States of black people being shot by police, or wrongfully convicted, or beaten while in custody. However, as Robyn Maynard points out, the same issues occur in Canada. Maynard writes: “While Canada’s global reputation of racial tolerance is a source of national pride, it is accompanied by a reluctance to acknowledge the ongoing injustices faced by black communities here at home.”
The over-representation of black people in Canadian jails is well-known. Previous posts have also described the extent to which black people in Canada are more likely to be arrested or to be given longer sentences for similar crimes. Black people are much more likely to be subject to carding by police in major cities, and to be stopped by police when driving. In the past 10 years, racially disproportionate police stops have been documented in cities across the country, including Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Kingston, Ottawa, Edmonton and Lethbridge. For many black people in Canadian cities, profiling is a daily reality. A Toronto study found that close to 80% of black men between 25 and 44 reported being stopped by police for no obvious reason. Even more, black people make up 8% of the population of Toronto but account for more than 35% of people killed by police. Some of these recent cases have been quite high profile, but are not necessarily connected to the systemic nature of discrimination and prejudice.
Discrimination goes beyond the justice system
However discriminatory treatment does not exist only in the criminal justice system. Ontario data show that black students are much more likely to be suspended from school. And as Maynard points out in her book, Policing Black Lives, black children are significantly more likely to be taken into care by the child welfare system. (The same issues, it should be noted, exist for Aboriginal people in Canada.)
Maynard points out how deep these problems run by noting that ‘Black children are not actually perceived [by others] as innocent’ so that the protection often awarded to young people by our institutions is less likely to apply to black children.
Nor are these only contemporary problems; Maynard’s work describes their historical context, noting that racial discrimination has been manifest in Canada throughout the country’s history.
Material in this post is drawn from:
Misogynoir in Canada. Herizons, 23(1) spring 2018 21-23
‘Overpolicing in black communities is a Canadian crisis, too’. Washington Post, April 24, 2018
Robyn Maynard is the national bestselling author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present. Now in it’s third printing, the book was shortlisted for an Atlantic Book Award and won the Errol Morris 2018 Book Prize. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, Washington Post, World Policy Journal, and Canadian Women’s Studies Journal.