Canadian Racism

Black Lives Matter should inspire pink-hued Canadians to fight for their Indigenous neighbours

Editorial by Stephen Whitworth

It has been eight years since Trayvon Martin was killed by a deranged stand-yer-grounder in Florida. It’s been six years since Michael Brown Jr. was shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri and cops choked Eric Garner to death in New York. It’s been four years since a cop blew Philando Castile away on live stream, in his car, in front of his girlfriend and her child in, where was it? Oh yeah, a St. Paul, Minnesota suburb (what’s goin’ on, Minnesota?).

It’s also been 28 years since three Los Angeles cops beat charges of police brutality after they were filmed savagely attacking an unarmed Rodney King. Their acquittal (the jury couldn’t reach a decision on a fourth cop) sparked a riot that killed 63 people.

Then there’s Breonna Taylor, gunned down March 13 by Louisville, Kentucky police searching the wrong house (oopsies), and of course George Floyd, killed on video by a cop who pushed his knee into Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing. That last murder has sparked massive protests across the U.S. and it’s starting to feel like something might come of it. Maybe enough Americans have finally realized they live in an epically racist country literally built on a foundation of slavery, and “punishing bad cops” isn’t going to cut it this time (not that police who kill unarmed black people usually get punished).

Not to be Pollyanna, but the breadth of protest and outrage really does suggest most people want change and are willing to fight for it.

But it’s also a little surreal to watch it unfold in Saskatchewan, which has a large, historically abused and marginalized Indigenous population who face breathtaking racism, both socially and structurally.

Where’s the weeks of city-stopping protest on their behalf?

Racism in Canada is every bit as bad as racism in the United States, even as we pretend it’s not. Indigenous suicide rates and incarceration numbers are through the roof and Indigenous people on reserves often don’t even have drinkable water, all in a country that just mailed billions of dollars to white Canadians who’d lost work in a pandemic.

And the sheer nastiness of it! I mean, just look at the comments on any news story about Colten Boushie’s killing. Boushie was essentially executed for trespassing. No conviction. Massive online support and sympathy for the man who ended his life.

This isn’t an attempt to pit one urgently needed social movement against another, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way. But it is time more Caucasian Canadians paid attention to the virulent racism forged into this country, and experienced daily by our Indigenous friends, neighbours and family.

Let’s fix it.