After taking a knee, the next step is being spelled out for Justin Trudeau

Three articles on expectations for the Trudeau government with respect to countering anti-black racism, starting the Campbell Clark of the Globe, followed by former Conservative Senator Don Oliver and Liberal MP Greg Fergus. Clark focusses on RCMP reform, both Oliver and Fergus stress, among other issues, increased Black Canadian representation at senior levels:

When Justin Trudeau joined an anti-racism protest on Friday, taking a knee to express solidarity, it was as though he still didn’t know the next step after kneeling.

He had already spoken, in a press conference earlier that day, about the “disturbing” videos and reports of incidents that surfaced last week. He asserted, in earnest Trudeau-esque tones, that although “we can’t solve all this overnight,” change is needed, and “we need to start today.” Yet he didn’t offer any clear notion of what a first step could be.

Those disturbing reports, though, offered at least one obvious place to start: more transparency.

On Saturday, Chief Allan Adam, who leads the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, held a press conference to present grainy videos of the night in March when, Chief Adam said, he was beaten by RCMP officers when they stopped him and his wife over an expired registration for their car.

Chief Adam’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, called for the suspension of one of the officers involved, but what was notable was the basic call for transparency in the other three things he sought.

He called for the RCMP to release their own, clearer video of the incident, taken from an RCMP dashcam. He called for a full investigation by another police force – not the RCMP. And he called for body cameras to be worn by all RCMP officers.

Independent investigations? Public transparency? Body cams? Yes to all of that. Because it’s 2020.

And stats, too – disaggregated race-based statistics, so Canadians can get a sense of who gets arrested over expired registrations.

One thing on Chief Adam’s list, an outside investigation, is now happening. Alberta’s Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates serious injuries and deaths involving the police, said Saturday afternoon that they would review the allegations. The RCMP had previously said they had reviewed their own video of the incident, and that it didn’t meet the threshold for an outside investigation.

That’s a threshold that cries out for scrutiny: If there is video of police using force with a citizen, someone outside the organization should be looking at it.

Doing those things won’t eliminate racial discrimination in policing, let alone dismantle systemic racism in the country, which doesn’t start or end with the police. Body cams don’t prevent all abuses. They just offer the potential for a record.

But if Mr. Trudeau is looking for a place to start, he might start with the obvious: Disturbing events that came to light only because of bystanders taking video on their phones. More transparency is a basic step.

Mr. Trudeau’s government doesn’t hold all the levers on these things. Local policing is a provincial responsibility, even when it is done by the RCMP, and for much of the population, the local police are municipal or provincial forces.

But he does exert control over the RCMP, including appointing its Commissioner. He can demand standards of accountability for incidents that involve the use of force, and that they be reviewed independently. He can fix the broken complaints system for the RCMP – a small reform is already proposed in legislation before Parliament. He can demand that the collection, and publication, of statistics on arrests and charges be disaggregated by ethnic background.

He has federal spending power. A national initiative to have police wear body cameras can be pushed forward with funding from Ottawa. Especially if he moves forward now. He can press provincial premiers to join him in setting basic national standards of transparency.

That is, for starters, what the symbolism of taking a knee demands. You can judge for yourself if you think Mr. Trudeau is sincere or engaged in political play-acting, or some mix of the two, but you don’t have to look further than Donald Trump to see that the opposite symbolism is bad government. Mr. Trudeau chose to acknowledge systemic racism, rather than to deny it.

There is a lot that necessarily follows from that symbolism. But if Mr. Trudeau can’t find a first step now, he can look to the things that should have been done a long time ago to bring a little more transparency to policing.

Source:   opinion After taking a knee, the next step is being spelled out for Justin Trudeau Subscriber content The government must look to the things that should have been done a long time ago to bring a little more transparency to policing Campbell Clark       

Former Conservative Senator Don Oliver:

Both Canada and the United States are each deeply embroiled in the largest pandemic of anti-Black systemic racism since the height of the Martin Luther King civil rights movement that featured vicious attack dogs, and the brutal beatings, shootings, and murders by whites and by police of unarmed, innocent Black, men, women and children.

Only now, with the internet, technology, and social media, millions and millions of eyes from around the world are watching the United States. People are also watching Canada to see if this middle-ranked world power, once recognized and worshipped for its even-handedness, compassion, understanding and respect for diversity, can rise now to its former exalted position in the world. The world is watching us in the face of the ugly and racist murder of George Floyd in the United States to see if Canada can now give hope and demonstrate once again its earned reputation for understanding and tolerance, and produce a roadmap that all can see and read for overcoming and eliminating anti-Black systemic racism.

Some would argue that there was abject failure of leadership on the part of the Trudeau government to provide more than the vacuous, “we’re in this together,” but it’s clear that words alone will not eliminate anti-Black racism. Many people, including victims of anti-Black racism in Canada, are looking for some concrete resolutions.

The prime minister, however, has clearly stated repeatedly that anti-Black systemic racism exists in Canada today, and on June 2, he said, with humility: “I am not here today to describe a reality I do not know or speak to a pain I have not felt.” That’s probably because he’s white and privileged. He was born into that and it’s not a sin.

The reality, however, for most African Canadians is that their pigmentation defines who they are thought to be by the rest of the world, and it’s usually not positive. The sad reality for many Blacks is that with every step they take and every move they make they are liable to be stopped, suppressed, held back, criticized, ridiculed, and prevented from proceeding for perhaps no reason other than the colour of their skin. Those barriers exist particularly in housing, employment, health care, and criminal justice.

But it cannot be forgotten that there are throughout Canada thousands and thousands of white people who I salute and who do not see colour when they deal with us, and many of them have been on the streets the last nine days walking with us side by side, peacefully demonstrating for an end to systemic racism and protesting the horrible death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Many more have been at their homes praying for an end to Black-based systemic racism in Canada. These are the people of good faith who help make our country strong.

In my case, I started school at the age of five, in a small university Baptist town, the only Black child in the class. For the next 10 years or so, we all had the same school teachers, the same coaches for sports; we basically all went to the same Sunday school and church, played on the same hockey teams and attended all the same parties and socials.

But sometimes when I was engaged in an interesting discussion with teachers or with people around the university, or when I was playing sports with my classmates, I would momentarily forget about the colour of my skin. It didn’t seem that important in the scheme of things; after all, we had so many things in common. Colour was not always the foremost thought in my mind.

For a glancing moment, I had a feeling that there was really no difference and that we were indeed intrinsically alike. I had completely forgotten that pigmentation always denoted a marked physical and psychological difference. It had all the shades of invoking a subtle master/servant relationship from the days of slavery, and that being Black meant being inferior and less worthy than your white counterpart. Pigmentation would always describe who I was as a physical being.

So, how could I ever forget something so fundamental, even for an instant. It was painfully and blatantly clear that I would have to be conscious of my colour at all times and be ready to defend it as well. The colour of my skin is a situational fact that has stayed with me all my life. But even though pigmentation was not something that I thought about every hour of every day, it did help orient my entire life.

When in the middle of something very important and demanding, I would often receive the strange query—“don’t you realize you’re Black”—and it would happen on some of the most unexpected occasions, and I had to be ready. The situation is called racism. That is the constant reality for most Blacks in Canada today. We encounter race hatred, intolerance, discrimination, contempt, and prejudice in virtually everything we become part of in our daily lives.

The prime minister cannot possibly fathom our reality of racism because it defies so many of our senses and it’s just there with disquieting regularity. For instance, imagine you are eminently qualified and Black, with excellent managerial skills and experience, have superior, advanced education, are proficient in three languages, are the proper age, and that you’ve just learned that you’ve been passed over for the eighth time in an executive job competition. What a shock. What else can you do? You know implicitly that racism is present and totally in control of what is happening. But it has defied all your senses. Nothing overt gave you an explanation for the result. It’s something painful and hurtful. You want to cry, to scream out. But you dare not. It’s how systemic racism manifests itself, and that’s the pain and the reality our prime minister cannot possibly ever know and understand.

And it’s just like the anti-Black racism demonstrated by the beatings, shootings, and killings of Black people throughout Canada for which there are thousands of white and Black Canadians protesting and peacefully demonstrating in the streets. Prime Minister Trudeau must understand that anti-Black racism has to stop.

The job now for public policy-makers looking for solutions is to dig deeply into the very core of systemic racism, analyze it, and produce detailed, comprehensive, and professional recommendations for change that must be acted upon by government immediately. Remember, the eyes of the world are watching Canada with hope.

The prime minister can put a lot of easy and meaningful things in place immediately, if there is the will. As I have been saying for decades, some of these helpful things are very, very easy for a prime minister to implement and to make happen quickly.

For instance, one way to start to dispel the sting of anti-Black racism is for eminent and qualified Blacks to be appointed to senior positions on boards, commissions, and Crown corporations. For example, you will recall that, as prime minister, Brian Mulroney appointed Lincoln Alexander as the Queen’s representative of Canada’s largest province; Julius Isaacs was appointed chief justice of the Federal Court of Canada, and I was Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate of Canada.

There are dozens of great Lincoln Alexanders out there today who could become significant influencers on major government boards and commissions and this would help reduce the impact of anti-Black racism. We desperately need more Black judges appointed to our Superior Courts across the country. We need Black deputy and associate deputy ministers appointed to our senior bureaucracy in Ottawa. We need more Black chiefs of staff in government offices. We need a new federal government Department of Diversity headed by a Black deputy minister. The upper echelons of power in Canada must reflect the diverse faces of Canada. A number of these things can be done by Prime Minister Trudeau with the stroke of his pen, and what a difference it would make for Canada.

In conjunction with these initiatives in boardrooms across the nation, we also need to make policy more effective. We urgently need accurate information: facts and race-based disaggregated data. Prime Minister Trudeau should pick up his pen this week and sign any prerequisite documentation from the Privy Council Office to order the immediate collection of comprehensive data on COVID-19 from every province and territory in Canada. This data should be submitted to Statistics Canada on a daily and weekly basis, possibly retroactively, to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United States now has close to 110,000 reported deaths from COVID-19 and, regretfully, a disproportionately high per cent of those deaths are Blacks and Latinos. In Canada, we have some general information that a disproportionately high percentage of those who have died from COVID-19 are also Black. We know these deaths in both countries involve socio-economic issues such as lack of a nutritious diet, access to the health-care system, employment opportunities, affordable, adequate housing and, most of all, the subtle, all-pervading yet omnipresent anti-Black systemic racism.

To examine and report on these issues, in-depth, I urgently call on Prime Minister Trudeau to appoint in June 2020 a commission of inquiry under the Inquiries Act, chaired by an eminent Black Canadian judge, to examine in detail the above socio-economic issues, call evidence and hear from those impacted by racism in the communities across Canada, and report back to Parliament with specific recommendations in each area designed to eradicate or substantially limit the reach and influence of anti-Black systemic racism in Canada. All aspects of the inquiry must involve in its membership and research a majority of eminent, qualified African Canadian men and women. The inquiry would, as well, receive all the race-based data collected by Statistics Canada, and hopefully provide recommendations to the government before the next wave of COVID-19.

No reasonable Canadian expects this prime minister to fully understand the reality and the 400 years of the pain of anti-Black systemic racism in Canada, but they do expect him to take some positive steps towards its elimination, such as those set out above.

Source: Trudeau must understand anti-Black racism has to stop, and he’s got the power to help stop it

Lastly, current Liberal MP Greg Fergus:

Greg Fergus spent much of last week in video conferences, talking to black Canadians and community leaders. The Liberal MP for Hull-Aylmer and chair of the parliamentary black caucus says many people are “traumatized.”

But, he said, they also know that this moment is an opportunity for other Canadians to “finally see the systemic barriers that are in place here.”

“Everyone says, I’m up and I’m down …  I’m angry and I’m hopeful. It’s an awful mix,” he said in an interview. “And because we have attention on the issue, everybody’s being asked about it. I’m happy to engage with this, but it’s hard to engage with it, because it’s overwhelming.

“We saw those brutal images of racism … and it triggers all those big and little things that every person of colour has been through.”

On Friday, Fergus was beside Justin Trudeau when the prime minister attended the Black Lives Matter rally on Parliament Hill and kneeled along with many others in the crowd, the symbolically powerful gesture that has become a hallmark of the protests and rallies against anti-black racism that have followed the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis.

Trudeau’s participation was part of a week that will certainly be remembered as a significant moment in the history of protest against anti-black discrimination. But much now depends on what steps his government takes next.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an appearance at an anti-racism rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Friday. He was met with chants of “Stand up to Trump!” from the crowd and kneeled for eight minutes and 46 seconds to remember George Floyd. 1:47

“We always said we need to do more. Now we’re seeing why it’s important to do more,” Fergus said. “Racism kills.”

The list of what the Trudeau government could or should do is long. But Fergus said he is proud of what the government did in its first four years — action he believes his fellow black parliamentarians and Liberal staff were part of making happen.

Over its last two budgets, the Trudeau government committed $19 million over five years to develop mental health programs for black Canadians and support for young people, and $25 million over five years for community programming.

Statistics Canada was provided with $6.7 million to create a new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics, which is mandated to “increase the disaggregation of various data sets by race, with a particular focus on the experience of black Canadians.” A new anti-racism strategy, including the creation of an anti-racism secretariat in the public service, was given $45 million over three years.

But Celina Caesar-Chevannes, the former Liberal MP who broke with the party last year, wrote this week that the funding committed to black Canadians for mental health was not nearly enough and “certainly [does] not speak to black lives mattering.”

In 2018, the government officially recognized the UN International Decade for People of African Descent and the prime minister publicly acknowledged the existence of “anti-black racism” — the first prime minister, Fergus said, to do so.

But a year later, Fergus also expressed frustration with how little the machinery of government had moved to match the prime minister’s words.

“It’s hard to convince people that there’s a problem,” he said.

Diversifying government’s highest ranks

Fergus has since been appointed parliamentary secretary to Jean-Yves Duclos, the president of the Treasury Board, and he is interested in promoting diversity throughout the upper echelon of the public service.

“I don’t think the public service is any different from Canada in general, in the sense that it’s hard to overcome the systemic barriers. We have an excellent public service that hires [people] in a way that reflects the way Canada looks. Where the public service doesn’t do as well is, as you go up the ranks, it becomes more and more homogeneous,” Fergus said.

In Fergus’s view, this is a textbook example of unconscious bias.

“This is an example of systemic discrimination — there are practices or assumptions or biases at play that end up having these kinds of results. You have to be conscious of these biases, and we have to really challenge the way it is,” he says.

“It doesn’t make sense that there’s been no black deputy ministers — you can’t convince me that there aren’t black people who are competent. But there’s something that went into the calculation over time that that person didn’t make the right fit, or didn’t get that promotion. We can justify any individual decision, but when you aggregate all these decisions, you end up with a biased result.

“Those are the things that we’ve got to take a look at. But it’s hard to do the things which are hard to do. And it’s hard to see bias. People don’t want to admit that’s going on.”

When the Trudeau government promoted Caroline Xavier to associate deputy minister at the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, she became the first black woman to reach that level of the public service. (Duclos’s chief of staff, Marjorie Michel, is also the first black of woman to hold that title in the federal government.)

But diversifying the public service is just one path of change and other areas crying out for government action.

Immigration policy, police reform other points of debate

Caesar-Chevannes laid out a proposed agenda that includes a review of immigration policy, increased government funding and the expunging of criminal records for marijuana possession, a charge that disproportionately punished black Canadians. She also called for the repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

The RCMP and policing reform have emerged as significant points of debate in the weeks and months ahead. The NDP has already called for bans on racial profiling and the practice of “carding,” in which police stop individuals and ask to see ID without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Questions about policing and justice can be politically difficult to navigate — for decades, the incentive for politicians has been to seem “tough” on crime. That tide could be turning, but, regardless, the Trudeau government is unlikely to be excused for failing to deal with these issues.

But combating systemic racism and improving the lives of black Canadians means going well beyond such issues.

Fergus: ‘If there ever was a time to speak, it’s now’

Fergus said there is interest among black community leaders in federal support for black-owned businesses. The federal government could, for instance, provide microcredit and organize a program to provide mentorship from black financial experts. It has also been suggested that federal procurement policy could be used to benefit black-owned companies, similar to how Indigenous businesses have been a specific focus since 1996.

An emphasis on data — to better understand how black Canadians are doing and how public policy affects them — is a common theme across calls for change, including an essay penned last week by Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard.

“That will be the gift that keeps giving,” Fergus said of better data.

Fergus said his advice to black Canadians and activists is to capitalize on this moment.

“If there was ever a time to speak it’s now. If there was ever a time to get that story out, it’s now,” he said. “We have 15 minutes of people’s attention. Let’s try to make this something that resonates longer and leads to substantive and systemic changes. This is the time.”

What Fergus saw around him on Friday tells him that Canadians are ready for and expecting that change.

“I think Canadians expect us to do more. And looking at the people who were in the crowd — really, it was good for me. It was really good for me to so many non-blacks took part. They were clearly the majority,” he said.

“That is a good feeling. They are awake to this.”

Source: Liberal MP takes stock of government’s action on anti-black racism and says there’s more to do

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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