Burton: Why are Chinese police operating in Canada, while our own government and security services apparently look the other way?

Good questions:

In China, the high-profile TV drama In The Name Of The People has become a smash hit. In that show, Chinese agents enter the U.S. posing as businessmen so they can repatriate a factory manager who had fled abroad with huge ill-gotten wealth.

But a new study by the European non-governmental agency Safeguard Defenders suggests that there might be some truth to the fiction. According to the NGO, the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau has established more than 50 “overseas police service centres” in cities around the world – including three publicly documented ones in Toronto, home to Canada’s largest Chinese diaspora.

This is an outrage. Chinese police setting up offices in Canada, then “persuading” alleged criminals to return to the motherland to face “justice” – while our own government and security services apparently choose to look the other way – represents a gross violation of Canada’s national sovereignty, international law and the norms of diplomacy. China is extending the grip of its Orwellian police state into this country, with seemingly no worry about being confronted by our own national security agencies.

The RCMP and politicians of all stripes routinely condemn Chinese state harassment of people in Canada, but what action has been taken? There have been no arrests or any expulsion of any Chinese diplomats who might be co-ordinating this kind of thuggery.

Beijing describes these global police outposts as administrative centres to help Chinese nationals renew driver’s licences and other domestic banalities back home. But the Safeguard Defenders study found that they also hunt down political dissidents, corrupt officials or rogue Chinese alleged criminals and urge them to return home.

The summary says some of these operatives are given cover by being formally attached to local Chinese Overseas Home Associations (which have themselves largely become co-opted by the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work operations and run out of China’s embassy and consulates).

This bold strategy is consistent with China’s propensity for routinely flouting international laws, including those that require any other country’s police wishing to gather evidence in Canada to work through the RCMP.

In the case of these “police service centres,” Safeguard Defenders reports that agents press their targets to return home, including by offering vague promises of leniency or even urging families back home to encourage them to do so. The officers have taken aim at these alleged (and unproven) criminals by seizing their families’ assets, denying children in China access to schools, and terminating family members’ employment, all in violation of due process.

In Canada, this has been a reality for years. In 2001, during refugee hearings in Vancouver for Lai Changxing – a businessman wanted by Beijing over accusations of corruption and smuggling – Chinese police admitted to entering Canada using fake documents, and even to spiriting in Mr. Lai’s brother in an attempt to convince him to return home. Canadian authorities effectively smiled benignly at this serious breach of criminal and immigration law; Mr. Lai was eventually deported back to China.

Canada is becoming China’s chew toy. Consider Beijing’s alleged disinformation campaign which helped “unfriendly” Conservative MPs of Chinese ethnicity, including Kenny Chiu, lose their seats in the 2021 federal election.

Ottawa wants Canadian businesses to be able to tap into the world’s largest market. But the price of this access appears to be ignoring Beijing’s Canadian agenda, from military and industrial espionage to harassing Canadian Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners and ethnic Chinese and Taiwanese people who reject Beijing’s hectoring that they should be loyal to China instead of to Canada.

Does Canada have no security capabilities on the issue? Our police and security agencies must surely know what is going on, but for some reason prefer to simply curate their information rather than act on it. When asked by The Globe and Mail about the police service centres, an RCMP spokesperson said the force would not comment on “uncorroborated media reports or statements.” And most of the information we receive about China’s illegal and “grey zone” activities in Canada typically comes from the U.S. government and well-funded security and intelligence-focused think tanks in Australia and Europe.

The more we ignore reports of China’s growing presence in Canada – including its interference in our electoral process, its potential espionage in our universities and research institutes, and so on – the more emboldened and manipulative Chinese agents become. With no sign that it will be held accountable, China will only increase the size and threat of its operations, because it can.

With its seeming indifference toward China’s blatant contempt for our laws and security, Ottawa is playing an extremely dangerous game with Canada’s sovereignty.

Source: Why are Chinese police operating in Canada, while our own government and security services apparently look the other way?

Toronto celebrates 50 years of Ismaili Muslim community in the city

One of the more successful communities in Canada, integrated while preserving their culture and identity:

She has been a lawyer, a manager of philanthropic foundations and a diplomat in Afghanistan, but Sheherazade Hirji has not forgotten that late afternoon nearly 50 years ago when she was a teenager with her family, making their way through menacing military checkpoints.

“There were lots of checkpoints and people were robbed and they would look into people’s bodies, women’s bodies under their saris, they would look everywhere,” she recalled.

Ms. Hirji and her family were heading for the airport in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. They were among the last to leave, part of the 80,000 residents of South Asian descent in the African country who were suddenly expelled in 1972 by the dictator Idi Amin.

More than 6,000 of them, members of the Ismaili Shia Muslim community, were able to resettle quickly in Canada, after their spiritual leader, the Aga Khan, called on his friend, then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, to provide them with a haven.

Half a century later, standing by the landscaped lawn of Toronto’s Ismaili Centre, Ms. Hirji could contemplate the journey that led her community to become one of Canada’s great refugee success stories.

In the early days, she said, having few possessions and no place to practise their faith, newly arrived Ismailis in Canada would gather in basements, bringing sheets, so they could pray together. Later, they were able to rent school halls.

And now, on Sunday, prominent members of the community had been invited to a bright, spacious atrium at the Ismaili Centre, to hear Mayor John Tory announce that he had bestowed a Key to the City to the Aga Khan and renamed the street outside after the Ismaili imam.

The Ismailis, the mayor said, were part of a lineage of newcomers who had successfully built a new life in Canada, such as the Vietnamese, the Tamils and more recently Ukrainian refugees.

The honours for the Ismaili imam was “the least we could do,” Mr. Tory told the gathering, citing the extensive charities, schools and other philanthropic endeavours supported by the Aga Khan. He said he had been travelling in Pakistan in the wake of the 2013 earthquake and found that the Aga Khan’s humanitarian organizations were helping in the most remote villages.

The appreciation for the Aga Khan mirrored the goodwill accrued by the diligent, hard-working way the Ismailis had integrated into Canadian society. In 1972, the message from the imam to his faithfuls was to “make Canada your home and enrich Canada for the benefit of all Canadians,” Karim Thomas, vice-president of the Ismaili Council for Canada, said in an interview.

“We’ve been received by Canada and by Canadians with extraordinary warmth and with openness. … We’re very grateful for the opportunities that Canada has given us.

Behind the success story of the Ismaili refugees lay also the pain of their sudden expropriation and expulsion in Uganda, said Mahmoud Eboo, the Aga Khan Development Network representative to Canada.

“What people don’t appreciate is the shock and trauma that one undergoes when you suddenly hear overnight that all your possessions are gone. The businesses that you may have worked all your life for your family and your children are taken, your home that you’ve lived in is gone. … You have absolutely no idea what tomorrow will bring for you.”

South Asians had settled in Uganda and other British colonies in Africa since the 19th century. Ms. Hirji’s grandparents had moved from India, so she and her parents were born in Uganda. “I was the second generation born in Africa and so for us Uganda had always been home. It was the only home I ever knew.”

But the community’s prosperity also made it a scapegoat after Idi Amin took power in a coup d’état and ordered their expulsion.

Bringing only what they could carry in a suitcase, Ms. Hirji’s family landed first in Britain. They moved to social housing in Newcastle and her mother took a job in a factory manufacturing silverware.

She and her husband eventually settled in Canada, appreciating the country’s attitude toward diversity.

Canada’s diversity remains a crucial quality in the current circumstances, said Prince Amyn Aga Khan, the Ismaili’s leader’s younger brother, who represented the imam at the ceremony.

“His highness has looked at Canada as a model of pluralism,” he said, “one that is ever more critically, more urgently needed in our increasingly divisive and fragmented world.”

Source: Toronto celebrates 50 years of Ismaili Muslim community in the city

PEN Canada standing up for Salman Rushdie 30 years after ambitious plan to condemn Iran’s state-sanctioned act of terror against him

Good reminder of just how courageous Canadian political leaders, particularly Bob Rae then Premier of Ontario, were. British PM Thatcher was equally principle in providing Rushdie with protection despite his harsh criticism of her policies and reference to her as Mrs. Torture in Satanic Verses.

As noted before, I was posted to Tehran when the fatwa was issued and we were concerned that the Toronto event might impact our safety but fortunately it didn’t.

Proud of the Canadian leaders who stood up for free speech when many did not. Sharp contrast to some of the shallow and tendentious invocations of freedom and free speech that are all too common today:

Thirty years ago, PEN Canada, a non-partisan organization that supports freedom of expression in Canada and writers endangered around the world, staged an extraordinary coup in Toronto. Held in support of award-winning English novelist Salman Rushdie, it went on to have international ramifications – with this country at the root of it.

In 1992, Rushdie was in his fourth year of hiding, under constant police protection for fear of his life. Three years earlier, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran had issued a fatwa calling for his murder, and the murder of those associated with his novel, The Satanic Verses. Khomeini claimed the novel insulted Islam, though his son admitted later that he never read it.

Internationally, political will to stand up to such an astonishing public threat against a private citizen of another country was sadly lacking. But no country was willing to act alone. Louise Dennys, then president of PEN Canada, told the head of the International Salman Rushdie Defence Committee that she believed Canada could break the impasse.

A handful of PEN members – Louise, with Ric Young, John Ralston Saul, Adrienne Clarkson, Marian Botsford-Fraser and Clayton Ruby – hatched an ambitious plan to persuade the Canadian government to condemn Iran’s state-sanctioned act of terrorism against Rushdie. The strategy: to use the annual PEN Canada Benefit to showcase public support for Rushdie in the country and galvanize the government in Ottawa to take the issue to the United Nations. They needed to bring Rushdie to Canada and draw intense media coverage.

This was no easy matter. It required absolute secrecy, the support of MI6 in Britain alongside CSIS and the RCMP in Canada, and a frantic last-minute search for means – ultimately, a private jet offered by an anonymous donor – to bring Rushdie across the Atlantic when the initial flight plan fell through.

Miraculously, they managed it. On Dec. 7, 1992, Rushdie appeared as a surprise guest on stage at the Winter Garden Theatre before an astonished audience of a thousand people. There was a collective gasp as the crowd rose to its feet in applause, even as they suddenly became aware of the 60-some security personnel present in the theatre, talking into their sleeves.

And then Bob Rae, premier of Ontario at the time, came on stage and embraced Rushdie, the first head of government anywhere to publicly stand with him. Rae called upon all governments to “do the right thing.”

It did not end there. The small delegation flew straight to Ottawa. Overnight, a morning press conference was convened. A few hours later, Barbara McDougall became the first secretary of state of any country to meet with Rushdie. Jean Chrétien, then the leader of the Official Opposition, walked him over to the House of Commons where he testified before the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Development and Human Rights.

The result was electrifying. Within 48 hours, Canada became the first country in the world to pass a unanimous, all-party resolution condemning the Iranian government for its shameful record on human rights, demanding the withdrawal of the fatwa. Three months later, at the instigation of the Canadian government, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva passed a resolution condemning Iran’s actions and calling for sanctions.

Remarkably – and sadly, given the cause – a full generation after the epochal 1992 benefit, the organization is again holding an event to stand with Rushdie after the horrific attack on him in August at the Chautauqua Institute, in upper New York State. Together with the Toronto International Festival of Authors, Penguin Random House Canada and the Writers Trust, PEN Canada will hold a reading of Rushdie’s works on Sept. 27.

Thirty years ago, PEN Canada, a non-partisan organization that supports freedom of expression in Canada and writers endangered around the world, staged an extraordinary coup in Toronto. Held in support of award-winning English novelist Salman Rushdie, it went on to have international ramifications – with this country at the root of it.

In 1992, Rushdie was in his fourth year of hiding, under constant police protection for fear of his life. Three years earlier, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran had issued a fatwa calling for his murder, and the murder of those associated with his novel, The Satanic Verses. Khomeini claimed the novel insulted Islam, though his son admitted later that he never read it.

Internationally, political will to stand up to such an astonishing public threat against a private citizen of another country was sadly lacking. But no country was willing to act alone. Louise Dennys, then president of PEN Canada, told the head of the International Salman Rushdie Defence Committee that she believed Canada could break the impasse.

A handful of PEN members – Louise, with Ric Young, John Ralston Saul, Adrienne Clarkson, Marian Botsford-Fraser and Clayton Ruby – hatched an ambitious plan to persuade the Canadian government to condemn Iran’s state-sanctioned act of terrorism against Rushdie. The strategy: to use the annual PEN Canada Benefit to showcase public support for Rushdie in the country and galvanize the government in Ottawa to take the issue to the United Nations. They needed to bring Rushdie to Canada and draw intense media coverage.

This was no easy matter. It required absolute secrecy, the support of MI6 in Britain alongside CSIS and the RCMP in Canada, and a frantic last-minute search for means – ultimately, a private jet offered by an anonymous donor – to bring Rushdie across the Atlantic when the initial flight plan fell through.

Miraculously, they managed it. On Dec. 7, 1992, Rushdie appeared as a surprise guest on stage at the Winter Garden Theatre before an astonished audience of a thousand people. There was a collective gasp as the crowd rose to its feet in applause, even as they suddenly became aware of the 60-some security personnel present in the theatre, talking into their sleeves.

And then Bob Rae, premier of Ontario at the time, came on stage and embraced Rushdie, the first head of government anywhere to publicly stand with him. Rae called upon all governments to “do the right thing.”

It did not end there. The small delegation flew straight to Ottawa. Overnight, a morning press conference was convened. A few hours later, Barbara McDougall became the first secretary of state of any country to meet with Rushdie. Jean Chrétien, then the leader of the Official Opposition, walked him over to the House of Commons where he testified before the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Development and Human Rights.

The result was electrifying. Within 48 hours, Canada became the first country in the world to pass a unanimous, all-party resolution condemning the Iranian government for its shameful record on human rights, demanding the withdrawal of the fatwa. Three months later, at the instigation of the Canadian government, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva passed a resolution condemning Iran’s actions and calling for sanctions.

Remarkably – and sadly, given the cause – a full generation after the epochal 1992 benefit, the organization is again holding an event to stand with Rushdie after the horrific attack on him in August at the Chautauqua Institute, in upper New York State. Together with the Toronto International Festival of Authors, Penguin Random House Canada and the Writers Trust, PEN Canada will hold a reading of Rushdie’s works on Sept. 27.

Source: PEN Canada standing up for Salman Rushdie 30 years after ambitious plan to condemn Iran’s state-sanctioned act of terror against him

‘Be an ally’: Black public servants facing ‘trauma’ amid class action, says organizer

Thompson is an effective communicator and advocate.

Unfortunately, the employment equity data for the public service does not indicate that Black public servants representation are disproportionately under-represented at the EX and other levels compared  to other visible minorities for the most part.

However, the public service employee survey does show higher perceptions of discrimination than most other visible minority groups.

One of the organizers behind the class action lawsuit filed against the federal government by Black public servants says he wants Canadians learning about the experiences of claimants in the case to “be an ally” amid a process that is causing “trauma” for those involved.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Nicholas Marcus Thompson said the government is “speaking from both sides of its mouth” when it comes to squaring the treatment of claimants in the lawsuit in court with the comments officials make publicly about dismantling racism.

“They’re saying one thing publicly and they’re fighting Black workers in court,” he said, adding federal lawyers keep bringing forward motions “to delay the case.”

“The government has fully acknowledged that this issue exists in all of its institutions and that the pain and damage that it causes is real. And then it shows up in court fighting Black workers, forcing Black workers to recount the trauma that they’ve endured at the hands of the government for decades.”

The class action lawsuit filed last year alleges systemic discrimination by the government when it comes to hiring and promotional decisions in the federal public service, dating back decades.

Plaintiffs in the case are seeking $2.5 billion in compensation for lost income, opportunities, and lost pension values as a result of systemic discrimination that prevented qualified Black public servants from being promoted into higher paying and more senior jobs.

Federal public service pensions are calculated based on the averages of an individual’s highest earning years, meaning those who get paid less throughout their careers get smaller pensions when they retire.

“There has been a de facto practice of Black employee exclusion from hiring and promotion throughout the Public Service because of the permeation of systemic discrimination through Canada’s institutional structures,” the statement of claim says.

The statement of claim also says that equity measures taken to date have “merely masked the increasing disparity, exclusion and marginalization of Black Canadians” from equal opportunities in the public service, and that there remains a “pernicious” underrepresentation in the upper ranks.

Thompson said he wants to see the government come to the table and commit to working towards the solutions that plaintiffs say would help fix the problem, and to make legislative changes to the Employment Equity Act as well.

“We’re seeking to create a separate and distinct category for Black workers under the legislation to ensure that Black workers are not left behind when it comes to hiring and promotional opportunities,” he said. Thompson also added there needs to be a commission formed to track concrete progress on preventing future discrimination.

“Black people want to fully participate and they’re being denied that opportunity at the highest level and the largest employer in Canada,” he said.

“So listen to us. Be an ally and let’s work together because we want to make Canada a better place and to fully participate in Canada.”

Source: ‘Be an ally’: Black public servants facing ‘trauma’ amid class action, says organizer

Governments’ use of automated decision-making systems reflects systemic issues of injustice and inequality

Interesting and significant study. A comparable study on automated decision-making systems that have been successful in minimizing injustice and inequality would be helpful, as well as recognition that automated systems can improve decision consistency as Kahneman and others demonstrated in Noise.

As these systems will continue to grow in order to manage increased numbers of decisions required, greater care in their design and impacts will of course be necessary. But a mistake to assume that all such systems are worse than human decision-making:

In 2019, former UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said he was worried we were “stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia.” He had been researching how government agencies around the world were turning to automated decision-making systems (ADS) to cut costs, increase efficiency and target resources. ADS are technical systems designed to help or replace human decision-making using algorithms.Alston was worried for good reason. Research shows that ADS can be used in ways that discriminateexacerbate inequalityinfringe upon rightssort people into different social groupswrongly limit access to services and intensify surveillance

For example, families have been bankrupted and forced into crises after being falsely accused of benefit fraud. 

Researchers have identified how facial recognition systems and risk assessment tools are more likely to wrongly identify people with darker skin tones and women. These systems have already led to wrongful arrests and misinformed sentencing decisions.

Often, people only learn that they have been affected by an ADS application when one of two things happen: after things go wrong, as was the case with the A-levels scandal in the United Kingdom; or when controversies are made public, as was the case with uses of facial recognition technology in Canada and the United States.

Automated problems

Greater transparency, responsibility, accountability and public involvement in the design and use of ADS is important to protect people’s rights and privacy. There are three main reasons for this: 

  1. these systems can cause a lot of harm
  2. they are being introduced faster than necessary protections can be implemented, and;
  3. there is a lack of opportunity for those affected to make democratic decisions about if they should be used and if so, how they should be used.

Our latest research project, Automating Public Services: Learning from Cancelled Systems, provides findings aimed at helping prevent harm and contribute to meaningful debate and action. The report provides the first comprehensive overview of systems being cancelled across western democracies. 

Researching the factors and rationales leading to cancellation of ADS systems helps us better understand their limits. In our report, we identified 61 ADS that were cancelled across Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and the U.S. We present a detailed account of systems cancelled in the areas of fraud detection, child welfare and policing. Our findings demonstrate the importance of careful consideration and concern for equity.

Reasons for cancellation

There are a range of factors that influence decisions to cancel the uses of ADS. One of our most important findings is how often systems are cancelled because they are not as effective as expected. Another key finding is the significant role played by community mobilization and research, investigative reporting and legal action. 

Our findings demonstrate there are competing understandings, visions and politics surrounding the use of ADS.

a table showing the factors influencing the decision to cancel and ADS system
There are a range of factors that influence decisions to cancel the uses of ADS systems. (Data Justice Lab), Author provided

Hopefully, our recommendations will lead to increased civic participation and improved oversight, accountability and harm prevention.

In the report, we point to widespread calls for governments to establish resourced ADS registers as a basic first step to greater transparency. Some countries such as the U.K., have stated plans to do so, while other countries like Canada have yet to move in this direction.

Our findings demonstrate that the use of ADS can lead to greater inequality and systemic injustice. This reinforces the need to be alert to how the use of ADS can create differential systems of advantage and disadvantage.

Accountability and transparency

ADS need to be developed with care and responsibility by meaningfully engaging with affected communities. There can be harmful consequences when government agencies do not engage the public in discussions about the appropriate use of ADS before implementation. 

This engagement should include the option for community members to decide areas where they do not want ADS to be used. Examples of good government practice can include taking the time to ensure independent expert reviews and impact assessments that focus on equality and human rights are carried out. 

a list of recommendations for governments using ADS systems
Governments can take several different approaches to implement ADS systems in a more accountable manner.(Data Justice Lab), Author provided

We recommend strengthening accountability for those wanting to implement ADS by requiring proof of accuracy, effectiveness and safety, as well as reviews of legality. At minimum, people should be able to find out if an ADS has used their data and, if necessary, have access to resources to challenge and redress wrong assessments. 

There are a number of cases listed in our report where government agencies’ partnership with private companies to provide ADS services has presented problems. In one case, a government agency decided not to use a bail-setting system because the proprietary nature of the system meant that defendants and officials would not be able to understand why a decision was made, making an effective challenge impossible. 

Government agencies need to have the resources and skills to thoroughly examine how they procure ADS systems.

A politics of care

All of these recommendations point to the importance of a politics of care. This requires those wanting to implement ADS to appreciate the complexities of people, communities and their rights. 

Key questions need to be asked about how the uses of ADS lead to blind spots because of the way they increase the distancing between administrators and the people they are meant to serve through scoring and sorting systems that oversimplify, infer guilt, wrongly target and stereotype people through categorizations and quantifications.

Good practice, in terms of a politics of care, involves taking the time to carefully consider the potential impacts of ADS before implementation and being responsive to criticism, ensuring ongoing oversight and review, and seeking independent and community review.

Source: Governments’ use of automated decision-making systems reflects systemic issues of injustice and inequality

Automating Public Services: Learning from Cancelled Systems

Lederman: Ken Burns has a lesson for Ron DeSantis

Great column and reminder:

I can think of a few things that could benefit anyone involved in orchestrating last week’s shameful stunt of sending planeloads of desperate, unsuspecting migrants from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. For instance: sitting them down for six hours and 38 minutes to watch Ken Burns’ The U.S. and the Holocaust, which aired on PBS this week.

I’m unsure anyone who hatched this cruel plan has ever watched a minute of PBS, seen a Ken Burns documentary – or seen a documentary, period – but this three-part series should be required viewing for them. (For anyone, really.)

The central point of the documentary (co-made with Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein) is that while Americans might see their country as a haven for immigrants, and a saviour during the Second World War, the U.S. in fact closed its doors pretty tightly during that critical period – to Jews, in particular. The State Department, lobby groups such as one called America First (sound familiar?), and average Americans didn’t want Jews entering the country. When asked two weeks after Kristallnacht whether the U.S. should allow more Jews into the country, 70 per cent of respondents said no.

“The exclusion of people and shutting them out has been as American as apple pie” says historian Peter Hayes, in episode one.

(Canada is not the focus of this project, but we do earn a mention in our turning away of the MS St. Louis, filled with hundreds of Jewish refugees, who were then sent back to Europe.)

Episode two opens with a scene from a Nazi rally, before the war, but after Hitler had made his thoughts about the Jews clear.

“You will make a statement as to whether you consider my work to be right, whether you believe that I have been diligent, that I have spent my time decently, in the service of my people, and thus entitle me to say that what I am declaring here and now is what Germany desires, what the German people desire.”

A roar of approval fills the packed house, as the crowds stand, arms outstretched.

It was particularly chilling to watch that scene shortly after photos emerged of an Ohio Trump rally where some attendees stood in a similar pose. Even if their outstretched arms included a pointed finger, associated with Trump’s “America First” rallying cry, it was a stomach-turning image. It happened last Saturday.

The Burns documentary is about history, but it is also a warning about what is happening now. Not just the references to Charlottesvilles Unite the Right rally (“Jews will not replace us!”) and the January 6 insurrection, including the guy in the “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, but about increasingly alarming attitudes toward immigrants.

The parallels are striking. Sickening.

During the Second World War, Americans were concerned about the influx of Jews; that they were being “replaced” – the narrator emphasizes this word, surely a nod to the Great Replacement Theory that certain far-right, white nationalist elements have adopted.

In 1941, U.S. senator Robert Reynolds stated: “If I had my way, I would today build a wall about the United States so high and so secure that not a single alien or foreign refugee from any country upon the face of this Earth could possibly scale or ascend it.”

It was a humanitarian crisis, yet there was great reluctance to help. There were open calls for the status quo – a “white, gentile-ruled United States.” There was suspicion about German-Jewish refugees entering the U.S.

“Something curious is happening to us in this country and I think it is time we stopped and took stock of ourselves,” wrote first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. “Are we going to be swept away from our traditional attitude toward civil liberty by hysteria?”

Something is happening – again, still – in the U.S. There is probably a better word for it than “curious.”

It should be shocking to every American, to every human being, that officials paid by tax dollars – that anyone, in fact – devised this nasty scheme for these migrants. That others agreed to it, carried it out. That human beings approached these vulnerable people, lied to them, loaded them onto planes and dumped them not where they were told they were going.

And these prankster perpetrators maybe even laughed, amongst friends, about it. And in the case of Donald Trump, claimed that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had stolen the idea from him. Mr. Trump wanted the credit.

This is the country that put children in cages, children who want to live in America. Well, who sends a child out alone to try to cross a border, some people tut-tut.

I’ll tell you who: Desperate parents willing to do the unthinkable for a shot at safety for their children, a good life. It happened during what we now call the Holocaust. And it’s happening now.

Historian Deborah Lipstadt says in the film, “The time to stop a genocide is before it happens.”

The time to stop anti-immigrant madness is before it happens. The next best time is now.

Source: Ken Burns has a lesson for Ron DeSantis

McWhorter: Trying to Prove You’re Not a Racist

Useful overview by McWhorter of his sensible views. From a Canadian perspective, some of the issues that he flags also have relevance with respect to Indigenous peoples:

Since I started writing this newsletter, once about every couple of weeks I have received a missive from someone troubled by a controversy involving race, usually in the workplace.

These readers feel that their opponents in these fusses are unfairly tarring them as racist. Typical disputes they find themselves embroiled in include whether a school program should devote itself centrally to antiracism, whether it is fair to hire people ranking skin color over qualifications, whether reparations for slavery in a local context are appropriate and what they should consist of, and whether a piece of art should be deemed racist.

They seek my confirmation that they are in the right, that they are not racist, and presumably want to take that judgment back to the ring as proof that their position is not anti-Black. Sometimes they are under the impression that it would help if I addressed their colleagues over Zoom.

It has occurred to me that I should provide, in this space, an all-purpose response to this kind of letter I get. For starters, I’d like to offer a guide to my positions on the debates my correspondents seem to find themselves in.

To wit:

I do not support treating the word “Negro,” as opposed to the “N-word,” as a slur. “Negro” was not a slur when it was current, and the case for classifying it as one now because it is archaic is quite thin. Why look for something to be offended by?

I do not support calling something “racist” because outcomes for it differ for the (Black) race. For example, I take issue with the idea that there is something “racist” or “biased” about the questions on the SAT.

I do not condemn white authors writing Black fictional characters who speak Black English so long as it’s a respectful and realistic rendition.

I think the idea that it is cultural appropriation when whites take on Black cultural traits is ahistoric — human groups sharing space have always shared culture — and also pointless, given that Black American culture has always, and will continue to, infuse mainstream America. I also do not think arguments about power relations somehow invalidate my position. I think that it is in vain to decree that culture cannot be borrowed by people in power from those who are not.

I think the idea that only Black people should depict Black people in art and fiction is less antiracist than anti-human, in forbidding the empathy and even admiration that can motivate respectful attempts to create a literary character.

I revile any concept of equity that allows for appointing Black people to positions over more highly qualified non-Black ones.

I know that racism exists both on the personal and structural levels. But I also feel deep disappointment that the tenor of our times seems to encourage some Black people to exaggerate racism’s effects, to enshrine a kind of charismatic defeatism as a substitute for activism. And then there are those who outright fabricate having suffered racist mistreatment. I also worry that these kinds of things desensitize many observers from acknowledging the real racism that exists.

I think reparations are important — and happened already, decades ago with the Great Society, affirmative action, the expansion of welfare benefits in the late 1960s and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which encouraged banks to extend credit in low-income neighborhoods. I would not stand implacably opposed to new reparations today in the form of various kinds or even cash payments but am highly skeptical that a critical mass of Black commentators would accept them as true compensation. I can’t help thinking the race debate would stay where it is now.

condemn notions that there are white ways of thinking (such as being precise and stressing individualism) and Black ones (such as being intuitive and stressing the communal), such that Black people resisting “assimilation” is taken as a kind of higher wisdom. That vision of Blackness would birth no useful inventions, yield only the occasional out-of-the-box insight and is alarmingly close to tacky, Dionysian depictions of Blackness, such as those in Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro.”

I consider it anti-intellectual performance art to retool educational institutions as antiracist academies that “center” the discussion of discrimination and other abuses of power in the instruction of all subjects.

Now that I’ve laid out a primer on my opinions, people who write me seeking support should keep in mind that quite a few Black people consider my stances on race to be a revolting kind of heresy.

Rather, as I have learned in my now lengthy experience with this kind of criticism, it’s that those who disagree with me feel — or perhaps have been taught to feel — that opinions like mine amount to giving white people a pass on racism, that they distract whites from engaging in the kind of thinking and activity that will help Black America. As such, they do not think of people like me as having opinions different from theirs but legitimate. They think opinions like mine are dangerous. I can imagine that to my critics, white people writing me for counsel is exactly what Black America doesn’t need. I am basing this on 25 years of receiving this kind of critique from various directions.

To witness a demonstration of the vigor and tone of this sentiment, please see the negative reactions that are sure to be part of the social media response to this newsletter — from people of all races. No Zoom talk could even begin to cut through such heated resistance.

Be under no illusion, then, that telling your colleagues my opinion about a race issue will be received by them as emanating from some kind of guru. You may suppose that it will be effective to say, “See? There are Black people who feel the way I do.” But to some of your opponents, those Black people may be seen as not just a different kind, but a wrong kind.

If people who don’t see race things my way continue to call you names and get in your way, you have my full sympathy. (And an overprivileged college professor like me isn’t the only one who would come to your defense. “Unwoke” views on race are quite common among Black people of all levels of education.)

But I consider myself engaged in a gradual process of — I hope — shaping our general consciousness on race via constant argument over decades of time. This is a long-game business. Views change slowly, incrementally, and writing is part of making it happen.

If you choose to present my take on race issues amid tense occasions anyway, you should understand that the issue is less my opinion than what you intend to do amid the response to it. My dear correspondents: Please know that it will require a degree of intestinal fortitude to withstand your opponents’ calling you a racist for agreeing with me. Know also, though, that if you’re up for that, you are joining me in that work I am committed to.

Source: Trying to Prove You’re Not a Racist

Paul: When Diversity Isn’t the Right Kind of Diversity

Useful reminder that minorities are not monolithic in their political perspectives.

In many ways, it is a positive sign of civic integration when all groups participate in different political parties and formations, as is the case in Canada:

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has dominated headlines this month, homages to her reign and dissections of the Harry and Meghan situation unsurprisingly pushing other news aside, especially other stories from Britain.

But even amid all the pomp, one news item out of Britain has attracted curiously little attention. Liz Truss, the new Conservative prime minister, announced her cabinet, and for the first time ever, not a single member of the inner circle — what’s referred to as the Great Offices of State — is a white man.

The home secretary, Suella Braverman, is the daughter of Kenyan and Mauritian immigrants. The mother of the foreign minister, James Cleverly, emigrated from Sierra Leone. The new chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, was born to Ghanaian parents.

Did the left break into applause? Were there hosannas throughout progressive Twitter heralding this racial, ethnic and gender diversity as a step forward for society?

Not exactly.

Instead, the change was dutifully relayed, often with caveats. “Liz Truss’s cabinet: diverse but dogmatic,” noted The Guardian. The new team was criticized as elite, the product of schools like Eton, Cambridge and the Sorbonne. These people aren’t working class, others pointed out. They don’t sufficiently support the rights of those seeking asylum in Britain or policies that address climate change.

“It’s a meritocratic advance for people who have done well in education, law and business,” Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, a think tank that focuses on issues of immigration, integration and national identity, told CNN. “It’s not an advance on social class terms.”

This is an interesting criticism. “Meritocratic,” used here in a pejorative sense, means based on ability and achievement, earned through a combination of talent and hard work. Traditionally, merit served as the primary consideration in hiring, but some people today see the very systems that confer merit as rigged, especially against minorities. In an effort to rectify that imbalance and to diversify the work force, particularly for leadership positions, it has become common practice in hiring — in the business and nonprofit worlds, as in government — to make racial or ethnic diversity a more significant factor.

The trouble is that for many of the same people, ethnic and racial diversity count only when combined with a particular point of view. Even before Truss’s cabinet was finalized, one member of the Labour opposition tweeted, “Her cabinet is expected to be diverse, but it will be the most right-wing in living memory, embracing a political agenda that will attack the rights of working people, especially minorities.”

Another Labour representative wrote: “It’s not enough to be a Black or ethnic minority politician in this country or a cabinet member. That’s not what representation is about. That’s actually tokenism.”

The implication is that there’s only one way to authentically represent one’s race, ethnicity or sex — otherwise you’re a phony or a pawn. Is that fair?

I’m not politically aligned with Truss on most issues. This is not the team I’d choose to lead a country reeling from Covid, an energy crisis and the twin disasters of Boris and Brexit. But it’s Truss’s prerogative to hire people with whom she is ideologically aligned and who support her policies.

And one has to assume those new hires joined her willingly and with conviction. Surely they, like all racial and ethnic minorities, are capable of the same independence of mind and diversity of thought as white people — some people Trumpy, other people Bernie.

Nor are they the first conservative minorities to hold top positions of power in Britain. It was the Conservative Party that, despite widespread antisemitism, first appointed a Jewish-born prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, in 1868. The three women who have served as prime ministers — Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May and now Truss — have all been Conservatives. The former prime minister David Cameron was no lefty, yet he made a point of emphasizing ethnic and racial diversity among his leadership appointments.

Black and other ethnic minority voters in Britain aren’t uniformly lefty, either. They cast 20 percent of their votes for Conservatives in 2019.

A similar diversity of political opinion among minorities exists in the United States, and it bewilders the left. An increasing number of Latinos are running as and voting for Republican candidates. Donald Trump got more votes from ethnic minorities in 2020 than he did in 2016. Black men’s support for Trump increased by six percentage points the second time around. And that was after the murder of George Floyd, an event assumed to have galvanized many minority voters on the left.

In his prescient 1991 book, “Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby,” the law professor Stephen Carter decried many of the assumptions around diversity nascent at that time — including the notion that racial or ethnic minorities are expected to think as a group, not as individuals. He bemoaned “the idea that Black people who gain positions of authority or influence are vested with a special responsibility to articulate the presumed views of other people who are Black — in effect, to think and act and speak in a particular way, the Black way — and that there is something peculiar about Black people who insist on doing anything else.”

It’s been three decades since Carter’s book was published, and that lamentable assumption has only gained purchase. As he pointed out then: “In an earlier era, such sentiments might have been marked down as frankly racist. Now, however, they are almost a gospel for people who want to show their commitment to equality.”

It seems odd to have to point out in 2022 that “diverse” hires can be every bit as diverse on the inside as they are on the outside. For every Ketanji Brown Jackson, you’re liable to get a Clarence Thomas. Apparently, we need constant reminders that there’s more to people than meets the eye and that in multicultural societies, an acceptance of diversity must be more than skin deep.

Source: When Diversity Isn’t the Right Kind of Diversity

Rioux: Quel «dérapage»? [on Premier Legault’s comments on social cohesion]

Le Devoir’s European correspondent Christian Rioux comparing EU social cohesion concerns with those of Premier Legault.

While recognizing the differences between Canada’s (and Quebec’s) immigration selection systems and integration programs and those of EU countries, he nevertheless reverts to the same social cohesion concerns without examining the effects of Quebec political discourse and legislation that have contributed to social exclusion, not social cohesion:

« Couvrez ce sein que je ne saurais voir », disait le Tartuffe. Convenons que ses héritiers modernes ont des formules moins élégantes que celles de Molière. Ces temps-ci, ils préfèrent parler de « dérapage ». Mais l’effet est le même. Il consiste à écarter du débat tout propos un peu dérangeant dès lors qu’il aborde une question litigieuse. L’étiquette vaut à elle seule condamnation.

Ainsi en va-t-il des récents propos de François Legault sur l’immigration. Pourtant, qu’y a-t-il de plus banal que d’affirmer comme l’a fait le premier ministre la semaine dernière qu’une forte immigration peut nuire à la « cohésion nationale » ?

On comprend que dans un pays « post-national » comme le Canada, où l’immigration a été sacralisée, ces propos créent la polémique. Mais, vu d’Europe, où le débat est ancien et plus nourri, il est évident que l’immigration massive pose partout et toujours un défi à la cohésion nationale.

Cela se vérifie à des degrés divers dans la plupart des pays européens. En France, sous l’effet d’une immigration incontrôlée et très largement issue du monde arabo-musulman, on a assisté depuis de nombreuses années à un véritable morcellement du pays. Dans toutes les grandes villes sont apparues des banlieues islamisées autrement appelées ghettos. Pas besoin de s’appeler Marine Le Pen pour le constater. Interrogé par des collègues du Monde en 2014, le président François Hollande lui-même n’avait pas hésité à le reconnaître. « Je pense qu’il y a trop d’arrivées, d’immigration qui ne devrait pas être là », disait-il. Et celui-ci de conclure : « Comment peut-on éviter la partition ? Car c’est quand même ça qui est en train de se produire : la partition. » (Un président ne devrait pas dire ça…, Gérard Davet et Fabrice Lhomme, Stock).

Certains diront évidemment qu’en France, ce n’est pas pareil. Soit. Tournons donc nos yeux vers un pays plus à notre échelle.

Avec ses 10 millions d’habitants, son économie de pointe, son climat boréal, son amour du consensus et son parti pris en faveur de l’égalité hommes-femmes, la Suède partage plusieurs points communs avec le Québec.

Il n’y a pas longtemps, dans ce petit paradis nordique, celui qui s’inquiétait de l’immigration massive était accusé de « déraper », quand il n’était pas traité de raciste. Les Suédois regardaient de haut des pays comme la France et le Danemark, soupçonnés de xénophobie. Jusqu’à ce que la réalité les rattrape. La flambée des émeutes ethniques, comme en France, et l’irruption de la violence dans les banlieues ont vite fait de les ramener sur terre. Aujourd’hui, de la social-démocratie à la droite populiste, les trois grands partis estiment qu’il en va justement de la « cohésion nationale ». C’est pourquoi ce pays, qui a toujours été particulièrement généreux à l’égard des réfugiés, a radicalement resserré ses critères d’admission et a multiplié les mesures d’intégration. L’élection sur le fil d’une majorité de droite, finalement confirmée mercredi, ne fera que conforter cette orientation.

Les belles âmes ont beau détourner le regard, en Suède comme en France, il est devenu évident qu’un lien existe (même s’il n’explique pas tout) entre l’immigration incontrôlée et la croissance d’une certaine criminalité. Les événements récents du printemps au Stade de France, où des centaines de supporters britanniques se sont fait détrousser à la pointe du couteau par des dizaines de délinquants, ont forcé le ministre de l’Intérieur à reconnaître ce dont les habitants de la Seine-Saint-Denis se doutaient depuis belle lurette.

La Suède aussi a connu une explosion de la petite criminalité et des règlements de compte entre gangs. Elle a notamment enregistré une croissance des morts par balle parmi les plus fortes en Europe. Aujourd’hui, même la gauche sociale-démocrate l’admet. Et elle s’est résolue à augmenter les effectifs policiers. Contrairement à la France, cette prise de conscience fait aujourd’hui un certain consensus dans la classe politique.

Cela n’a rien à voir avec la peur de l’Autre. Comme nombre de Français, les Suédois ont dû se rendre à l’évidence et cesser d’envisager l’immigration comme une simple question morale. Les peuples ont le droit de réglementer l’immigration sans se faire traiter à chaque fois de raciste par une gauche morale et une droite libérale qui en ont fait leur Saint-Graal.

Bien sûr, l’immigration n’est pas la même en France, en Suède et au Québec. À cause de son histoire et de sa position en Europe, la France connaît une forte immigration illégale et de regroupement familial. Naïvement et par générosité, la Suède a ouvert toutes grandes ses portes aux réfugiés et elle n’a jamais contrôlé son immigration économique. Le Québec, où l’équilibre linguistique est plus que précaire, subit des quotas d’immigration parmi les plus élevés au monde et une immigration temporaire hors de contrôle.

Il n’empêche que, malgré ces différences réelles, les mêmes causes produisent partout les mêmes effets. Ce n’est souvent qu’une question de temps.

Lentement, depuis une décennie, tous les tabous de la mondialisation se sont effrités. Ceux qui ont vécu les années 1980 se souviennent de l’enthousiasme et de la naïveté qui accompagnaient cette nouvelle phase d’expansion du capital. Nous n’en sommes plus là. L’immigration de masse demeure le dernier mythe encore vivace de cette époque.

Source: Quel «dérapage»?

Tackling the health burden of anti-black racism and violence

As described, the new program seems more focussed on histories and ideologies than on practical measures to improve health outcomes for Blacks and other minorities, generally reflecting lower income levels, as the differential impact of COVID made clear:

As professors across Canada have been handing out syllabi and giving their first lectures of this school year, Professor Roberta Timothy has her eyes firmly set on next September, when the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto will welcome the first cohort into the two-year Master of Public Health in Black Health programme.

In addition to the regular public health curriculum, the 10 to 15 students will follow a programme that includes six courses devoted to black public health, including ones on the socio-historical context of black health, chronic diseases and reproductive health and decolonising theory and method.

“A masters in public health in the field of black health is needed,” says Timothy, who proposed the programme in 2021, “because of how the experience of anti-black racism impacts black health. There’s a correlation between what I call ‘anti-black violence’ and black health outcomes. 

“If we’re looking at factors such as higher diabetes rates, higher cancer rates, higher HIV rates and who has been impacted by COVID more, we see there’s a direct correlation with health outcomes and anti-black racism and violence.”

The fight for race-based data

In designing the programme, Timothy has, in large measure, drawn on her 30 years of being a public health practitioner because unlike, for example, the United States, Canada does not routinely collect race-based medical data.

“There are only two million of us, and most of us are located in Toronto, Montreal with smaller populations in Alberta. There’s this kind of notion that we don’t exist.

“We are a smaller population, we are absorbed,” Timothy told University World News, nodding to the fact that blacks account for only 3.5% of the Canadian population, while in the US blacks account for 13.4% and in states like Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia blacks account for more than 30% of the population. “We’ve been fighting to get raced-based data,” Timothy says.

After we spoke, she e-mailed me an April 2020 letter sent to the Ontario government that called for the collection of socio-economic and race-based health data. 

A total of 192 community-based health and advocacy groups and 1,612 individuals signed the letter, which underscored that “Ontario, like other provinces and territories in Canada, continues to deal with the ongoing legacies of colonisation, structural inequality and systemic racism. Responding to COVID-19 with the expectation that all people will experience the pandemic in the same way hurts the already marginalised people and communities.”

When I asked how health outcomes for blacks, who, as in the US and the United Kingdom, are disproportionately poor, differ from poor whites, Timothy noted that there is evidence that shows that in terms of HIV the black community is more impacted.

Further, she pointed to a 2015 study and one she has been working on dealing with COVID rates for two years. The 2015 study showed that in Montreal the maternal morbidity of blacks was three to four times higher than it was for whites. (Because of Canada’s universal medical system, this difference cannot be attributed to lack of access to medical care.)

“I’ve been collecting data on COVID among blacks for two years. If you look at these COVID numbers from the UK, the United States and Canada, we see the similarities in terms of how COVID has disproportionately impacted folks of African ancestry,” says Timothy.

As the students will begin learning next year in the socio-historical course, Timothy told me, this fact, as well as the higher rates of diabetes, HIV and other diseases among blacks in the US, UK and Africa, must be handled extremely carefully. This is because of the long history, going back to the early 1800s, of racialist biological determinism.  

“The connection between African folks [ie, those in Africa or the diaspora] and these disorders is not biological, not as explained by the ‘biological determinist perspective’, but rather from the impact of racism and colonisation globally for black folks. 

“It’s not about being black. It’s about anti-black racism and experiencing anti-black violence. It’s about the implications of that extreme grief, trauma, violence that you experience as a black person anywhere you travel. It’s about a lifetime of being treated that way that impacts our mental and physical health no matter where you are, even if you come from the African continent.”

Critiquing Eurocentric methodologies

By training Timothy is a ‘methodologist’. Accordingly, I asked her how the methodology course she is presently designing differs from a traditional methodology course. The answer does not lie in ignoring traditional methodology. 

Quite the opposite, the course examines the Eurocentric history of research methodologies – in order to critique them. One notorious so-called methodology was that used by George Gliddon (b 1809) and Josiah C Nott (b 1804) in their Indigenous Races of the Earth (1857) in which, via measurements of skulls and other pseudo-scientific methods akin to phrenology, they adduced a hierarchy of brain development that placed blacks between Caucasians and chimpanzees in terms of intelligence.

As well, students will learn about the horrid Tuskegee experiment in the US. In 1932, 400 black men, impoverished sharecroppers in Macon County, Alabama, were infected with syphilis to “observe the natural history of untreated syphilis”. 

None was given penicillin after its invention in 1947. By 1972 when the study ended, 128 of the men had died either from syphilis or complications arising from it. Forty of the men’s wives had been infected and 19 children had been born with congenital syphilis. The violation of ethical norms and the human cost of the study is one of the reasons why many African Americans are vaccine hesitant.

The students in the programme will learn of the importance of looking at factors such as race, racism, class, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation when they collect data.

By way of example, Timothy turned our discussion to how she would approach a study of post-partum depression among black women. 

Noting the influence of Black Feminist Theory, she said, she would begin with such questions as, “How does the impact of anti-black racism impact the subject you want to inquire about? Does the question make sense to the population being studied?” An equally important question is, “How will the data from this study be used to advance the health care of black women?”

While white women also experience post-partum depression, Timothy notes, they are not burdened by the socio-historical narrative that burdens black women – a narrative that is informed by the experience of American slavery in which female slaves who had just given birth were expected to go back to the cotton fields, often within hours of giving birth. 

Further, because of the sundering of the black family during slavery and continued disruption of it because of the high incarceration levels of black males (which is part of the ongoing anti-black violence Timothy refers to), black women have historically been seen as the rock upon which the family relies.

“This false notion of the strong black woman is of one who is not human. We are not given human qualities. We are not allowed to be vulnerable or human.” 

The violence of the state

Yet, there is a second piece of the violence that is part of this stereotype. “It is the imagining of the violence of the state. It comes from the reality that you don’t have the right to be depressed or emotional because if you are a black person who is, there is a chance that your children will be taken away from you.”

(Timothy, who comes from a working-class background, holds a PhD and has worked in public health for decades and is now at the University of Toronto, exemplified this last point by telling me that when she has to bring her children to the doctor, they are dressed up. “You’d think we were going to church. But I do this because we are racially profiled on a daily basis, even in terms of our children.”)

Timothy’s students will also learn how the experience of being a black male in Canada contributes to diabetes and cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure.

“The question students will have to ask is how criminalisation (or the threat of it) and anti-black violence by the state contribute to these diseases in black men. The inquiry will show that no matter what their socio-economic status is, where they work or live, black men know that they are profiled on a daily basis and this creates anxiety, higher blood sugar levels and high blood pressure.”

Public health practitioners who provide health care to black men must be aware not only of the effects of being hypervigilant but also of the depression these men carry, of the intergenerational transfer of post-traumatic stress disorder and how systems of enslavement and colonisation violated black men’s masculinity, says Timothy. The heightened tension of being black in Canada does not vanish even when home.

“Your home is never really safe because you are never sure when the police are going to come in the door,” she says, referring to, among others, D’Andre Campbell, a 26-year-old immigrant with mental health issues, who was shot in his home by a constable belonging to the Peel Regional Police (near Toronto) after he had been tasered and was already on the ground.

Professor Akwatu Khenti, who teaches courses on the public health implications of anti-black racism and the criminal justice system, told University Affairs in late August that there is “a lot of epistemic violence that takes place as a sort of intellectual microaggression [that] devalues or invalidates other ways of knowing. For me, it means building appreciation for the epistemic approaches of different groups and [giving] more space to traditional wisdom that worked for thousands of years.”

Inoculation for smallpox, for example, was practised in Ethiopia and West Africa a century or more before Edward Jenner noticed that milk maids with cow pox scars appeared to be immune to smallpox. The first inoculation in America was in 1721 by Puritan minister Cotton Mather, who learned of the practice from his slave Onesimus, who had been kidnapped from Africa and whose Latin name meant useful, helpful or, tellingly, profitable.

Dismantling a system

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic two-and-a-half years ago, doctors and public health practitioners have been uncharacteristically vocal for the most part, advocating for masking, the safety of vaccines and for improving ventilation in schools before they re-opened. Timothy views the role of graduates of the Master of Public Health in Black Health programme to be similarly engaged.

“I know that I’m teaching at the University of Toronto. I’m very aware that this education system has a history of colonial violence. Yet, we are going to train people in terms of how to resist anti-black racism and other forms of violence. We’re creating a place where we create practitioners who know how the system works and, therefore, understand how to begin dismantling it.

“Obviously, we are not going to do that tomorrow. But we can begin the conversation about how being a public health practitioner is to be part of a decolonising process. It’s part of a movement towards justice, to dismantle systems that create violence.”

Source: Tackling the health burden of anti-black racism and violence