Police Brutality in Canada: A Symptom of Structural Racism and Colonial Violence

 In Social Policy, Uncategorized

THE DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD has sparked mass actions against the ongoing issues of police brutality against Black communities in the United States.

The calls for justice flow through time, as this violence and corresponding lack of accountability and responsibility are historical as well as contemporary realities. This trend reflects a starkly similar pattern in Canada; both for Black people but also Indigenous peoples. While there are many differences, there can, at times be a shared reality of injustice.

One trait of these lived realities is a refusal to accept it among many in the political class. Current and former political leaders, including Doug Ford and Stockwell Day, were quick to say that Canada is not a racist society.

These statements were made during the same week as the one year anniversary of the release of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) report and the shooting death of Chantel Moore, a young woman from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, by a police officer in Edmundston, New Brunswick after being called to her residence for a wellness check. There has yet to be an explanation for Moore’s killing, and limited to no accountability from the officer involved. Meanwhile the RCMP Commissioner (who questioned the realities of systemic racism in Canada), told the family “it is very clear to me that the RCMP could have done better and I promise to you we will do.” There has been no indication that promise is being kept.

This is one case, among many in Canada, that reveals the RCMP “could have done better.”

These acts of colonial violence on Indigenous bodies continue to happen in Canada. Both Indigenous and Black people are overwhelmingly overrepresented in police-involved deaths in Canada. Between 2007 and 2017, Indigenous peoples represented one third of people shot to death by RCMP police officers (Mercer, Fiddler, & Walsh, 2020). The Ontario Human Rights Commission found that a Black person was more than 20 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police compared to a white person (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2018).

The notion of police being there to serve and protect in times of need often does not apply to Indigenous, Black or other racialized minorities in Canada. The notion of “help” more often resembles harm.