One fault cannot excuse another. So what is the point of comparing the United States to Canada, and vice versa, even and above all for the worse? What good is it to say that the very naughty neighbor still behaves like a racist brute and deserves all the protests in the world, if it is to forget what is happening right here, in our own house not very clear either, where that manifest also elsewhere.
“The incessant comparison with the United States seems to me to be a distraction,” said the Duty Robyn Maynard, author of the essay Blacks under surveillance. Slavery, repression, state violence in Canada (Inkwell thesis, 2018).
The book takes stock of the system of repression and control of black communities in the country through centuries of discrimination. “When we compare ourselves, we are consciously trying to avoid self-examination,” she said, also speaking of a kind of willful blindness. “Our two North American countries share a common history linked to slavery and genocide. Emphasizing our differences moves away from the obligation to examine [de nos propres travers]she continues. We must be able to denounce the injustices in which they are found without constantly trying to compare ourselves to the United States or Brazil. We have to wonder if we are comfortable with our society where indigenous communities are still living at the start of this XXIe century without access to running, potable water. “
The statistics are well known, but we can repeat them. In Toronto, a third of those killed by police from 2000 to 2017 were black, although they make up only 8% of the city’s population. In Montreal, in the Saint-Michel and Montreal-North districts, 40% of young black men have already undergone a police identity check, compared to only 6% of young white men.
The intranational comparison between two provinces, between two cities, does not seem much more valid in the eyes of the historian sociologist. All in all, the variations should not obscure the persistence and consistency of discrimination against black communities. “Of course there are differences. Racism towards immigrants is not exactly the same as that against old black communities like Nova Scotia. However, racism is an integral part of this country. The disproportion of dropouts or arrests by the police is found everywhere, in all Canadian cities where blacks live. “
Robyn Maynard now lives in Toronto, where she is a Vanier Fellow for her doctoral studies. His phone code is still at 514.
A long-time community activist, she did not participate in the weekend Toronto walks due to a family health problem. “I really support the protests,” she said. But I have to maintain quarantine for some time. So I follow the online movements. “
She was disgusted by the footage of the arrest and death of George Floyd, his head and neck crushed under an officer’s lap. “The video is awful to watch,” says Mme Maynard. It’s pure cruelty, an intolerable violence assumed. It must be said: it is a lynching. You can’t use another word to accurately describe what happened there. “
So, if it is a lynching, justice should treat the crime as such by laying charges accordingly. Mme Maynard also makes it a topical case.
“This is the tragic example of the police method suffered by blacks,” she said. One conviction [d’un policier] is not going to change the role of law enforcement against black communities in North America. It is this institution that must be tackled to fundamentally rethink it by asking what security should be in our societies. As for the black communities, we know that security does not come from the police, on the contrary. “
The arrest and then the death of Mr. Floyd was nothing very extraordinary in this context. Between 2013 and 2019, American police officers killed 7,666 people according to the Mapping Police Violence site. African Americans make up a quarter (24%) of this total, but only 13% of the population.
At the same time, the reaction to the latest tragedy to date may stem in part from the new abnormality. In that sense that protests in dozens of cities, including Canada and around the world, may also have been spurred by the world’s quarantine for months, coupled with years and decades of swelling social inequalities.
“The crisis has made it possible to add even more in favor of large companies, while the living conditions of ordinary people are constantly deteriorating,” notes M.me Maynard. It is clear that the pandemic is attacking more fiercely certain communities, including that of the Blacks, which is particularly affected. The health crisis highlights the gross inequalities in our societies. The greater vulnerability of certain groups, such as blacks and Aboriginals, to attacks by the virus clearly shows who is poor, who lives in miserable conditions. So do not ask for a return to normal. We must demand a change in the system which already discriminates against certain marginalized populations. “
Hence his very simple reaction to Monday’s declarations of condolences and sympathies from Prime Ministers Trudeau and Prime Minister.
“Talking is one thing; act, another, she concludes. There is a very skilful Canadian way of naming certain types of violence, of recognizing them, while letting them continue. It’s a smoke screen. Which brings us back to this illusion of feeling like we are fighting an injustice just by naming it. “
A previous version of this text has been modified.