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Canadians experience ‘awakening’ on race issues and the lawyer calls for ‘substance over symbols’

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on June 11, 2020 with No Comments

Protests across Canada calling for an end to anti-Black racism and police brutality are leading to a “great Canadian awakening” on the prevalence of race issues in this country, says a racial justice and civil liberties lawyer. 

“While the denials will continue, those voices are going to be met with a bit more corrective force to say, ‘Wait, hold on,'” said Anthony Morgan, who leads the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit.

“And not just from Black communities, but more average citizens who are seeing what’s happening and becoming awakened.” 

Three prominent Black Canadians shared their perspectives with The Current on the movement that has gripped cities and small towns around the world in recent weeks.

The widespread protests were spurred by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed last month by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. 

Across Canada, similar protests were held in support of Floyd, and also as a call for accountability in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from her Toronto apartment balcony last month while police were in the unit.

But many accounts of racism and slavery in Canada fly under the radar, she says, pointing to the “reverse” Underground Railroad, where enslaved people left this country for the northern U.S. She added that the first recorded race riots in North America took place in Shelburne, N.S., in 1784.

“White settlers burned out their Black neighbours in an act of racial violence and segregation that persisted in Nova Scotia until 1966 and the last segregated school closed in 1983,” she said.

In order to foster a greater understanding of Canada’s history with racism and slavery, change needs to begin in school curriculums, says Edugyan.

“When I was a kid growing up in Calgary, you know, Black history was not at all anywhere on the curriculum,” she said.

“Even something that we think of as sort of fundamental to our history, like the Underground Railroad, this wasn’t something that was at all covered on any of the curriculum going straight from kindergarten to high school in Calgary.”


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