The following is an excerpt from the keynote address by Justice Donald McLeod at the National Black Canadians summit held in Ottawa on the weekend:
I stand here not as a judge but as a man, a black man. I was not born Justice McLeod. I was born black. Please do not define me by my black robe but rather identify me by my lived experience. The robe I wear is a sign of great respect but my blackness is a window into my soul. I believe we must unshackle ourselves from individual accomplishments for they very rarely advance the whole. It should no longer be my idea, or my program. We should rid ourselves of what I think and what small groups of people believe
We can no longer afford delays and inactivity. It’s time to also believe in each other.Nous ne pouvons plus nous permettre des delais et de l’inactivité. Il est temps de croire aussi les uns aux autres.
No one will believe in us more than we believe in ourselves. The time is now I am suggesting to you that we have next. I am asking us to rid ourselves of unilateral accolades and inform our actions with a collective lens.
We need to speak the language of inclusion. We need to understand that in order for us to ensure that we give ourselves a fighting chance we have to get it right. We need to get it right. We must begin to be unified in our efforts and strategic in our output. Our reach must be from BC to Prince Edward Island and beyond. We must speak with an understanding that Nunavit is just as important as Regina. We must move from “I” to “We”
We must begin to learn from those who define us. Why? Because in our struggles others unite us – perhaps unwittingly – but we are given profound group dynamics when things are difficult
- A recent study suggests that in Halifax black people are four times more likely to be stopped;
- We are over represented in correctional institutions;
- We are underrepresented in university class rooms and higher paying jobs;
- We are overrepresented in dropout rates and suspensions from school classrooms;
- We are they that feel the effects of post traumatic disorder and increased mental health engagement;
- AND THE LIST GOES ON AND ON AND ON.
If that is the narrative when we are in circumstances of adversity, then I am suggesting that we should stand together at all times. This alignment will shift the paradigm and elevate THE TALKING POINTS.
When I was in my early teens I attended a summer program for young black urban kids. I was taught – Our strength is in our blackness.
Quand j’étais au début de mon adolescence, j’ai assisté à un programme d’été pour les jeunes enfants urbains noirs j’ai été enseigné-notre force est dans notre noirceur.
IF WE ARE GROUPED TOGETHER BECAUSE OF OUR BLACKNESS, IF WE ARE JUDGED BECAUSE OF OUR COLOUR, IF OUR STORY BEGINS WITH OUR CONDITION AS A REUSLT OF OUR BLACKNESS, THEN I SUGGEST THAT AS A COMMUNITY WE LET THIS COUNTRY KNOW THAT IF WE ARE BOUND, THEN LET THAT PERCIEVED WEAKNESS BECOME OUR ACTUAL STRENGTH.