Building trust by respecting human rights

          In what has been described as a highly unusual commentary on American domestic affairs, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that “many Canadians of diverse  backgrounds are watching, like all Canadians are, the news out of the United States with shock and horror.”

The Prime Minister was, of course, referring to the death of George Floyd, the Black man who was killed in Minneapolis after a police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, ignoring his cries of distress and to the ensuing protests fuelled by outrage over  Floyd’s death and the years of violence against African Americans at the hands of the police.

While Canadian prime ministers have usually refrained from publicly discussing events in the United States, this particular situation called for condemnation.However, Trudeau weighed his word carefully.

He told reporters that ” anti-Black racism -racism – is real. It’s in the United States but it’s also in Canada and we know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day.”

And he reminded us that we have work to do as well in Canada with respect to racism .

Since Trudeau’s recent comments on racism, there have been demonstrations in major Canadian cities in solidarity with the protestors in the United States and a recognition that we also have problems to deal with in Canada.

We note with concerm  the case of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year old  Black woman who plunged to her death from her 24th floor apartment in Toronto after what her family said was a  911 call that went terribly wrong.

Protestors have been calling for “Justice for Regis.” as we report in this issue of The Caribbean Camera.

Did Regis Korchinski-Paquet fall to her death from her 24th floor apartment ?

Or was  she pushed?

Or is there some other explaination as to how her lifeless body ended up on Wednesday last week in front of the High Park Avenue  high-rise building where she lived, after police was called to her apartment?

Her family is concerned that in recent times people with mental health distress issues across North America are ending up dead after interactions with the police.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ontario’s civilian police watchdog, in a brief statement, said that police had been called to the apartment around 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday last week in response to a domestic incident and that  while officers were inside an apartment unit on the 24th floor, “they observed a woman on the balcony” and “a short time later, the woman fell from the balcony to the ground below.”

But lawyer Knia Singh, a spokesperson for the family  of the dead woman, wants to know how a call for assistance turned into a loss of life.

Understandanbly, relatives of the dead woman are looking for answers to questions about her death.

They will have to wait until the SIU completes its investigations.

But it comes as no surprise that police services across Canada and the United States are having a serious problem with public trust as racial conflagrations continue.

A recent interim report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission dealing with racial profiling  notes that one of the most effective ways for police to build trust is to respect human rights.

The report points out that ” police must hold themselves to the same high standards that we expect of other public institutions.”

We say Amen to that.