By Gerald V. Paul
Dr. Akua Benjamin, a social justice activist and Ryerson University professor who “woke up in tears” over the racial and terrorist killing of nine Blacks in a South Carolina church, took to the Spirit of Mandela Freedom Walk last Saturday and in a passionate keynote address declared: “Carding must be ended, totally.
“Carding cannot be addressed half way. We must speak up,” she told those gathered at Queen’s Park in the spirit of Mandela’s long walk.
In a call and response with a Mandela salute, Benjamin and the crowd shouted: “No Justice. No Peace!”
She said that after all the marching and fighting injustice, there is still much work to be done.
The Camera’s headline read last week “Province steps in to regulate carding.” Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi told this newspaper then of plans to regulate and standardize the controversial police practice of carding.
Benjamin, however, echoed the message of many in the community who say carding is not a practice that can be regulated but must be banned completely.
Like Mandela, Benjamin called for commitment to the goal of an inclusive society, free from discrimination in which all persons enjoy full rights to dignity, fair treatment and equal opportunity.
Messages were also delivered by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Membathisi Mdladlana, the high commissioner of South Africa and Toronto Mayor John Tory.
Benjamin compared carding to the South African days of the police policy of stop and check, saying it must be ended because it smacks of apartheid, an Afrikaans word meaning “the state of being apart”.
Mandela was also honoured in the name of Canada’s First Nations peoples. “We pay tribute to the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation on whose ancestral territory this Freedom Walk takes place and to all first peoples of Canada with whom we join in solidarity to address the wrongs perpetuated on indigenous peoples of this land, in order to create a great nation for all in the future,” the crowd was told.
Digging Roots, an Aboriginal Band and singer Amanda Martinez were among performers at the event while Nelson Mandela Park Public School choir summed up the day this way: “Dream …it’s okay to dream. Dream big … Nelson Mandela Walk for Freedom.”