The pandemic of systemic racism in policing and the justice system in Canada is one for which no vaccine has ever been found.
But thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and the activism of so many concerned citizens throughout Canada in highlighting this issue, the Canadian governments in 2020 is paying attention to this deeply entrenched problem as it has never done before.
Just last week, in the throne speech, we heard the concerns of the Justin Trudeau government about systemic racism and what it intends to do about it.
Governor General Julie Payette reminded Canadians of a situation of which people in tthe Black community are only too well aware.
“For too many Canadians, systemic racism is a lived reality ,” she declared.
And noting the unfair treatment of Black and Indigenous people ” who are overrepresented in courts and jails,” the government promises legislation and money to address inequities ” in all phases of the criminal justice system.”
The throne speech promises action on issues ranging from sentencing and rehabilitation to improved civilian oversight of the RCMP and standards on police use of force.
The planned measures also include modern training for police and other law-enforcement agencies, as well as broader RCMP reforms that emphasize a shift toward community-led policing.
We hope that the government will keep its promises and we look forward to early action in its renewed efforts in tackling the sourge of systemic racism.
In the battle against systemic racism there was more good news – this time from the province of Nova Scotia.
As reported in this issue of The Caribbean Camera , earlier this week, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil apologized to Black and Indigenous Nova Scotians for systemic racism in the province’s justice system.
Saying sorry is not always easy but McNeil made no bones about it.He acknowledged that institutions such as the police and the courts have failed Black and Indigenous people – a well known fact but one that is well worth repeating, especially when one is the premier of Nova Scotia or Ontario. Is Doug Foird paying attention ?
But saying sorry was not all.
McNeil promised – yes, more promises – to put together a team composed of members of Black and Indigenous communities, as well as members of government and the police, to work on ways to reform the justice system.
Clearly, this is an ambitious plan and we are pleased to note that the team will be led by Jennifer Llewellyn, a Dalhousie University law professor and pioneer in the use of restorative justice, and Jacob MacIsaac, another champion of restorative justice at the university’s security services.
The team will have up to 18 months to determine what is needed.
As McNeil pointed out, “the current system’s broken and the only way to fix it is to find a better way, a more just way.”
Not an easy task but we hope that the Nova Scotia team will help create badly change.
We also hope that McNeil’s plan to transform the justice system will serve as an inspiration to other provinces in Canada.