Black Lives Matter: A joint Statement by The Canadian Association of Somali Lawyers (CASL) and The Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law (CAMWL)
CASL is a national organization of Somali-Canadian legal professionals. CAMWL is a national organization comprised of individuals who identify as Muslim women who are involved in law as lawyers, researchers, students and more. Both organizations advocate against anti-Black racism, police brutality, and Islamophobia, in addition to other issues affecting their members.
We condemn the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor (who would have turned 27 years old today) in the United States. We offer our condolences, our outrage, and our solidarity to the Black communities in Canada and the United States, amidst the pain of more Black lives being lost to police brutality and anti-Black Racism.
Tragically, these killings, and the impunity of the police officers involved that follows, are part of a historical pattern of police brutality against Black people in Canada as well. In the past ten years alone, high profile deaths have included the killings of Abdirahman Abdi, Andrew Loku, Alex Wettlaufer, Eric Osawe, Frank Anthony Berry, Ian Pryce, Junior Alexander Manon, Kwasi Skene-Peters, Michael Eligon, Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan, Mark Ekamba, D’Andre Campbell, Jermaine Carby, Jean-Pierre Bony, and many more. We also raise our concerns over the death of Regis Korchiniski-Paquet.
Despite creating vast databases of civilian information through practices like carding, our local police forces do not publish their data on the race of those killed by their officers. Nor does Statistics Canada, Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director, or Toronto’s Special Investigations Unit. This selective collection of data, when we know that Black and Indigenous communities are over-surveillied and over-policed and while the racial dynamics of police killings are left muddied, is troubling. This, in turn, only deepens the mistrust felt by Black communities and the families left grieving for their loved ones.
The institutional failure to acknowledge and act accordingly on anti-Black racism in Canada further adds to the lack of trust felt by Black communities towards the systems that govern us. For instance, the current premiers of Ontario and Quebec have repeatedly refused (or have been extremely reluctant) to recognize the existence and/or pervasiveness of anti-Black racism in Canada. Yet, we know that claims that anti-Black racism does not exist in Canada are patently untrue. Reports by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) and other organizations affirm the existence of anti-Black racism in Canada and its perpetuation by the police.
Even our courts have recognized the systemic racism that persists in our justice system and society. As noted by the Ontario Court of Appeal in R. v. Parks, “[r]acism, and in particular anti-black racism, is part of our community’s psyche. A significant segment of our community holds overtly racist views. A much larger segment subconsciously operates on the basis of negative racial stereotypes. Furthermore, our institutions, including the criminal justice system, reflect and perpetuate those negative stereotypes. These elements combine to infect our society as a whole with the evil of racism. Blacks are among the primary victims of that evil.”
Communities across the United States, Canada, and the world are rallying together to call for justice and accountability. We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, and against police brutality, White supremacy, and anti-Black racism.
We also recognize that statements and releases alone are not enough to dismantle these pervasive systems. As lawyers and legal professionals we must commit to advancing the systemic change needed to address anti-Black racism within our profession, legal systems, society as a whole. In line with our organizational missions to advance the rights of equity-seeking groups, we will not stay silent and we commit to fighting for the rights, dignity, and safety of Black lives.
As part of ongoing efforts to combat the deeply entrenched systemic racism that continues to claim Black lives, CASL and CAMWL demand:
1. The Municipal, Provincial and Federal government to declare Anti- Black racism a Public Health Crisis. This is in accordance with Canadian Public Health Association, which released a statement in 2018 acknowledging racism is a public health issue;
2. The Special Investigations Unit’s investigation of the death of Regis Korchiniski-Paquet be fully transparent and accountable;
3. All levels of government acknowledge and commit to combatting the deeply entrenched anti-Black racism that persists in Canada;
4. All levels of government allocate increased funding to social and welfare services, public health services, and housing to various Black communities;
5. All levels of government allocate less funding to policing services;
6. The federal government fully implement the recommendations outlined in the Report of the UN OHCHR Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its 2016 mission to Canada;
7. The provincial government fully implement the recommendations of the 2017 Andrew Loku inquest;
8. All police forces across Canada fully implement the 2019 Ontario Human Rights Commission recommendations on ending racial profiling in law enforcement;
9. All levels of government implement mandatory disaggregated data collection policies based on race, colour, ethnic background, national origin, and other identities to identify any racial disparities affecting Black communities in Canada; and
10. All police forces across Canada discontinue carding practices, including carding sanctioned as an emergency response measures during the pandemic.
We hope with these measures, and others, we can create a more equitable and safe society for Black lives.
Canadian Association of Somali Lawyers Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law