African Canadian Social Development Council Fights Against Anti-Black Racism

The fight against anti-Black and systemic racism continues in our African-Canadian communities. On Thursday, August 20, 2020 the African Canadian Social Development Council (ACSDC) – Toronto held a rally at the Toronto City Hall, and invited guest speakers within the African circle of social justice, academic, political, and criminal justice to speak on the issues that affect our communities, and to give us a message of hope. The event commenced with the sound of drumming, a symbolic African tradition that accompanies every ceremony. The purpose of this rally  can be summed up in the words of the President of the ACSDC, Nene (Chief) Kabu Asante, “The system has to change. We can’t breath and it’s killing us slowly. We need the city, the province and federal government to invest more in our communities…” These words, “We can’t breath” echoed from the African-American man, Mr. George Floyd who died by the hands of police brutality in Minneapolis, Minnesota, earlier this year on May 25, 2020.   

READ MORE: There is hope

3 men drumming, fighting against anti-black racism

The ACSDC is an umbrella organization for all African-Canadian community agencies and cultural organizations in Ontario. One such organization is the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario (SCAGO). The founder and president, Ms. Lanre Tunji-Ajayi states, “Far too long, people of African descent and the black community have been stigmatized and racialized. We must rise with our voices, our pens, and papers, and demand a change from systemic racism.” SCAGO has been advocating, educating, and building awareness about sickle cell since 2005. “Three years ago, when I came to study in Canada, I was paralyzed because of my sickle cell, leaving me unable to use my hands and legs. I was a quadriplegic, who needed life support,” says, Ms. Oluwayemisi Abatan, who is now a supporter of SCAGO. As a result of this organization advocating for her health, Abatan can now walk and take care of herself. Systemic racism, in our health care system, affects patients who are of African or Caribbean descent because quality care may be withheld, and without proper advocacy, may result in death.  

This is the reason the ACSDC has organized this Anti-Black Racism rally because Black Lives Matter in health care, in our school systems, in our criminal justice system, in our work places, and in all segment of our communities. “…The fact that systemic racism is not as prevalent in Canada does not mean it does not exist here” says Mr. George Chuku, TV host of Afro global television & VP Nigerian Canadian Association. “We have to create a level playing field for everyone to succeed, because only a few privilege successes is guaranteed, while others are struggling. We are asking to be treated fairly.”

MPP Faisal Hassan speaking, fighting against anti-black racism

MPP Faisal Hassan of York-South Weston reminds us that, “Racism is rooted in all structures of government, and that the experiences of the Caribbean, African, and all immigrants should be taught in schools.” He further stated, “there is discrimination based on postal code, such as auto-insurance, because we are targeted where we live. It must end.”   

READ MORE: Mandela, Floyd, apartheid, uprisings, and unrest

The agenda had many other speakers such as: Professor George Sefa Dei (UofT), Lawyer Eyitayo F. Dada (President of the Canadian Nigerian Lawyers Association, Francois Yabit (Executive Director Northwood Neighbourhood, Toronto, Shamso Elmi (Mending the Crack in the Sky, Co-organizers), and Rocco Achampong, Defence lawyer and civil rights activist.  Achampong expressed a resounding sentiment in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “We must…be the change (we) wish to see in the world.” To make change he says, “We must come with clean hands.” 

These protests have been consistent within the Canadian black, African and Caribbean communities due to the death of Mr. Floyd earlier this year. Today, it was the African Canadian Social Development Council and the different agencies and organizations it represents, speaking out to our governments, and echoing the words of Mr Floyd, “We can’t breath.” The ACSDC is calling on the city, the province and the federal government to stop systemic racism, increase funding in the black communities, stop targeting our neighbourhoods, and give us quality health care, including increase funding for sickle cell disease.         

Carleton criminology department cuts ties with police, prisons

Written by: Stu Mills, CBC, on Aug 12, 2020

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/carleton-criminology-police-ottawa-1.5683717

Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice (ICCJ) is ending all student internships with police forces and prisons next year.

In a statement released earlier this week, the ICCJ said the move is part of an effort to reform the department in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Faculty at the ICCJ take these calls to action seriously,” according to the statement.

Typically, some 80 third-year year criminology students are given internships with Ottawa police, the RCMP, Correctional Service Canada and the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.

Professor Jeffrey Monaghan said those institutions have done too little to acknowledge systemic racism and work to eliminate “anti-Black and anti-Indigenous sentiments, practices and policies.”

“They’ve given lip service to reform, and that reform hasn’t happened,” said Monaghan.

Some 80 third-year students from Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice take part in internships with the Ottawa Police Service, RCMP, Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and other institutions each year. That will end in 2021. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

“I think we’re at a moment that we can reflect on that promise, and I think we can say that it’s been largely a failure,” he said, pointing out recent remarks from RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and her initial denial of the existence of systemic racism in Canadian policing as a turning point.

“We’re saying that action has to be made. We can’t maintain these relationships until we see action and we’re waiting to see that action,” Monaghan said.

Placements began in 1973

The internships have been a part of Carleton’s criminology program since 1973. Placements with police and correctional institutions make up about five to eight per cent of all placements.

Monaghan said that will come to an end in 2021 as the department rethinks how to address systemic racism and colonialism.

“The status quo is no longer an acceptable position to stay in,” he said.

Monaghan acknowledged the potential positive role that young people, energized by the Black Lives Matter movement, might have in changing the culture of police agencies during their work placements, but he said it was unrealistic to continue to believe that meaningful change would come from within those institutions.

He also rejected the view that the academic department was abandoning a chance to build important ties with Ottawa police, now under the command of a man of colour who has promised reform.

“The door is still open. We’re still engaged in all kinds of different ways,” Monaghan said.

Carleton’s ICCJ will create a new curriculum with anti-racism and an acknowledgement of colonialism at its centre.

Two new $1,000 student bursaries for Black, Indigenous and other racialized students working in criminology will be available this year. Two more bursaries of the same amount are being earmarked for students working in social justice initiatives that address racism and colonialism in the criminal justice system. 

‘The door is still open. We’re still engaged in all kinds of different ways,” said Carleton criminology professor Jeffrey Monaghan. (Submitted)

“I can definitely see how ending the placements with those institutions could be a form of that protest”, said 4th-year student Chanel Hepworth. “On the other hand … front-line involvement in these sectors by university students could assist with reform.”

Though she completed placements last year with law firms, she doubted students working with police or correctional institutions would have much influence or success changing the institutional culture there. Hepworth said she supports the department’s decision.

Ottawa police did not respond in time for publication.

Solidarity and hope: OPSEU recommits to ending anti-Black racism

By: https://opseu.org/news/solidarity-and-hope-opseu-recommits-to-ending-anti-black-racism/108616/

In a high-profile step towards true equality in the workplace and in the union, thousands of OPSEU members and staff participated in the union’s July 7 telephone town halls on anti-Black racism.

“Systemic racism is real. It is deadly. And it has to stop,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas at the beginning of the meeting. “The good news is that we can stop it. Working together, we can help build a foundation for a new way of thinking, and a new way of acting.”

The town halls were just one element in OPSEU’s strong recommitment to the fight against anti-Black racism, and gave members and staff a chance to share their stories, questions, and concerns. Members and staff are encouraged to continue submitting their stories and recommendations by emailing them to antiblackracism@opseu.org.

The town halls, which were held in two sessions to accommodate members’ schedules, were moderated by well-known personality and anti-Black racism activist Farley Flex. He was joined by a panel of Black OPSEU members and staff, President Thomas and OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.

“My life hasn’t always been easy and I’ve had to overcome a lot. But I’ve never had to overcome the systemic racism that Black people face,” said Almeida. “I’ve seen it firsthand. I’m a Correctional Officer, and I can tell you that that there are too many Black and Indigenous Peoples in our jails.”

Thomas and Almeida finished the town halls with strong commitments to read and reflect on all of the questions and comments from members and staff and report back soon with plans for concrete action, including more education and investment.

“Today marks OPSEU’s renewal of our vow to eradicate Anti-Black Racism. We know we haven’t always gotten it right.  But we hear you,” said Thomas. “We promise you that we’ll never let up. One thing about this union: we never give up.”

Fred Upshaw

Thomas, Almeida, their fellow panelists, and the members and staff who asked questions made it clear that there’s still much work to be done to eliminate anti-Black racism in the workplaces where OPSEU represents members and in the union itself.

As a union strongly committed to social justice, OPSEU members have often led the fight against systemic racism. Former President Fred Upshaw became the first Black person to lead a major Canadian union when he was elected in 1990.

Joscelyn Ross

Panelist Joscelyn Ross, an OPSEU health and safety officer, said a concrete action that all workers can do is think about anti-Black racism as a health and safety issue: document it, and grieve it.

“I encourage conversation with your health and safety rep to look at racism and microaggressions in the workplace, which can lead to psychosocial stress,” said Ross, who was an OPSEU member for more than 20 years before joining its staff in 2016. “When you can demonstrate to the employer that employees are facing stress due to workplace discrimination, you can then say, ‘Here’s our evidence and we need to talk about this because you have an obligation to provide the safest workplace possible.’”

Many of the comments and questions from members focused on what OPSEU can do to support members – particularly young workers — who feel afraid to speak up about discrimination in the workplace, whether it’s being passed over for promotions or outright harassment.

Shauna-Kay Cassell

“I know what it’s like to be a young worker and to stay silent. But if something feels wrong, it probably is. Trust your gut. Now is not the time to be silent,” said panelist Shauna-Kay Cassell, a Local 526 member. “And remember that there are many things protecting you, from laws like the Ontario Human Rights Code to your collective agreement and your union. They all help protect you.”


Carlotta Ewing

Panelist Carlotta Ewing, a Local 228 member, added that members facing or witnessing racism can always call on their Local President or their staff rep for guidance, assurance, and advice.

“With OPSEU, you have so many resources and so much expertise to help you,” said Ewing. “Equity, communications, campaigns, legal, grievances. This union has so much to support you. And it’s yours – use it.”

Peter Thompson

Panelist Peter Thompson, who is the chair of the OPSEU Coalition for Racialized Workers (CoRW), said that as long as he’s been a member, the union has been at the forefront of the fight against racism, whether it’s been through sensitivity training for members and staff or through ambitious projects like social mapping.

“I see all kinds of corporations and organizations coming out now with statements against racism, but I’m proud to say that OPSEU and the Coalition of Racialized Workers have been making these statements and doing anti-racism work for years,” said Thompson. “If you want to know more about what the union and coalition are doing, ask your local presidents – the more they share this information, the better.”

Evan Wickham

Panelist Evan Wickham, who sits on the OPSEU Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC), echoed Thompson’s point that, in many ways, OPSEU’s locals are on the front-lines of this struggle.

“The murder of George Floyd has roused a lot of us and given us opportunity to be heard,” said Wickham. “OPSEU is a member-driven union. We have a lot of support as members, so let’s step forward and keep voicing our concerns and filing our grievances. That’s how we make the most of this opportunity.”

Along with the members’ locals and the CoRW, OPSEU’s dedicated Equity Unit is another source of information and support for members.

Andrea McCormack

“We’ll never leave you to stand on your own in the fight against racism,” said panelist Andrea McCormack, a long-time OPSEU staff rep who is temporarily reassigned as an Employment Equity Lead in the Employee Relations Division. “This is the first of many conversations that OPSEU will have. Make sure you’re part of it because the support from the union’s leadership is strong. OPSEU is committed to amplifying our voices.”

Flex finished the town hall by asking the panelists for a few final thoughts. They were all moving (you can find them here on Twitter), but Cassell summed it up beautifully:

“I’ll finish with four thoughts,” said Cassell. “One: Speak up, especially if you’re a young worker. Two: Know your rights, you have a lot of them. Three: Find a champion, there are many in OPSEU. Four, and this might be the most important: be hopeful. Change is inevitable, but progress is up to us. And I believe we can make progress.”

Anti-Black Racism Resources & Feedback

We encourage all members and staff to continue sharing their stories and recommendations by emailing them to antiblackracism@opseu.org.

Ontario Investing in Frontline Corrections Workers

Hiring More Staff and Updating Infrastructure Will Improve Safety 

June 16, 2020 3:00 P.M.

Written By: Ministry of the Solicitor General

TORONTO — The Ontario government is investing more than $500 million over five years to transform correctional facilities across the province. This funding will help ensure the safety and security of frontline staff.

This major investment will support the hiring of more than 500 new staff to help address challenges within the correctional system such as mental health and addiction issues. The additional funding will also be used to modernize outdated infrastructure to address overcrowding and to improve services.

“Our government heard from corrections staff across the province about the challenges they face each and every day,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “These investments will create a better, safer environment for our hard-working frontline staff and will help strengthen Ontario’s corrections system.”

Hiring additional staff will also help ensure the government is complying with its obligations regarding the use of segregation within correctional facilities. The modernization of outdated infrastructure, including building additional day rooms and making modifications to yard spacewill allow the province to provide more effective programming space.

 “We have been clear in our support for corrections staff and we are determined to continue providing needed resources to these men and women who are always there when they are needed most,” said Solicitor General Jones.

Recent government action to support correctional staff includes:

Additional Resources

Human Rights Council calls on top UN rights official to take action on racist violence

Written by: Human Rights, June 19 2020.

The unarmed African-American’s death on 25 May was captured on video while a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, sparking worldwide protest.

During the debate on racism, alleged police brutality and violence against protesters that preceded the resolution’s adoption, no less than120 speakers took the floor.

Many expressed sympathy for the family of Mr. Floyd, whose brother also addressed Council members in Geneva, in a passionate pre-recorded video message in which he urged the United Nations to act.

No international probe

Although some delegates had called for an international probe to investigate killings of black people in America, and violence against demonstrators, others maintained that the issue impacted on all nations, and required a broader approach.

In line with the final version of the resolution text, the High Commissioner should “prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, especially those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent”.

The text also calls on Ms. Bachelet – assisted by UN appointed independent rights experts and committees “to examine government responses to anti-racism peaceful process peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists”.

Overseeing the resolution, Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger (Austria), President of the Human Rights Council (14th cycle) announced that the text was ready for their consideration and asked whether a vote could be dispensed with, in light of the general consensus.

‘An historic step’

“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I have been informed that a number of resolutions are ready for adoption during this meeting as shown on the screen…So, I would like to ask if there is a request from anybody for a vote…I see none, so may I take it that the draft proposal L50 as orally revised may be adopted without a vote? It is so decided.”

In his address to Member States as coordinator of the African Group, Dieudonné W. Désiré Sougouri, Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso to the United Nations Office, declared the Urgent Debate “an historic step” in the combat against racism of which the Human Rights Council could be “proud”.

“The international outrage caused by the tragic events that led to the death of George Floyd underlined the urgency and importance for the Human Rights Council to raise its voice against injustice and police brutality which African people and people of African descent are faced with every day in many regions of the world,” he said.

The Council also heard widespread declarations of support for an investigation into violence against protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

Racism will remain ‘a priority’

“The fight against all forms of racism and racial discrimination remains a priority for us,” said Michael Ungern-Sternberg, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva. “The past weeks, many people around the world raised their voices and took to the streets to send a clear signal that racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against minority populations cannot (any) longer be accepted.”

Other speakers insisted that the resolution was necessary and important in promoting awareness about systemic racism, and in continuing the work of implementing key pledges taken to combat the scourge in 2002 at the Durban World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

“Black lives matter,” said Ambassador Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Racism continues to happen in many countries too, he said, noting that it was in “flagrant contradiction” to the UN Charter in which we place our faith in the basic rights of man and in the value of the human person”.

UN independent experts voice ‘profound concern’ over US Government accusations of ‘domestic terrorism’

And in another human rights development concerning the fallout from protests over George Floyd’s death in the US, UN independent experts on Friday expressed “profound concern” over a recent statement by the US Attorney-General describing the so-called Antifa movement and other anti-fascist activists as “domestic terrorists”, saying it undermines the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly in the country.

“International human rights law protects the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”, said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

“It is regrettable that the United States has chosen to respond to the protests in a manner that undermines these fundamental rights.”

Following nationwide demonstrations that began after police in Minneapolis killed African American George Floyd, US Attorney General William Barr warned that alleged violence carried out by Antifa and other movements “is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly”, noted the press release issued by the UN rights office, OHCHR.

‘Loose use of terrorist rhetoric’

Although there has not been an legislative action taken following the 31 May statement, Ms. Ní Aoláin – an expert lawyer who worked extensively in the human rights and terrorism-related field in her native Northern Ireland – said that the “the loose use of terrorism rhetoric undermines legitimate protests and dampens freedom of expression in the United States, which has been a hallmark of US constitutional values, and a beacon far beyond its shores”.UN Special Procedures@UN_SPExperts

🇺🇲 #UnitedStates: UN expert @NiAolainF says the loose use of #terrorism rhetoric by the US Administration undermines legitimate protests and dampens freedom of expression in the country. Learn more: http://ow.ly/QN4130qRBpv 

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Echoing the unease expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding structural race discrimination in the US, particularly in the realm of policing, the Special Rapporteur said that regulating protests and violence through the lens of counter-terrorism may only sharpen divisions and accentuate tensions, fuelling further human rights violations.

The group of independent experts strongly recommend that the violent elements among peaceful protesters who have been identified by law enforcement, be dealt with fairly, and in accordance to due process under existing penal law.

Ms. Ní Aoláin is urging the US Government to take a human rights-based approach in their response to protests and violence and avoid the misuse and misappropriation of the language of terrorism.

“Unless it does, the Government risks cheapening grave crimes that fall under the rubric of terrorism and failing to fulfil fundamental obligations to ensure counter-terrorism measures are fully compliant with international human rights law.”

The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council constitute the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, and they address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work, as well as being independent from any government or organization.

Migrant workers hold virtual rally seeking full immigration status in Canada

Written by: The Canadian Press

A group supporting migrant workers held a virtual rally Sunday that called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MPs to immediately extend full immigration status for all non-permanent residents.

The event, sponsored by the Migrant Rights Network, featured a series of farm workers, caregivers, construction workers and others who expressed the difficulties of living through the COVID-19 pandemic without the government support given to Canadians.

“We are raising our voice because the COVID-19 virus has laid bare the crisis caused by capitalism, racism, climate change and war,” spokeswoman Sarom Rho said during the one-hour event.

Rho said the majority of migrants are paid low wages, and face many other challenges.

“Canada’s corporations profit off of the intentional temporariness caused by a two-tiered immigration system,” Rho said, adding that the novel coronavirus has hit migrants and the poor the hardest.

“Without access to emergency income supports, migrants have been working through the crisis without basic labour rights or health and safety protections. We are going hungry, we are homeless, we have lost our lives.”

Without emergency income supports provided to Canadian workers, she says, migrants are going hungry as they struggle to survive.

Rho said migrants are calling on Trudeau to live up to his promise to do better to fight racism.

“So today we say to him, Prime Minister Trudeau do better by ensuring full immigration status for all.”

That would provide health services including hospitalization and access to doctors, worker protections against discrimination and abuse along with access to permanent wage increases and paid emergency leave.

It wants access to community supports such as food banks, emergency shelters and other services and an immediate moratorium on detentions and deportations.

The activist group launched the one-day event by supporting efforts to defund, disarm and dismantle police over racist policies following recent deaths at the hands of police, including George Floyd and several Canadians, such as Rodney Levi, an Indigenous man in New Brunswick.

“We are in the midst of a massive anti-racist uprising against police and anti-Black police violence, a groundshifting rebellion led by Black women and youth.”

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/06/14/migrant-workers-hold-virtual-rally-seeking-full-immigration-status.html