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Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Letter: Racism, protests and demilitarizing our police

Dear editor:

I did not attend the antiracism protest in Niagara-on-the-Lake. As important as I believe it is to oppose racism in all forms, the time did not seem right, despite the recent killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, to march in what potentially could be a large group of people. Not when the world is plagued by COVID-19.

But the protest and the event that sparked it has made me think about the issue of racism here and around the globe. About the institutionalized racism that has resulted in the high proportion of First Nations people, relative to caucasians, occupying prison cells in Canada; the failure of our police forces to properly investigate cases involving missing and murdered First Nations women and girls; the dismal living conditions on First Nations’ reserves; the brutality some members of our First Nations’ and black communities have suffered at the hands of police; the carding tactics employed, until recently, by police in Toronto; the arrest and alleged beating of First Nations’ chief Allan Adam by the RCMP over an expired licence plate sticker… The list goes on and on and on.

In Canada, our usual response to issues of this nature involves holding an inquiry or commission. Months or years later, the result is a report and a series of recommendations that receive broad media coverage, but few bona fide results. The reports generally get shelved; the recommendations are not implemented.

I have not lived the First Nation, black, Hispanic, Jewish or Asian experience in Canada, and I cannot speak for people who have or do.

But my gut feeling is that nothing will change until all of us, no matter what colour of skin, religion or sexuality we have, accept that all lives have value and act accordingly.

I’m not an expert in the field and can’t offer a fact-based solution to help us reach that point, however, I suspect the way forward needs to begin with education. Based on what I’ve seen on the television news this week, I also believe that the culture and focus of our police forces needs to change, and that they must be demilitarized.

The mission “to protect and serve” does not equate with killing unarmed civilians, nor with knocking a man to the ground with a vehicle door prior to arresting him.

If it takes days of protest to bring about true institutional change in Canada, so be it. Ultimately, though, I think we need to get to a point where we talk a different language when it comes to skin colour. When we say a person who has black, brown or white skin, with the emphasis on person, if we must use an identifier at all.

For at the end of the day we are all people, and our lives all matter.

Terry Davis