The horrific murder of George Floyd and countless others, including Tony McDade and Regis Korchinski-Paquet – and the explosion of protests and actions towards social justice in its wake – have led us at PAN to think more deeply about policing practices and their impacts. We, like many, have witnessed the impacts of policing practices on racialized people, including Black and Indigenous people – and we cannot ignore the reality that these impacts can include violence and death. Though much of the news that we hear on police violence comes from the United States, this issue is very real and present in Canada. For those of us who hold white privilege, this is a time to reflect more deeply about what it means to work as an ally and towards being anti-racist- and then act.
As Alang et al. (2017) write, “that Black people can be harassed and even killed by police is sadly not inconsistent with a system . . . that allows skin colour to dictate employment opportunity or chances of dying from a preventable disease.”¹
As an organization that works to support and lead a community-based response to HIV, hepatitis C, and related conditions, it is crucial that we recognize that the impacts of policing practices do not exist in a vacuum, but tie directly into health. We know that Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour are disproportionately impacted by health inequities.
“Understanding how police brutality affects health requires seeing it . . . as part of a system of structural racism that operates to sustain White supremacy.” (Alang 2017).
We have been organizing weekly meetings with the Executive Directors of PAN member and allied organizations as part of our response to COVID-19– and each week participants have brought forward concerns surrounding policing practices in relation to people who are unsheltered, people who use drugs, and other vulnerable people. We now have two template letters – one for the RCMP; the other for municipal police forces – which organizations and communities can use as they see fit, modifying as appropriate.
Now is a critical time to review and question our current policing practices and policies and call for structural changes– especially in light of increased attention on the harms of police in Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities.
The staff and board of PAN are committed to this important conversation and others, and to learning together. We know this work requires being willing to call each other out, and taking ownership of the ways we do and enact harm, even if the harm is unintentional. We released our statement on racism two weeks ago, and we will continue to deepen our knowledge and understanding as we work to end health inequities in our own communities.
Questions? Comments? Get in touch
|J. Evin Jones, Executive Director, [email protected]||Madeline Gallard, Community-Based Research Coordinator at [email protected]|
¹ Alang, S., McAlpine, D., McCreedy, E., & Hardeman, R. (2017). Police Brutality and Black Health: Setting the Agenda for Public Health Scholars. American Journal of Public Health, 107(5), 662-665. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.303691
Marginalized groups tended to bear the brunt of police and bylaw action CBC News, June 24, 2020
Report: Stay Off the Grass – COVID19 and Law Enforcement in Canada (released June 24, 2020)
Desmond Cole: ‘Disarm and defund police’ and give money to communities, CBC News, June 1, 2020
Sandy Hudson: Defunding The Police Will Save Black And Indigenous Lives In Canada, Huffington Post, June 2, 2020
For those living with white privilege: I am a Racist, and That’s a Good Place to Start