Canada urged to open its eyes to systemic racism in wake of police violence

Activists and historians argue that before change can come, Canadians must first accept a tarnished history and the persistent structural inequities that it has bequeathed the nation. On Thursday, Justin Trudeau contradicted the RCMP chief’s comments, saying it was clear systemic racism was present in the country’s federal police force. It is not just the individual examples we have seen, it’s the issues faced by Canadians of diverse backgrounds over years, decades and generations,” the prime minister said. “Even today, the police will always look at Indigenous people and Black folks in our territories as potentially requiring some kind of suppression.” “When we talk about systemic racism, we’re not just trying to lay the blame on the RCMP. It’s the entire structure that is causing continued violence against Black and Indigenous bodies in this country,” said Arcand-Paul. Some police forces, including in Canada’s largest city, have acknowledged systemic racism exists and pledged to make change. “I think it’s by design that police forces want this information hidden, because then it makes them less responsible for actually acknowledging this is a problem.” Ford, the Ontario premier, quickly walked back his remarks, suggesting his comments had been taken out of context. But political leaders’ resistance to the idea that systemic racism exists within state institutions often comes from a poor understanding of the country’s past, says educator and historian Natasha Henry, president of the Ontario Black History Society. For generations, Canadian history has concentrated on the country’s position as the last stop on the Underground Railroad – a place which meant freedom for those who escaped slavery in the US. After emancipation, Black people in Canada still faced segregation, and the looming threat of hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. That’s not how history works.” Indigenous peoples were also enslaved by colonial powers – a reality often forgotten in the country’s school textbooks.