Moving Forward with Purpose in 2021   

Without a doubt, the year 2020 was an incredibly challenging year for everyone. A year many do not wish to remember. Everyone has one story or two to share about why they think 2020 deserves no mention ever again. The painful truth is that we cannot forget 2020 in the same way we still remember the racial slights, epithets, and outright violence that have become part of our daily realities. 

As terrible as 2020 was for most of us, you would agree with me that we also learned some important life lessons we want to remember and build upon as individuals and as a community.  

Like many, I learned to be grateful for life itself, and for the times we shared as a family and a community. I also learned to be patient. Those who know me well also know my mantra “Life is not a race.” 2020 taught us to be patient and take life easy. It taught us to care about people more than we have ever done. Yet, it taught some of us to slow down, be minimalistic, and embrace altruism. 

I do not wish to erase your memories of the pandemic (which is still present with us) or the racial tensions stemming from police brutalities and killings of our people and people who look like us. No. It will be dangerous on my part to suggest you forget about the pain and suffering, the mental health challenges, the hunger, and the disruption of lives and livelihoods. These are painful truths we share. I have had my challenges, health-wise but this does not stop us from fighting and pursuing excellence. We cannot just wish 2020 away without remembering the good lessons we need to guide our individual and collective progress in 2021. 

Questions to reflect on 

  1. How can we make the lessons meaningful in our collective journey and efforts to chart a better path forward? 
  2. How do we use the lessons we learned in 2020 to refocus our energies, mindsets, and priorities? 
  3. As a community what lessons did we learn in 2020 that could be used as our investments in 2021?  
  4. How has 2020 redefined your sense of community, has it made you want to engage a little bit more? 

If you have not thought of the above questions, you are not alone. Specifically, these are some of the lessons:  

Life is a Gift: The pandemic and everything 2020 brought our way has taught me that life is but a fleeting adventure. It is a gift that can vanish at any time without prior warnings. It is a gift not for us but others. In other words, the Giver of life wants us to use it, while we have it, to serve others rather than ourselves. Make no mistake, the pandemic is still the greatest enemy we face in 2021 on top of other challenges. The pandemic disproportionately affects our community than all others. The numbers are a stack reality. In Ottawa alone, black people, our community accounts for 4 in 10 infections though we make up only 7 percent of the population. Please take it seriously, vaccines notwithstanding 

Take the vaccine when it is your turn. Do not listen to the anti-vaccination folks who have opposed every single one then since the advent of vaccines and the earliest known inoculation against smallpox in 1000 BCE and 1500 BCE in China and India, respectively. They are not new. Remember, life is a gift, take the COVID-19 vaccine, and use your gift to serve others. 

That brings me to an important larger than life question. What do you want to be remembered for when the Giver of life calls you home? I know for most of you, you want to be remembered for the many other lives you touched. The many countless hours you served behind the scenes, giving your all, without ever thinking about the costs. 

The Community: Without the community we are incomplete. The community makes all the difference. That is why we need to re-examine what community means for us, the black people everywhere, and Canada in particular. We often lose focus and think more highly of ourselves than the community we are supposed to serve. That self-centered approach to community work makes us look weak, confused, distrustful, and petty. As we start a new year, let us realign our priorities and focus more on the community good than our parochial interests. Get involved, sow some good seeds, care for them, and see them grow. The community is you and me. We are the community. I am talking about the black community everywhere beyond our locations or geographical areas. 

The Shared Problems: As a community, we are plagued with serious other pandemics we need to develop vaccines for. Unfortunately, the greater society of which our community is a part has not been able to develop vaccines quickly as it did with the COVID-19. The fact that we are in 2021 does not make our situations suddenly better. We still have fights to fight, conversations to be had, poverty to eradicate, health inequities to address, racism and systems of oppression to dismantle. That is why we cannot afford to forget 2020 in its entirety. 

The Focus: We must mobilize properly, unite more than ever before if we want to create a better place for our children and their children. We fail if our children and their children fight the same battles that confront us today. Get involved in the community, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty. It does not have to be spectacular. Trivial things like mentoring a high schooler, volunteering your time, talent, and treasure go a long way to put smiles on the faces of the most vulnerable in our ecosystem. Each one teaches one. Let us build people up. Whatever happens to one of us affects us all, which makes us an ecosystem. How about the systemic issues affecting us, how do we overcome them? I pray this question becomes our focus for 2021. We need power, the real power to overcome the systemic issues bedeviling us. 

Getting the Real Power: When we unite and build each other up socially, emotionally, physically, and economically we gain power. It is this power we need to dismantle the system that was designed to elevate one race over others. Without economic empowerment, we cannot make meaningful progress in our fight against the system. No one gives up power and privilege without a fight. They will continue to deceive us with “performative allyship.” What is that? I know some of you will ask. I will give you an example of what performative allyship looks like. It is Justin Trudeau taking a knee during the June 5, protest at the parliament grounds. It is when they tell you they understand your struggles and frustration when they have the power to make your life better. Beware of those in 2021. Call them for what they are, performative allyship. 

Oh, I see, so how do we get this economic power we need to confront the system? The answer is in changing our mindset and setting our priorities right. The answer lies in our “aha” moment. Real power is people plus money.  

First, let us unite, mobilize, strategize, prioritize, and share. If one person is doing everything, they can only affect truly little. Come together right now. It is a numbers game, and we must understand how the game is played.  

Second, the money part of the equation. We must understand the concept of money. Many of us were never taught how money works. Some of us think money is in short supply. The world has enough to go round for everyone. Learn how money works. Teach your kids about money and how it works after you have learned it yourself. $1 in the black community will last for just 6 hours and will leave. The same $1 in the Jewish community last for 36 days (about 1 month 6 days). Do you see the multiplying effect? To make the dollar stay longer, we need to buy black. That is simple, isn’t it? That means we need more black-owned businesses. Create one. You do not have to depend solely on your 9-5. That is not yours because you cannot give it to your children when you retire. Plus, you can lose it anytime. No, I work for the government and have job security. This thought pattern makes us narrow-minded and prevents us from having a sense of community and service. We need to reorient our priorities and thinking. Build something you can transfer to your children. We call that Intergenerational Wealth Transfer (IWT).  

When we have power, we can boycott the white economy. Since they need our money, they will act very quickly on our demands. After all, their economy grows at the backs of we the black people. Their cities were built with still unpaid black labour. Folks, we deserve better than what we are getting. In 2021, rethink the shops you buy from. Until the money part of the equation is solved, our countless protests will be meaningless. Ask yourself, what happened ever since JT took a knee? They sprinkled carrots here and there and asked us to fight for them. 

The New Year Commitment: We need to be strategic in the fights ahead. Starting today, commit yourself to something bigger than yourself. Commit to a cause. Go deeper with that commitment. People who are committed to something do not give up easily. They fight for what they believe until they see results. Our community needs more committed people than ever before. We need people and leaders who are forward thinkers, not parochial thinkers.  

Let us grow together. Be each other’s keeper. 2021 is the beginning of a new decade, commit yourself to be community-minded, get involved. Some good old African proverbs to conclude with: “Don’t be crabs in a bucket.” Stop the pull him/her down (PHD) attitude that continues to destroy our community. “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Join hands. 

Happy New Year! 

Your chief servant,       

Hector Addison 

 

 

 

Congratulations to Dr. Chika Oriuwa who made history as the second Black female valedictorian at the University of Toronto (U of T) Faculty of Medicine. 

The first generation Nigerian Canadian was the only Black medical student in her 2016 class of 259 people.

Check out her valedictorian speech from the virtual graduation ceremony below:

An Ottawa police officer has been charged in connection with one of two racist memes that were being circulated within the Ottawa Police Service.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly announced that the officer was charged under the Police Services Act in relation to the creation and distribution of the image, which pictured 13 racialized members of the service and the phrase: “Ottawa Police Service – We’re always hiring…anyone.”

He did not confirm if it was the same officer who was suspended earlier this month as part of an investigation into the meme.

Chief Sloly also revealed an administrative investigation is underway into the source of the leaks, saying it “further victimized the people depicted in the meme along with their families and it victimized other OPS members and their families.” He stated, “It further damaged the OPS reputation and it further undermined the trust and confidence that the public has in the OPS.”

As a result, he said they’d be overhauling their policies and their IT practices to prevent this from happening again.

Addressing the killing of George Floyd and ensuing protests, Sloly acknowledged that it is “impacting members of our local Black community,” including himself. 

The OPS chief says the entire organization “failed” and is going through “remediation.” 

Read the full statement HERE.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has reportedly terminated the sister of Shania Lavallee, an Ottawa woman who allegedly posted a Snapchat video online that seemed to be mocking George Floyd’s death.

Her sister, Justine Lavallee, had indicated on her social media profile that she was a Program Officer at the CBSA.

In a screenshot of the now-deleted video recorded by Shania, Justine is seen pinned to the ground with her boyfriend kneeling on top of her, while he holds her hands behind her back.

Shania told VICE they were just “play-fighting as they regularly do” and “in no way were making fun of or minimizing the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd.”

After concluding their investigation, CBSA President John Ossowski issued the following statement:

“The CBSA became aware of a social media post and immediately investigated the situation.

“As an organization that represents all Canadians and is very diverse, we hold our employees to a high level of professionalism and integrity.

“The person in question was a casual employee at the Agency who worked in a non frontline capacity.

“The individual no longer works at the CBSA.”

The video is one of many like it circulating online as the protests against George Floyd’s killing continue to spread worldwide.

Source

Meanwhile in Canada, an Ottawa woman identified as Shania Lavallee reportedly circulated a Snapchat video online that appeared to mock George Floyd’s death.

Shania reportedy shared the video of her sister Justine Lavallee, who is a Program Officer at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and Justine’s boyfriend, Gilmour Maurice Driscoll, who seemed to be re-enacting his final moments.

Shania has since issued an apology, saying they were “play fighting” and she sees how it could be “taken out of context.”

Her employer, Boston Pizza Orleans, which is minority-owned, said she was “terminated immediately.”

Update: Earlier reports indicated that Shania Lavalle worked for the Ottawa Catholic School Board but OCSB said she is NOT one of their employees. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistated that Shania Lavellee was a Ottawa U student. She recently graduated from the University of Ottawa.

Follow @Solitisak on Instagram for more info on what happened

Police chief Mark Saunders is calling for calm amid allegations of foul play in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell to her death from a 24th-floor apartment balcony during an interaction with Toronto police.

He revealed that dispatch received three individual 911 calls regarding an assault at 100 High Park on Wednesday evening, two of which indicated that there was a knife present. The call sounded “rather frantic” and police presence was needed, he said. He also said he’s “very comfortable” with the number of officers that were at the scene.

He told reporters “there’s a whole lot I want to say” and wishes he could say more about what occurred, but can’t due to the SIU’s ongoing investigation. “It’s a lot of misinformation, it’s a lot of lies,” Saunders said.

The chief added, “I support my men and women based on the limited information that I have right now.” He said he’s “anxious” for the investigation to be completed and hopes the public gets to hear the “absolute truth.” He also called for the use of body cameras, saying this is a “textbook case” of why they should be provided.

He said people are “feeding into” the “outrageous lies” being spread on social media and is urging the public to “wait for the facts to come out.”

It still remains unclear as to exactly what happened in the moment’s leading up to Regis’ death.

Watch the news conference HERE.

 

May 28, 2020

STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF REGIS FROM THE KORCHINSKI-PAQUET FAMILY

On Wednesday May 27, 2020 at approximately 5:00 pm a 911 call was made by a concerned mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton, for the safety and well-being of her child Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

Regis was in distress over a family conflict and her mother sought police assistance to bring calm to the situation.

Once police arrived at the residence they met her mother Claudette, Regis and Reece Korchinski-Beals, her brother in the hallway of 100 High Park in Toronto.

Claudette pleaded with police to provide assistance to her daughter and take her to CAMH to provide mental health support, as Claudette did not want the problem to escalate where it became unsafe.

Words were exchanged between Regis and the police officers, and Regis stated she had to use the bathroom and went into her apartment.

Her brother who was present, witnessed multiple police officers enter the unit after Regis went in.

When her brother attempted to go in after his sister he was stopped by police from entering the unit.

After approximately 1-2 minutes her mother and brother heard commotion in the apartment and then heard Regis cry out “Mom help, Mom help, Mom help.”

After that Mother and Brother heard silence.

Eventually an officer came out of the unit, knocked on the neighbour’s door, and stated to the family that she is over at the neighbour’s house or in the unit below.

After a few moments the mother then asked the officers if she is on the ground.

An officer went into the unit, then came back out and told her mother yes she is on the ground.

The family is distraught over the senseless loss of life and wants Justice for Regis.

The family wants answers to what happened. How can a call for assistance turn into a loss of life?

The family wants to ensure camera footage from hallway is secured by the SIU.

The family is extremely concerned that in recent times people with mental health issues across North America are ending up dead after interactions with the police.

D’Andre Campbell called for assistance on April 6, 2020 in Peel region and ended up being shot dead.

There has been a large outpouring of support online in the community, which is a testament to Regis’ effect on people.

She was proud of her Ukrainian and Nova-Scotian heritage, she was a talented gymnast, and used her skills to teach children and give back. She volunteered selfishly at her church and was a well known pillar of the congregation.

She is loved and will be missed by her Father Peter Korchinski, Mother Claudette Clayton-Beals, sisters Shyna, Shantiga, Renee, brother Reece, and her 12 nieces and nephews.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the family.

All inquiries can be directed to info@maatlegal.ca

Toronto police are being accused of pushing a Black woman off an apartment balcony to her death in the city’s High Park neighbourhood. 

The incident took place on Wednesday, May 27, at around 5:15 pm. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said Toronto police responded to a “domestic incident” at an apartment building on High Park Avenue. While inside a unit on the 24th floor, police “observed” a woman on the balcony. “A short time later, the woman fell from the balcony to the ground,” according to a news release from the SIU. Police did not release the woman’s name but family members publicly identified her as Regis Korchinski-Paquet. 

In several videos posted on his @rocawrld Instagram account, her cousin alleges that police threw her off the building and left her body at the scene for hours. He says the police claimed she committed suicide. 

The family’s lawyer Knia Singh said the victim’s mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton, sought police assistance because Regis was experiencing a mental health crisis, and pleaded with them to take her daughter to CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) for mental health support. 

Singh said words were exchanged between Regis and the police officers in the hallway before she went inside her apartment to use the bathroom. 

Multiple officers followed her in the unit while her brother was blocked from entering. About two minutes later, her mother and brother heard commotion inside and Regis crying out for help. Eventually an officer came out and told her mother that she was on the ground.

The family is demanding #JusticeforRegis and wants answers to how a call for assistance resulted in her death. Singh finds it suspicious suicide is being mentioned considering Regis asked building management for weeks to install a protective screen around the apartment balcony.

Police Chief Mark Saunders and Mayor John Tory offered condolences to his family, while the SIU is asking anyone with information to contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529 or upload any video evidence on the SIU website.

A protest for Regis has been organized at Christie Pits on Saturday, May 30 at 2:00 pm.

Read the full statement HERE.

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) released a disturbing report regarding five high-risk long-term care homes in Ontario: Orchard Villa in Pickering, Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Eatonville in Etobicoke, Hawthorne Place in North York, and Holland Christian Homes Grace Manor in Brampton.
 
Some of the key findings include:
  • Residents being left in bed in soiled diapers
  • Unsafe nursing medication administration errors
  • Cockroach infestations
  • Improper use of PPE by staff and doctors
  • COVID-19 patients being housed with residents who have not tested positive
  • Residents crying for help with no response from staff for 30 mins to over 2 hours
  • Residents not bathed for several weeks
  • Residents forcefully fed
  • COVID-19 positive patients allowed to wander around freely
Premier Doug Ford said it was the “most heart-wrenching report I’ve ever read in my entire life.” One of the homes – Orchard Villa – has been named in a $40-million class action lawsuit on behalf of all the residents and their family members. Many Canadians are also calling for the resignation of Merrilee Fullerton, the Minister of Long-Term Care.
 
The Ontario government has already launched an active investigation into the five privately-owned homes and has started the process of taking over management at four of the facilities. The fifth, not included in the report, is Camilla Care Community in Mississauga. An independent commission into Ontario’s LTC system is scheduled to begin this July.
 
You can read the full report here 👉🏾 https://tinyurl.com/yb8gc395

A Canadian Human Rights organization is sounding the alarm after Ontario quietly gave police services access to a new database with the names, date of birth, and address of everyone in the province who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The emergency order, issued by the Ministry of Health back in April, allows the personal information of COVID-19 patients to be shared with police, firefighters and paramedics. The government said the data would provide first responders with the “tools they need to do their jobs and keep Ontarians safe.”

In a statement posted on their Twitter account, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said, “Providing personal health information directly to law enforcement is an extraordinary invasion of privacy. Such a measure should only be taken when clearly authorized by law and absolutely necessary given the particular circumstances.”

Toronto-based lawyer Abby Deshman, Director of the Criminal Justice Program at the CCLA, said the province “needs to be extremely clear what the use for the information is, why it’s necessary and how this is legal.” She told CTV News Toronto police officers are going to get incomplete information because testing is limited, adding, “It’s hard for us to see how police will use this information to protect themselves or the public.”

Deshman emphasized that health information is usually “tightly controlled and disclosed only to health providers” and finds it worrisome it is being shared with law enforcement. 

Officials say the database will be inaccessible to first responders once the state of emergency is lifted, but have not disclosed any more details.