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 

 

 

 

Canada is recognizing the International Decade for People of African Descent. It’s a key opportunity to address anti-Black racism in the justice system.

rime Minister Justin Trudeau recently gave a short but significant speech on Parliament Hill announcing that the Government of Canada is officially recognizing the International Decade for People of African Descent. The decade, from 2015 to 2024, was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2014.

In his remarks, Trudeau recognized that chief among the issues and challenges particularly affecting Black people in Canada is their overrepresentation in the corrections system. In particular, the Prime Minister said: “We know that the interaction between Black Canadians and the corrections system as a whole faces a host of challenges, from discrimination in policing, to overrepresentation in our prisons. The percentage of inmates in our prisons who are Black is 8.6 percent, despite Black Canadians accounting for only 3.5 percent of the general population.”

The prime minister’s speech and accompanying official statement are a welcome step forward, as they mark an unprecedented official acknowledgement by a sitting Canadian prime minister of the pernicious and pervasive impacts of anti-Black racism. More importantly, the recognition of the International Decade is an opportunity to root out the underlying causes of criminalization of Black Canadians and to take meaningful steps toward eliminating anti-Black racism in criminal justice systems.

Chronic criminalization of Black people in Canada

As I outlined recently in Policy Options, systemic anti-Black racism in Canadian policing and courts goes back to at least the 1980s. Since then, it has continued to dramatically accelerate the rate of overrepresentation of Black people federally incarcerated in Canada.

For instance, in 2013, Canada’s Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) revealed in its 2012-13 Annual Report that between 2003 and 2013, the number of Black inmates in Canada’s federal prisons increased every year, growing by nearly 90 percent over that period, while the number of Caucasian inmates actually declined by three percent over the same time. While the acceleration rate of Black overrepresentation in Canada’s federal prisons has slowed moderately since then, the trend is still troublingly strong.

The OCI, referring to its 2013 findings, noted in its 2016-17 Annual Report: “Four years later very little appears to have changed for Black people in federal custody.”

While this pattern stands as its own threat to Canadian values of multiculturalism and equality, the problem is not an isolated one. These incarceration trends are not unconnected to the endemic practice of racial profiling, in the form of carding and street checks, which has recently been exposed as a Canada-wide phenomenon.

It is also important to note that Black people not only make up an inordinately high portion of the federal prison population but also experience some of the harshest treatment once inside. The practice of segregation, or solitary confinement, has been recognized by the United Nations as well as Canadian advocacy organizations and human rights agencies as a form of torture.

A 2015 report of the OCI stated that “the number of Black offender admissions to segregation and the number of offenders have increased significantly in the last 10 years”; from 2005 to 2015, the number of Black inmates sent to segregation increased by 100.4 percent. As reported by the Globe and Mail, “For that same 10-year period, aboriginal admissions to solitary increased 31.1 per cent.”

A criminal justice policy program for the decade

The UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent includes a detailed and thoughtful program of activities, intended to guide countries such as ours on how to implement the decade domestically. Special attention is paid in the program to eliminating anti-Black racism in criminal justice systems. States are called on to adopt 11 measures to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights of people of African descent. The measures range from basics that we in Canada take for granted, such as adopting equality laws and human rights tribunals, to more ambitious endeavours such as providing reparations for the ways the criminal justice system has perpetuated the logics and effects of state-sanctioned enslavement of people of African descent.

One of the serious criticisms of Trudeau’s announcement recognizing the decade is that it came without a substantive plan of action or articulation of a platform for policy change. The government of Canada has an opportunity to respond correctively to this legitimate critique by undertaking an official review of the UN’s program. While our country has adopted many of the program’s measures in some form, statistics show that major problems persist and have done for decades. So, the program’s measures should be used by our justice professionals to conduct an honest assessment of Canada’s progress and lack thereof in implementing access to justice for Black Canadians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the Government of Canada is recognizing the International Decade for People of African Descent, on January 30, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
An added advantage of the UN program’s suggestions is that the measures proposed are articulated in a manner that speaks to the ways systemic anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system is both an inextricably linked cause and a consequence of its manifestation in other areas, such as poverty, employment, housing, health and education outcomes for Black people in Canada. In other words, to make substance of the thus far symbolic recognition of the international decade, Canada should seize the opportunity to pursue policy change grounded in the letter and spirit of the UN’s program of activities.

Toward criminal justice reform for African Canadians

For credible, evidence-based ideas on how to address the chronic criminalization of Black people in Canada, we need not look far. Prime Minister Trudeau, along with Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, and our Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, should consult the October 2017 Report of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Canada.

The group visited Black Canadians in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax in October 2016 to learn about the experience of being Black in Canada. Sadly, but not surprisingly, during their visit, the members of the working group were immediately struck by the staggering racial disparities that existed in Canada’s criminal justice system. The group released a lengthy media statement and an extensive list of recommendations for improving criminal justice outcomes for Black people in Canada, saying that the mission had left members with “serious concerns about systemic anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system in Canada.”

Interestingly, the 2016-17 correctional investigator’s annual report endorses and repeats certain correctional justice reform recommendations made by the working group. These recommendations offer the most legitimate representation of the will of Black Canadians with respect to eliminating anti-Black racism in Canada’s criminal justice system.

To guide and sustain the process of prioritization and implementation of the recommendations of the UN working group and those of other credible sources, the government of Canada should take immediate steps toward establishing an African-Canadian justice portfolio within the Department of Justice, as well as a crime prevention and African-Canadian community safety division within Public Safety Canada.

A distinct policy approach for a distinct people

During Trudeau’s announcement, he affirmed one of the most important reasons for taking a targeted approach to anti-Black racism in Canada generally, and within the criminal justice system more specifically. Unlike any other prime minister before him, he noted that “people of African descent represent a distinct group.”

As a distinct group, Black Canadians require a distinct policy approach. African Canadians collectively endure unique and chronic challenges due to systemic anti-Black racism in Canada’s criminal justice system.

In his remarks, the Prime Minister noted that Canada needs to do “better” by Black Canadians. But, respectfully, I disagree.

After centuries of being deeply disadvantaged by this system, Black Canadians deserve a system that does more than just better, for “better” is an unconscionably low bar to meet. No, we’re calling for a system that actually lives up to its name and finally does us justice.

How? In the words of the Prime Minister, “Addressing the challenges facing Black Canadians requires participation from all Canadians.”

This article is curled from Policy Options and  was written by Anthony Morgan

 

 

Black Canadians make up one million Canadians. This number is supposed to double in 2036.Today, Black communities in Canada face a unique challenge that affects their integration into Canada. The abundant poverty of the community is due to the existence of racism and discrimination that work together to ensure that the black community lives in minimal economic conditions.

We have a unique opportunity to work together to improve our socio-economic condition. We live in a new world where each individual counts. We have now acquired enough to participate in the Canadian economy. The number of Blacks with a business is growing more and that is real.

Poverty makes you sick. Mental health problems are increasing in our community. However, stigma and lack of resources will prevent us from asking for help most of the time. Africans in the Caribbean and Black Canadians are four times more likely to catch diabetes, cataracts, and many other diseases. One in seven people living with HIV in Canada comes from CBA, while we make up only 3% of the population. Research shows that we are suffering from the ‘Healthy Immigrant Effect’. This means that our health, which is higher than that of the average Canadian, begins to deteriorate 5 years after our arrival in Canada. This is due to several factors resulting from racism and discrimination.

We face many obstacles in the Canadian education system not because we are not intelligent. In fact, Statistics Canada data shows that at least 34% of racialized Canadians have at least one university degree, compared to 20% of non-racialized Canadians. Why are our children not successful? That’s a million dollar question that requires a million dollars of answers. Unfortunately, we can not give a complete answer to this question. Racism, discrimination, lack of cultural skills, lack of hope, lack of role models and socio-economic factors are barriers to our children’s education. We have the opportunity to be engaged to participate in the educational system. This by integrating the school board of our community. Let’s be present at our children’s school. Let us show their teachers that we are interested in the education of our children and above all encourage them to study. Let’s get together to change the educational system and promote a better future for ours. Let’s talk about the ACAO educational committee.

We work to be in control of our own history because most of the time what the media write about our experiences is often not true. So we have to promote our own story. We are not afraid to integrate discussions that concern us. We have the unique opportunity to change the game by writing our own story.

Join the ACAO Communications Committee to learn how we can better control our history.