CPAC agrees with Mr. Singh on Rideau Hall attack

While the news is shocking, the ending of the recent incident at Rideau Hall, in which an armed intruder was arrested peacefully, raises some thought provoking questions. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh commented that the event could have a different ending if the perpetuator had been a person of colour.

Jagmeet Singh’s comments are not surprising. Indeed, numerous incidents in Canada ended tragically where people of colour posed much less threat but were killed by the police. What is surprising, however, is that the police this time did not use any lethal force in a situation where the male intruder was heavily armed and threatened the safety of the prime minister.

According to the Deadly Force database collected by CBC over the past 10 years, there are two racial groups whose members are more likely to be killed in police encounters – black and indigenous people. Lorne Foster, a professor at York University, who studies race-based data in policing, has found police practices discriminatory. Race or ethnicity has a role to play in determining how the police respond to violent situations.  Data have repeatedly shown systemic discrimination based on race in the law enforcement in Canada. That is why Singh said the Rideau Hall event is a reminder of racism in Canada.

A more relevant reminder to our community is the drastic increase of verbal and physical attacks, microaggressions and online hate and scapegoating directed at Chinese and Asian Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are racist behaviours and should be stopped right away. However, despicable and appalling as they are, racist acts against non-white communities are not new. They only serve as a reminder of a history of Canada where aboriginals and ethnic minorities suffered from various racial discriminations and mistreatment, such as the residential schools for the indigenous peoples, the Chinese head tax, and the Canadian Japanese internment.

More importantly, the overt display of racism reminds us of a covert form of racism in which racial bias and prejudice are built into our social fabric and become acceptable norms subconsciously influencing decision making and policy development process. It is the institutionalized racism, which is disguised and subtle, that is even more harmful because its very existence is being denied and yet it operates subliminally, giving justifications to racist actions and judgement.

Today, research data are readily available to show that black and indigenous people have disproportional fatalities in encounters with police, and Chinese and East Asian Canadians are once again subject to increasing barrage of racial attacks. Until governments and institutions seriously confront the existence of institutional racism, equality and racial justice will never be possible, and indigenous people and people of colour will continue to be subjected to injustice and mistreatment.

Racism has no place in Canadian society. But to truly end racism, we need to go deeper, fighting racism at its root. We need to challenge racial bias and prejudice and effect changes to established institutions.  We need to work hard and work together to build a stronger and more inclusive Canada.