By Yvonne Sam
You cannot continue to be the combatant in the destruction of minority groups. The increasing access of vaccines has convinced multitudes that an end to COVID-19 will soon be in sight, and the dominance of pandemic-related stories may be coming to an end.
That’s certainly something to celebrate, but there is another issue lingering from way back that has not been resolved – RACISM. It is apparent that you are comfortable continuing down the highway of denial, with no intention of tackling the dismantling of racism. You really should, and the time is now.
Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.” From our minority stance, we have reached the tipping, flash and inflection point.
Regrettably, unlike the pandemic, there is absolutely nothing the pharmaceutical companies can do to address your problem. And it is apparent that there are no government policies or programs that will magically put this issue behind us, before the next election.
Instead, it is something that, as Quebecers, we need to work on. This is the time when action must be taken. We, the minority groups, we the disenfranchised, have become tired of the vitriol, caustic leadership and unapologetic indecencies and offenses. We, the visible minorities, crave a better Quebec.
The remnants and vestiges of Canadian and French Canadian history will continue to be taught in history classes, preserved in frames and ensconced in museums, while the stories and contributions of other races, are relegated to a few lines on the back pages of the history books.
You must commit to the proposition that a better Quebec of tomorrow begins with a better you, starting by building relationships with people unlike you, even if different mother-tongues abound. You need to build bridges, where there are gaps, and develop trust with those you have offended and continue to offend. You know of, and to whom, reference is being made.
An entity that is starved of essential elements will die, therefore Quebec, it is imperative that you remove all metaphorical forms of oxygen from racism. In other words, starve racism to death. We are willing and ready to assist you towards this end.
Repeated calls that you can no longer ignore have been made, requesting that you collaborate, especially with Police Chief, Sylvain Caron, in effecting a police overhaul.
In ending the casualness, machoism and flippancy that pervades police departments, with respect to the questioned or blatantly ignored value of certain lives, and the ease in committing and consequence-free reaction to police brutality and excessive force.
There also needs to be more diversity and community engagement among the police force, as well as better and consistent training.
Dear Quebec, with no desire to air your dirty laundry in public, or unnerve those sworn to protect and serve, could you just consider one last request, aimed, specifically, at making things better for all. Can we have one more look and discussion, regarding your police oversight agency– Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes.
While it has the legislation that encourages the investigative team to try for parity -– half law enforcement and half civilians — it has not really ensured this. In Canada most of the oversight agencies, investigating police, who kill or use excessive force, have active-duty or former cops making up at least half of the team.
Additionally, to further compound or confound matters, the oversight agency has no charging authority, except to make the recommendations to the police service, whose officer is being investigated. The ultimate authority, on whether or not to lay charges, rests with that service.
This truly hurts and does very little to improve or increase minority confidence in the police, or view Quebec as a welcoming province.
Conclusively, the Quebec Human Rights Commission — constituted under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedom to ensure that Quebec’s laws, by-laws, standards and institutional practices, both public and private, comply with the Charter, which prohibits discrimination, based on race, colour, ethnic or national origin and religion — has proven to be too white.
The Commission has failed to diversify its senior management personnel, with almost no managers from racial minority backgrounds. Completing the landscape is an unprecedented absence of Indigenous and racialized Anglophones, which further serves to impair the decision-making process.
Dear Quebec, in a friendly but nevertheless serious note, we are calling on you to seriously consider all the expressed concerns, examine and check your impulses, perspectives and implicit biases towards Blacks and other minority groups, and communicate to us, as to how soon remediation efforts can commence. We can work together, one hurdle at a time.
Racism must go for the true Quebec to show.
Respectfully yours, in civic collaboration,
The Indivisible Minorities
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is the Chair of the Rights and Freedom Committee at the Black Community Resource Centre. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.