Wednesday, June 3, 2020
On May 25, 2020 George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a white police officer. Since that date, the United States has seen unparalleled protests and rioting borne of frustration with institutional racism suffered by black Americans and the shock of seeing a human being killed at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve.
Here, North of the US-Canadian border it is easy to dismiss that as an American issue and problem. It is also easy to concentrate on the looting and violence perpetrated by those using the legitimate and warranted protests as cover for their lawless and unrelated actions.
Both of those views miss the point. Right-wing American media and pundits concentrate on the unfortunate looting and vandalism in an intentional effort to distract from what happened to Mr. Floyd and the very real fear among black Americans that their lives do not matter to police and other American judicial institutions. As Canadians we do not have to look far to see the possibility of mistrust and fear of police. A recent incident in Kinngait (Cape Dorset) involving an Inuit man and the RCMP shone the light on the fact that there is an underlying and warranted mistrust of the police right here in Nunavut. While the RCMP has removed the officer from that community and launched an outside investigation - seemingly doing the ‘right things’ so far - reactions to the incident shows that is not only black Americans who fear the police and distrust the ‘system’.
As Canadians we need to recognize the fact that, despite improvements and efforts, institutional racism exists in our country as well. As citizens of Nunavut and Canada, we all need to admit this and condemn it. We don’t have to wait for massive demonstrations or for another visible minority or member of a marginalized community to suffer at the hands of the police or other branch of the Canadian judicial system.
What we need to do is come together and realize we are all human beings and we should be united by that mere fact. We, as individuals, need to learn to treat each other with dignity and respect. To single out an individual – or believe that their rights are less – because of differences (visible or otherwise) is a failure of humanity and cannot be accepted.
Unless we believe in and practice true humanity as individuals we fail as Canadians. If we tolerate institutional racism or engage in racism and intolerance on an individual basis we fail in our duty as Canadian citizens and human beings. What starts with all of us as individuals will lead to changes in our judicial and socio-economic systems through the will of all people who call Canada their home.
Here in Iqaluit, on Friday June 5, a # Black Lives Matter “SOLIDARITY PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION” is planned starting at the Four Corners at 11:45 am. Perhaps it is also there that we can stand together and start to say with one voice that ‘enough is enough’ in Minnesota, in Nunavut, in Canada and anywhere else in the world that an individual’s life and importance can be reduced to dying while saying “I can’t breath…”
William (Bill) Fennell
President, Nunavut Employees Union