June 2, 2020

For Immediate Release: A Message of Solidarity and a Call to Action

Our collective hearts are saddened by the inhumane disregard for Black life as evidenced by the senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Perry Floyd at the hands of disreputable police. We are all in mourning and we grieve as individuals, as parents, as grandparents, as brothers and as sisters.

History reveals that right here in what we now call Canada, state legislation, policies, and practices have long sanctioned the systemic exclusion and degradation of Black life since African people have been here, going back to the 1600s.

History also elucidates how leaders of institutions and public officials make statements in the heat of the moment, but do not make any substantial changes to remove systemic barriers in an effort to achieve racial equity once the rage has subsided. We have seen many Canadian leaders and media comment on what is happening in the United States, but are reticent to make connections to how these issues manifest in their own organizations and backyards.

History demonstrates that Black people have persistently mobilized and organized to demand accountability from the government and from institutions. Black communities have always created community spaces that nurture, heal and uplift. We have a history of strategically harnessing our collective strengths and power in our activism and we must continue to grow and evolve in solidarity. Canada is a better place because of the activism of our ancestors.

As a community organization in existence since 1978, the Ontario Black History Society continues our commitment to bring attention to and address systemic inequities. We denounce the persistent systemic anti-Black racism that for generations has stifled Black lives in a myriad of ways, including education, employment, health, and the judicial system. We demand justice for Black men and women in the GTA who have suffered immensely or lost their lives as a result of interactions with the police - Dafonte Miller, Jermaine Carby, and many others. Justice delayed is justice denied! Our hearts go out to the families of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Andrew Loku, D’Andre Campbell, and other families whose loved ones did not receive the mental health support they so desperately needed.

These conditions have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that, in addition to being a public health emergency, has exposed the ills of racism and social inequities that plague our nation for generations.

African Canadians and our allies expect organizational leaders and elected officials (MPs, MPPs, city councillors, school trustees, union representatives, etc.) to take immediate steps to address anti-Black racism in their sectors of responsibility. And, if they are unwilling or unable to do so, we need to use the power of our vote to put in place leaders who represent our ideals and values.

Organizations and various levels of government who have signed on to the International Decade for People of African Descent need to see this through. The Declaration was intended to spark meaningful, structural change which can be accomplished by restoring and adequately funding the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate, fulfilling the directives of the new Anti-Racism Act, reforming policing, and mandating the teaching and learning of African Canadian histories in all provinces. This would ensure that all Canadians are better educated about the lived experiences and contributions of people of African descent. Additionally, it calls for sustained investments in the social and community infrastructure for the betterment of our Black citizens’ lives.

The Board of Directors of the OBHS stands in solidarity with individuals, communities, and organizations seeking justice and equity-based solutions. We will continue to advocate for substantial systemic changes that will honour our human rights. We will continue to extend our efforts to educate all Canadians about the historic and contemporary experiences, as well as the achievements of African Canadians because Black Lives Matter.

In Solidarity,

The OBHS Board of Directors