Thank you very much.
First, I acknowledge that I am on the ancestral territories of the Ojibway, the Anishinaabe, and in particular the Mississaugas of the Credit. This territory is covered by the Upper Canada treaties. I am grateful to be here today.
The Black Legal Action Centre is a not-for-profit corporation incorporated under the laws of Ontario. We are a specialty community legal clinic. We opened our doors to the public in March 2019. We are funded by Legal Aid Ontario, and we are governed by an independent volunteer community board of directors.
Our mandate is to combat individual and systemic anti-black racism across the province of Ontario. We achieve our mandate by providing free legal services to low- and no-income black Ontarians who are facing anti-black racism in housing, employment, education, social assistance, human rights, policing and corrections. We engage in systemic advocacy through test-case litigation, law reform and community development. We also provide summary legal advice, free services and legal education.
BLAC appreciates the opportunity to share our perspective on systemic racism in police services in Canada. SECU has a broad mandate, and we are asking you to consider these submissions within the context of that mandate.
Through our work, BLAC regularly hears from members of the black community who are victims of horrific police violence and white supremacy. We all see it in the media. Anti-black racism is real, and we know very tangibly how it impacts and devastates the black community. Notwithstanding this, and notwithstanding the myriad reports from domestic and international bodies, the denial of the existence of anti-black racism continues, most recently from the commissioner of the RCMP.
The existence of systemic anti-black racism in Canadian society should not be a matter of dispute. This has to be the starting point for any genuine investigation into systemic racism in policing, if public safety and trust are to be attained. There is unequivocal evidence of the fact that black and indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by police violence. The fact is that the police in this country, the Northwest Mounted Police, the force that preceded the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, were created to control and intimidate indigenous people, and later, black people. Accordingly, we urge members of this committee, police forces across the country and others in positions of power to unequivocally acknowledge the existing persistent structural inequalities and history of racism in this country.
The ugly truth is that Canada was built on racism and discrimination. The theft of land and the genocide of indigenous people, the denial of the right to vote for women, the exploitation and enslavement of black people to enrich others, the abuse and murder of Chinese people to build railroads, the internment of Japanese Canadians, the turning away of Jews trying to escape Nazism, the persecution of members of the LGBTQ2S+ community—these are but some of the examples that reveal Canada's history of violence, racism and exclusion.
In furtherance of the global call to end police violence perpetrated against black people and in furtherance of our mandate to combat anti-black racism, BLAC has made the following demands. We've made these demands elsewhere and we repeat them to this committee.
Develop a nationwide mandatory policy on collection of data disaggregated by race, colour, ethnic background, national origin and other identities, to determine where racial disparities exist for African Canadians so as to address them accordingly.
Demilitarize the police. The use and deployment of specialized police units and their direct operational relationship to the Canadian military during protests disproportionately brutalize racialized people, criminalize dissent and undermine democracy. Evidence from the United States reveals that there is a direct correlation between the militarization of police and increasing civilian deaths.
Overhaul police oversight. While this speaks to Ontario, I would say that we are calling for this, in the context of this committee, across the country. In Ontario, we have called for the immediate implementation of the report of the independent police oversight review and the repeal of the comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act. Independent civilian police oversight bodies must be accountable to all members of the communities they serve.
We need a clear and public commitment to zero deaths by police services across the country; an immediate reallocation of resources away from police budgets and into public health, housing, transit, children's services, mental health resources, schools, employment, community centres and other social service budgets; complete transparency of police budgets across the country; and a reallocation of resources, funding and responsibility away from police and toward community-based models of safety, support and prevention to ensure that those who are best equipped to deal with the majority of calls for assistance will not show up to people's homes and neighbourhoods with uniforms, guns and tasers.
I ask you to imagine, if the professionals who respond to crises in our communities were mental service providers, gender-based violence advocates and social workers, what the outcome would be.
In Ontario, we recently had the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet. I ask you what, in that case, the outcome would have been if a mental health service provider, properly trained in de-escalation, had shown up to assist her mother when she called the police, rather than six police officers with badges and guns. I submit to you that the outcome would have been quite different and that Regis Korchinski-Paquet would likely be alive today.
While this committee is looking at policing specifically, I note that the last point is related to your mandate to review corrections and correctional facilities. I urge you to develop a national corrections strategy to address and correct the disproportionately high rates of African Canadians in the correctional system and ensure anti-discriminatory and culturally specific services for African Canadian offenders.
The need for broader systemic change is critical. We are at a new juncture in history that requires us to depart from old ways of thinking and build a more inclusive, non-oppressive system for all. Black Canadians, indigenous people and other racialized communities can no longer endure the injustice of a structure and a culture of policing rooted in a history of violence and racism.
I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.