Labour Views: Black Lives, They Matter Here

By Jack Bourassa 


I’d first like to express my support to those peacefully and globally protesting the death of George Floyd. Your courage is both humbling and inspiring!

The recent outcry for change heard around the world is the result of yet another unnecessary black life lost. George Floyd was just the most recent victim, in a long list of victims who’ve lost their lives to prejudice, racism and systemic injustice. This very long list of victims is a result of a human condition worse than any virus… greed and indifference!

Like most, I found the images of George Floyd’s death horrifying. I sat in disbelief, as this despicable and heinous crime was committed with such callousness and total disregard for life. Even more troubling is the old mantra  “To Serve and Protect” progressively being twisted into something unrecognizable. The Thin Blue Line is getting thinner and good cops everywhere, and yes there are good cops, must stand up and be heard. There are times when Silence is Golden; however, this time is not one of them.

It’s incomprehensible that something so seemingly easy to correct is so difficult to change. We’ve witnessed, yet again, some of our political leaders taking a knee or waving placards with ‘Black Lives Matter’ written upon them during marches. However cliché, politicians love photo-ops! Yet, to date, when they return to their respective legislatures where change can be made they seem resistant to follow through. Their lack of action certainly begs the question… Why?

Throughout our relatively short history in North America there has been change. Whether because of political expediency or public outcry, the change has sadly been slow to come. In almost every instance where significant change has happened, it only and, unfortunately, came about as a result of violence. Whether through a civil war or rioting in the streets, change had to be physically forced. Again, I have to ask… Why?

Make no mistake, the recent and unfortunate events resulting in George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota is NOT unique to the United States. It has and does happen all around the world and Canada is no exception nor should we turn a blind eye to our own complicity. To do so would be willful and presumptuous arrogance.

Although a proud Canadian, I am ashamed of our past and for that matter our present regarding the abuses we call ‘The Law’, including for those who make and enforce it. Systemic racism permeates our society and judicial system. It is, in my view, a means to an end, which allows the Have’s to control the Have-Not’s. This invariably gives rise to the difficulty in affecting the change so desperately needed.

As Canadians we need to do better. We need to call out racism whenever and wherever we see it, lest we empower those who perpetrate it. Bullies cannot survive in an environment where they stand-alone. And, stand-alone they must! As humans, we tend to aggressively guard the privilege, in particular White Privilege, we have. But one person’s privilege is another’s oppression and an injury to one is an injury to all.

Any one marginalized group alone cannot tackle injustices. It will take the concerted effort of us all. In this case, strength truly does come in numbers and together, we can and will overcome. If we’re to be on the right side of history, silence is not an option.

Education has the power of dismantling a racist heritage that’s the root cause of systemic racism that our nation is facing. The good news is that acquiring education and building awareness is easier than ever. Ignorance is a choice, not a defense, at a time in which most have the luxury of accessing credible news and information with our gadgets.

Each one of us can do something within our own capacity to fight racism. Those directly affected already know what needs to be done. For those of us not directly affected, we need only follow their lead and be allies. It is crucial that we all work together and keep the pressure and spotlight on those elected to serve “The People”.

History remembers the victors. So, let us be victorious and show the world how progressive Canadians can be.

Let us pledge not to be silent.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.


This column appeared in the Yellowknifer on June 10, 2020