Policing Black Lives

A call-to-action, Policing Black Lives urges readers to work toward dismantling structures of racial domination and re-imagining a more just society.

Robyn Maynard

Delving behind Canada's veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance, Policing Black Lives traces the violent realities of anti-blackness from the slave ships to prisons, classrooms and beyond. Robyn Maynard provides readers with the first comprehensive account of nearly four hundred years of state-sanctioned surveillance, criminalization and punishment of Black lives in Canada.

While highlighting the ubiquity of Black resistance, Policing Black Lives traces the still-living legacy of slavery across multiple institutions, shedding light on the state's role in perpetuating contemporary Black poverty and unemployment, racial profiling, law enforcement violence, incarceration, immigration detention, deportation, exploitative migrant labour practices, disproportionate child removal and low graduation rates.

Emerging from a critical race feminist framework that insists that all Black lives matter, Maynard's intersectional approach to anti-Black racism addresses the unique and understudied impacts of state violence as it is experienced by Black women, Black people with disabilities, as well as queer, trans and undocumented Black communities. (From Fernwood Publishing)

Robyn Maynard is a Montreal-based Black feminist writer, activist and educator. Maynard's writing and work focus on documenting racist and gender-based state violence.

Why Robyn Maynard wrote Policing Black Lives

"This book was originally just going to be about racism in Canada from a broad perspective. I've been involved in community work and activism since I was a teenager, so the book was conceived a long time ago. But I've been recently working full-time doing street-based outreach with racialized women who were in precarious conditions, including poverty and criminalization. I felt that, in the Canadian context, there is a general lack of understanding around the country's history with race and racism and the injustices that still exist today. 

I felt that, in the Canadian context, there is a general lack of understanding around the country's history with race and racism and the injustices that still exist today.​​​​​- Robyn Maynard

"I also was pregnant with my son, who is now two, and I was more aware of news stories that showed so much happening to Black people in Canada and the United States, particularly around the time Trayvon Martin was killed and the Black Lives Matter movement happened. I realized that, as Black people in Canada, we didn't know our own history — the disproportionate rates of Black people behind bars, killed by police or in child welfare agencies. It was very important to talk specifically about what has happened in Canada. It led me to urgently feel that I wanted to write that book."

Read more from her interview with CBC Books.

Interviews with Robyn Maynard

Protests call out problems with policing in Canada’s black communities

3 years ago
Duration 1:55
Black Canadians are using the death of George Floyd to also draw more attention to long-standing problems around policing black communities in Canada.

Is there systemic racism in Canada? | Akwasi Owusu-Bempah & Robyn Maynard

3 years ago
Duration 9:19
University of Toronto Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Vanier Scholar and author Robyn Maynard on what systemic racism looks like in Canada and what impact it has on the Black community.

What could defunding the police look like?

3 years ago
Duration 3:59
Calls to defund the police have become louder since the death of George Floyd. The National’s Adrienne Arsenault hears from people who want to see changes in how police services are funded to find out what it could look like.
It used to be a given that increased spending on police budgets meant increased security — and that police budgets were untouchable. In less than three weeks, though, the Black Lives Matter movement has completely changed the conversation. Robyn Maynard, the author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present, makes the case for defunding. And John Sewell, co-ordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition and a former mayor of Toronto, explains the forces, as powerful as ever, that are working against change.

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