British Columbia

Peaceful Vancouver protest against anti-black racism gives organizer feeling of hope

Prominent members of black community say while it is encouraging to see people wake up to injustice, there are still many on the sidelines whose silence is part of the problem, not the solution.

But prominent members of black community say more white people need to step off the sidelines and stand up

'If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,' says Washington state University professor, Christopher Parker, about white people who are not taking an active stance against racism while protests erupt across North America. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Jacob Callender-Prasad went through a range of emotions after watching the video of George Floyd, a black man, plead for air in his final moments alive as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck.

After cycling through anger and sorrow, Callender-Prasad was left with helplessness. So he organized a rally in his home city in solidarity with the protests against police violence and racial injustice spreading like wildfire across the United States.

An estimated 3,500 people turned out at the Vancouver Art Gallery Sunday. The event did not spark any looting or violence and Callender-Prasad says the show of support gave him hope systemic change is possible.

"If we do this now and fight for something different peacefully, we can address these situations not only in our schools and workplaces but in our government and legal systems," said Callender-Prasad Monday on The Early Edition.

"We need to show people that change can happen in a peaceful way," said Jacob Callender-Prasad, organizer of the Vancouver demonstration against anti-black racism. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

He said looking out over the crowd of faces from every age, race and culture showed him there are many people outraged and aligned with the cause on this side of the border.

Christopher Parker, a political scientist professor at the University of Washington, said the issue is a larger systemic problem than just "blue on black violence" and while he is thankful people are mobilizing, there are still many on the sidelines who are not part of the solution, and therefore part of the problem.

"It's not the supremacists, we know they are against us, and it's not the racial Liberals, we know they are with us. It's the people in the middle who know this stuff is wrong but won't do anything about it," he said.

A man holds a skateboard bearing George Floyd's name above his head as thousands of people gather for a peaceful protest against racism, injustice and police brutality in Vancouver May 31. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Parker spoke Monday on The Early Edition alongside June Francis, co-chair of Hogan's Alley Society in Vancouver, who added her voice to the call for more white people to take a stand.

"We need our white brothers and sisters to really own this because it is a problem of white supremacy," said Francis. "If we are going to dismantle this system, this system has to be dismantled from within."

She said the situation in the United States reminds black people in Canada of their everyday existence, which is not exempt from racial prejudice.

"Canada claims it's a colour blind society but I think the truth is closer to the fact we are just blind to racism in this country," said Francis.

Watch | Only one per cent of British Columbians identify as black. Four people talk about their experiences:

Being black in B.C.

4 years ago
Duration 3:44
Four people talk about what it’s like to be black in Metro Vancouver and share advice on how to overcome racism and discrimination.

In February, data collected for an independent report on the Vancouver Police Department showed four per cent of people asked for identification during street checks were black, despite the population in the city making up less than one per cent of the total.

Demonstrators in Toronto over the weekend were also calling for justice for 29-year-old Toronto resident Regis Korchinski-Paquet who fell to her death from the balcony of a 24th-floor Toronto apartment while police were in the home on Wednesday. 

Following the weekend protests, Prime Minister Trudeau said Monday racism is not a uniquely American problem and more must be done in Canada to address systemic inequalities that have long plagued black and Indigenous communities.

Tap here to listen to Jacob Callender-Prasad's full interview on The Early Edition and here to listen to the complete conversation with June Francis and Christopher Parker.

With files from The Early Edition