Manitoba

Conviction of Derek Chauvin evokes complex emotions for some Black people in Manitoba

Black people in Manitoba are feeling complex emotions after Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter Tuesday.

'You can't ignore what's happening in your own community,' says Alexa Joy

The death of George Floyd sparked international protests. Ben Marega of Parents Against Racism says he has seen noticeable change, but more has to be done. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

Black people in Manitoba are feeling complex emotions in the wake of Derek Chauvin's conviction.

For nine minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020, Chauvin, at the time a Minneapolis police officer, knelt on the neck of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis resident who pleaded for the officer to let him breathe.

Chauvin, 45, was later charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. On Tuesday, a jury found him guilty on all counts.

"We've seen justice in this case," said Alexa Joy, founder of Black Space Winnipeg.

"We have to keep in mind of all the other cases — known and unknown — that have not seen justice … not just in the U.S. but Canada as well."

Canadians have a misconception that police brutality is an American problem, when in fact it happens in this country too, Joy said.

Joy cited Eishia Hudson, a 16-year-old Indigenous girl, and Machuar Madut, a South Sudanese man, as two members of Black, Indigenous and people of colour community who died at the hands of police in Manitoba.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, the province's main police oversight agency, did not lay charges against the officers involved in either case.

"You can't ignore what's happening in your own community," said Joy.

"Yes, this is great. [Chauvin] was charged on all three counts. We can look in a positive way in one sense. But if you're not outraged that Black and Indigenous people are dying in your own backyard and your own community, then you're definitely contributing to the problem."

Parents Against Racism founder Ben Marega did not know exactly how to feel about Chauvin's conviction by the time he spoke with CBC News Tuesday.

Judicially, he hopes Chauvin's conviction sets a precedent for holding police accountable. But ultimately, the deaths of Black, Indigenous and people of colour at the hands of police must end because the list is getting far too long, he said.

Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, shown here, listens to the guilty verdict that found him guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. (Court TV/The Associated Press)

"We don't need any other case," said Marega.

"This needs to end. The violence needs to end now, so that we can collectively heal."

George Floyd did not die for nothing

The death of George Floyd, as well as people like Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., sparked international movements for systemic change, and instigated individuals, organizations and governments to discuss the systems on which they stand. 

Marega has seen noticeable change locally. Although he says more needs to be done, it gives him hope that Floyd was not simply another Black man killed by police.

"More and more I hear people talk about education, so we need to educate people about racism because no one is born racist. It is taught, it is learned," he said.

There are organizations getting heavily involved, including Parents Against Racism which is combating systemic racism in Manitoba's Francophone school system, he said. But open conversations, from kitchen tables to the legislature, must continue.

"We owe it to the next generation to give them a better society," he said.

Systems typically only change when pressure is applied from the outside, and that often starts at the grassroots-level, said Joy.

Protests mean nothing, though, if people in the systems do not have the will to actually create change, Joy said, adding that they're tired of feeling like Black people have to make a case for their existence.

"If we have to convince people why Black folks have the right to live, I'm not interested in that conversation anymore."

The video and news coverage of George Floyd's death, and the ensuing protests, led Joy to hope for justice for that man. But a part of them was still skeptical.

"I wouldn't have been surprised if Chauvin walked away a free man," said Joy.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter with CBC Edmonton. Hailing from Newfoundland, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Prior to joining the CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press.

With files from Lauren Donnelly and Faith Fundal

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