New Brunswick

Upcoming seminars dissect race and racism — something that's 'alive and well' in Canada

Several black New Brunswickers say they were shocked by the video showing the killing of George Floyd — but not necessarily surprised.

Black community shocked by images of police brutality, but not surprised

More than 350 people marched peacefully in Moncton on Monday while protesting the murder of George Floyd. (Guy LeBlanc/Radio-Canada)

Several black New Brunswickers say they were shocked by the video showing the police killing of George Floyd — but not necessarily surprised.

Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes. That police officer has now been charged with second-degree murder and three other officers involved in the incident are facing charges as well.

"The video itself is quite shocking," said Fidel Franco, one of the creators of the Black in the Maritimes podcast.

"It's quite disappointing, but again, this is nothing new."

Floyd's murder has prompted hundreds of protests across the United States and around the world, including in New Brunswick, where protests have been held in Moncton, Fredericton and Sackville.

Clinton Davis, a local business owner, said he's seen the footage of Floyd's killing, and it was a difficult viewing.

"It was so painful that after years of seeing this happen, I lost it," said Davis.

"I felt sorrow. My tears watered up and I was angered."

'It's alive and well'

While most protests in Canada have been peaceful, some have brought forward further incidents of racism and questionable police actions.

In Montreal, police launched tear gas canisters into a crowd taking part in what began as a peaceful protest.

And in Moncton a man was arrested after throwing eggs and yelling racial epithets at a protest march.

Franco said it's important to realize that while the United States may be in the spotlight now because of racism, Canada isn't innocent.

More than 500 people marched in Fredericton against racism and in support of George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody. 0:58

"I really would like us to make sure that the broad picture is that racism is alive and well in America [and] in Canada," said Franco.

"It's alive and well and we got to make sure that people understand that black people, the system was not meant to protect black people and minorities, not even in the United States or Canada."

Kayla Breelove-Carter, a therapist based in Moncton, said while racism in the United States is more overt and obvious, in Canada it's systemic and harmful just the same.

She said there is no place where black voices can be heard. 

More than 350 people marched peacefully in Moncton. Organizers said the event was held to stand in solidarity with people who experience racism - and to send a message that police brutality will not go unseen. 2:27

"I can remember at school I don't even think I've ever learned about African-Canadian studies or Black-Canadian Studies," said Breelove-Carter. 

"So my culture as a racialized person was not taught or experienced … That's really hard to see that part of your identity is not something that is necessarily celebrated within your community."

But that doesn't mean that overt racism is absent in Canada. Davis said it's everywhere.

"We may not have as many instances of blatant police brutality against innocent people," said Davis.

"I can't say there's anyone I know of colour who has never experienced racism or micro-racism from a police officer or a civilian at least one time in their life."

Seminars on race, racism

Breelove-Carter, who is holding an upcoming series of online seminars about race and racism, said an important first step toward addressing racism is being honest.

"I think being honest with ourselves and then looking out and finding the courage and vulnerability to reach out to those that are racialized and ask them how can I be an ally and educate yourself," said Breelove-Carter.

"Education is very much the tool here. The more educated you are the more informed you."

Breelove Counselling has planned a three-part series on topics including understanding race and privilege, a history white privilege, and intersectionality of racial diversity within the feminist movement. According to the Breelove Counselling Facebook page, the first of the seminars will be held June 12 at 2 p.m.

Town of Sackville residents who rallied held eight minutes of silence in honour of George Floyd. 2:22

Davis said it is imperative for Canada to get control of its racism problem so it can't flourish.

"I really believe that to prevent things like getting as bad in Canada as they are in America … people just need to go and talk to their community," said Davis. 

"I think if you know a police officer, you need to make sure that they're not abusing their power. If you know someone in politics, you need to encourage them to make policy, to make anti-racist education mandatory in school as, you know, sexuality, evolution, math and science."

Fidel Franco is one of the creators of the Black in the Maritimes podcast. Clinton Davis is a Moncton business owner. 14:56

Franco said he recognizes that things are already changing, but they're not changing fast enough, and that can have life or death consequences.

"We don't know what's going to happen to our kids, to our nephews, to our brothers or sisters just because of the colour of our skin," said Franco.

"I wish everybody would think about that… [when] they see an interaction with a policeman with a minority."

With files from Information Morning Moncton