June 10, 2020
As a city councillor in BC’s oldest colonial city, still known as the Royal City, and as a settler on this unceded territory, I strive to move beyond allyship and be a co-conspirator alongside oppressed people. I try, I make mistakes, I learn, and I commit to do better.
I have long known about the lack of justice for Black and Indigenous individuals and communities and take responsibility to engage in ongoing learning about systemic oppression. Having worked with people who are homeless, many who have been incarcerated, I recognize that the carceral state is punitive rather than rehabilitative. Far too often, people are criminalized for being poor, having physical and mental health issues, for being disabled. People are criminalized for being Black, for being Indigenous. People become involved in the criminal justice system because they have extreme trauma and we fail to respond with a trauma-informed intervention. People live with substance use and systems that we support force them into desperate situations. People are criminalized for employment as sex workers and for fleeing dangerous countries of origin.
Like so many others across the globe, I have seen the escalating protests demanding justice and reform in response to the continued anti-Black racism and violence both in the United States and in Canada. I have seen the faces of the men and women who have been killed and been able to witness the pain and frustration and despair of the Black community as nothing changes.
I have had the opportunity to participate in the Women’s Memorial March, read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, read the MMIWG Calls for Justice, and read story after story about the lack of justice for Indigenous people who have been killed, including by police.
I can’t pretend to not know what is being asked of me.
I have read the demands of organizations and individuals including Black Lives Matter Vancouver. I have thought deeply about my role as a non-Black person of colour, as a city councillor, as a friend, as an activist, and as someone with institutional power. I am committed to putting the people who are most impacted at the centre of my decision-making.
This is what I understand is being asked in this moment by the people who are most impacted by police violence and negligence: there is a call to defund police departments and switch to compassionate, community-based interventions to societal problems by addressing the root cause. It’s a call to fund organizations led by Indigenous, Black, and people of colour to work within their own communities. It’s a demand for the necessities of life such as housing, food, education, and a sense of community. It’s a re-envisioning of what community safety looks like, centring those who are made unsafe by systemic injustices including policing.
The system isn’t broken, it does not need to be fixed. It was built this way.
This isn’t about me. It’s about Black people who live in this community, their safety, their well-being. It’s about listening to them and doing what’s right.
Black lives matter. Black history matters. Black futures matter.
I have heard you. I am with you. I will work with you towards this goal.