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Speech Delivered at #BLM Protest in Montreal

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

Frères et Soeurs, Brothers & Sisters,

Remember Bill 21? Looks like we’re all wearing face coverings now. We’re meeting at a time not to rejoice or celebrate, but to mourn and protest. This pain and anger we feel is the culmination of a long series of wounds. There have been too many killings of black people at the hands of authorities, with impunity. THIS. MUST. END!

For those of you who have been searching for the meaning of systemic racism, here it is! The reluctance to take massive and appropriate action to reverse this pattern on the part of those in power IS systemic racism in practice, whether it is in Minnesota, Georgia or Quebec! Systemic racism isn’t just about what those with power do; it’s also about what they don’t do; it’s about who they protect and who they don’t protect; it’s about who they advocate for and who they don’t advocate for; it’s about who is shown leniency and who is shown aggression; it’s about who they choose to prosecute and who they choose to set free. We MUST be alert about the systemic nature of the crisis we are currently facing - because this is not a random string of tragic incidents, periodically raining pain & grief into our lives. It’s a long-standing unwillingness to react adequately - and make no mistake, that unwillingness is backed by power.

All of this is taking place while we’re dealing with a serious public health crisis, one which disproportionately affects people from marginalized communities. We are already suffering. We are dealing with job loss, sickness, isolation, and fear. In that context, we must unite. We must set aside old rivalries and conflicts, and help each other confront these challenges, collectively.

The other day, US President Donald Trump used the killing of George Floyd to justify the deployment of the national guard against protesters. It is this type of perverse rhetoric, which upholds the strong and punishes the weak, oppresses the oppressed, and rewards the oppressor, celebrates bigotry and denigrates peacemaking, that we must categorically oppose. I am not a Christian, but I believe that we are fighting against principalities of darkness. Whether that darkness is found in our police departments, governments, businesses, organizations, wherever it is, we must fight it. We can and we must do better, together. We must hold anyone with power accountable to fight this oppression.

In this country, we tend to observe events in the United States as though they don’t happen here. It is happening here. From Bony Jean Pierre, to Abdirahman Abdi, to Regis Korchinski-Paquet, black people are being killed by police with impunity. We cannot credibly take shelter in ignorance any longer. If we are to reach a better tomorrow, we must redefine je me souviens as never again.

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