Anti-Black Racism Is Alive In Canada: Resources To Learn From

With the protests happening in America right now, us friendly Canadians may like to think that we are a more welcoming country unburdened by the problems of our neighbor. In school they taught us that we are the mosaic to the US’s melting pot— aren’t we setting a good example of inclusion and diversity? Don’t we have welcoming immigration policies? Aren’t we above what is happening in the United States? It’s a sentiment that I’ve seen being bandied about in recent days. The trending hashtag #meanwhileincanada popped up and at first was being used to contrast us to our neighbors south of the border with viral images and videos like that of a moose taking a dip in somebody’s swimming pool⁠— hah, good ol’ Canada eh?!

Fellow Canadians, talk to your Black neighbors and you may learn that this “friendly Canadian” label is nothing but a dangerously convenient facade. We cannot grow complacent because we think we’re “not racist in Canada”. There are many things I love about our country, but we have a long way to go and it is always our responsibility to educate ourselves the best we can about the realities in Canada so that we can actively work toward a better tomorrow.

Below I have collected some information on articles, books, and videos with anti-Black racism in Canada in mind. However, there is a further wealth of information available on how individual and systemic racism is very much alive in Canada in many forms. Such racism is rooted in our colonial past and impacts many people every day, including people of colour, immigrants, and our Indigenous peoples.

Note to reader: I am a white Canadian woman and I am not in any way an authority on racism in Canada. I hope that these resources may serve as a jumping-off point for personal learning and an introduction to some Black Canadian voices. These resources are not exhaustive; please feel free to share any resources that you feel should be added.


Articles

Jen Katshunga; Notisha Massaquoi; Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); and Justine Wallace for Behind the Numbers: Black Women in Canada

Today, more than ever, urgent and sustained action is needed to tackle persistent and profound barriers to change and to challenge entrenched norms and stereotypes. Success will only be achieved if Black women are equal partners and leaders in this work.


Claire Loewen for CBC, 2020: As Premier Denies Systemic Racism, Black Quebecers Point to their Lived Experience

They put their knee on my neck, like they did to George Floyd.

Alexandre Lamontagne

Benjamin Shingler & Simon Nakonechny for CBC, 2020: Montreal Protestors Aim to Drive Home Message Racism is a Problem Here Too

For years we said there’s racial profiling in Montreal, and now it’s a message that everybody has to hear us.

Will Prosper

Eternity Martis for Chatelaine, 2020: 5 Black Women Talk About Their Lives In Canada– Past, Present and Future

In Canada, Black women are still discriminated against in the healthcare system, where we face alarmingly high rates of maternal death. We continue to be victims of police and state violence, and in the workplace, continue to be paid less than both white men and white women.  

Eternity Martis

Annette Henry for The Conversation, 2017: Dear White People, Wake Up: Canada is Racist

Those who do not experience racism may be unaware of how it functions in Canada — perniciously and insidiously.

Annette Henry

Carl James for The Conversation, 2019: The Crisis of Anti-Black Racism in Schools Persists Across Generations

Black students say they are “being treated differently than their non-Black peers in the classrooms and hallways of their schools.” They say there is still a lack of Black presence in schools. There are few Black teachers, the curriculum does not adequately address Black history and schools lack an equitable process to help students deal with anti-Black racism.

Carl James

Janaya Khan for Flare, 2017: Don’t Kid Yourself, White Nationalism is on the Rise in Canada Too

Canadians have a deep investment in seeing themselves as more enlightened than their counterparts to the south, as if racism and bigotry suddenly stop at the U.S./Canada border. 

Janaya Khan

Stacy Lee Kong for Flare, 2018: If It Feels Like Racism In Canada Is Getting Worse, That’s Because It Is”

Every time we hear about another example of blatant racism, we tend to be shocked, as if we’ve collectively agreed that sure, things happen here—but it’s nowhere near as bad as it is there. That’s B.S., obviously.

Stacy Lee Kong

Tayo Bero for The Guardian, 2019: Canada is Overdue For a Reckoning With Its Anti-Black Racism

Young black men across the country have spoken for years about being surveilled and criminalized simply for existing.

Tayo Bero

Andray Domise for Hazlitt, 2015: White Supremacy is Not a Black Problem

The message now is that white comfort is worth more than black lives. This has to change.

Andray Domise

Maija Kappler for Huffington Post, 2020: Racism in Canada is Ever Present, But We Have a Long History of Denial

It’s tempting for Canadians to fall back on the idea that we’re not as racist as Americans…

Maija Kappler

Byron Armstrong for Now Toronto, 2018: Dining While Black

Sometimes, I just want to order an artisanal handcrafted lobster roll without getting the feeling that it’s somehow unusual for me to do so. Or be able to sit in a dimly lit speakeasy while a gentleman in a bow tie and handlebar moustache concocts a $16 cocktail for me, without becoming more of the show than the actual show.

Now the controversy over Hong Shing restaurant comes along to remind us that it’s not just white-owned establishments practicing discrimination against us, but also other people of colour.

Byron Armstrong

Neil Price, Radheyan Simonpillai, and Chaka V. Grier for NowToronto, 2019: Black Futures Month: Five Torontonians want to make 2019 the year for change

I want Black children and youth to no longer feel ashamed of crumbling school buildings, or be afraid to drink the water, or experience unbearable physical and distractive cognitive challenges due to sweltering heat in their classrooms. The nearly $4 billion backlog in school repairs must be fixed. Schools must become fully accessible, infused with colour, arts and green space.

In my dream, roaming the mall for a new pair of jeans or for a knapsack is no longer hazardous for our kids’ health. Shopping while Black is a carefree experience. So is interviewing for a job while Black.

Jill Andrew

Robyn Maynard for The Star, 2020: It’s Long-Past Time to Talk About Policing of Black Women in Canada

It is clear that combating the violent policing of Black women remains an urgent necessity for all of us.

Robyn Maynard

Various Authors for The Star, 2020: Racism Exists in Canada: These are the Stories From People Who Have Lived It As Eyes Turn On The U.S. After George Floyd Death in Minneapolis

(Monday) morning, the day before I earn my Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Toronto, I awoke to an online comment which stated “I would never let her treat me.”

Dr. Chika Oriuwa, MD

Vicky Mochama for The Star, 2018: Systemic Racism in Canada is Real, Folks

Questions about systemic racism are less about our personal interactions but rather about how the institutions that govern our lives have internalized and implemented racism. 

Vicky Mochama

Desmond Cole for Toronto Life, 2015: The Skin I’m In: I’ve Been Interrogated By Police More Than 50 Times– All Because I’m Black

There’s this idea that Toronto is becoming a post-racial city, a multicultural utopia where the colour of your skin has no bearing on your prospects. That kind of thinking is ridiculously naïve in a city and country where racism contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle of criminalization and imprisonment.

Desmond Cole

Books

The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power

Desmond Cole, 2020


Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter In Canada

Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson & Syrus Marcus Ware (Editors), 2020


Talking About Identity: Encounters in Race, Ethnicity, and Language

Carl James & Adrienne Shadd (Editors), 2001


In The Black: My Life

B. Denham Jolly, 2017


Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada From Slavery to the Present

Robyn Maynard, 2017


Blank: Essays and Interviews

M. NourbeSe Philip, 2017


Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora, and Black Studies

Rinaldo Walcott, 2016


Videos

Desmond Cole for CBC, 2017: Firsthand Episode 2: The Skin We’re In

Acclaimed journalist Desmond Cole explores what it is to be Black in 21st century Canada. Do Black Lives Matter here?


Roaring River Films, 2019: Our Dance of Revolution: The History of Toronto’s Black Queer Community

Our Dance of Revolution tells the story of how Black queer folks in Toronto faced every adversity, from invisibility to police brutality, and rose up to become a vibrant, triple-snap-fierce community. 


Yamikani Msosa for VAW Learning Network, 2018: Roots and Resistance: Sexual Violence and Anti-Black Racism

Roots and Resistance is a webinar that explores in depth conversations about the connections between sexual violence, state violence, and healing from collective and individual sexual abuse and trauma for Black survivors.

Canadian Library Month!

The month has flown by, but before it’s over I really want to acknowledge on my blog that October is library month in Canada! This month we celebrate our libraries and raise awareness of the vital roles they play in Canadian lives each day.

“More than just a place to find books, libraries promote cultural awareness, engage in the community, provide educational programs, support freedom of expression and so much more.”

CFLA

Libraries have been evolving and keeping pace with the changing needs of communities today- when oblivious people (usually non-library-users) try to claim that libraries are becoming obsolete, they are met with fierce library defenders who realize the true value libraries continue to provide to their communities (despite recently enduring closures and/or huge cuts to their budgets).

This library of nothing but books and silence is a lie. It’s a myth of a previous time, and that myth gets in the way of us realizing an important truth: that our world needs libraries more than ever… in an age of technology and information, in growing inequality and social isolation, our world needs libraries. They’re essential.

Laurinda Thomas

Libraries, both here in Canada and worldwide, are thriving and doing more with their communities than ever before. They are reinventing their collections, their strategies, their programs, their services, and their physical spaces. Check out this slideshow article from Matthew Hague of Chatelaine, “15 Of the Absolute Coolest Libraries in Canada” , and also Brian Bethune of Maclean’s: “How Public Libraries are Reinventing Themselves for the 21st Century“.

Libraries are not just places to consume- they are places to create, and places that engage with their communities.

“Librarians no longer have all of the answers. We no longer expect that we do the talking and you do the listening. We are building a world… where we share in these experiences, and we are co-creators in the experience that people are going to have in libraries.”

Ellen Humphrey

 

Here are some titles to check out for Library Month!:

These are just a few I’ve come across, and there are so many more awesome resources out there! Please let me know if you have any other favourite recommendations 🙂

 

This is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information for All by Kyle Cassidy

“In 2014, author and photographer Kyle Cassidy published a photo essay on Slate.com called “This is What A Librarian Looks Like,” a montage of portraits and a tribute to librarians. Since then, Cassidy has made it his mission to remind us of how essential librarians and libraries are to our communities. His subjects are men and women of all ages, backgrounds, and personal style-from pink hair and leather jackets to button-downs and blazers. In short, not necessarily what one thinks a librarian looks like.”

 

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind by Cynthia Grady and Amiko Hirau

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“A touching story about Japanese American children who corresponded with their beloved librarian while they were imprisoned in World War II internment camps.”

 

Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill

“Neal Barton just wants to read in peace. Unluckily for him, some local Christian activists are trying to get his favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy. Something has to be done, and it looks like quiet, shy Neal is going to have to do it. With youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy at his back, Neal finds himself leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series that makes his life worth living.

This is a funny, gripping, and relatable tale of life and local politics in middle America”

 

BIBLIOCraft: The Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects by Jessica Pigza

“There is untold wealth in library collections, and, like every good librarian, Jessica Pigza loves to share. In BiblioCraft, Pigza hones her literary hunting-and-gathering skills to help creatives of all types, from DIY hobbyists to fine artists, develop projects based on library resources. ”

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

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“When twelve-year-old June Harper’s parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval.

But June can’t give up books . . .”

 

Library Wars: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa

“In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves—the Library Forces! Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she’s finally a recruit, she’s finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare. Especially since her hard-hearted drill instructor seems to have it out for her!”

ALC, Jasper Municipal Library, impulse purchases, eating too much, and almost burning down our hotel room (?!)

On The Conference

The Alberta Library Conference has been a blast so far. Everyone is in a really good mood because we are in Jasper and the weather is absolutely gorgeous!

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^flags from recent Pride week, and the lovely mountains, which always remind me of The Lord of The Rings.

The conference is being held at the Jasper Park Lodge, which is super fancy (and has an awesome cafe with super passionate barista!)

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On Friday my manager and I attended a pre-conference where we learned about being savvy when talking to the media. I volunteered to be a mock interviewee (i’m trying to take opportunities to work on my public speaking, because it’s still a bit out of my comfort zone…).

We attended the First Timer’s Reception in the evening where they had tons of free books (unedited proofs and advanced readers copies) for us to take!

Yesterday I presented my session, There’s a Graphic Novel for Everyone (Yes, Even You!). Although my nerves did suddenly appear and I felt my face reddening, I did enjoy sharing all I’d learned about graphic novels the past few months. I saw some familiar faces in the crowd, even a few smiling strangers, and a bunch of people have come to me afterward to give positive feedback and ask me about accessing my resources lists and presentation materials, which fills me with joy!

^Playing the ukelele during group-work to avoid awkward silence!

I had about 45 people register, which is wonderful! Like I’ve said before, even if one person finds some information in my presentation useful or interesting, then I am a happy woman. I hope lots of people were inspired to take a closer look at how awesome graphic novels are! When my session was over, I was suddenly hit with a wave of exhaustion, but the good kind.

Some other highlights of the conference:

  • Keynote speaker Scott Bonner, Director of Ferguson Municipal Public Library, on his experiences serving the community during turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri.
  • Adventures in Animation, where many practical ideas were shared about lively, community-focused programming

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^these feminist posters are so awesome!

  • Stand Up! Access to Justice, where I learned about recent and upcoming resources being created by the Centre for Public Legal Education in Alberta (CPLEA)
  • an author talk by Trevor Herriot, where he shared his passions about birds, grassland environments, Indigenous traditions and meeting places, and conservation
  • Keynote speaker Sheila Watt-Cloutier sharing her deep knowledge on the current condition of the Arctic and Inuit adaptation to a warming climate
  • Learning, Art and the Third Age, where we looked at the importance of art programming and created a quick, cool, group art project

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^colourful community art that took only minutes to create

  • Up With Voices: Zines, where we learned about zine collections and creation, zine workshop programming, and an exciting Indigenous zine project currently in the works

These are just a few highlights, but overall this conference has been amazing and I wish I could have attended every session!

Jasper Municipal Library

Of course we had to visit Jasper Municipal Library at some point! Thursday morning we got directions from a lovely woman at the Jasper info center. The library is a mix of modern and cosy. I am in love with the cute manga-style posters welcoming you in. A library staff told me they were created by a local teen for a program!

We also stumbled upon this adorable Little Free Library in town.

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Regarding Impulse Purchases

We had some time to explore the Jasper shopping scene a little bit.

I promised myself I wouldn’t spend any money on cheesy souvenirs, but we were exploring on Thursday morning and I fell in love with these finger puppets. A grown woman can spend her money how she likes, right?

Not pictured: the one I got for Mom for Mother’s Day 😉 SORRY MOM, IT’S A SECRET.

I also tried on some really expensive patterned pants in the Fairmont Lodge store, and of COURSE they fit me perfectly. Comfy + cute pants are tricky to find, so I got out my wallet resignedly.

Brookies, Lattes, General Facestuffery

On Wednesday evening when we arrived, we had a delicious meal at the restaurant beside our hotel, and a quick soak in the outdoor hot-tub, we retreated to our room for the night.

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^ My wellington was super yummo.

We also ate in Jasper town-site as well as the Jasper Park lodge buffets.

The Coco Cafe has the coolest bathroom design, and lots of funky art throughout.

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@mscocojasper #cafe #jasper #latte #breakfast #art

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At the Fairmont Fitzhugh’s To Go, I tried my first ever Brookie (Brownie/Cookie) and Cruffin (Croissant/Muffin).

The Brookie was the winner.

On Nearly Burning Down Our Hotel Room

On thursday morning, we knew we would have to talk to the hotel staff because our room was ridiculously hot. We had kept the air conditioning on all night but with no success. We talked with the hotel desk staff who said that the air conditioning wasn’t set up properly from the winter and that we shouldn’t use it. We advised them that it was emitting cold air so they basically said “oh, OK then, guess it’s alright”.

When we returned that evening the room was like the deepest steaming crevice of hell. Something was obviously messed up. We called the desk. A guy came up and urgently advised us that there was no exhaust hose connected to the air conditioning, so although it was providing cool air from the front, all of the hot air was escaping out the back directly into the curtains behind. “This is bad” he said. “This could have caused some damage.” My manager and I imagined having to call our library admin staff to advise them we’d burned down our hotel (this became a running joke for the rest of the shenanigans we got into on the trip).

Ah well, what happens in Jasper stays in Jasper.

It seems like Elijah Wood didn’t take up my offer in a previous post to crash the conference, unfortunately. IT’S COOL I’M STILL FANGIRLING FOR YOU ELIJAH 😀

Why do libraries matter today?

When I recently announced joyously that I had finally been accepted into the Master of Library and Information Science program, I got a variety of responses. Mainly “woohoo!”s and things like that, but also the occasional question about why I chose this career, or even something as refreshingly candid as this comment from an online friend in a Kakao group chat:

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Oof.

There is a certain nostalgia associated with libraries. Many people (and this included me to an extent before I began working in a library 7 years ago) have an idea in their heads of what a library is. Perhaps they are even rather fond of this very concept of a library, and they romanticize it lovingly in their heads. Theirs is a quiet, austere place filled with rows and rows of books. Their library might resemble one they frequented as a child, or saw in a movie. In their memory, the library is a place that you turn to when you are in need of a book, or a quiet place to study. In their library, bespectacled, cardigan wearing women “shhh” you for turning the pages too loud.

This idea of a library endures, supported by some popular media and the notions of those who maybe haven’t visited their public library in recent memory.

However, this library is not my library.

Certainly, some of the above aspects are present in some parts of some libraries some of the time.  But, the libraries of today offer so much more than that outdated model.

Libraries offer services in line with the times and are constantly updating to best serve their patrons in this age of rapidly changing technologies and emerging means of information sharing. In the libraries of today, you may access multiple services in a visit without so much as seeing a book.

People of all ages and all walks of life are welcome in the library, where they are treated with respect and dignity, and able to access information, technologies, entertainment and services that they might not be able to access otherwise. The library is a space where you aren’t expected to buy anything, there’s no catch.

I know I am not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, (check out this legendary twitter smackdown if you haven’t already: https://twitter.com/i/moments/922965302761025536?lang=en ) but this is a message that needs to be reinforced again and again, as clearly there is a need to defend libraries from the detrimental actions of those who don’t understand them.

I’ll shout it from the rooftops if I have to:  Libraries are for everyone to access information, education, entertainment and services that enrich their lives and foster lifelong learning. 

Here are just some of the kinds of things you might be able to do at your public library today at little or no cost:

  • check out an ipad or ereader on loan
  • use a free wifi connection
  • get one on one homework or reading help
  • access full-text, peer-reviewed articles for assignments and research
  • borrow the latest video games, movies, magazines, and music (FOR FREEEEEE)
  • utilize a community makerspace with tools and technology
  • attend a resume building workshop so you can get that job!
  • 3D print whatever your mind can fathom
  • practice yoga, zumba, tai chi, meditation, etc.- namaSLAY!!!
  • meet up for a weekly parenting or breastfeeding support group
  • reserve a study or meeting room
  • attend a movie night and enjoy popcorn and the big screen
  • participate in a writers circle
  • access resources for preparing for a Citizenship exam or other exam
  • receive cuddles from a therapy animal program
  • create crafts or learn how to paint a masterpiece step by step, maybe with some wine and cheese- like paint night, but cheaper!
  • participate in a cosplay competition or learn how to create cosplay looks
  • get help accessing genealogical records and researching your family ancestry
  • peruse board games and card games to take home, or to play at the library (Cards Against Humanity anyone?)
  • print and scan important documents
  • share at a seed-swap or learn about beekeeping
  • learn a new language in a conversation group
  • download audiobooks, ebooks, videos, music, and more from home or on the go with your library card
  • “borrow” a human through a Human Library project
  • visit (or add to) a community art display
  • get referrals to a variety of social services
  • find help fact-checking that dubious looking article your aunt sent you on Facebook
  • dress up with some razzle-dazzle for a seniors social dinner and dance

oh yeah, and you can also check out books!!!

My library is a vibrant, busy, exciting place, full of possibilities. My library is for everyone.

Truly, libraries are vital community hubs. I can’t imagine a world without libraries. It hurts to try imagining.