Members of Canada’s black community are warning Monday that this country is also vulnerable to hate crimes as they react in shock and horror to Saturday’s bloodshed in Buffalo that left 10 black people dead.
“Canada is not immune to it,” Velma Morgan, president of Operation Black Vote Canada, told CBC News on Monday.
“We’ve seen what’s happened in different places of worship, we see what’s happening in London, Ontario, we’re certainly not immune there at all.”
Payton Gendron, 18, is charged with racist rampage after driving across the state to target people at Tops Friendly Market in one of Buffalo’s predominantly black neighborhoods. He had also talked about shooting at another store, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told CNN.
Buffalo authorities are working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page manifesto posted online, which identifies the defendant by name as the shooter. He cites the “great replacement theory”, a racist ideology that has been linked to other mass shootings in the United States and around the world.
Referring to a Statistics Canada report, which indicates that hate crimes against Black Canadians have increased by 96% during the COVID-19 pandemic, Morgan says Canadians should “absolutely” be concerned about tolerance and the diversity.
“We certainly have to be very aware of [hate crimes against Black people] and we have to, I think, anticipate that,” Morgan said.
“We need to start doing things to prevent this kind of behavior here.”
“It’s just awful”
Morgan says she was horrified when she heard and saw the news of the Buffalo shooting.
“Just to think that on Saturday people go shopping, like we all do on a Saturday morning… And to think that they were shot, killed just because they were black. It’s just horrifying,” she said.
“He didn’t just show up at a store. He planned it. He planned to go to this place because he knew about it and had probably been there before. He knew the majority of people there were black. It was a black community,” Morgane added.
“His so-called manifesto talks about black people and our inferiority and everything he thinks is wrong with us. So, you know, it’s systemic racism, it’s a lack of education within the system school, educating people about the rights and the value of people.”
Birgit Umaigba, an intensive care nurse in Toronto, took issue with a tweet from Catherine McKenna, Canada’s former minister for environment and climate change, who said she “felt very lucky to live in Canada – a diverse country and tolerant who values freedom while respecting human rights.”
Reading the news today, I feel very lucky to live in Canada – a diverse and tolerant country that values freedom while respecting human rights. We are not perfect and building our country is an ongoing project but I wouldn’t choose anywhere else. ❤️🇨🇦
“First of all, it was very painful to read because it was so devoid of any empathy for the people who had just lost their lives,” Umaigba said.
“I don’t know what Canada they’re talking about, because for me and people like me, it’s everyday racism. Canada has this notion of always being tolerant and welcoming. We’re diverse but that’s not so not true. It’s daily racism here, the institutions are imbued with so much racism.”
She also says that Canadians “should be concerned”.
“There are so many examples: the London truck attack… A white supremacist met a whole Muslim family and killed them,” Umaigba said.
“The Quebec City Mosque Shooting Happened Five Years Ago, So What Are We Talking About?” she said, referring to a shooting that claimed the lives of six people during prayers at a Quebec mosque in 2017.
“People are flying Confederate flags in their homes as we speak.”
Umaigba says the onus shouldn’t just be on black people to suffer and fight racism.
“We need white people to step in. We are suffering because of it. Yes, there are good ones. I’m not saying all white people are racist but we need the good ones, allies, co-conspirators, to get up and do the work,” she said.
“A lot of us are not well. We are carrying the burden of the Buffalo shootout right now,” Umaigba added.
“Whites also have work”
Amie Archibald-Varley lives in Binbrook, a community in southeast Hamilton about 90 kilometers from Buffalo.
Like Umaigba, says Archibald-Varley “white people have work to do too” and encourages white people to talk about the shooting with co-workers, spouses and children.
“Hate is not something innate, it is learned, it is taught,” she said.
“We also need to talk about how we can educate about racism within our school systems. I think that’s extremely important,” she said.
Meanwhile, Archibald-Varley says incidents like the Buffalo shooting leave black communities hurt and traumatized.
“I just want to go shopping and not have to deal with this shit. It’s crazy,” she said.
“It’s not just an American problem. It’s also a problem here in Canada… It could have been any of us black people.”
She says the whole community needs to unite against racism.
“We can’t continue to have these same things without stronger laws, stronger policies, without the solidarity of other members of the community,” Archibald-Varley said.
“We are hurt, we are broken”
Archibald-Varley, who is the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, says while she was raised to be a strong person, the killings take a toll on members of the black community.
“As a community we are hurt, we are broken, we are scared, but we are strong,” she said.
“We have seen the damage and harm perpetuated on us by systemic racism for years, but we are still here and we will continue to fight for change that calls for accountability, to see better things, better results. for health, better resources, better representation of black and other racialized people,” she added.
“We cry together, but we are also strong together.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.