Elizabeth May on killing of George Floyd, racism in Canada

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2020-06-02 12:31

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This is indeed a difficult day. It’s a difficult week. These have been difficult weeks.

I stand here and want to begin by acknowledging that we are all on the traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples, and again to say meegwetch, on a day like this when we’re focusing on something so painful that really is beyond partisanship and that should bind us together as people who say we cannot tolerate racism, not in this country. But we know it’s here.

As the Prime Minister just said,“Racism never has a place in this country”.

But we know it’s here and we know it’s living with us.

We are facing, in this pandemic, two dangerous, invisible viruses. One is COVID-19 and the other one we’ve tolerated far too long, which is race-based hatred, hate speech and anti-black racism. Yes, black lives matter. I want to do nothing but just chant it in this place until we all stand together and say, “Black lives matter.”

What we are seeing in the murder of George Floyd is exactly as my colleague from the Bloc Québécois said:
“ George Floyd is not a victim of racism; he is another victim of racism”.

There is victim upon victim upon victim.

These victims have names. We must not forget their names.

The first time a black man was killed when his last words were “I can’t breathe” was in 2014, with Eric Garner. His mother did interviews this week. Imagine what she’s going through, because George Floyd died on video also saying, “I can’t breathe”, and the people who were stopping him from breathing, his killers, are the police. In the case of Eric Garner, the policemen were fired but never charged. In George Floyd’s murder, at least one killer has been charged, but it doesn’t do anything to ease the pain, nor, as my friend from the NDP said, does it quench the thirst for justice, because that’s what people are crying out for. They’re crying out for justice.

The names just keep cascading. I had to look it up because I thought, when was it that the poor young man who was jogging was murdered by the father and son in the pickup truck? He was murdered by a retired policeman and his son in their pickup truck, in February. Breonna Taylor of Louisville was murdered in her own home by cops who thought she might have drugs there. They searched, and she didn’t.

What on earth allows this to keep happening over and over again?

I looked at a site called “Just Security” and I thought these words from reporter Mia Bloom, who happens to be Canadian, were pretty clear on what puts you at risk of death in the United States of America, but also in Canada: “driving while black, jogging while black, reporting while black, bird watching while black, selling lemonade while black” can get you killed.
The killers far too often are wearing a uniform. I want to go back to the words “reporting while black”, because this is something else we’ve seen in the last four days that we’ve never seen before, which is the deliberate targeting of reporters by police. Over 100 reporters have been injured in the United States in the last four days. One woman lost her eye. These are serious injuries. Sometimes reporters get in the way of riots and whatnot, but this is different. This is another element altogether.

It seems that, in this place, when we have speeches and pretty words to denounce racism, we do it in a kind of cycle. After Colten Boushie’s murder, we talked about anti-indigenous racism. We talked about the threat to our indigenous brothers and sisters across this country who also face racism on a daily basis. We talked about the fact that they are disproportionately in our prisons.

Just within the last day, the report came down on the killing of Dale Culver in Prince George at the hands of the Prince George RCMP. This indigenous young man was 35 years old, and he was pepper-sprayed until he couldn’t breathe. There will be charges in this case. That’s the recommendation that just came down.

We go through sequential moments where we can say Islamophobia is not okay. Six Muslims at prayer in Quebec City were murdered. We can all stand up and say we denounce Islamophobia. Or we can denounce anti-trans violence against individual trans people who are murdered.

We denounce anti-Semitism when we see anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled on the door of an Ottawa rabbi’s home. We denounce it, but can we get to the root of it?
As the honourable leader of the Conservative Party mentioned, in recent days we’re seeing anti-Asian racism on the increase.

We’re seeing all this happen and we want to be good allies. We want to be a good ally to the family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet. We want to be a good ally.

I am a woman of privilege. I got it by mere random accident of birth. I was born to white parents. Privilege is being white.

We have to study our privilege. We have to acknowledge our privilege and we have to know, as the Prime Minister said, we’re not perfect, but it doesn’t give us a free pass to ignore that we have to stand up and we have to speak out.

I am sitting so close to my friend here, our minister, Ahmed Hussen—I say your name out loud, but your tweets brought me to tears—that this fine man faces racism in his own riding, that his three beautiful black boys have people turn away or clutch their purse or they’re a little worried when the kids are around. It sounds exactly like what the Prime Minister just called the “microaggressions” that many of us might not even see.

We can look at our own conduct and our own behaviour. In looking at these things, there is something I want to say, when we look at all these things that are happening and we wonder, what we can do about it. When we see a bully, when we hear hate speech, we have to speak up. We have to speak out and we have to say that the President of the United States is fomenting hatred and violence and it’s shameful and shocking that he would grab a Bible, then use tear gas to clear peaceful protestors on a Washington street so that Donald Trump could pose with a Bible in front of an Episcopal church.

The Episcopal Bishop of Washington had this to say, because she is a good ally:
In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Saviour who lived a life of non-violence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd.

That’s what we must do in this place. We must acknowledge and speak up for justice for the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, the report on which languishes a year later.
We must stand up for justice and we must examine something very worrying. In 2006, the U.S. FBI warned that white supremacist groups were targeting police forces and joining them. If we’re looking for real action, things we can do in this place, I call on us to have an inquiry and an examination to root out white supremacist groups in Canada and identify them for what they are, a terrorist threat in our midst. We must make sure they’re not in our police forces, because if there is one thing scarier than a white supremacist with a gun, it’s a white supremacist with a gun in uniform.

Please, God, there are things we can do. Please, God, we love each other, take care of each other regardless of the colour of our skin, and pray for the United States of America. It’s a country being ripped apart, and the ripping and the tearing is being done by people who should at this very time be consoling and leading and inspiring.

Pray. Pray for Canada. Pray for each and every one of our beautiful black baby girls and boys, the indigenous baby girls and boys, the Asian kids. Wherever you look, reach out and be a good ally. Stand up and say, “With my body I get between you and the cops.” We have to be good allies. Right now, they’re just pretty words.

Thank you for listening.