STATEMENT – POLICE VIOLENCE IN WATERLOO REGION

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Bring on the Sunshine celebrates Africans and their contributions in Waterloo Region, and has done so for over 10 years in many forums and formats across the tri-cities and townships. Our team is on the front lines in the community, be it the Black Lives Matter march or in the living rooms of African and Black families across the region.

The recent violent arrest of a Black man with mental health issues on the streets of Kitchener is extremely worrying and raises many questions. Witnesses say the man was restrained by 10 police officers (as seen in the video), and repeatedly punched by one of them with no intervention by his colleagues. If this man was white, would he have been treated this way? In the midst of strong verbal assurances by all levels of government that Black Lives Matter, how could this take place? How could the officer involved feel that he could act this way in public view? What was the purpose of the officer who stood with the youth that filmed the incident?

The systemic racism entrenched in the Justice system does not treat people equally. What is the role of police in our society? The incident does not show any effort to de-escalate by the police, and begs the question: what is the goal/purpose of hitting a man who is already on the ground? It does not respect the rights and freedoms of Citizens and creates fear and distrust of this system. Such incidents validate Black Canadians fears and the cycle continues into the next generation.

We are calling for an immediate suspension of the officer involved and a full and public external investigation into the situation. We call on the WRPS and the officers involved to take part in a restorative justice process that involves genuine conversation – and not platitudes – in order to effect the change you say you want to see. Genuine conversation involves listening and action. Listening alone is not enough.

The Bring on the Sunshine Board and Leadership Team.
Alice Penny, Director
Jacqui Terry-Carroll, Board Chair
Priscilla Muzira, Board member
James Kandoje , Board member
Thulani Mangoye, Board member
Tapiwa Ziyenge, Board member
James Kandoje, Board member

Support for Anti-Racism Initiatives and Protests in Waterloo Region

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Yes, Defunding the police seems an absolutely radical thought. Perhaps it is radical if you have only joined the conversation after George Floyd. Back in 2018 the Ontario government announced their response to social issues by investing an additional $25 million in funding for the police force. “Boots on the ground” they called it. Systemic racism has always existed within the police force. Therefore ask yourself when there is an increased police presence on the streets and in our schools who is impacted the most?

While we have seen police funding increased we have seen social services funding get reduced. Mental health services, arts and culture programs, many of which address the social issues from a prevention angle go largely un- or underfunded. Many organizations that work with marginalized communities are forced to compete with each other for the token funding available.

If you’re serious about solving social problems… giving the police more money is clearly not the solution. That is why Bring on the Sunshine has been intentional about engaging with the youth of our community in ways that build them up, support them, and give them a place to belong. They get to celebrate something they may have previously seen as a burden, their Africanness. Many of our kids and families have had run ins with the police and social services because of cultural differences, that neither agency has the competency to deal with. Why should we expect them to? And why wouldn’t you compensate the organisations who have both expertise and track record?

Through our education programs in schools, Africa Camp each summer, our youth leadership program or our annual African festival we are looking for ways to establish a sense of identity and hope in our youth, to find common ground through our celebration of diverse cultures, and the willingness to learn and listen. Our children should not have to work hard to find positive associations of their culture and skin color. They should not have to find their way in a system and a society that stigmatizes them based on their skin colour.

We want to see everyone in the Black community given the opportunity to magnificently thrive, on our own terms.

We are in full support of redirecting funds from a system that has oppressed the black experience.

Alice Penny, C.E.O.
Jacqui Terry-Carroll, Chair
Bring on the Sunshine Board and leadership team.