CASW Statement of Mourning, Solidarity and Call to Action
June 8, 2020 – While social media has provided a platform to shine light on the experiences of racism that is present in our lives, people of colour in North America have been living this reality since colonialism established dominance in the territories. Despite efforts to mobilize and be educated by racialized communities and allies, it has taken compounding devastating events in recent weeks in Canada and in the United States to turn the collective attention to this lived reality. This moment must not be lost: the abomination of the violence faced by people of colour must be matched in impact by societal change.
Recent events affirm, once again, that we have so far to go in pursuing social justice for racialized people, including fighting for safety from violence and discrimination, access to a living income, adequate housing and accessible health care and many other basic human rights. It is also a reminder that reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples is the only way forward for social work as a profession, and for Canada as a country. We cannot move forward without recognizing and learning from the mistakes of our past; bearing humility and a willingness for true collaboration and change.
While this intensity of news coverage of racism in Canada may be new to our mainstream media and many white Canadian’s social media feeds, for people of colour this reality is not only commonplace, it is often expected and anticipated. At this time, it is imperative that white people not further exhaust people of colour’s energy, resources, and time in their genuine desire to be better allies. We must be aware and mindful of how our words and experiences can impact and trigger individuals who have been fighting to find their own voice, their own safe space in a time of turmoil.
White privilege must adopt a stance of open, appreciative humility, embrace discomfort, and commit to reflecting on how they individually and collectively contribute to racism in Canada, and how they can and must challenge the status quo. Social workers, with their deep roots in community activism and societal change, know that being an ally extends far beyond sharing hashtags on social media. Being an ally is an ongoing commitment to educating yourself about all forms of racism inflicted on racialized people and communities and your role within it; listening to and amplifying racialized voices, and speaking up when they go unheard. Many social workers in Canada are already doing this critical work and momentum must not be lost.
Social workers must speak out on injustice: we cannot remain silent. CASW joins the Association of Black Social Workers in their commitment to fighting the endured psychological trauma of racism and support the healthy development of African Canadian communities in pursuing justice.
CASW also commits to reflecting on its own privileges as an organization and strives to uphold the principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the long journey of reconciliation.
CASW is calling for the Government of Canada to take immediate and tangible action to remedy our need for structural change by:
- Addressing the history of enslavement in Canada through a formal apology recognizing the enslaving of Black Canadians and the continued perpetuation of deep systemic racism;
- Upholding its commitments to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action;
- Ending Mandatory Minimum penalties for drug offences which directly lead to the disproportionate incarceration of racialized groups within the criminal justice system;
- Decriminalizing the personal use of psychoactive substances;
- Collecting disaggregated, race based data related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Reviewing the role of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and local policing departments with the goal of redirecting funds to community supports without the use of lethal force;
- Requiring the RCMP and local police departments to wear body cameras and require continuing education and training in de-escalation; especially when issues of mental health and/or substance use and race intersect; and
- Implementing a national Universal Basic Income Guarantee.
CASW Resources for Allies:
Anti-Black Racism & Social Work – 3-part series