The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and far too many other Black and racialized people at the hands of police have acted as catalysts, renewing the sense of urgency and expanding the reach of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. These deaths, and the growing anti-racism movement in response, represent painful touchpoints stemming from a deeply rooted history of systemic racism in Canada and the United States. They also mark a moment in which many white people have finally been forced to acknowledge the dehumanizing realities of racism experienced by Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC).
While much of the media coverage has surrounded events in the United States, Canada has no reason to hold its head high. The examples of racism in this country are numerous and extend far throughout its history. This year alone, we’ve seen the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet; the deaths of Ejaz Ahmed Choudry, Chantel Moore and D’Andre Campbell, all during police “wellness checks”; the death of Joyce Echaquan as she sought hospital care; an investigation into anti-Indigenous racism in BC healthcare settings; and an Ontario Human Rights Commission Report confirming what Black communities already knew – that Black people are disproportionately arrested, charged, and subjected to use of force by Toronto police.
Experiences of stigma, discrimination, and violence due to homophobia and transphobia are common among Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (2SLGBTQ) people. But it is also true that those most privileged amongst us (those who are cisgender, able-bodied, and white) perpetuate stigma, discrimination, and violence against queer and trans members of our community who are Black, Indigenous, or persons of colour (BIPOC). The evidence is plentiful.
Our national Sex Now 2019 survey of gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, and queer men (GBT2Q) showed that 58.6% of BIPOC respondents had experienced racial discrimination in the past year, with 51.9% experiencing it from others within the GBT2Q community. The same survey also shed light on the structural racism faced by BIPOC community members. BIPOC survey respondents were more likely to hold a bachelor degree than their white counterparts (52.1% vs. 46.8%) but were also more likely to be unemployed (9.3% vs 5.9%), on government assistance (6.3% vs 4.3%), or experiencing financial strain (32.7% vs 25.2%). BIPOC respondents were also more likely to experience poorer mental wellbeing and were more likely to experience social isolation – even before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Racism isn’t a “them” problem that 2SLGBTQ communities can passively engage with but fail to take concrete action against. It is a “we” problem. We must all – community members, grassroots movements, and established organizations – actively work against racism and white supremacy, and towards equity and justice for all. This includes CBRC.
Over the past several months, we have looked internally, reflecting on the ways that CBRC as an organization upholds and benefits from a system built upon a foundation of racism, white supremacy, and colonization. We acknowledge that it is our responsibility, alongside our partners and the communities we serve, to put in the hard work necessary to dismantle this oppressive foundation, and build a new one that is centred on equity and justice for everyone in our communities, particularly those who are most marginalized.
White supremacy, racism, and colonization were not built in a day. They will not be dismantled overnight. But 2SLGBTQ communities have demonstrated time and time again their resilience and perseverance in the face of immense challenges. We have shown the world that if we truly want something, we will fight for it. And we should remember that Black trans activists and other activists of colour have so often been at the forefront of these fights, from Stonewall to the protests in response to the Toronto bathhouse raids. So, it is now time to ensure that our fight benefits everyone in our communities by directing it towards addressing white supremacy, racism, and colonization, both within and outside of our communities.
At CBRC, we recognize that the journey to dismantle white supremacy, racism, and colonization within our organization will take many months, and in some cases years. Over the past few months, we have worked with staff, partners, and community members to identify a number of concrete actions we can take to embark on this endeavour. We share these with you as an act of accountability and will continue to do so in the future. These initial actions include:
Seeding Structural Change
At CBRC, we recognize that to truly dismantle racism within our organization, the change must be structural in nature. Steps the organization has taken to seed structural change include:
- The adoption of a formal strategic priority by the Board of Directors to advance principles and practices which promote anti-racism across CBRC
- A full review and assessment of our existing human resources policies to ensure they do not perpetuate white supremacy.
- The establishment of two internal staff committees aimed at recognizing and resisting white supremacy, including a dedicated caucus for BIPOC staff.
- Undertaking action at the board level to enhance racial diversity in the governance of the organization.
While long-term, sustainable progress requires structural change, CBRC has identified several actions to enhance the diversity and inclusiveness of current and upcoming CBRC programming. These include:
- Establishing a BIPOC Advisory Committee tasked with centering Indigenous and Black voices at our annual Summit.
- Prioritizing (and adequately compensating) queer and trans BIPOC applicants for this year’s Summit Creator Project.
- Building on our commitments to Truth and Reconciliation and expanding Two-Spirit programming at CBRC, including the hiring of a Two-Spirit Program Manager and an oral history project with Two-Spirit Elders.
- Evaluating our organization’s extensive research to ensure adequate focus on BIPOC communities, including efforts to include more BIPOC researchers and community members in research planning, implementation, analysis, and knowledge translation.
Cultivating Collective Anti-Racist Work
At CBRC, we recognize that we cannot bring about the systemic change necessary to truly dismantle racism, white supremacy, and colonization alone. Therefore, we are working collectively with partners across the country to engage in anti-racist work, with the aim to achieve equity and justice for all. These efforts include:
- Joining the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance of Ontario and more than a dozen other queer organizations to sign a letter in solidarity with BLM on June 28, 2020.
- Initiating discussions with Black and Indigenous partner organizations and individuals to identify possible funding opportunities and future partnerships to strengthen CBRC’s BIPOC research and programming.
- Sponsoring a new Atlantic Canadian BIPOC 2SLGBTQIA+ Health Leaders networking and professional development group.
- Partnering with a Black-led collaborative proposal to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Black LGBTQI+ Mental Health Fund.
Anti-racist work must and will continue at CBRC. That is our commitment.
The Board and Staff of CBRC