WATERLOO REGION — The suggestion that now is the time to have someone from the Black community sit on the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board is insulting, says Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo.
The community is at a critical point, calling for real change and investments in building healthy neighbourhoods, she said.
Sitting on a board of an institution that is not working for racialized communities is a tough sell and it shows that people in positions of influence are still not listening, Lindo said.
“I don’t think one Black person in 2020 should be, if we care about them and their mental health, be put at the helm of a ship that is not doing what the community needs,” Lindo said.
This week, police chair Karen Redman said the police services board must reflect the community and it is time to petition the provincial government to appoint a person of colour or visible minority to the board.
There is currently a vacancy on the seven-member board. The candidate is appointed by the province.
Rosita Tse is the only visible minority representation on the board. She was appointed by regional council. In 1998, LaFerne Clarke, a local Black woman, was appointed to the board.
Ruth Cameron, who sits on the advisory committee for the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region, said positions on boards such as the police often attract individuals that are in support of that board’s operations, curtailing the applications of racialized communities.
Cameron said suggesting a Black person sit on the police services board now looks like an attempt by some to shift the conversation from the network’s call to action.
After the outpouring of support for last week’s solidarity march in downtown Kitchener, the network put forth actions to end anti-Black racism.
Cameron said the community is on board with the actions which include defunding the police, at a minimum by $29 million, and investing those tax dollars in community-based health initiatives for impoverished and racialized groups, and scrapping the school resource officer program in schools.
Similar measures to defund the police are happening across cities in the U.S. and Canada in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
“It’s about the facts that we know as experts who have been dealing with this system of oppression for 500 years. We have a lot of knowledge about how systems operate against our health and well-being, safety and our ability to thrive,” Cameron said.
Lindo said racialized communities have been asking for change for decades.
“Black communities are saying these are all interconnected systems that were set up on our backs historically. Now we are saying let us free ourselves,” she said.
Lang Ncube, community development co-ordinator for the network, said putting one Black person on the board is expecting that one person to change an entire institution and the history it was built upon.
“We have reached a point right now where the police are not helping us heal nor are they helping our communities prevent future harm,” she said.
Instead, police reinforce the status quo, she said.
“We can’t in good conscience expect one Black person to do that or take that task on,” Ncube said.