Black Lives Matter Toronto's Sandy Hudson on Canada's Very Real Systemic Racism

We sat down with Hudson to talk about the Canadian media's failure in covering the recent BLM protests, our educational system's shortcomings, and more.

Sandy Hudson has been very busy. As a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, she’s one of the nation’s loudest and most eloquent voices in the conversation regarding systemic racism within Canada. As such, she’s been steadily bouncing from interview to interview, spreading BLMTO’s anti-racism message wherever possible. 

Complex Canada’s Alex Narvaez met digitally with Hudson to discuss how Canadian media has been covering (and failing to cover) the recent BLM protests, her frustration with a CBC morning show, our educational system’s shortcomings, and more important topics. Here are some of the highlights—watch the full video above to get hit with more of Hudson’s truth bombs. 

On staying sane:

Man, 2020 won’t let up, eh? I feel really sad and angry, and sometimes those feelings catch up with me unexpectedly during the day. I feel really frustrated with Canadian media for the way that it feels like Black people in Canada aren’t taken seriously. And then there’s a wave of inspiration too, because the protests have been happening from White Horse down to Miami. It’s been pretty inspiring to see Black people all over the world say, "You know what? Enough is enough. We’re not taking this anymore."

On problems with the CBC: 

Last week the CBC contacted me. They asked me if I would come on and speak about George Floyd and Amy Cooper. And just the night before they asked me that, the name Regis Korchinski Paquet was trending on Twitter. I asked them, are we also going to be talking about Regis Korchinski Paquet? And they said, “No, there’s no time and they really want to focus on American racism.” And I thought that was unacceptable. The interview went fairly well and I think I convinced her that I was able to speak on both issues, until the very last question when she asked me, “What’s next? How do we solve this problem? Where do we go from here?” And I said, “We need to seriously consider defunding the police.” I talked about how in Toronto $1.08 billion is dedicated to the police service and how that takes money away from other programs that are better suited to keep us safe and keep us secure, and she interrupted me, didn’t let me finish, and was like, “Sorry, did you say ‘defund the police’? I just want to make sure I got that right.” And I said, “Yeah, if you just listen to what I was saying, there’s all this money that goes there and it could go there…” and she was like, “Yeah, OK well, we’ve got a lot of producers chasing this story and we’ll see if we can circle back to you, but I’m not going to be able to guarantee that you’re going to be on the air.” I guess I had the wrong answer.   

On diversity in Canadian media: 

If you’re watching TV or listening to the radio, you’ll see a lot of Black people in front of the camera, but when you go into a newsrooms and see who's actually producing the news and who’s deciding what’s newsworthy and what’s not, that’s where we’re lacking a lot of diversity. I don’t think defunding the police is a new conversation in the Black community—certainly we’ve been having it for years. And the fact that [the CBC host] responded so incredulously at this comment that I was making, I was surprised. I was like, “Oh, this isn’t something she’s heard of, despite the fact that all the protests that are happening across the United States and Canada, people are calling for defunding the police.” It was weird that it seemed so weird to her. 

On defunding the police:

When we’re calling for defunding the police, what we’re really saying is that right now the way we take care of safety and security in our society is just unacceptable. It’s unacceptable because Black people keep dying at the hands of the police, it’s unacceptable because Indegenous people keep dying at the hands of the police, but it’s also unacceptable because the police don’t do a very good job at what they’re supposed to do. If we consider mental health crises, the police are the ones who respond to emergency mental health crises when people call 911. And more than often, people who have mental health crises are more likely to be met with lethal force in Canada than people who aren’t calling for a mental health crisis. That’s a big problem. Like, if you are having a health problem and the only option available to you are people who are going to show up with lethal force and perhaps use that lethal force against you, what does that do for your health? And shouldn’t we have another option, a better option to call, where the people who show up are going to be health experts or social experts who will be able to provide the social or health support that people need when they’re going through that sort of emergency. 

These models exist elsewhere and they’re successful, so why do we accept the terrible model that we’re using right now here in Canada? 

On the “not all cops are bad” argument:

You know what, I do not care about anyone’s personal inclinations, about whether they’re a good person or not. That’s not the issue. The issue is the entire structure, the policing—the way it’s carried out is anti-Black and ends up with us dying. So for me, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in their head when they’re executing this job if the job itself is anti-Black. It doesn’t matter who's doing what and what they individually think about Black people, it’s about the whole structure of the whole thing and how it works. And at this point I think it’s proven that it’s irredeemable. 

On BLMTO’s relationship with Ottawa: 

Federally, Justin Trudeau is so good at just doing a public relations exercise to make it look like he’s doing something, but not actually taking any sort of action, using his power to make change… He hasn’t actually done anything to specifically benefit the Black community. For me, the relationship with the government is less important than the relationship with the people on the ground. 

On racism within Canada’s educational system:

Canada really tends to deny that racism exists and that anti-Black racism exists. A lot of that has to do with our education system. We have very little history going on in our system, and what little we have, there’s almost nothing focussed on the Black experience. We had 200 years of enslavement in this country, and the amount of people that don’t even know that there was slavery here at all is astounding. I think that’s got to be intentional in some way, and if we want to change it we have to intentionally focus on it.  

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