I will never stop feeling sorry for people especially leaders who hold the opinion that racial profiling and systemic racism is not a thing in this country. For instance, last year I watched with amazement the claims by the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, and the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet that there is “no systemic racism in Quebec.” For sure, there are several instances to point if one ever wishes to pay such absurdity a slight mental devotion. Moreover, as with sexual harassment, if a victim of racial discrimination believes they have been discriminated against, should the response always be to try to invalidate their experience?
For the doubting Thomas and staunch denialist, the recent arrest, criminal portrayal, detention, and subsequent exoneration of École Polytechnique de Montréal’s PhD student, Mamadi III Fara Camara is another evidence that racial discrimination remains a reality for Black people in Canada. Mr. Camara, an immigrant from Guinea was accused of attempted murder after a Montreal police officer was disarmed and attacked by an unknown assailant. Although all charges against Mr. Camara are now dropped and the case definitively closed, the fact he spent six days in detention without any form of communication with his family is appalling. Despite the fact Mr. Camara had no prior criminal record, the manner he was grabbed, hauled through the window of his car, and brought to the ground with an officer’s foot on his head points to the role of race in the evolution of the case.
Also, shall we talk about the swiftness at which École Polytechnique treated Mr. Camara as a pariah? Although the institution could have stated its willingness to co-operate with the police on the case, it rather chose to immediately suspend and bar Mr. Camara from campus. I guess the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” is a mirage for those whose skin is not White. Incidents like this, is why we always ask if a White person would have received the same kind of treatment. A Black man witnessed an incident, called 911 but rather than being commended for exhibiting a behavior typical of a model citizen, was dehumanized and his reputation besmirched, albeit temporarily.
Since the incident however, the House of Commons had unanimously voted to grant Mr. Camara a permanent resident status. Whether that is good enough outcome after such a traumatizing experience for Mr. Camara, an expectant father of twins and his family depends on your point of view. One thing is certain though, systemic discrimination and racial profiling are still alive and well in this country. People can either show willingness to address it or not but denying its existence will not make it go away.