Like many across Canada, North America and the world, the Board of Directors of the Wellesley Institute is saddened and outraged by the killing of George Floyd, and by the violence and institutional injustice in response to protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality.
Members of the Board are also painfully aware that anti-Black racism in interactions with the police, health and social care systems is not confined to the United States. We call for the full and immediate implementation of the recommendations of the coroner’s inquest into the death of Andrew Loku, shot by Toronto police in 2017. We anxiously await justice for Dafonte Miller, brutally beaten and permanently injured by an off-duty Toronto police officer. And we mourn the losses of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a young Black and Indigenous woman who died last month in the presence of Toronto police, and D’Andre Campbell, a young Black man shot dead by police in his home in April. As we draw attention to these important cases, we wish to also acknowledge the pain and loss of countless others who have suffered trauma, been injured or died in the care of our health care, justice, and social systems.
According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, between 2013 and 2017, a Black person in Toronto was nearly 20 times more likely than a White person to be involved in a fatal shooting by the Toronto Police Service. Despite making up only 8.8% of Toronto’s population, Black people were grossly over-represented in police use of force cases (28.8%), shootings (36%) and deadly encounters (61.5%). Across the GTA, Black people are systemically over-policed: surveilled, detained, questioned, and searched without justification.
These and the events of the past weeks are a manifestation of structural inequities old and deep that Wellesley Institute has recognized and engaged with over many years. Wellesley has insisted on foregrounding the relationship between racism and health throughout its work to understand better the social and socioeconomic determinants of health and to promote health equity. Wellesley’s vision – “a healthier, more equitable GTA for all” – is one in which Black lives, health and well-being matter, and Black populations and communities thrive. This will require Wellesley to help combat disparities in law enforcement as well as access to social justice.
Wellesley’s staff and fellows continue to take a leadership role in researching the health impacts of racism and discrimination, in building healthy, equitable and inclusive communities, and in transforming the ways in which we talk about and resist racism, both institutionally and in our everyday lives. The Board is committed to supporting staff and fellows in this urgent and important work, recognizing that many themselves experience anti-Black and other forms of racism and discrimination and have been particularly affected by recent events.
The Board recognizes and marks this extraordinary moment, and expresses solidarity with our Black populations, Black communities and all those affected, whose anger and grief must be respected, supported and addressed if we are to achieve our vision of a healthy and thriving GTA for all.
Of course, such expressions, while important, are only meaningful when linked to action. The Board will take at least three actions:
- The Board will support anti-Black racism as a key priority of Wellesley’s work plan for the next 2 years.
- The Board will take steps to unlearn its own biases and will continue to reflect on and act to minimize its role in reinforcing systems of oppression, including regular review of our goals and progress against them.
- The Board will ensure meaningful participation of the Black population of the GTA in Wellesley’s future strategic planning.
There is more that the Board can do, and must do, to live the values of Wellesley at this moment where the gap between those values and reality feels so very stark. The Board commits Wellesley Institute to challenging anti-Black racism and seeking racial justice as a core determinant of the health of our city and the people who live in it.
Wellesley Institute Board of Directors