OTTAWA – Several Canadian cities have seen protests, some of which involved elements of violence, following massive protests across the United States over the death of unarmed African American George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
On Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Montreal to denounce racial profiling and police brutality in both Canada and the United States.
Even the city’s police force, in tweeting a call for a peaceful demonstration, commented on the events surrounding police involvement in the homicide of 46-year-old Floyd, as the Minnesota county examiner announced on Monday.
“Both the action taken and the inaction of the witnesses present go against the values of our organization,” the Montreal Police said on Twitter on Sunday. “We respect the rights and the need of everyone to speak out against this violence and will be by your side to ensure your safety.”
But about three hours after the peaceful march and rally ended in the province of Quebec’s largest city, tensions flared as people threw rocks and projectiles at the police, who responded with pepper spray and tear gas.
Store windows were smashed, fires lit and shops looted, resulting in the arrest of 11 people — nine of them on charges of breaking and entering.
On Twitter, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the actions of the looters whom she said “had nothing to do with” the otherwise peaceful protest.
During his daily briefing with reporters on Monday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault also chastised “those who took advantage to loot and vandalize” and “must face the legal consequences.”
But while he said he supports the stance against racism, Legault said he does not believe there is “systemic discrimination” in Quebec, where black people represent the largest visible minority — or about 10 percent of the population — in Montreal.
However, at his daily COVID-19 news conference on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “we can’t pretend that racism doesn’t exist” in Canada.
“Anti-black racism is real; unconscious bias is real and systemic discrimination is real — and they happen here in Canada,” he said.
One of his cabinet ministers, Somali-born Ahmed Hussen, minister of families, children and social development, shared a personal perspective on anti-black racism via Twitter.
“I have heard from people who have said that we should not worry about what is happening in the US because that is not our problem,” he tweeted on Saturday. “As a Black man & a father of 3 young boys, I can tell you it is a lived reality for Black Canadians.”