SSMU Statement Regarding Incident of Racial Profiling against a McGill Student
We at SSMU are horrified and deeply troubled to learn from SSMU member and McGill School of Social Work student Jean Kagame of the racial profiling he experienced from the Ontario Police last week. Throughout his studies at McGill, Kagame has been an involved and dedicated member of our community, serving as President of McGill African Students Society and representing students on McGill’s Advisory Council for International Students. His experience in Brockville, ON, constitutes a fundamental breach of basic dignity and respect every person deserves and showcases the very reality of police brutality. In fact, the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) here in Montreal has described the case as “one of the most contemptible and abusive cases of driving while black that can put Canada’s record on anti-black racism under scrutiny.”
SSMU wholeheartedly commends and supports Kagame in coming forward with the CRARR, especially within a context of disproportionately high policing of Black people, which we are seeing happen in our own home of Montreal as well. Just this past May, the Montreal police pulled over Kerwin Clarke–who was driving with his 3-year-old daughter–for no clear reason besides that he was a “younger looking, black male, driving a nicer car.” In the Black Students’ Network’s statement in support of Kagame, the BSN notes that there is “a palpable sense of relief in our community… that Kagame did not end up in jail, severely injured, or dead.” Police brutality, driving while black, and white supremacy are realities that we as individuals, as groups, and as associations, need to contend with here and now in Canada. These realities are rooted in history, but they have by no means ceased to operate in the present. There is no better reminder of that than today when our University (which bears the name of a slave owner) has chosen to stay silent in the face of news of Kagame’s recent experience.
In remaining silent, the University is dismissing its responsibility towards its international, racialized, and minority students who want to know that their decision to come to McGill has not come at the cost of their basic safety and security. This comes at a time when students have other reasons to be scared and will look to our University for support, as they did last year when McGill’s Senate took a stance on Bill 62. Yesterday, City News reported that Kagame’s court date has been set on the due date for one of his final papers. One very minor and basic action the University could have taken in support of Kagame and to reasssure others would have been to publicly grant Kagame extra time to complete these academic requirements.
The Students’ Society of McGill University stands in support for and solidarity with Jean Kagame and commends the immense amount of courage he is demonstrating in coming forward and in filing his Human Rights complaint. We thank the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), noting that this is the second time this semester it has courageously come forward, publicly, to support a McGill student. We also urge everyone to read the Black Students’ Network statement and to share it widely.
2018-2019 SSMU Executive Team