Anti-Racism (BIPOC) Statement | UNB

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UNB Department of Psychology Statement Against Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous Racism

The Department of Psychology at the University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) strongly condemns the recent acts of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in Canada and the United States. We recognize that these acts are deeply rooted in organizational policies and practices that reinforce negative attitudes, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination against members of the Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities, and that the ongoing subjugation that these individuals experience is unjust. Such systemic inequalities and racism, and the countless, senseless killings of and violence toward Black and Indigenous peoples have caused much anguish, outrage, and a sense of collective trauma in Black and Indigenous communities in Canada, the United States, and globally. To all racialized, minoritized, and marginalized students, staff, and faculty at UNB, as well as in the greater community: we see you, we hear you, and we stand in solidarity with you.

Racism is entrenched within our society. In Canada, systemic racism and inequalities stem from a history of colonialism and violence against Black and Indigenous peoples. For example, in 1783 and 1784, Black people came to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as either slaves, “servants” (whose status and treatment were no different than that of slaves), Free Blacks, or Mack Loyalists (My New Brunswick, 2020; Spray, 1972). According to reports from 1784, between 1,232 and 1,578 Black servants traveled with the Loyalists to New Brunswick, with many Loyalist Officers owning upwards of 10 slaves at a time. Subsequently, slavery became a much more accepted and widespread practice in New Brunswick, and many of the Free Blacks were either re-enslaved, indentured as “servants”, and/or denied the same rights as other Loyalists. The goal of the Canadian government during the mid-to-late-1800s was also to “enfranchise” all Indigenous peoples (Facing History and Ourselves, 2016). In 1873, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) expunged Indigenous peoples from their lands, and residential schools were created in in the 1880s to strip Indigenous peoples of their culture, language, and identity. Indigenous parents were forced to place their children into residential schools and, if they refused, were imprisoned. It was not until 1996 that the last state-run residential school was disbanded in Canada (Miller, 2020). Today, we are grappling with the horrific consequences of residential schools. In May 2021, the remains of 215 Indigenous children were identified in Kamloops, British Columbia. Since then, investigations have uncovered over 1,100 undocumented and/or unmarked graves at the sites of previous residential schools across Canada.

In Canada, members of the Black and Indigenous communities are overly represented as victims in police confrontations. Between 2000 and 2017, Black people accounted for 37% of victims in Toronto (though comprising only 8-9% of Torontonians), and although Indigenous people comprised only 10.6% of Winnipeg’s population during this period, more than 60% of people who died in police encounters were Indigenous (The Tyee, 2020). According to the Globe and Mail (November, 2019), more than one-third of people who were fatally shot by the RCMP were Indigenous, and between 2013 and 2017, Black Torontonians were 20 times more likely than White individuals to be fatally shot by police (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2018). In New Brunswick, the deaths of Rodney Levi and Chantel Moore are only recent casualties of the deeply engrained systemic oppression that Black, Indigenous, and other racialized people experience in Canada.

Research also indicates that racism can significantly worsen the mental and physical health of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized people (e.g., Williams & Mohammed, 2013). Residing in communities with high levels of racial prejudice is associated with an increased risk of mortality for racial minorities living in those communities (Chae et al., 2015; Lee et al., 2015; Leitner et al., 2016). In February 2021, a story was posted on CBC about how minorities in Fredericton (more specifically, Doone Street) have been experiencing racist incidents from the 1970s to now. Racism can also cause undue physical stress and activate maladaptive coping behaviours (e.g., smoking), which can ultimately lead to other chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, high blood pressure, obesity) (Black Health Alliance, 2018; Siddigi, Shahidi, Ramraj, & Williams, 2017). Furthermore, the worldwide pandemic has highlighted the disproportionate effects that COVID-19 has had and continues to have on racialized groups; already prevalent issues that Black, Indigenous, and racialized minorities face daily, such as emotional stress, health concerns, and financial issues, have been intensified in Canada, and gross disparities have been unearthed globally (Sefa Dei & Lewis, 2020).

As a Department, we strongly support the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion, but we know that simply supporting these values is not enough. As the oldest English-speaking university in Canada and one that was founded by Loyalists following the American Revolution, it is imperative that we acknowledge the systemic racism that is embedded within our own institution. Although change is happening at UNB – for example, the 2020 stripping of George Duncan Ludlow’s name from the Law Building due to his connection to slavery and the abuse of Indigenous people – we are cognizant that this is but a small step in the direction of a truly inclusive and diverse university. We also acknowledge that a sordid history of systemic racism is embedded within Psychology, as documented within the Canadian Psychological Association’s Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Report (2018). We stand behind their statement of accountability and acknowledgement of responsibility in the failure to meet the ethical standards in Psychology and the harm caused to Indigenous Peoples by this failure. We support their recommendations on how to move along “a path toward accountable practices”.

To sincerely support and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion, we need to embody these values by actively addressing racism and systematic discrimination within our Department, UNB, and in the broader community. We recognize that we must make a conscious effort to address how systemic oppression is maintained at these various levels (e.g., individual, institutional, community), as well as understand how each system is contributing to these inequalities. We understand that achieving these goals should not solely be the responsibility of people from Black, Indigenous, or other racialized groups, but rather that we all must come together to eradicate the stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, and inequity that is so often targeted at racialized people.

During such unprecedented times as these, please make sure that you check in with one another’s wellbeing. Although many higher-profile events seem like they are outside of the reach of Canada, such events can have widespread implications for racialized individuals, especially for those who have lived through similar experiences. Although it is important that we are aware of what is going on in the world, many Black, Indigenous, and racialized groups are vicariously experiencing racialized trauma (Mental Health America, 2021). Thus, it is of the utmost importance that we actively take a stand against all forms of racism and oppression, and show solidarity with those who are directly or indirectly impacted on a daily basis.

Actions we and you can take: