Albert Johnson’s death was “almost unavoidable.” Loku’s death is a “tragedy.” In these and other numerous cases, the solemn words of white, liberal concern are offered as an empty gesture of concern for the Black community. Indeed, it is only within the twisted logic of Canadian white supremacy that in both cases police officers can be described as “concerned for the safety and well-being” of the very citizens that they have killed.
The pattern of responses to these killings demonstrates that in Canada, Black lives simply do not matter. White Canada’s continual mock-surprise at anti-Black violence and eye rolling at the notion of Canadian white supremacy indicate how unwilling we are to address this problem.
The ease with which Johnson and Loku are depicted not as victims but as violent, irrational, uncontrollable citizens demonstrates the manner in which Black people in Canada remain ultimately killable.
When Black people are killed by the police, white Canada has a ready script of liberalism, multiculturalism, and Canadian fairness that serves to silence any discussion of race and racism. This script makes it possible for white Canadians to cling to the truism that in Canada, it never is about race.
For Black people, however, that script is a terrifying one of white supremacy and Black death, both of which are at the heart of their Canadian experience.
Paul Barrett is a lecturer in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University where he researches Canadian Literature, digital humanities, and critical race theory. He is the author of Blackening Canada: Diaspora, Race, Multiculturalism.