Jennings joins Red Coalition
- By Joel Ceausu The Suburban
“We have the potential to change the landscape in Canada” says Marlene Jennings, the new director of independent oversight and good governance of the Red Coalition, a federal-registered lobby group that works to end systemic discrimination and racism across the country.
Jennings, who stepped down from her position as president of the Quebec Community Groups Network earlier this month, says the Montreal-based organization can bring a pan-Canadian approach to the issue.
“It's precisely because of our bilingualism and diversity that this is possible,” she told The Suburban at a press conference at the Black Community Resource Centre offices in Côte des Neiges on Tuesday.
With enduring anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism across the country, Jennings says “there are enclaves in Canada, in different provinces, in different cities, of groups and communities engaged in this, but more often they have an English message, their materials are in English, and they're addressing communities who are primarily English-speaking. It's our diversity, our bilingualism in particular that allows us to go beyond that to be effective.”
The former Member of Parliament and member of the Quebec Police commission, and deputy police ethics commissioner, Jennings was invited to join the Coalition, says executive director Joel DeBellefeuille, for her experience and acumen and to act as a perfect complement to Alain Babineau who came on as director for racial profiling and public safety. “As a federally registered lobby group we will establish those important government relations” says Jennings. “We have a clear agenda of moving forward fighting racial discrimination of all forms across Canada.”
Babineau says Jennings’ experience, stability and institutional knowledge is a boon for the organization. “You can’t put a price on that. We don't want to make incremental changes over the next 25 years. We want to move quickly and hold people accountable.” He also cautioned Montrealers to keep their eyes and ears open for the second part of the August 2019 Armony-Hassaoui-Mulone report, which examined SPVM data and racial profiling. “Many people have forgotten about it” he said, “and there’s a second part coming.” He added that the Red Coalition will have much to say when public consultations on selection of a new SPVM chief get underway.
Babineau listed some of the issues the Coalition will be moving forward on, including efforts to change federal policy to withhold any funding that makes its way to local police departments that do not ensure reform to end systemic racism and racial profiling.
And while each community has its own specific challenges and difficulties, there are commonalities says Coalition president Ketcia Peters, former chair of the Ottawa Police Community and Police Action Committee. “The first role of a police service is to serve the population, but they're also the first point of contact and of interaction with marginalized communities, who have been very impacted by that in a very negative way.”
Jennings says there's no one solution to address the situation which is largely rooted in culture of the police, of education and methods of recruitment. “You can’t have that until there's an acknowledgement – Mr. Legault I'm talking to you now – by the government that systemic discrimination exists.”
DeBellefeuille echoed that sentiment. “Legault as leader of the province is in a position to create change as well. The population will follow suit if their leader recognizes and acknowledges this, but he’s essentially saying Quebec is the only place in the western hemisphere that systemic racism does not exist. That is very untruthful. How are law enforcement agencies a supposed to change?” he asks, when the person writing their paycheck is not on side?
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