Live Panel Discussion
Media Credit: Photographed left to right: Matthew Dawkins, Lakin Afolabi, Jeff Hartman, Divine Nwaokocha, Christopher Sherrin, Allan Muriuki, Jean-Claude Aubin

USC's Ethnocultural Support Services Examines Hyper-criminalization and the Canadian Criminal Justice System Through Live Panel Discussion

Black History Month 2020

Jessica Singer

Black History Month is held every February to commemorate the lives and legacies of Black Canadians, often through art, culture, observation, and celebration.

But as this Black History Month is coming to an end, the USC’s Ethnocultural Support Services wanted to highlight issues that affect racialized and ethnic minorities in Canada.

A variety of topics including police brutality, Black criminality in media, and racial biases were discussed last evening in the UCC Atrium during a live panel discussion, ‘Hyper-criminalization: A Discussion on the State of the Canadian Criminal Justice System.’

Panelists included Western law professor Christopher Sherrin, Western's campus police staff sergeant Jean-Claude Aubin, lawyer Jeff Hartman, criminal defense lawyer Lakin Afolabi, and students from the USC’s Ethnocultural Support Services Allan Muriuki, Divine Nwaokocha, and Matthew Dawkins.

“Throughout the year we’ve put our resources into celebrating diversity,” said Nwaokocha.

“It would also be just as important and our duty to also highlight issues that are faced by communities here. It’s not all celebration, and there are some difficulties that have to be addressed which we thought weren’t being addressed.”

During the panel discussion, students asked campus police how they combat racial biases, particularly with regards to new hiring processes.

While campus police are obligated to follow standardized race training through the London Police Service, Jean-Claude Aubin expressed that he would like to continue communicating with students to bridge a divide between the two communities.

This is something students of the Ethnocultural Support Services hoped to achieve during this panel discussion. 

“I feel like there is a little bit of a disconnect between the police force and the Black community,” explained Muriuki.

“So, what we really wanted to do with this event is bridge a gap between the two communities and try to use this platform to have both sides understand each other more so we can be more progressive in our approach in the future.”

Muriuki, Nwaokocha, and Dawkins also wanted to highlight the importance of understanding racism as a systemic and societal issue, one that the community of Western isn’t immune to.

While non-racialized Canadians may not think race-related issues directly affect them, the Ethnocultural Support Services wants students and community members to understand the role both races play in combatting and addressing these issues.

“I want non-black folk, but also white students particularly, to see themselves in racialized terms,” clarified Dawkins.

“I want us to begin to realize that racism is a relationship and it happens between two people…I think we can then begin to do panel discussions like these, have meaningful conversations, and begin to combat the racist framework that is embedded in our society.”

Understanding that people hold racist values and beliefs in Canada, and recognizing that racism exists, is crucial if Canadians are to improve conversations about race, racism, and racial justice.

And if different communities engage in conversation with others, they can talk through potential solutions and create goal-oriented decisions that will positively influence the lives of all Canadians.