Tag Archives: racism

Anti-racism training for Customs and Immigration Union members: Letter to Minister Blair

Photo of CIU flag

CIU National President Jean-Pierre Fortin sent the following letter to the Hon. Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, on June 5, 2020.


Dear Minister,

This past week, people from around the world witnessed the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. These events lay bare the systems and culture that result in unequal treatment and racism in the law enforcement and other institutions. Canada’s Prime Minister and many federal representatives have rightly pointed out that although this event took place in the United States, our country is not immune to racism, unconscious bias and systemic discrimination. Police Chiefs and associations have issued open letters calling for reform. The cries of Canadians are loud and clear, they will not tolerate injustice and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) adds its voice to theirs.

As you know, the CIU represents some 11,000 members, many of whom are Border Services Officers. While they enforce the law, their role is unique in that they are the first to come into contact with travellers to Canada from around the world.

Many of the CIU’s members are racialized and we know that they are hurting. We also know that racism is everywhere, within various groups and in all workplaces. Its impact is far reaching. Our union wants to take concrete steps in an effort to support our members and all those who are also suffering due to racism, discrimination and unconscious bias perpetrated in workplaces and beyond.

The Prime Minister has pointed out that far too often, our current systems condone and normalize inequality and injustice. He also stated that the Government of Canada is ready to work with Canadians to eradicate racism and has called on allies to help build a fair, better and more equitable country for all.

The CIU National Executive discussed ways in which our union might become such an ally and call on you to work with us to create genuine change. If Canadians are being called on to combat unconscious bias, we asked ourselves how we might participate in that fight. We believe that to achieve societal reform, we will need to replace current “reactive” methods and processes with “proactive” ones. No doubt the Federal government and perhaps you, as Minister of Public Safety, are contemplating various avenues to address this matter. Unions and employers must be active partners in the dismantling of systemic discrimination and the development of a more progressive model of law enforcement.

It is our understanding that many law enforcement organizations provide anti-racism training. The CIU wants to ensure its members have the tools necessary to combat discrimination of all kinds. In-person, comprehensive training will go a long way to preventing the suffering of our members and those they meet and serve, be it in an office, at the border, in an airport or elsewhere. Current and short “presentations” to new recruits do not go far enough and neither will online training ensure that we are equipping our members to address systemic racism and unconscious bias.

The Canadian government has taken a proactive approach to combatting racism, funding a variety of initiatives. In keeping with that approach, we strongly believe that in the long term, funding enhanced training initiatives will be to everyone’s benefit. It is clear that current “reactive” policies and procedures, such as the ones the world has been witnessing lately, are costly and ineffective. Investment in training for CIU members is an important first step to help them to become stronger allies and leaders in the fight against racism and discrimination of all kinds.

Yours truly,

Jean-Pierre Fortin
National President
Customs and Immigration Union

Click here for the PDF version.

Anti-Black racism: It’s everyone’s fight

protest image with the words "not another black life"

Once again a spotlight has been put on systemic anti-Black racism in the justice system – one that has oppressed Black, racialized, and Indigenous people for centuries. Most recently, in the United States, Ahmaud Arbery a Black man who was simply jogging was shot to death, and George Floyd a Black man buying groceries, was killed by police officers. Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, was shot in her home in the middle of the night.

In other cases, white people threatened to call the police on Black people for simply participating in every day activities such as: bird-watching, working out in a gym, driving through a neighborhood, etc. These are activities white people do without fear every day and yet, for Black citizens, no activity can be accepted as “safe” when society is rife with systemic racism and those entrusted to protect all citizens repeatedly murder unarmed Black civilians.

Only after videos were released and protests erupted across the country were charges brought against police officers in two cases involving the killing of unarmed Black men. Not enough is being done. Anyone who uses unnecessary violence and force, whether resulting in death or harm must be held accountable – especially police officers and white supremacists. Rarely in the past have they been charged let alone convicted.

There are those who feel that this is an American issue. It is a Canadian issue too. Black people across Canada have been, and continue to be, racially profiled through carding and other forms of racially biased surveillance. A 2018 interim report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that Black people are grossly over-represented in police violence in Ontario. Although the Black population was about 8.8% in Ontario in 2016, use-of-force cases involving Black people was 30%. During the period 2013-2017, deadly police encounters with Black people were 60% and fatal shootings were 70%. Most recently, it was alleged that police were involved in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Indigenous-Black woman who fell to her death from the 24th floor balcony of an apartment in Toronto.

Black people must be able to walk, jog, shop, play, work, sleep and engage in everyday activities without fearing for their lives. Black lives matter. Black parents should not have to talk and prepare their children about violence and hatred directed towards them as a result of the colour of their skin, including the possibility of being killed by those who were meant to protect them. Black lives matter.

PSAC stands in solidarity with the Black community and demands justice both in the United States and in Canada. The impact of systemic racism must be recognized.  The pain, and the impact of the repeated killing of Black and racialized people, and the continuous images of violence against Black and racialized people in the media and social media platforms must be recognized. Black Lives Matter.

PSAC demands that racial profiling and the unnecessary violence used against Black people be stopped immediately. Before justice can be served, a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system and other systems that support the oppression of Black, racialized and Indigenous People must be undertaken as a first step to eliminate the deep-rooted systemic racism and unconscious bias against Black, racialized and Indigenous people.

Silence as white or non-racialized people is complicity with white supremacy and with continuing acts of systemic anti-Black violence. What actions can we take collectively against anti-Black violence and oppression?  How can we best support the Black community?  We must challenge our systems and institutions.  We must speak up in the face of injustice, racial violence and white supremacy. We must challenge our unconscious biases. We must be part of the solution.

“If you stay neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”
– Desmond Tutu

“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

The original version of this article was first posted on the PSAC website.