The Solidarity & Social Justice Committee (SSJC) of the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) expresses our firm solidarity with Black peoples as they rightfully demand justice for centuries of violent oppression and for an end to institutionalised police violence. We assert our position in condemning state-sanctioned police brutality, dismantling systems of white supremacy and colonization, and seeking justice for Black peoples who face police violence. We call for justice and an end to such violence and racism faced by Black peoples always, but especially now in the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Abery,  Regis Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor.

The SSJC recognises anti-Black racism as a labor issue because it is a workplace issue. It is a community issue, and unions are a community. We recognise and work to end the complicit and insidious anti-Black racism that exists with the post-secondary system that we operate in and work to centre this within our own lives and how we work within TSSU. We must and will continue to fight for foundational change with and alongside Black peoples in the defunding of policing and to address issues of racial and economic inequality. 

We condemn the violence being used against peaceful protesters in the United States, recognising that though much of the current media attention is focused on the US, these same problems are painfully alive and present across Canada. We have watched as peaceful Black protesters standing up for their lives, the lives of their families, and justice have been met with undue force, tear gas and batons from the people who “pledged to protect and serve.” This includes the intentional destruction of permitted medical aid stations to assist those facing injury due to the extreme violence of the police.

We condemn the tactics of division and anti-Black racism used by the President of the United States in threatening the use of military force and violent oppression of Black peoples. This includes the active use of chemical warfare used against civilians. 

It is further shameful that Black peoples should be forced to stand in this way during a global pandemic, with the health inequalities and disparities being shown in COVID-19 (though have always existed) to have already taken more Black lives. 

The anger and horror that many people are feeling right now cannot come from a place of disbelief because Black peoples have been speaking and engaging with this violence for centuries. The history of the police in both the US and Canada is grounded in anti-Black racism and the oppression of communities, powers, and knowledges of Black peoples. 

Ending anti-black racism and structural injustice does not end with the trials of the police who murdered Geroge Floyd. Nor will it end with reforms to police tactics and prison systems that have for too long been an inevitable and permanent feature of the lives of Black Peoples and perpetuated the values and actions of slavery. This will not disturb the structures that oppress Black minds and bodies around the world – it requires a dedicated commitment by all non-Black people to be educated, aware, listen and to take brave action in support of Black peoples. It requires the dedicated commitment of people who hold positions and platforms of power to enact changes that take meaningful steps towards ending the many forms of racial injustice faced by Black peoples. It requires a commitment beyond solidarity statements of institutions and industry that benefit off of anti-black racism and capitalism. It requires the dissolution of such structures that have long oppressed Black peoples and the building of a new world.

We stand in support of the brilliance of Black voices raised calling for the national and municipal defunding of police, the abolition of prisons that steal Black lives, the elimination of violence and prejudice faced by Black peoples in their communities and workplaces, and safety for queer and trans Black folks who are further marginalised by oppressive systems. And we are in awe of the powerful organizing unfolding in seen and unseen ways, the powerful organizing that has been unfolding for years, decades, centuries, making it possible to hope that this will be a moment of transformation – because it needs to be.

To do honour to the labours of Black peoples who are putting their lives on the line would they should be able to grieve and rest, we call on you, the recipient of this letter in a position of power, to act on the following statements that are within your power to undertake:

  • Defunding national and municipal police forces that create harm and violence in Black communities.
    • This includes public acknowledgment and accountability for the devaluation and dehumanization of Black life at the hands of the police
  • The abolition of prisons 
  • Providing adequate, intentional and sustained funding and structural support to the transformative justice and culturally focused mental health programs that are being led and enacted by Black peoples and organisations in ways that are appropriate to those movements
  • Changing drug laws, giving police less cause to stop and harass people of colour unjustifiably 
  • Addressing the enforced and systemic violence of poverty faced by Black peoples 
  • Undertaking education reform (in British Columbia the K-12 system does not even have Black history curriculum, perpetuating insidious racism and white supremacy)
  • Ending the deliberate and intentional exclusion of marginalized groups, and in particular, Black female voices from conversations
  • To never assume that non-Black peoples know what is best for Black peoples – give Black peoples the space and power to lead. 

Swift responses to these demands, put forward by Black peoples, will create a world in which Black lives do not only matter, but flourish. We call on you to take them now so that not one more Black life is taken. 

With gratitude to all the organizers, artists, healers, teachers, and our fellow workers who are fighting back in countless ways, we share these actions to support the movement for Black lives. 

Solidarity and Social Justice Committee

Teaching Support Staff Union, ssjc@tssu.ca