Co-chair of the Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition Vanessa Dorimain urges locals to acknowledge to presence of anti-Black racism in our own city. Photo by Kafia Barkat and courtesy of Vanessa Dorimain.
GABBY CALUGAY-CASUGA – OTTAWA • ON | 15-01-2021
The outrage across the globe in the wake of the storming of Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. is undeniable. As eyes remain fixed on the United States, Ottawa activist Vanessa Dorimain reminds people of the issues at home.
“When we talk about anti-Black racism in Ottawa the message gets distorted,” Dorimain said. “We all know there is a racism problem, but we do not want to address it publicly and I think that is a bigger Canada conversation as well.”
As co-chair of the Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition, Dorimain attended the November protest which was organized in collaboration with the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition. The demonstration ended with 12 demonstrators arrested.
Dorimain says this is an example of discrepancy in police response to white protestors compared to BIPOC protestors. During that same demonstration, Dorimain said a man approached the encampment with a weapon and was being extremely hostile, yet there was minimal police response.
“It was unbelievable how gentle they were with this person who came with bad intentions and was clearly hostile,” Dorimain said.
Her frustration grew after the demonstration was broken up. In addition to the excessive police force used at the protest, Dorimain said the reason for evacuating the area was a misrepresentation of the truth.
Ottawa police said the demonstration blocked emergency lanes but Dorimain asserted that the protestors ensured there was a clear emergency lane.
“We had communicated this to the police and city council official so that everyone was aware that there was a lane where emergency vehicles could get through,” Dorimain said. “They never used it.”
The police were contacted but were unavailable for comment.
Dorimain said that in order to battle systemic racism in Canada, people need to be ready to confront the topic.
“This is an issue that is going to take a lot more than a conversation. Before conversation there needs to be acknowledgment,” Dorimain said.
According to Dorimain, this acknowledgment could start with Mayor Jim Watson. Dorimain said that he still has yet to acknowledge what happened on Nicholas Street more than a month ago.
“When you disregard the fact that people are being violently pushed around, and being treated as if they don’t matter in your own city, what kind of message does that send to people living here?” Dorimain asked.