‘A watershed moment’: Canadians react to Derek Chauvin verdict

TORONTO — Canadian politicians, activists and athletes reacted with grief and relief in response to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction in the death of George Floyd.

On Tuesday, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd on May 25, 2020. The death sparked international outrage after bystander video revealed Chauvin had his knee pressed on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.

Chauvin’s sentencing is scheduled in two months. He could face decades in prison.

“This is such a heavy day for Black communities,” Rodney Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, told CTV News Channel.  “We know that a verdict will not bring the justice that we need. This actually does little to change very structural changes that we’re asking for.”

Diverlus said the big change that needs to happen is the defunding of police forces.

“We’re losing these Black lives because of anti-Black racists and white supremacists policing,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to be talking about the bold changes and proposals that activists in communities have been pushing for years.”

Syrus Marcus Ware, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada, said the verdict brings up mixed emotions.

“On the one hand I’m hopeful this provides some sense of peace and solace for George Floyd and his family, but to me this is just Day 1, this is just the beginning of our work,” Ware said.

“We have to continue our push for systemic change so that we make sure that this never happens again.”

Sandy Hudson, an organizer with Black Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter Canada, said Tuesday’s verdict is no reason to celebrate.

“I just hesitate to call this a victory or to celebrate something like this,” she said. “This is a tragedy through and through, from the beginning to the end… and the verdict isn’t something to be celebrated. We are not out in the streets demanding convictions. We’re demanding the end to police killing us. I don’t know if this particular moment is going to change that.”

Hudson said this verdict alone is not enough to change policing in the United States and Canada. 

“The only thing that will work is divesting from police,” she said. “We have to take away their power at the root.”

“Here in Canada, we have to have that discussion as well.”

In a statement, Canadians United Against Hate called Chauvin’s verdict “the beginning of the fight for racial justice.”

“The guilty verdict on all counts is by no means the end of the process by the Black community and other communities of colour to build a more just and equitable society, where an encounter with police is not seen with fear and dread,” said Fareed Khan, founder of Canadians United Against Hate.

“However, it is an important small step towards healing the deep, generational traumas experienced by Black people in their encounters with police.”

In an interview with Edmonton-based online talk show host Ryan Jespersen, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the verdict “good news.” Headded thatmore work needs to be done here in Canada to combat racism. 

It still underlines that there’s an awful lot of work to do,” he said.

“What we saw over the course of last year with the sudden awareness by everyone of what racialized Canadians and racialized people around the world had known for far too long that systemic discrimination continues. The micro-aggressions, the overt racism, the challenges within our institutions and within our daily lives that exist need to be addressed.”

Trudeau added that anger over Floyd’s death created the momentum needed to create some real change to make societies “fairer and more inclusive for everyone.”

“I think this was a real wake-up call for a lot of people a year ago,” he said.

In a tweet, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said “justice is served.”

“Racism has no place in our society and brutality should never be part of wearing a uniform,” he wrote.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also tweeted his support for the verdict, adding that his “heart is with the friends (and) family of George Floyd.”

“One verdict won’t change an entire system, it won’t eradicate the systemic racism embedded within our institutions,” he said. “But, in the memory of George Floyd, it is one small step in the right direction.”

In a statement, the Toronto Blue Jays called Tuesday’s verdict “a watershed moment in holding police brutality to account.”

“George Floyd’s loved ones continue to feel the unimaginable loss of their son, brother, father and friend,” the team wrote. “There are countless other families like them, who are forced to live with the trauma of systemic racism, long after the news cycle moves on and the crowds disperse.”

“We will not lose sight of the respect, dignity and humanity that is owed to our most vulnerable communities.”

The Hockey Diversity Alliance, a group of Black current and former NHL players that was founded in the wake of Floyd’s murder, said that they are “pleased to see that justice was served.”

“Our work has just begun,” the alliance continued in their statement. “We will continue to push for positive change within our game and society. We will continue to demand accountability in developing policies for diversity and inclusion for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office.”

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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