LEAF mourns the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Afro-Indigenous woman who died after the police were called to assist when she was in distress. Like so many around the world, we are also mourning the recent deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in the United States. Such senseless and tragic deaths are not unique to the United States, however. 

While we do not yet know all the circumstances surrounding Korchinski-Paquet’s deathit occurred in the context of historical and ongoing police violence against the Black community in Canada. A 2018 Ontario Human Rights Commission report found that, in Toronto, a Black person is 11 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a police use of force case that led to civilian death. Black people are also disproportionately represented in Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU)’s use of force cases where mental health issues have been identified.  

Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s death is an intersectional feminist issue.

Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s death is an intersectional feminist issue. All women have the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, and police must respect equality rights in the exercise of their duties. Yet, as Robyn Maynard has highlightedpolice disproportionately surveil Black women across Canada. Police violence against Black women is a longstanding problem – one that deserves more discussion and solidarity from the feminist community.  

The police response to mental distress calls in Black communities may be another disturbing part of Korchinski-Paquets death. This element is being highlighted by her family. The chronic underfunding of mental health resources, particularly in Black and Indigenous communities, leaves society relying on police to handle mental distress calls. Too often, this has fatal consequences for Black and Indigenous communities, due in no small part to the law’s colonial and racist legacy.   

Canadian law is not a neutral instrument. As a product of colonialism, it has reproduced the legacy of racism, sexism, ableism, and other oppressive structures. Although much work has been done to reform the law’s oppressive roots, it is far from complete. The application of our laws continues to perpetuate colonial, racist, and sexist bias, leading to the marginalization and fatality of Black and Indigenous women. 

More generally, we know that racism has significant and devastating consequences for mental health, including trauma and mental distressAs Dr. Kwame McKenzie observes, members of the Black community are not only more likely to face challenges linked to worse mental health outcomes for all individuals, such as unemployment, poverty, and criminalization – they also face unique challenges stemming from pervasive racism. Further, as discussed by Notisha Massaquoi at a recent panel discussion on racism and mental health, the stereotype of the “strong Black woman” means that it is often expected that Black women will carry all of their burdens, and fight back against them, too. This stereotype invisibilizes the mental health struggles that Black women face and detrimentally impacts the healthcare and pain management options they receive.  

As an organization dedicated to the equality rights of women, girls, and all who face gender-based discrimination, LEAF calls for the following: 

We must commit to fighting anti-Black racism beyond a single news cycle. LEAF commits to continuous learning from, listening to, and amplifying the voices of Black activists and organizationsBelow are links to resources for further learning and action: