GoFundMe – legal support fund for the Coriolan family LINK HERE

This is, first and foremost, a blog post to urge Canadians to give money to support the legal fund fundraiser for the family of Pierre Coriolan, a Haitian man killed by the police in a fatal interaction on June 27, 2017.  There are many things that I could point to here, that as Black folks in this country, we’ve been repeating for decades: Black life is cheap in this country, and the legacy of slavery in this country means that since its inception, policing – and the entire legal system – has been used as a source of harm against our communities. Montreal’s Black community has been vocal around this ongoing crisis since before I was born. I could also write more about the underlying issue of how police continue to respond to crises with extreme violence, often harming or killing Black folks in mental distress, but I’ve already done so. Indeed, it’s telling that my Toronto Star op-ed on this was titled “Let the death of Abdirahman Abdi be the last of its kind”, although clearly, as Pierre Coriolan’s family has been forced to learn, the pattern of killing Black folks in need of support has, as of yet, remained unbroken. (I would also strongly recommend “An Introduction to Anti-Black Sanism” co-written by Sonia Meerai, Idil Abdillahi and Jennifer Poole).

The life and death of Pierre Coriolan, who was going to be evicted from social housing, tells the story of a life marked – and ultimately ended- by state neglect and state violence. I’m not going to use this space to retell more than the basic details here: news outlets have reported that the police were called to Pierre Coriolans apartment because he was destroying things inside his apartment. Rather than provide him with the support he needed, the responding officers ended his life violently: to use the words of one of the neighbours “it was like an execution.” The event, part of which was caught on video, showed the world how Coriolan, on his knees for much of the interaction, was tasered , shot with rubber bullets,  and then shot with live ammunition (you can read more about the incident here in an investigative story by Will Prosper).

I have to confess something: while the video was released last week, I’ve not, until this morning, been able to watch it: I simply was not able to fathom watching a beloved father, brother, and cousin be maimed and killed by the police. We are constantly inundated with images and videos of Black death and there is no more brutal reminder of the dehumanization of Black community members than watching to watch our kin be needlessly brutalized by members of publicly-funded state institutions. You can, by reading  the initial media coverage of the event, understand how in our society, the media often blame Black people for our own deaths. I won’t link to these reports because I see no need to repeat this here. Just as tellingly, the story of Coriolan’s death was not picked up by national media until we, as a community,  forced it into the headlines: Black Lives Matter Montreal, Black Lives Matter Toronto, Hoodstock, and Montreal Noir staged a protest that began outside of Coriolan’s social housing complex and ended after taking the stage at the Montreal Jazz Fest (See coverage here and here, and I’ve pasted the initial demands below).

Coriolan’s family is suing the city, and needs financial support in order to do so, please give, and share this GoFundMe page. That means: if you’re a promoter, musician or artist, consider throwing a fundraiser.  If you are part of a non-profit or university student group, consider making a contribution. If you have a spare $5, $10, $50, or $250, consider donating it. The family’s $20,000 goal is modest and also essential for their legal challenge, and they’ve so far received under $5,000.  While they have to rely on crowdfunding, the city’s 2018 budget this year allocated over half a billion dollars – $647,3 million – for the SPVM, despite the ongoing and endemic profiling and abuse of Montreal’s Black communities by law enforcement. While the city is responsible, of course, for the brutal death of Pierre Coriolan, and needs to be held accountable,  this is also a provincial and a national issue, one that implicates all Canadians well outside of Montreal. This GoFundMe is quite literally an opportunity to show that although our society and our state institutions do not value Black lives, we  as a community can and will support one another, that Black lives may not matter to the police, but they matter to us.  Black lives matter means that ALL Black lives matter: this means that Black families matter, that poor Black people matter, that Black folks experiencing mental health issues matter, and that Pierre Coriolan- may he rest in power – mattered.

Demands of Montréal Noir, Hoodstock et Black Lives Matter Montreal following the death of Pierre Coriolan (from summer 2017)

– Mental health resources must address issues of anti-Black racism, systemic racism, queer and transphobia as to be safe, helpful, physically and financially accessible to all Black people;

–  Black-run social services and mental health, and community services, should be better funded;

–  Police should not be the first to intervene in mental health crisis;

– The name(s) of officer(s) involved in the death of Pierre Coriolan should be made public;

–  Racial profiling must end;

–  Data on police intervention on Black people should be collected and made public;

–   Data regarding Black communities and mental health interventions should be collected and made public;

–  The Eclipse database on street gangs should not be accessible to police officers anymore;

National demands made in collaboration with Black Lives Matter Montreal, Hoodstock, Montreal Noir and Black Lives Matter Toronto

  1. Develop a national Black mental health strategy with Black communities across the country that seeks to implement policy and service-provision responses.
  2. Mandate Statistics Canada to collect race-based statistics on institutions and services including municipal, provincial and local policing and mental health services
  3. Mandate the provinces to collect race-based data in regards to policing, and mental health services


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