Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard

Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard

Author:Robyn Maynard
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Fernwood Publishing
Published: 2017-01-13T05:00:00+00:00



Black life and border regulation

Immigrant detention and deportation stretch the harmful effects of imprisonment and family separation across national borders. (Loyd, Mitchelson and Burridge 2012: 7)

Africans were dragged out of their homeland, tied, bound, and brought to the West under torturous duress. Today, coercion has changed in form, content, and direction, thus policing the boundaries and preventing Africans from coming to the West. (Kumsa 2005: 177)

DETENTION AND DEPORTATION ARE A PART of the Black experience in Canada that remains widely under-acknowledged in Canadian society. Black life in Canada is marked by vulnerability to being placed into cages and banished by criminal justice and immigration systems. For Black migrants with precarious citizenship, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can result in not only police harassment or violence, but also indefinite incarceration in immigration detention, and permanent separation from family and community by means of deportation. Indeed, during a moment in which over half of Canada’s Black population was born elsewhere, the heightened surveillance, targeted deportations and often-horrific conditions of immigration detention practices that are experienced by Black folks without Canadian citizenship are becoming an increasingly central form of state violence used against Canada’s Black communities. For this reason, the role of detention and deportation are central to any analysis of surveillance, confinement and anti-Blackness in Canada.


The imposition of different categories of citizenship, in effect, delineate who “belongs” to the realm of humane treatment and state protections, and who is excluded — deemed “temporary,” “illegal” and disposable. (Dis)ability, sexuality, race and class have historically played an integral role in determining which migrants were desirable and which should be excluded. These exclusions were enforced and sustained by punitive practices such as detention and deportation (Walia 2013). As much as immigration penality is presented as a race-neutral practice, in reality, poor and racialized migrants are the ones who experience the harms of indefinite incarceration and removal to countries that they barely know or where their lives are endangered. That this is seen as just and reasonable only demonstrates the effective power of the dehumanization of those whose race, class and place of birth have made their lives expendable to the general public. While all Black people in Canada have been dehumanized, regardless of place of birth, Black people who are non-citizens have been cast even further outside of any sense of national belonging.

Since the abolition of slavery, Black people have largely been represented as an unwanted population in Canada. Of course, when enslaved Black people entered Canada with the legal status of chattel, there was little populist or state hostility toward them. However, the arrival of free Blacks has always been contentious and, indeed, often represented as possibly dangerous. Only a few decades after Black peoples’ bodies and lives ceased to be reduced to property, Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, decried in 1868 the “frequency of rape committed by Negroes, of whom we have too many in Upper Canada” (in Backhouse 2005: 115, emphasis added).


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