Doug Ford’s lockdown granted police more power with no clarity. What’s more dangerous for racialized people than a confused cop?

Doug Ford’s lockdown granted police more power with no clarity. What’s more dangerous for racialized people than a confused cop?
Ontario’s stay-at-home order announced on Tuesday to monitor, surveil, stop, and harass Black, Indigenous, and racialized peoples. Already overrepresented among confirmed cases of COVID-19, Black and Brown people will be further targeted disproportionately by this latest development.

The latest emergency declaration would give enforcement powers to all provincial law-enforcement officers — including local police forces like Toronto Police Services, the OPP, bylaw officers and provincial workplace inspectors to issue tickets to anyone not complying with the stay-at-home order. However, it is unclear as of yet what guidelines, if any, officers will follow to conduct these “checks.” The policy and its confusing rollout is reminiscent of carding and street checks conducted by Toronto Police Services which frequently target Black male youth.

Under the new order, individuals are permitted to run essential errands and go for walks at any time of the day. So, I wonder then, how does one — especially in Black and Indigenous populations — present themselves as “legitimate” to police when this order is in effect? The government has not provided any sufficient answer as to how police will decide. This is dangerous because it leaves law enforcement in a position to make a judgment call, and many in our communities know all too well what fatal consequences a police officer’s so-called “best judgment” can cause.

To hear Ford tell it, Ford’s framing of the spread of COVID-19 as one caused by “bad actors” also demonizes individuals who test positive for COVID-19. This is especially true for Black and racialized people, who make up 83 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases in Toronto , one of the major COVID-19 hot spots identified by the province. Ford’s rhetoric also contributes to the ideology of policing as inherently good and protective, while criminalizing Black and Brown people as the spreaders of COVID-19.

The police-involved deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, D’Andre Campbell, and Ejaz Choudry in Ontario alone are evidence of the violence enacted by police onto the lives of Black, Indigenous, and racialized peoples. The heightened potential for police violence toward our communities cannot be understated as the province invites increased enforcement powers which lack clear boundaries and guidance.

My mind wanders to the first lockdown in March 2020, when the Emergency Order giving police additional powers in Ontario initially went into effect. On my walks outdoors, I was aware of the heightened police presence in my neighbourhood in Scarborough. Even though I had my ID, even though I was just on a walk, even though I knew I’d done nothing wrong — I always prepared myself to have to justify my presence to police.

As a Black woman, I know I am not alone in this experience. There is no way to walk in this skin, in this body, without encountering some challenge to the legitimacy of our presence in any given space. Canada has a long history with policing Black and Indigenous mobility. Policing and punishment of Indigenous peoples was an integral part of the colonial state-building process in 19th century Canada. Under the guise of concern for public health and safety, the powers granted to police this week are merely the latest in a series of modern practices designed to control and restrict the movement of Black and Brown people. And I’m afraid Ford’s latest move to increase enforcement power of the second stay-at-home order has only made matters worse.

In Ford’s government, there is no analysis of the role of systemic racism and structural inequities that contribute to the high incidence rates of COVID-19 among racialized people in Ontario. There is no talk about paid sick days for all workers, safe work sites, affordable housing, or legislating a ban on COVID evictions. Less than five months out from summer which saw , Doug Ford’s solution to the problem of COVID-19 is: more power to the police, even if they’re confused.

The provincial government has granted police power that even they admit they don’t yet know how to exercise. And what could be more dangerous for racialized people than a confused cop?
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