Author of best-selling book on Canadian Black lives sheds light on the country’s often untold history
Helen Aikenhead // Features Editor
One of the many values, if not the core value, of the university experience is the exposure it grants to world issues that all too often go unmentioned in K-12. This can take many forms – what the world is, how it could be and how it has been in the past. One of the values of the Capilano University experience in particular, is that students get this wide scale learning on a small-scale, more personal educational environment.
On Friday, Mar. 2, this is exactly what happened when the University got to host a discussion regarding centuries of Canadian history often left untold.
Presented by the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Liberal Studies BA Program and the English Department, Robyn Maynard brought her bestselling book, Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present, before an intimate and attentive crowd of CapU community members.
The book, which is described by its publisher as “the first comprehensive account of 400 years of Black Canadian history,” is a triumph, opening the eyes of its readers to the histories – and continuing adversities – of Black communities within Canada. While it may be the first comprehensive look at these histories, Maynard emphasized the importance of also bringing forward past work within her own, as it is the erasure of history that her work seeks to counter.
Maynard was in town from Montréal, where she not only works as a writer but an activist and educator, and CapU was the lucky sole North Vancouver stop on her West Coast book tour as part of the University’s International Women’s Day celebrations. Maynard’s intersectional feminist approach to her work is both what made her presentation a perfect event for the week’s celebrations and what provided its rich and sweeping investigative look into the deep-seated issues it unpacks.
The discussion started with Maynard speaking to the inception of the book – her motivation, her inspiration and the urgency she felt to turn her passion and activism into Policing Black Lives. Then, Maynard delved further into examples from the book, connecting modern issues to the historical contexts in which they came from. “It was my goal really, with the writing of this book, to place our present conditions in an historical perspective that I think can really be enriched by pointing to these long underacknowledged histories of and about the anti-black racism in Canada,” Maynard told the crowd.
Before the afternoon concluded with a book signing, the discussion was opened to the audience in a Q&A period. And unlike many Q&A sessions, there never seemed to be a lull in raised hands, with each question resulting in a thorough and thoughtful response from the author.
When explaining her urgency to write this book, Maynard said that anti-Black racism in Canada has been continuously denied and considered alleged until proven true. It’s been said for far too long that the realities of racism in Canada will only come to light once more studies have been done, and more time has passed. But Maynard knew there was no more time left to wait. “We have enough information to paint a damning portrait,” she said, “we don’t need another study.” In 234 pages, Maynard has painted that portrait more vividly than ever before with a work demanding immediate inclusion in curricula across the country.