The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is very disturbed by the news of the shooting of Jean René Junior Olivier in Repentigny, Quebec on Sunday. Jean René’s story is a dual tragedy. His untimely death is like several others where the intersection of issues around mental health and race end with fatal consequences. Three years ago, a CBC investigation found that of those who have died in encounters with the police, 42 percent were suffering some form of mental distress. Black people are 20 times more likely to be shot by police and an Indigenous person is 10 times more likely to be shot by a member of law enforcement. These staggering statistics are further proof that the desperate calls for police reform across the country must be heeded.
Law enforcement must look at putting greater emphasis on using mental health professionals rather than the use of lethal force to resolve situations like what happened on Sunday. We also urge authorities to conduct a swift, thorough and transparent investigation that will allow Mr. Olivier’s family to feel some level of justice in the wake of his death. If these things are not taken into account, we will continue to face more tragedies like that of Jean René, Ejaz Choudry, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Rodney Levi, and D’Andre Campbell, over and over again. And this is not a viable option for an equitable and humane Canadian society.