During a federal committee hearing examining Canada’s bail system, Conservative MP Larry Brock questioned University of Windsor assistant law professor Danardo Jones in a way some are describing as racist.
Last week, Jones provided testimony before the House of Commons standing committee on justice and human rights. He pointed to inequities in Canada’s judicial system for racialized and marginalized people.
When people are racially profiled by police, Jones said, that leads to an over-incarceration of Black and Indigenous people. Since good is based on credibility and trustworthiness, he said that puts racialized people on an unfair playing field.
“Some people, because of certain racial narratives, are deemed to be more credible, more trustworthy,” Jones said. “There’s a profound issue with how risk is understood and how we read risk on particular bodies.”
Jones said this is an instance where race sensitivity and awareness come into play.
“Where are you getting this data from,” asked Conservative MP Larry Brock, a former Crown attorney, during the hearing on March 8. “I find it rather offensive that you’re using this broad stroke to categorize the Crown system and the judicial system when it comes to marginalized individuals, Black and Indigenous, as not receiving a fair shake in our good system.”
Brock also referenced Jones’s seven years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer as a “small period of time that professor Jones has actually practiced law.”
As an invited expert panellist, Jones said he did not expect to be cross-examined in this manner or have his credentials dismissed.
He described it as a “very uncomfortable situation” for him.
CBC News requested an interview with Brock. Instead, the press secretary for Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Official Opposition, sent a statement attributable to Brock himself.
“At a time of rising crime, when people of color are disproportionately the victims of violent crime, and repeat violent offenders are repeatedly released on our streets with ease, all Canadians — regardless of race, color or creed — deserve to have an honest debate on what’s happening in our country. For elected officials in a Parliamentary committee, that means asking questions,” Brock said in an email.
Now, the head of the Black Studies Institute at the University of Windsor has sent Brock a letter explaining how the interaction contained racist stereotypes.
“In treating professor Jones as an imposter, pretender, and someone unworthy of civility, you enacted all of the anti-Black tropes that we at the Black Studies Institute have worked to counteract,” said founder Natalie Delia Deckard.
The University of Windsor’s Racialized Academics and Advocates Centering Equity in Solidarity (RAACES) has also sent a letter to the institution’s president, chancellor and board calling for action.
They, too, say this interaction makes Jones “a target of racism” and are calling on the university to defend him.
RAACES wants the University of Windsor to issue a public statement supporting Jones and request an apology from Brock, among other things.
Jones doesn’t want the interaction with Brock to detract from the issue he went to Ottawa to speak about — systemic problems with Canada’s good system specifically related to Black and Indigenous people.
“My bringing that up is not the problem. As I said, this is evidence that is readily available to all of us, and it’s evidence that’s been compiled over the last 30 years. This is something that our courts, the highest court in our country, has recognized and has said over and over and over again that we need to confront this issue,” Jones said.
“If we are going to pretend this is not an issue, we have a lot of work on our hands,” he added.
Because the exchange has received so much attention on social media, Jones said people have reached out saying it’s opened their eyes to issues around justice inequity.
“I’ve heard from a lot of folks that probably never really thought about criminal justice reform, [and] now they’re talking about it,” Jones said.
The Black Studies Institute said it also plans on lodging complaints against Brock with the Law Society of Ontario and the parliamentary Office of the Conflict of Interests and Ethics Commissioner.