By Maame Efua De-Heer – Anti-Racism Ambassador
Over the past few weeks, many have witnessed another movement re-emerge on social media with the hashtag #ENDSARS. The campaign to bring awareness and support to Nigerian youth was introduced in 2017 but re-emerged this year as more information has been reported.
SARS stands for Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and it is a police unit within Nigerian law enforcement. Its intended use was to assist in the search, investigation and prosecution of criminals of violent crimes. However, SARS has been found over the years to demonstrate a history of profiling and police brutality especially against young people. Youth have shared their experiences of violent encounters in the hands of SARS members due to simply “dressing presentably” or having luxury objects like cars and cellphones. As a result, youth around the world have expressed uproar over these brutal and outrageous acts, and further campaigned and protested to demand SARS be disbanded by the Nigerian Government. A turning point for the movement, was the violent attacks in the Lagos State when the government ordered law enforcement to attack peaceful, unarmed protestors on October 20th, 2020. At least 50 people were injured with 2 confirmed dead. This attack received global attention, with many celebrities and politicians around the world speaking up against this act of police brutality.
In Canada, racism related to the justice system is not uncommon. Police brutality is found within our own nation, with many of our own people of colour having expressed being victims. From Regis Korchinski-Paquet to Chantel Moore who are two police shooting victims who lost their lives too early, to the disproportionate amount of Black and Indigenous people found within the justice system, our country still perpetuates racism like the Nigerian SARS unit. Being aware of what’s happening globally can help us understand our own nations shortfalls.
Therefore, the questions I’d like you to think about is: What are some efforts that can be utilized to reduce the occurrence of police brutality in your community?
About Maame Efua De-Heer:
A Ghanaian Born, second-generation immigrant, I serve as a Policy Analyst intern with the Public Health Agency of Canada, and completing my Masters degree in Public Health at the University of Toronto. I am a Clinical Research Analyst for the A.C.T.I.O.N Project at the University Health Network. Simultaneously, I am the Founder of the Power of Love Foundation, a not-for-profit organization targeted to improving the lives of women and children.