In the Blog
Speech for Rally: Ghomeshi Court Action
Image Courtesy of Ryerson University’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education
Trigger Warning: Assault and Violence
On March 24th, 2016 Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty on 3 counts of sexual assault and one count of choking, overcoming resistance by Judge William Horkins.
Below is the collectively written speech one of our most esteemed counselors read at the evening action that brought together the issues of survivorship and sexual violence and anti-Black racism. Organizers from Black Lives Matter, Ryerson Centre for Women and Trans People, Ryerson Office for Sexual Violence Support and Education, including other organizations like the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre Multicultural Women Against Rape made waves in linking these critical issues. Below is the speech from the TRCCMWAR that was read at the #WeBelieveSurvivors event at the BLMTO Tent City in front of 40 College St (Toronto Police Services Headquarters) on the evening the verdict was handed down.
Speech for Rally: Ghomeshi Court Action
March 24, 2016
Written by Claude Boulanger and deb singh
My name is Claude Boulanger and I have been a Counselor and Activist at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape for over 25 years.
I will start by reading our acknowledgement of the land: First, I would like to acknowledge that the work we do is on the land of the Anishnaabe and Haudenoshone, Wendatand Metis Peoples of Ontario. We believe that it is our inherent responsibility to honour the knowledge, resilience, and claims to sovereignty of the First Peoples of this land. We are deeply committed to doing the self-work that is necessary to understand how we, as individuals and as an organization, can contribute directly to the decolonizing of white supremacist settler colonial systems and institutions. I speak to the Indigenous communities members now to share that the intention of the work being done here, is to be done in a good way. We also recognize while it is not enough to just say these things, we must act in allyship with Indigenous communities who have been subjected to the violence of colonization and gender-based violence. And that by being here as settlers, we benefit from the legacy and day-to-day realities of colonization.
The Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape is survivor-led. We serve all genders: 2Spirit, transmen, transwomen, genderqueer, non-binary folks, cigendered men, women and youth. We know that black survivors and survivors of African ancestry experience the highest levels of violence along with Indigenous women and Trans people.
For over 25 years I’ve had the privilege to learn from and watch some incredibly brave, strong folks begin or continue to transform as survivors of sexual violence. I have been privileged to be a witness to the healing journeys of resilient survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, childhood sexual violence, rape and systemic violence.
I don’t assume I know anyone’s story, what I need as a Black, butch person will be different than what a 2Spirit person needs. Survivors who are sex workers who have different abilities who are trans, non binary and living with precarious status, they all need different things.
The only thing that is the same with all survivors is that they want to be believed.
The courts today made a decision that affects us all. But the truth is that every sexual assault that is reported to the police affects us all because the legal system: police, lawyers and judges continue to perpetuate a culture of violence and rape, where they don’t believe survivors and blame them for the act of violence against them.
Systems of so-called ‘justice’ have shown again and again that survivors and black people cannot or should not be believed. Even when they do acknowledge what has happened, or claim to believe survivors, perpetrators still are not made accountable within the legal system. The system has been killing black people for hundreds of years, essentially maintaining their status as less than every one else. Further the racism in the system has ensured that black people are seen as more violent than the white supremacy that enslaves, punishes and incarcerates us.
Black women and trans folks are 5 times more likely to experience violence in Canada than non racialized people.
A 2012 statistic says to us that out of 1000 sexual assaults in Canada: - only 33 are reported to the police. - 29 are recorded as a crime - 12 charges are laid - 6 are prosecuted - and only 3 are convicted
This means that 997 perpetrators of sexual violence walk free.
At the TRCC/MWAR we are not supporters of the prison industrial complex, we do not believe jail time will result in less sexual assault. We believe transformative justice, accountability and that survivors are the best experts of our own lives. But we do know that survivors want some level of emotional justice, if not within the court system. While we think it is important to make the system accountable to us, we know we will not find any justice within the system.
Today’s verdict of not guilty only reinforces what survivors already knew; that the system does not believe us, sexual violence is accepted in our society and this is a grave reinforcement of systemic violence to survivors in Ontario.
But today our message is this: We believe survivors.
We are listening. We are here for you. We believe you.