SASKATOON -- The one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder is serving as a grim reminder to Black parents still grappling every day with racial trauma, systemic racism, and fear for the safety of their children.

Parents of Black and racialized children told CTV’s Your Morning that a great deal still needs to be done, as their persistent fear for their children’s well-being means worrying if they’ll come home from something as innocuous as going out to play.

“Honestly, I am tired, disgusted and angry. That's the only thing I can really say for what's going on right now,” said Michelle Hughes.

The Toronto-based parent said anti-Black racism persists in Canada and there has been a lack of substantial systemic change across the board. And this can have deadly consequences as a disproportionate number of Black and Indigenous people are killed by police.

Hughes is “terrified of what’s going to happen” when her 13-year-old son has his first interaction with police. U.S. studies show police officers see Black people as more threatening than others, taller than they actually are, and therefore perceive them as more aggressive.

“I make sure when they go out to play, I'm always showered and dressed because I don't know if somebody is going to come knocking at my door,” she said, noting her fears have only intensified with the prospect her son will soon be able to drive a vehicle..

Reports find Canadian police pull over Black drivers at higher rates than the general public, and Hughes noted that her older daughter was in a tense situation with police just two days ago. She was in a car that was pulled over by police, but she said the young Black man at the wheel hadn’t broken any rules, and did not receive a ticket.

Fellow parent Craig Wellington also decried the lack of systemic change in society: “hashtags are easy, culture change is hard.” He said the biggest difference he’s seen in the past year is that “we’re actually being seen and heard.”

He said one of the biggest hurdles in Canada is thinking systemic racism and anti-Black racism are strictly U.S. issues, which they aren’t. For example, last year, a Ontario Human Rights Commission report found a Black person is 20 times more likely to be killed by Toronto police than a white person.

The idea of police reform hits close to home for Wellington, whose son intends on joining and reforming the RCMP, which has its own troubling record of racism towards its own officers, systemic racism when dealing with Indigenous peoples, and disproportionate killings and shootings of racialized people.

“He's wanted to be a policeman since he was five. But my kids are also very aware and very conscious of the reality of what's going on,” he said, referring to how they were well aware of cases, such as Dafonte Miller, who was assaulted by an off-duty Toronto police officer; and former CFL player Orlando Bowen, who was allegedly beaten by officers in a parking lot.

“Seeing people who looked like him, beaten, killed, shot to death by police… that's a trauma that Black people live with on a daily basis.”


Psychotherapist Roxanne Francis said experiences of racial trauma are extremely common for racialized Canadians.

“A lot of people talk about this unexplained feeling of grief, of anger, of despair and hopelessness,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday from her home in Ajax, Ont. “It can be really challenging.”

People can also have flashbacks, moments where they zone out or dissociate, experience fluctuations in weight; or have trouble sleeping or connecting with other people of other races.

Francis said headlines can cause parents of colour to be on edge about their own children. So they can become deeply concerned about how extra polite their children are, or worry about what their children wear in public, “so that other people don't think negatively of them.”

Mother with biracil children

Gloria Roheim McRae, who is white and raising a five-year-old biracial son with her Black husband, said her family is already preparing for difficult conversations down the road.

“What we're really focused on consciously are conversations around our family values, what they are, how we expect him to include people and that the world is not fair,” she said.

“He doesn't have news on all day… but he's noticing protests and he's asking questions,” McRae said. While he’s still far too young to understand complex issues such systemic discrimination, she said they’re instilling some ideas in him, so it’s not a complete shock to him in the future.

Hughes, who is raising her children in Toronto, said conversations about race haven’t changed much in the past several years, as she still tells her children to always have their hands visible during police encounters. But it’s not just law enforcement she’s worried about.

“I have to worry about the different ‘Karens’ out there,” she said, referring to the moniker given to the white people who racially profile and harass people of colour. “People feel in the last five years that they can be even more racist and without consequence. And that's going on in Canada. It's not just an American problem.”

Francis said it’s not only important to connect with others who are dealing the same issues but to potentially speak to a therapist trained in race-based traumatic stress. She also stressed that it’s OK to seek a therapist of the same race as you, if that’s what you’d prefer.

Inside a boardroom


She said stresses from everyday racial trauma can make racialized people hyper-sensitive to microaggressions.

These can include them being told how “articulate” they are, and therefore implying their racial group isn’t that way generally; people pushing for “colourblindness;” questioning of their qualifications; and being the only racialized person in the room.

All that being said, she said it’s also incumbent on white and other non-Black allies to not simply offer empathy for Black people in their personal or work circles.

“We have to step beyond that now,” she said, urging allies to call for concrete actions, including asking why there aren’t any Black or racialized people in a particular space, fighting for their inclusion and advocating for colleagues of colour. Others have suggested white bosses mentor colleagues of colour to ensure they’re promoted.

“If you are making policy, ensure that the policy is going to positively impact people of colour when it hits the ground.”