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Illustration created by Mariah Wilson. // Flower illustrations courtesy of miguelap/Vecteezy and photo courtesy of change.org

Police brutality during wellness checks encourages Canada to take a stand

By May Domingo, August 13 2020—

On July 4, more than 100 Calgarians came together in front of City Hall to protest for justice regarding Mona Wang’s mistreatment during a wellness check. Five more protests occurred in British Columbia in the weeks following the incident. All organizers required participants to wear masks and encouraged them to practice social distancing.

As soon as Wang made the decision to speak out about her mistreatment, an internet user named Teo D. created a petition hoping to “start a conversation and put pressure on authorities.” They were able to garner 300,000+ signatures at the time of printing.

Teo believes that “people are finally realizing the issues Canada has and are talking about it more.” They chose to do petitions as his contribution to the #JusticeforMonaWang movement because “petitions are a really great way to spread the news to people, and signing and sharing require minimal effort.” They also added that this type of contribution is a new way to introduce the activism side of the internet as well as bring light to the issues that do not get enough coverage.

With the climate of the Black Lives Matter in addition to assaults on Asians and during wellness checks coming to light, Teo expected people to be feeling the “activist burnout” but was pleasantly surprised and proud to see the masses come together. “[People] have shown themselves to be resilient and passionate about positive change, which makes this the perfect time for us to band together.”

Jing Hu, an incoming student at the University of Calgary, attended the protest in Calgary. She defined the purpose of the protests by saying that “police brutality cases among minorities are not rare especially right now, there are so many unjust cases where people have been injured or killed from wellness checks, while the officials have not received any punishment.”

She emphasized the need to eliminate those who abuse their power, end police brutality, and fight for the officers who are dedicated and respect their job. 

“The objective [of the protest] was not to defund the entire police system, but to fight for justice for those who have been wronged,” she said.

Mona Wang expressed her appreciation for the support she has received from this movement. 

“It’s been really helpful throughout the entire process,” she told the Gauntlet.

When asked about what she believes is at the core of the wellness check problems currently plaguing the country, Wang referred to the lack of training. 

“As a healthcare professional, we have at least four years of training. In terms of the RCMP officers, I don’t think that they have enough skill in de-escalation which is why they are unequipped to handle these calls and to perform their duties safely for both civilians and themselves.”

Teo, the creator of the petition, shared similar sentiments when they said, “It’s still a systematic issue of police brutality.” Furthermore, they expressed the problem that the public trust law enforcements with wellness checks rather than mental health professionals.

In a similar way, Hu felt that mental health is an important topic, now moreso than ever before.  

“Especially with quarantine, I feel like professionals should reinforce the importance of mental health, and to receive more training on how to deal with mental health problems at their workplace,” said Hu. 

She allegedly spoke to a police officer at the protest who clarified that the police are trained and regularly meet with professionals who educate them. However, the police officer said he could not speak the same for the RCMP. 

The three young interviewees shared their hopes for change and their last remarks of encouragement for the public:

Hu saw the attention from the media as a sign of success for this movement. Although the group experienced racial slurs thrown at them during the event, they remained persistent. She saw the effects that a simple action caused and encouraged others to sign petitions or donate to organizations. She called it “a simple contribution to a great cause.”

Teo said, “I’d like to see change in the way people struggling with mental health are treated in society,” adding that they hope these movements convince “those in power to make decisions with the most vulnerable people in our communities in mind. We’re putting trust in them, and now is their chance to prove whether or not they are capable of protecting us.”

Wang spoke about reform, stating her hopes that “something like this doesn’t happen again whether that’s on policy reform, or if it’s more education for the police. Of course, I would like to see [Cpl. Lacy Browning] fired. However, I do want to see some policy change.”

Prior to this, D’Andre Campbell, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore and Ejaz Choudry experienced violent handling and sadly passed away at the hands of officers. Many more have spoken out about their experiences with police brutality and violent mistreatment during wellness checks.

Mona Wang is currently awaiting Kelowna’s decision on her civil lawsuit against RCMP.

The petition for this movement can be signed here: http://chng.it/7jPPPfwyYM

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