We have decided to postpone our June reading, in light of the ongoing police violence and systemic racism against Indigenous and Black people both here in Canada and in the United States.
To carry on with our plans as if everything were normal would be disrespectful to the trauma endured by Indigenous and Black people both historically and in recent weeks. It would also mean sidestepping our responsibility as artists, citizens and organizers. We stand in solidarity with Indigenous and Black people, and commit to being part of the process of long-overdue change.
We condemn the over-surveillance, imprisonment, poverty, violence, and police brutality which are visited on these communities, along with the food insecurity, inadequate housing and lack of access to fresh water that render them disproportionately susceptible to COVID19.
We remember Chantel Moore, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, D’Andre Campbell, Andrew Loku, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the many whose deaths and traumatic experiences with police brutality never reach the headlines. We remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls whose loved ones shared their stories in a report published a year ago, only to have its recommendations ignored. At the time of this writing, Bonifacio Eugenio-Romero and a second man have died of COVID19 while serving as migrant workers on Ontario farms. They were both from Mexico and were both 31 years old. Many others are infected.
That it has taken us so long to compose a statement reflects the fact that we as a series have not been sufficiently engaged in the fight against injustice. We need to look at the ways our series reflects this deficiency, if we are to continue programming. We have failed to center the ubiquity and harms of racism in our programming, and would like to express our sincere apologies to those Indigenous and Black authors who generously shared their work with Draft audiences and found their voices were marginalized within our readings, or felt that they had to carry the heavy narrative of Canada’s national crimes.
In the coming weeks, we shall be examining our choices so far, as well as what we need to do, if the series is to continue. We need to make sure our actions going forward are in keeping with our professed commitment to equity and justice. Our plan is to reach out to more emerging authors within racialized communities to appear in our series, as well as to change the composition of our collective to include more people of colour. We shall also reach out to those Indigenous and Black authors who have appeared in our series so far to see how we might better serve their needs.
Finally, we would like to sincerely thank some of the many members of the literary community who have generously moved the Draft series forward through both challenge and encouragement. They are Gavin Barrett, Kern Carter, Rita Shelton-Deverell, Farzana Doctor, Maheen Hyder, Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Heather Wood and Bänoo Zan, as well as Jael Richardson and her colleagues at The FOLD, who continue to lead by example. We credit them for whatever positive steps we have been able to take, and take full responsibility for the failings in this statement and in our series.