Policing Black Lives

State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present

By Robyn Maynard  

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Delving behind Canada’s veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance, Policing Black Lives traces the violent realities of anti-blackness from the slave ships to prisons, classrooms and beyond. Robyn Maynard provides readers with the first comprehensive account of nearly four hundred years of state-sanctioned surveillance, criminalization and punishment of Black lives in Canada.

While highlighting the ubiquity of Black resistance, Policing Black Lives traces the still-living legacy of slavery across multiple institutions, shedding light on the state’s role in perpetuating contemporary Black poverty and unemployment, racial profiling, law enforcement violence, incarceration, immigration detention, deportation, exploitative migrant labour practices, disproportionate child removal and low graduation rates.

Emerging from a critical race feminist framework that insists that all Black lives matter, Maynard’s intersectional approach to anti-Black racism addresses the unique and understudied impacts of state violence as it is experienced by Black women, Black people with disabilities, as well as queer, trans, and undocumented Black communities.

A call-to-action, Policing Black Lives urges readers to work toward dismantling structures of racial domination and re-imagining a more just society.

Robyn Maynard’s meticulously-researched and compelling analysis of state violence challenges prevailing narratives of Canadian multiculturalism and inclusion by examining how structures of racism and ideologies of gender are complexly anchored in global histories of colonization and slavery. This book should be read not only by those who have a specific interest in Canadian histories and social justice movements but by anyone interested in the abolitionist and revolutionary potential of the Black Lives Matters movement more broadly.

— Angela Y. Davis

A crucial work in chronicling Black experiences in Canada. If you only read one book this year, make it this one. Policing Black Lives is a comprehensive and necessary book for anyone who cares about the past, present and future of Black life in this country. Brilliant work!

— Black Lives Matter Toronto

In this eye-opening and timely book, Robyn Maynard deftly and conclusively pulls back the veil on anti-Black racism in Canada, exploding the myth of multiculturalism through an emphatically and unapologetically intersectional lens. In compelling and accessible prose, Maynard provides a sweeping overview of Canadian state violence from colonial times to the present, seamlessly articulating the relationship - and distinctions - between settler colonialism and anti-Blackness, and centering Black women, trans and gender nonconforming people within the broader narrative. Through an analysis squarely situated in the global socioeconomic context, Policing Black Lives explores parallels between state violence in Canada and its neighbor to the South, as well as the unique legal, social and historical forces informing criminalization through segregation, surveillance, “stop and frisk”/carding/street checks, the war on drugs, gang policing, the school to prison pipeline, welfare “fraud” and child welfare enforcement, and the conflation of immigration and criminality. The result is both eye-opening and chilling, firmly pointing to shared fronts of struggle across borders. Policing Black Lives is a critical read for all in Canada and the United States who #SayHerName and assert that #BlackLivesMatter, and essential to movements for Black liberation on Turtle Island.

— Andrea J. Ritchie, author Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color

To understand this moment in Canada when Black communities are asserting that Black Lives really do matter, readers need this book.

— Sylvia D. Hamilton

“Grounded in an impressive and expansive treatment of Black Canadian history, Maynard has written a powerful account of state anti-Black violence in Canada. Empirically rich and theoretically nimble, this work is an outstanding contribution to Black Canadian Studies.”

— Barrington Walker, Queen’s University

Timely, urgent, and cogent…brilliantly elucidates the grotesque anti-Black racist practices coming from the state, and other institutions imbued with power over Black people’s lives.

— Afua Cooper

“Robyn Maynard offers powerful lessons for making anti-blackness in Canada legible to activists, scholars, policy makers, and community members committed to building a future nation—and world—free of racism, heteropatriarchy, xenophobia, and exploitation. “

— Erik S. McDuffie, author of Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism

Thanks, Robyn Maynard, for opening all of our eyes to a scary history and frightening present for Black Canada.

— Patrisse Cullors-Khan, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network

  • EPUB
  • ISBN: 9781552669808
  • September 2017
  • $24.99
  • For sale worldwide
  • Kindle
  • ISBN: 9781552669815
  • September 2017
  • $24.99
  • For sale worldwide
  • Winner, Society for Socialist Studies Errol Sharpe Book Prize (2018)
  • Short-listed, Concordia University First Book Prize (2018)
  • Short-listed, Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction (2018)

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  • This pointed critique from writer and activist Maynard is an impeccably documented history that supports her charge that Canada is riddled with systemic, antiblack racism.

    — Publishers Weekly, starred review, 01/29/2018 (full review)

  • Released in September by Fernwood Publishing, Robyn Maynard’s Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present clearly details a long and, arguably, actively forgotten, history. It’s a history of the repression and exploitation of black people in this country – a country whose identity is largely formed by being less racist than that of the United States of America.

    — Rank and File, December 2017 (full review)

  • “Every Canadian — black, white, Indigenous or otherwise — could benefit from reading Maynard’s frank and thorough assessment of racism in Canada.”

    — Winnipeg Free Press, November 2017 (full review)

  • Policing Black Lives joins revolutionary texts by Black women scholars and feminists that are helping to unpack centuries of toxic and dangerous intersections of anti-Blackness and misogyny.”

    — Literary Review of Canada, March 2018 (full review)


  • Introduction
  • Devaluing Black life, demonizing Black bodies: Anti-Blackness from slavery to segregation
  • The Black side of the mosaic: Slavery, racial capitalism and the making of contemporary Black povertyThe Black side of the mosaic: Slavery, capitalism and the making of contemporary Black poverty
  • Arrested (in)justice: From the streets to the prison
  • Law enforcement violence against Black women: Naming their names, telling their stories
  • Misogynoir in Canada: Punitive state practices and the devaluation of Black women and gender-oppressed people
  • “Of whom we have too many”: Black life and border regulation
  • Destroying Black families: Slavery’s afterlife in the child welfare system
  • The (mis)education of Black youth: Anti-Blackness in the school system
  • From “woke” to free: Imagining Black futures
  • References
  • Index


  • Robyn Maynard

    Robyn Maynard is a Black feminist writer, grassroots community organizer and intellectual based in Montréal. Her work has appeared in the Toronto Star, the Montréal Gazette, World Policy Journal and Canadian Women Studies Journal.

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