Canada’s Black Walk Of Fame: Dr. Charles R. Drew

By Ashlie Bienvenu


For our next inductee into the Black Walk of Fame, we look to someone who, while not born in Canada, gained the inspiration for his ground-breaking blood plasma discoveries at Montreal’s own McGill University. The story of his never ending determination in the face of adversity, and his fight for racial equality in the medical field, are truly awe-inspiring. This man surely deserves recognition, not only for his innovative medical discoveries, but also for his activism in the field of racial equality.


Charles Drew was born in Washington, D.C., in the year 1904. Even as a child he was hardworking, driven and goal oriented. These characteristics would later help him in his pursuit of education, in a field that did not admit many Black figures. While Drew ended up entering the medical field, he began his education with a focus toward sports. In his high school, Drew lettered in four different sports and was given the James E. Walker Medal for excellence in sports. Drew later went on to Amherst College, with an athletic scholarship, and received a reputation as a legendary athlete that brought his school to numerous victories. However, it was during this time that he developed his interest in medicine through his biology classes, his football injuries, and the death of his sister from tuberculosis. Drew graduated from Amherst in 1926 and began to move forward with his vision of medical school. Drew never gave up his sports, in fact, he turned many of his schools’ sports teams into champions; but, his new focus became medical school.


Drew, as a Black man, in a pre-Civil Rights Movement society, did not have many options in the racially segregated academics. Receiving an education in medicine was even harder, as many patients would have refused the services of a Black doctor. This did not stop Drew, however, and, when he was made to wait a year to get into Harvard, he decided to apply to McGill, which had a reputation for better treatment of racial minorities. While at McGill, Drew became a star athlete and student. He graduated second in a class of 137 students and won numerous prizes and fellowships in his time there. Drew finished off his time in Montreal by completing his residency at Montreal General Hospital, alongside Professor John Beattie, a bacteriologist who was working to treat shock patients with blood transfusions. It was during this time that Drew formed his interest in transfusion medicine. During his time at Montreal General, 1933-1935, Drew experienced a hospital fire, with many casualties. At the time, if someone needed a transfusion, they needed to find a donor on short notice, as there was no way to preserve blood for more than a few days. Therefore, a lot of the patients, during this fire, died without access to transfusions. This experience would later influence his research on blood preservation and blood banks.


Drew later decided to move back to the United States to teach medicine. With limited spaces available for Black men he was restricted to a position at Howard University. Drew would later push against these boundaries by continuing to rise in academia, as well as working to create a more tolerant environment for Black medical students. During Drew’s surgical residency at Columbia University, where he was the first Black man to do so, he specialized in research on fluid chemistry, alongside Dr. John Scudder. The focus of his research centered on how to “bank” blood, or preserve it. Drew and Scudder set up their research in Presbyterian Hospital, in 1939, where they set up an experimental blood bank. During this experiment, Drew and Scudder researched the best variables and conditions that would allow the blood to last longer. They eventually found, along with other researchers, that when blood plasma is separated from the blood it lasts longer and is more easily preserved. This discovery came in handy during the course of World War II, especially in Britain, which had been hit hard by the Germans.


During World War II, the American Red Cross Association and the National Research Council (NRC) got together to create a relief program for Britain, called “Blood for Britain”. Drew and Scudder joined the NRC’s Committee on Transfusions. Drew was later asked by the Blood Transfusion Betterment Association (BTBA) to take a more active role and lead the initiative for Britain, as the medical supervisor. Drew was credited with creating a standardized system for quality transfusion preservation methods. It was through his leadership that the program became a success. However, Drew eventually gave up his position due to the Red Cross’s segregated blood transfusion policy. Instead, he went on to become the Chair for the Department of Surgery for Howard University and train young Black surgeons to propel them to excellence.


Therefore, Dr. Charles Drew leaves a lasting legacy on the world. He revolutionized the system of blood transfusions, trained more than half of America’s Black surgeons between 1941 and 1950, and had an impact on the preservation of lives during the Second World War. Many people are alive today due to discoveries that were made by Dr. Charles Drew, and it is thanks to him that we have a large-scale blood bank system today.



The Charles R. Drew Papers. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from


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Quebec’s Glory shown through our Story?

Quebec and diversity are not fully compatible, but is there also a continued historical dissonance?

By Yvonne Sam: Chairman (Rights and Freedoms Committee) At BCRC


The recent outrage and consequent debacle that surrounded the St. Jean Baptiste parade, with singer Annie Villeneuve, on a float being pushed solely by Black males, calls for all concerned to nose dive into history books before sounding the alarm. Surrounding the float were droves of singing parade goers, fully bedecked in white from head-to-toe, which further caused social media to erupt in a brouhaha, criticizing the lack of representation and diversity by the organizers of the parade. The community quickly compared the images of the parade to historical depiction of slavery.


Let us not for one nano of a second forget the real meaning behind St. Jean Baptiste Day. According to the Prime Minister Hon. Justin Trudeau, “it is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the essential contributions Francophones have made to build the diverse, strong and inclusive country that we all call home.” In a like manner, Federal Heritage Minister, Mélanie Joly, said this year’s St-Jean and Canada Day celebrations are unique because they form part of 150th festivities from June 21 to July 2.


“On this important day, I invite Canadians to let the French language shine all across the country, and to celebrate the bright future of the Francophonie in Canada. This exceptional year gives us a fantastic opportunity to open doors and build bridges between the various Francophone communities that are at the heart of our history and our future,” she said in a statement.


Very clearly stated are the sentiments underpinning the celebrations. What was not stated, and was all wrong from the beginning, is the fact that no part of that display referred to Blacks during slavery. Maxime Laporte, head of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal, and organizer of the event, felt that the accusations were somewhat exaggerated and unfair. In his opinion it was pure chance that the Blacks were pulling the float. No time would be wasted on asking in what manner was the request for help stated and solicited, and did it not strike him as somewhat odd that only Blacks offered their strength. The head coach of the school’s football team also dodged the bullet by saying that he failed to see the imminent controversy and that the students were happy to be a part of the parade. Again, that behavior merits no input, for if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then the nomenclature duck is applicable.


A quick history lesson shows how far out the organizers were, and yet we allowed our racist animosities to run rampant. We played right into the hands of all segments of the Francophonies, rather than guide them back into the safe lane. If diversity represents a rattlesnake in Quebec’s garden, then slavery represents a python under our bed.


History is clear, as in Quebecois parlance, “clair comme l’eau de roche”. From its inception as a French colony in the early 1600s, Quebec has had an African-descent presence. In 1709, slavery was legalized in the French colony of Quebec. The first recorded case of Black slavery in this province was a young man “owned” by the English and “bought” by one Guillame Couillard, who was Champlain’s master builder.


Not much is known about this first Black resident of Canada except that he was baptized under the name Olivier Le Jeune, served as a domestic, and died, still a young man and a slave, in 1654. Two thirds of all slaves in the colony were Natives; one third were of African descent. In all, during the 1700s, 1400 Black slaves toiled in Quebec mostly as domestic help. They served as servants in the employ of individual households. The rationale behind the absence of mass slavery such as that in the United States was due to the colder northern climate present in Quebec that did not require massive numbers of slave laborers to work on plantations. It is further evident that no Black male slave could have been pushing any cart in Quebec.


Even in the face of slavery, there were different types of slaves, such as: chattel slaves, debt bondage slaves, forced labour slaves and serfdom slaves, names of which all speak for themselves.


Which manner of slavery was being depicted in the St. Jean Baptiste float? Or better still which type of slave was on duty pushing the float?


We must stand on guard always prepared to act and not react especially in the face of contrived pretext, agencies camouflaging an agenda in order to remain politically viable. Take time to examine the agenda. It is being disguised and hidden within the fabric of succinctly instigated racism, sexism and other forms of hatred and bigotry.


We allowed our clear thinking to be circumvented, and be thrown off the track by agencies displaying a blatant historical lack.


Aleuta—The struggle continues.


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We, Society, Must Say No to Systemic Racism and Biases Against Minorities and the Mentally Ill. Wake up Quebec! You Cannot Truly be Master in the House if You Do Not Respect and Protect All of its Members


By Dr. Clarence S. Bayne


It is my opinion that police have become society’s paid killers. Policing and military defense is a natural response of the specie to preserve and perpetuate life. But, in racialized environments, and situations where members of the specie are mentally ill, there seems to be a social license given to police to kill, as oppose to apprehend and control, members of those two classes of persons whose actions may, at the time, arbitrarily be interpreted as a threat. So a Black, mentally disturbed, man holding a screw driver in two hands is judged to be a threat. A Black child waving a toy gun in a park is shot as a threat. Obviously, what we are dealing with here are brains that are maladjusted and lack the capacity and the empathy to react in situations like these. They lack the respect for the life of what they see as aggressive threating objects. If you look at the mythology and histories that have shaped these brains, they tend to transform the victims into living things that have no souls. This profiling can only be eliminated if society, and all of its structures and interacting agencies, create and retain behavioral algorithms that exclude these responses. The last few weeks in Montreal and Quebec have produced instances (including the Saint Jean de Baptiste galley slave parade social disaster) that did not inspire hope that such adjustments were possible. I, then, received an email of hope from my friend, Kingley Gilliam, Director of BADC Communications, declaring: “We are going to hold their feet to the fire.”


Mr. Gilliam wrote, concerning the ruling and recommendations relating to the Andrew Loku case in Toronto, that: “After Four weeks of hearings and 28 witnesses, a ruling by presiding Coroner, Dr. John Carlyle, said that he had examined the evidence in the case of Andrew Loku and found no evidence of racism, nor implicit bias in the circumstances leading to the Police shooting death of Andrew Loku, and that he would not allow any questions about racism, Anti-Black Racism nor Institutional Racism to be put to the final witness, Dr. Kwame Mc Kenzie, a world renowned Psychiatrist, with over 200 publications including five books and an international consultant and expert on Implicit Bias, Anti- Black Racism and institutional Racism”.


Mr. Gilliam then goes on to say that he objected and instructed their lawyer, Selwyn Pieters, to prepare to appeal that ruling to Division Court. Selwyn stayed up all night and prepared a motion, applying for reconsideration of the ruling by the coroner. The Jury has since delivered its verdict, which was read out in the open court by the Coroner. The recommendations are very enlightening and impressive. See below for the first 26 recommendations:



1. Using reputable, external educators and other experts, TPS should ensure that the Service develops and implements annual/regular training at division and platoon meetings with a focus on the equitable delivery of policing services. The training should acknowledge the social inequities and challenges faced by racialized communities and consumer survivors who have experienced mental health challenges and equip officers with skills needed to provide appropriate responses and service delivery. Training topics should include, but not be limited to:

-Bias-free service delivery

-Social disparity

-Equitable outcomes for all

-Stress and fear inoculation techniques

-Mindfulness techniques


-Crisis communication


-Implicit bias

-Trauma informed approaches

-Anti-Black Racism

-Visible and invisible disabilities


2. Measure the effectiveness of the above mentioned training in anti-Black racism and persons in crisis by requiring both a written and oral exam of the participants. Failure in such exams should result in requiring re-attendance at such training.


3. Mandate that all officers complete the Implicit Association Test as part of initial and requalification training.


4. TPS should continue to emphasize the importance of planning in a crisis situation to identify the lead in communication.


5. Expose or continue to expose officers in training to the perspectives and lived experience of racialized communities, the Black community and individuals with mental health issues and/or addictions.

6. Review the Intercultural Development Program deployed by the Toronto Police Service and consider the continued use of the Intercultural Development Inventory or other similar tool, as well as in-house intercultural competence facilitators, to further the intercultural competence of Toronto Police Service members.


7. Amend the annual Use of Force recertification to include qualification in areas such as mental health and/or addictions, anti-racism, particularly anti-Black racism, implicit and unconscious bias, fear inoculation, de-escalation and crisis communication.


8. Continue to emphasize that where the police challenge is issued and the subject does not comply, where possible, alternative methods of communication, de-escalation, disengagement and containment should be attempted. For example, consider making it clear that lethal force will be used if commands aren’t obeyed.


9. Consider the use of trained de-briefers to be deployed following exceptional critical incidents, having regard to any SIU investigation and the rights of officers, with a view to using the knowledge gained to inform de-escalation training. If resources permit, consider using the de-briefers in situations with positive outcomes as well as negative ones, even if they are less serious incidents, in order to learn from those occurrences.


10. Make mental health and/or addictions and policing of racialized communities, in particular Toronto’s Black community, a key component of Coach Officer training.


11. Ensure that all patrol cars are equipped with less lethal weapons, e.g., CEW, sock or beanbag guns and that all officers are trained in the use of such weapons along with defensive equipment such as shields and helmets.


12. Undertake a structural/cultural review and analysis to ensure that the Service has a clear policy with respect to serving and protecting persons with mental health or addiction issues and/or racialized persons, in particular, Black persons. The Chief’s review and analysis should include input from experts in this field together with persons in the communities falling within the above-mentioned descriptors. Following this, the Chief shall clearly state the TPS policy and communicate it in detail to all officers and employees. The Chief shall ensure that all members through continuous training have a clear understanding of the Chief’s mandate in this regard. Failure to follow the Chief’s mandate should have consequences and sanctions.


13. When making decisions about promotions, supervisors should consider an officer’s skill and experience in dealing with Emotionally Disturbed Persons (EDPs), members of the Black community and racialized communities, including their ability to de-escalate and negotiate during crisis situations.


14. Encourage the Toronto Police Service to make use of the Gerstein Crisis Centre police telephone line when interacting with a person in crisis.


15. Consider additional funding and training for 911 operators in order to improve their skills in extracting more pertinant information during an emergency call. Consider beginning the de-escalation process during a 911 call.



16. Maintain its existing committee on mental health in ongoing partnership with members of the mental health community (throughout this document, ‘mental health community’ means to include the phrase in particular people who have been directly affected by mental health issues), the Toronto Police Service and subject matter experts.


17. Establish a new committee to consider possible or identified disparities in services and outcomes for racialized persons and consider interventions to address any such disparities. The committee should include representatives of the Toronto Police Service, subject matter experts and members of racialized communities, including the Black community. The committee should consider the intersectionality of mental health and race both in terms of member composition and issues to be addressed.


18. Conduct a pilot study of two divisions (preferably 14 and 51 division) where there would be more intensive community involvement, education, and training (keeping in mind resourcing) concerning interactions with people who have racial and/or mental health and/or addiction differences to determine whether this has a positive impact on reducing ‘use of force’ incidents.



19. Offer education to the appropriate building superintendents and managers on information sharing policies; in particular, what sort of information ought to be shared with CMHA (Toronto Branch) housing or support workers about CMHA (Toronto Branch) residential clients. In addition, it should deliver in-service training on how to better serve these clients.


20. Together with Across Boundaries study ways of ensuring that clients are able to access the services that they require across multiple agencies so that clients don’t ‘fall through the cracks’.



21. Fund a province-wide telephone crisis support line staffed by people trained in crisis intervention or peer support to be available to clients in supportive housing and community mental health and addiction programs, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.


22. Provide additional funding for a sufficient number of nurses to staff Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCIT) in Toronto, 24 hours a day in each police division.


23. Together with the Toronto Police Service, explore all possible avenues to assess whether MCITs could be Not Official Verdict

24. Fund and create a program to provide appropriate housing support to individuals suffering from noise sensitivity.



25. Using a research based approach, update provincial standards for de-escalation, crisis communication and biasfree police training.


26. Provide funding to research and establish appropriate benchmarks for measuring effectiveness and outcomes of current police response to persons in crisis.


For full document go to:

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