Pink Paint and Politics: Reforming Police Governance in Canada

By Maanvi Dhillon 

Standing in front of a statue dripping with pink paint, Ravyn Wngz looked into a dozen television cameras and explained why Black Lives Matter activists felt they had no other choice but to turn to dramatic tactics. In a speech that quickly went viral online, she softly described her frustration. “We’ve tried many different ways to get the attention and the conversation of those in leadership roles and positions.  It took us having to do this, to get you all to show up” she said, pointing at the pink statue. 

Ten days later, she further expanded on those thoughts, writing “I needed people to understand that we had tried everything—that we had appealed to every aspect of white humanity through books, essays, TED talks, plays, music and protests. Still, we are murdered, while sleeping like Breonna Taylor or while out buying Skittles like Trayvon Martin.”

Ravyn’s frustration raises an important question: why is policing so resistant to public critique?  During the past year, many institutions acknowledged structural racism and reflected on how they needed to change. From sports leagues to school boards to awards shows, there were swift responses to the dialogue and protests that followed the murder of George Floyd and others by police, such as Ejaz Choudry in Canada. Yet police forces, despite the wave of protests from coast to coast in Canadian cities, refuse to budge.  

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ACTION ALERT: Crucial BC vote on Thursday!





Our Amazing Race is heating up across Canada, with grassroots community leaders trying to secure Local Choice for their city councils!

Municipal voting reform is the first step towards democratic renewal in Canada as well as a strategy to increase voter turnout and boost diverse representation on all of our city councils.  

If you live in BC - or know anyone in BC - we have an important action item for you:

On Thursday May 13, local politicians from 33 cities will be voting on Resolution #5, Local Choice: Tools to Improve Representation in Local Government Elections. This is one of the most important resolutions we've seen in years, designed to strengthen local democracy.

There's no one-size-fits-all election system, so Local Choice simply gives each city or town the ability to experiment with democratic reform based on their own local needs. But, sadly, the Lower Mainland Local Government Association has published a recommendation against Resolution #5.

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Across the Pond • April 29

Join Unlock Democracy UK and Unlock Democracy Canada for this transatlantic discussion about democracy!

What can activists in the UK and Canada learn from each other?  RSVP here.

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Call for Directors!

Unlock Democracy is a non-profit organization advocating for democratic renewal across Canada.  Our goal is to rebuild democracy in Canada through inspiring campaigns that foster grassroots participation to overcome apathy and create meaningful change through political and legislative reforms.

Led by the our Creative Director Dave Meslin, our current projects include Local Choice, Lego my Vote, #Vote16 and Better Ballots 101 . We are also looking at new campaigns as they relate to Covid-19’s impact on democracy, including a greater willingness to build bridges across partisan divides and the need to build virtual networks for community collaboration.  

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TORONTO STAR: "if we do not get serious about fixing our democracy, Jan. 6 has shown it’s possible we could lose it."

Important piece in today's Toronto Star by Kofi Hope, featuring a blunt diagnosis of our democratic deficit, featuring analysis and remedies from Brittany Andrew-Amofah as well as our own Creative Director Dave Meslin.

Read and Share!


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Call for Board of Directors!

After seven years as an informal grassroots organsation, we’ve decided to formalize and incorporate as a non-profit! That means we’ll need a Board of Directors. We're looking for fun, dedicated, democracy-loving individuals who have some of the following skills or background:

  • Fundraising / grant writing 
  • Legal background
  • Finance
  • Communication
  • Administration
  • Digital platforms
  • Non-profit experience (professional or Board of Directors)

Our goal is simple: to create campaigns that foster grassroots participation to overcome apathy and create meaningful change through political and legislative reforms.

Along with our Creative Director, Dave Meslin, Unlock Democracy is currently being led by an informal steering committee. Our current campaigns include #TimeToTopple (a municipal voting reform initiative in Ontario) and LEGO my Vote!  We are also looking at new campaigns as they relate to Covid-19’s impact on democracy, including a greater willingness to build bridges across partisan divides and the need to build virtual networks for community collaboration.  

Anyone residing in Canada (18 and over) is eligible to apply. We ideally would like to build a diverse organization that is reflective of the country we live in.
The time commitment will vary, but will roughly be 10-12 hours a month including focused, action-oriented Board meetings. 
Please send a concise expression of interest to [email protected] to find out more.  Feel free to be creative!  

Application due date: Monday, May 25, 2020

Colum Grove-White and Jeff Dennler,
on behalf of the Unlock Democracy steering committee
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Following our successful Kickstarter campaign, we're working hard on our #TimeToTopple report.  We're hoping to take our successes in London, Kingston and Cambridge, and trigger more change all across Ontario. 

Stay tuned for details! 

ETA: Late April!  Sign up here for updates.




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The Fab Four



Visit our Fab Four page, to learn more about these opportunities to spark a tidal wave of change.

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London just made history


London City Council just become the first government in Canada to abandon First-Past-the-Post!

Minutes ago, the City Council of London Ontario voted in favour of switching to a ranked ballot system for their 2018 municipal election.  This unprecedented decision makes London City Council the first and only government, anywhere in Canada, to abandon First-Past-the-Post.

Ranked ballots are a small and simple change that make local elections more fair, inclusive and friendly.  In an age of increasing political cynicism, it’s exciting to see change taking place towards electoral systems that deliver fair results, reduce negativity and encourage more voices to participate. Explore our website to learn more about the benefits of ranked ballots - and myths.  London City staff have also created some fantastic resources for citizens.

Recently introduced legislation in Ontario allows any of the province’s 444 municipalities to use ranked ballots for their local elections, but sadly 443 Councils decided to keep the status quo.  London has now put themselves on the map as the #1 leader of democratic renewal in Canada – a great gift to the country on our 150th birthday!

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London Chamber of Commerce: do your homework


Today's London Free Press contains a very unusual op-ed from the London Chamber of Commerce.  The piece urges City Council not to proceed with ranked ballots and offers some strange arguments against reform.  Here are some of the most interesting quotes from the piece, penned by Gerry Macartney - Chief Executive and General Manager:

"Will it really cost us about $3.5 million to ramp up the election machinery to accommodate a ranked ballot system? Is that a one-time cost or the same increase every election going forward? And isn’t $3.5 million about a 1.5 per cent hike to my property taxes?"

Umm.. what?  According to London City staff, "It is estimated that a ranked ballot election would cost at least an additional $322,500.  This results in an additional cost of $1.24 per eligible elector".  Macartney seems to have taken the cost estimates from London staff.. and randomly multiplied it by TEN.  I have a hunch that Londoners will one day recover from this tragic $1.24 economic burden.

"The pro side claims it reduces negative campaigning, elects more minorities and more women. Again they may be right, but I have yet to see definitive proof."

Well, clearly he didn't look very far.  There are academic reports written about the increase in campaign civility (like this one), and reports about the impact on diverse representation (like this one).  Shoudn't he have looked for these reports before writing the op-ed, rather than writing about how he didn't bother to look?


"I am the furthest thing from an expert on this subject, but I do know I don’t have a clear understanding of the benefits or risks of ranked balloting from any reputable, scientifically studied source."

I'm not sure I've ever seen an op-ed begin with the author pointing out that they don't know anything about the topic.  There;s an enormous amount of data and academic reports about the effects of ranked ballots.  For some unclear reason, Macartney chose not to read them, which raises an important question: If you openly admit that you "don't have a clear understanding" of the topic... why are you writing an op-ed about it?

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