What might a Black woman – who is also the Member of Provincial Parliament for Kitchener Centre – have to say to the chief of the Waterloo Region Police Service at a time of unprecedented world-wide outcry over the role of policing and treatment of people of colour?

Well, a fair bit, as it turns out. Something Laura Mae Lindo made clear Tuesday during the second instalment of True North TV, the weekly tech-for-good conversation hosted by Communitech President and CEO Iain Klugman, and available on YouTube.

“The last few weeks have been hard, to be honest,” began Lindo, the NDP’s anti-racism critic and chair of the NDP Black caucus.

The killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, on May 25 by a white Minneapolis police officer sparked protests worldwide, focusing overdue attention on longstanding police practices. The heart of Waterloo Region, downtown Kitchener, was the site for one of the largest – and most peaceful – demonstrations in Canada. Some estimates placed the crowd as large as 20,000.

“I couldn’t stop crying,” said Lindo, talking about the June 3 rally. “I was overwhelmed by the support from folks from all over Kitchener Centre. I have not ever seen a rally of that size in downtown Kitchener. The fact that [people] were coming out during a pandemic, fully masked, helping each other, supporting each other … it was overwhelming.”

Calls to defund police forces and redirect money to social programs and services – and for civilian agencies to take a hard look at the use, and in some cases abuse, of police powers – emerged following Floyd’s death. Those calls grew louder in the wake of police tactics employed during many of the ensuing demonstrations. Asked by Klugman if traditional policing as we know it has “had its day,” Lindo offered a nuanced but direct response, one that was connected to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Black communities and Indigenous communities have been talking about the problems in policing since, in my opinion, the beginning of time,” she said. “And part of that goes back to the roots of policing itself.”

Lindo said her constituency office has been “inundated with letters” asking for change.

“And they have asked for a redistribution of funding, they have asked for fundamental change in the value system that we have in society.

“And I tend to think that the reason that these calls are coming in this way is because we are also having all of these discussions in the midst of a pandemic, which in a weird way has opened up an opportunity for us to rethink what we invest in, what society looks like.

“We keep talking about what the post-COVID-19 world is going to look like. That also means, what does it look like for racialized folks? What would happen if we created a world where we centred preventative programs and preventative solutions, which would just naturally decrease interactions between racialized folks and the police, or poor folks and the police, or any marginalized group and the police?

“So I tend to think it is a very odd opportunity in the midst of chaos. And when you’ve got the entire population, or the majority of the population,  saying it’s time for us to revisit this, my job literally as a Member of Provincial Parliament is to take that seriously and start to get to work.”

Waterloo Region Police Service Chief Bryan Larkin is scheduled to appear on an upcoming episode of True North TV. Klugman asked Lindo what he should ask him.

Her answer: Instead of expressing a willingness to have conversations about race relations, reach out and actually have the conversation.

“There have been a lot of news stories that have reported that Chief Larkin and a lot of other elected officials are ready and willing to have a conversation with Black communities, and I would add Indigenous communities,” said Lindo.

“The issue has been that nobody has actually reached out to the communities to talk to them. And so without sounding a little too forward, I would like to actually set a date for communities to sit down and talk because at the end of the day, if everything is mediated through the media, there will be no change.

“We have to do more than desiring to have a better world. We have to actually, actively, create it.

“I truly believe that if we [get] all of us in a room to talk, that action alone will bring a different level of change.”

And Lindo said that creating change isn’t simply a matter of reforming policing. The problem, she said, is much wider.

“It’s not just the police. It’s the criminal justice system. It’s the fact that we don’t have enough mental health services. When people are looking at the kinds of calls that police are getting right now, many of those calls are mental health calls. Why would we want armed people to show up at a mental- health call? And which police officer decided to become a police officer in order to do mental-health work? People that wanted to do mental-health work would have chosen a different profession.”

The True North TV series continues next Tuesday and will feature an interview with Waterloo Region Police Service Chief Bryan Larkin.