Canada has always seemed to be a welcoming country, less violent than the U.S. regarding race relations. In the compelling 2015 documentary The Ninth Floor, an incident at Sir George Williams University in Montreal dispelled that myth when a group of Caribbean students came together to fight racism and bureaucracy.
It’s the late 60s, and students from all walks of life attend Sir George Williams University. When a group of Black students, mostly coming from the Caribbean, noticed their professor, Perry Anderson, treated them differently—failing them, refusing to attend their lab sessions, and alienating the students—they wrote a formal complaint to the university. A committee was formed, but changes to the committee and stalling resulted in tense negotiations and occupation of the ninth-floor computer lab. It all culminated in a catalyst for a suspicious fire, brutality, and blatant racism by many of the citizens of Montreal during this major civil rights event in Canadian history.
Director Mina Shum spoke to the protesters who took part in the occupation: Anne Cools, the first Black Senator in Canada, John Rodney and Terrence Ballantyne, two of the first six complainants, and many more who gave emotional, first-hand accounts of the systemic racism they faced. We see the complexities of racism at that time and now, how the event affected them personally, the trauma and the memories that still haunt them.
This fight spanned into conspiracies with RCMP, protests in Trinidad and would eventually spark change with how human rights would be addressed in the Canadian Government. The Ninth Floor is an eye-opening account of an event that shows the blatant discrimination of Black students who refused to take bureaucratic racism sitting down.