A banner reading Stop the Stack.
Stop the Stack is an advocacy group in support of Taylor McNallie and Adora Nwofor—two Black activists who are at the receiving end of charge stacking. Credit: Stop the Stack YYC Credit: Stop the Stack YYC

Taylor McNallie and Adora Nwofor, both Black women who are active human rights advocates, have been at the receiving end of charge stacking—in each incident that they received a charge, they were speaking up against police violence, racial injustices or other human rights violations.

Sixteen charges from the Calgary Police Services (CPS) were brought against McNallie since 2020, and Nwofor is faced with three charges since 2023. Stop the Stack, an advocacy group dedicated to fighting the legal abuse that these two women are facing.

For McNallie, co-creator of grassroots organizations such as Inclusive Canada, Mutual Aid Canada and Walls Down Collective, it started with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). After the murder of George Floyd, when McNallie became more involved in advocacy work, she started organizing community discussions in rural Alberta with the goal of talking about race.

In September 2020, McNallie was asked to speak at a community discussion in Red Deer, AB. The event was set up at a public park and McNallie remembered hearing counter-protesters in the distance.

“[It] felt like 1930s, 1940s American South where you have people standing in the boxes of their trucks, their loud horns coming down the road and their Americans and Trump flags hanging—it was just a wild time,” said McNallie in an interview with rabble.

At the time, McNallie was also being targeted by a known far-right activist, Pat King, who she had a restraining order against      at the time. Before the event, she received threats from King and other counter-protesters. While the organizers of the event informed the RCMP, no action was taken—as a result, violence erupted between anti-racism supporters and counter-protesters, among them were members of the white supremacist group Soldiers of Odin.

“Out of all of the violence that happened that day, I received my very first criminal charge that day. And that’s kind of started the whole spiral into where I am now,” said McNallie.

Although the criminal charge from the RCMP ended up being dropped, the charge stacking started again in 2021 as McNallie and protesters called for the dismissal of CPS Constable Alex Dunn. Constable Dunn used excessive force with Dalia Kafi, a Black woman who was taken into custody. Initially, the officer received a conditional sentence of 30 days, split between 15 days of house arrest and 15 under a curfew. The sentence was suspended.

During this protest, McNallie received seven charges—the courts deemed her guilty of three of the charges and was sentenced to 30 days, served intermittently. On two separate occasions, she received an additional eight charges.

On top of charge stacking, McNallie is being sued for defamation from three different police officers—effectively silencing her ability to speak up for human rights

“Three different Calgary police officers are suing me for defamation within the last two years for sharing about their violence online and naming them. 

“They go for permanent injunctions—so basically, I can never speak about these people ever on anything, ever again. Doesn’t matter what they do,” said McNallie.

Since then, one of the injunctions have been denied by the courts.

Nwofor is a long-time activist against systemic racism and president of Black Lives Matter YYC. Throughout all her years in racial justice activism, this is the first time Nwofor has ever encountered charge stacking. Since June 2023, Nwofor has received three charges.

While all charges have since been dropped, the damage has already been done. Nwofor has seen police harassment and racial profiling her entire life—now that she’s more active in protesting, it has escalated.

“The police have made many missteps with me—they have been harassing me for a long time because I’m a Black person, not specifically because I was an organizer,” said Nwofor.

“But the more [protests] I organized, the more they harassed me or while I was being harassed, they did nothing. Twenty years ago, the police were pulling me over on a regular basis for basically nothing,” Nwofor added.

Harmful tactic to silence racial justice advocates

Stacking charges is nothing new—the tactic dates as far back to the late 1800s. However, more research is needed on charge stacking, especially when it comes to race, gender and type of crime.

But according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the United States, this is standard practice. By stacking charges against a defendant, this can subject them to a potentially longer sentence. If the defendant is found guilty, they are presented with a plea deal to reduce the sentence.

In the case of McNallie and Nwofor, Stop the Stack stated that this is an example of vexatious litigation and legal abuse.

In an interview with rabble.ca, Dr. Temitope Oriola, professor of criminology at the University of Alberta and the president of the Canadian Sociological Association, stated that these are the realities of policing.

“This is part of a broader set of systemic issues with policing as an occupation and intolerance for dissent—intolerance for vocal, consistent and persistent advocates who are championing not just their own rights, but also the rights of other,” said Oriola.

“And police services are quite notorious for being very reactive, to even the most tepid or minor criticism. So that plays out in the way that they respond to individuals like these two women,” Oriola added.

There is also an underlining impunity within police services which creates a far greater obstacle for valid criticism to be taken seriously. Oriola added that critics of the police are perceived as troublemakers rather than people try to bring about change.

“What it does is it sends a subliminal message—whether or not that’s the intended consequence—but it does send us a subliminal message that there is a price to pay for being a vocal critic of the police,” said Oriola.

McNallie and Nwofor, who are both single mothers and self-employed, the legal abuses they have faced from the CPS have drained them emotionally and financially.

“You are looking at a David and Goliath scenario here. The Calgary Police Service is a half a billion-dollar industry. Its annual budget is over half a billion every year—even higher than the Edmonton Police Service, by the way,” said Oriola.

“They have all the resources at their disposal—in-house lawyers, PR and all of that,” Oriola said.

Instead of squandering resources on court appearances and lawsuits involving McNallie and Nwofor, these resources can be put elsewhere.

“Ultimately, the Calgary Police Service loses out by engaging in legal gymnastics with members of the public, individuals from communities they ought to serve—in fact that they have sworn to serve. By the way, they also have to consider whether or not this is in fact a good use of their resources,” said Oriola.

An uphill battle, but necessary work

While their work in anti-Black systemic racism and other human rights issues has taken a huge toll on their lives, McNallie and Nwofor continue to speak up. Even after the CPS’ attempt to silence their voices, the two women persevere.

“They are doing their best, but it’s not enough. If I made it 48 years, they can never stop me because the things that I faced in this city before I was an advocate, or the people who have been in my life, the stuff I’ve seen them face in the city—horrific,” said Nwofor.

McNallie never asked for this activist leadership role—as a mother, she just wants to build a better future for her child. She added that work outside of protests that are focused on education and empowerment are equally important in order to build a sustainable future.

“I just continue my work in my tiny little corner of the world, because it’s necessary—and the world is going to change with or without me and I would like to be a part of that change,” said McNallie.

Kiah Lucero smiling and holding a camera.

Kiah Lucero

Kiah Lucero is a multimedia journalist based out of Calgary, Alta. Back in April 2020, she completed her Bachelor of Communication, majoring in journalism from Mount Royal University. Her published work...