Hundreds attend Yellowknife anti-racism demonstration

An anti-racism demonstration was held in Yellowknife on Tuesday afternoon. The event brought hundreds of people together. (Photo by Francis Tessier-Burns)

“Enough is enough,” hundreds of people chanted outside the RCMP detachment in Yellowknife.

The chants were part of an anti-racism demonstration held Tuesday afternoon.

The event brought hundreds to the multiplex for a solidarity motorcade to ensure social distancing. The speeches were planned to be live streamed — but organizers decided to go forward with live speeches and held them outside the RCMP Yellowknife detachment.

Organizer Ambe Chenemu addressed the crowd first, speaking about racism in Canadian society, both past and present. He also called on allies to no longer ignore racism when they see it.

“People have died for this, people continue to die for this and those lives were not wasted,” Chenemu said. “Are you going to speak up when you see racism? Are you going to do something when you see racism?”

The speeches went on for over an hour an a half discussing numerous subjects, including the plight Black and Indigenous people have had to face while dealing with the police.

Recent examples were brought up, including Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman from British Columbia who was killed by police during a wellness check in New Brunswick. As well as a Nunavut man who was hit by the door of an RCMP vehicle while intoxicated.

Ndilo Chief Ernest Betsina spoke of the racism he has faced as an Indigenous man.

“As an Indigenous man I represent a people who suffer and continue to suffer because of residential schools,” he said.

The Yellowknife protest echoes those ongoing in the United States, which started after several unarmed Black people were killed at the hands of the police.

Breonna Taylor, who would’ve celebrated her 27th birthday last week, was among those killed. Taylor, an EMT, was shot by police eight times at her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. Police described the situation as an attempted drug sting operation — no one has been charged in her death.

The event was held on the same day as George Floyd’s funeral, the man who sparked the now global protest.

Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died in police custody after a video captured a white police officer with his knee on the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes.

“I can’t breathe,” the crowd chanted, a rallying cry to the Black Lives Matter movement, one of the last things Floyd said before he died.

Yellowknife city councillor Cynthia Mufandaedza spoke about the importance of embracing diversity.

“The world is ready to change,” she said. “As a community we must recommit to changing ourselves.”

Also in attendance was  Mayor Rebecca Alty as well as several RCMP officers.

Chenemu thanked the officers for attending, but also admitted the police no longer have the trust of marginalized communities and they need to earn it back. He also acknowledged the lack of diversity within the RCMP.

“Have you seen one officer of colour around here? Have you seen one indigenous officer around here?” he asked.

“Defund the police,” was chanted at several points, a new initiative pushing governments to redistribute police funding to other departments including mental health resources.

“Say it with confidence, because it’s the right thing,” Chenemu responded to the chants.

The demonstration ended with everyone in attendance taking a knee.

The event was organized by a variety of community members and promoted by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing federal government workers.

With files from Francis Tessier-Burns.

 

About the Author

Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from Brockville, Ont. He is happy to call the Northwest Territories home and is always listening for stories that matter to the community. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at luke.carroll@cklbradio.com