About 80 mask-clad people gathered in family groups at Bob Dailey Stadium on Saturday, June 13 to stand and speak in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and to drive home the point that racism is also a Canadian problem.
“The reason we organized this event tonight was to bring youth together and to bring the community together to start the conversation about what’s happening in Port Alberni and what’s happening in the world,” said one of the event’s organizers, Kiara Collinge.
“We want to start the change, to end racism, to end discrimination. It happens in Port Alberni; it happens in our backyard. We just don’t talk about it enough, and we need to talk about it.”
The rally was one of several held across Canada on Saturday that honoured the memory of Chantel Moore, a young Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman who was shot by police in Edmundston, New Brunswick earlier this month. Port Alberni’s rally included a vigil for 92 people who have died at the hands of police officers in B.C. since 2000.
Moore’s grandfather, Ron Mukwiila Martin, his sister Louise and cousin Alice George from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation thanked the youth who came to Bob Dailey Stadium to speak out and to listen.
“We need to stop the violence; we need to stop the racism,” Louise Martin said, adding that it’s been difficult to accept the news and circumstances of Moore’s death.
“This is our ancestral home. We are smart, healthy, intelligent people…There are so many stories about beatings, it’s tiring. I hope our gathering today will help bring peace. It’s time for peace.”
George talked about the loss their family feels as they continue to process Moore’s death. “She was a really beautiful young lady. She called me grandma and she made me feel so good; she was that kind of person,” George said. “I was so sad to hear she was shot.”
Ron Martin talked about Moore’s ancestral connections, and how her traditional name—Huup Kwista ah—means “sun coming up over the mountains.” “We came from somewhere,” he explained.
He talked about the systemic racism he has seen throughout his life, from attending residential school in Opitsaht, on Meares Island off the west coast of Vancouver Island, to an incident in Nanaimo. Martin told the crowd he had his own encounter with police that led to him to use a wheelchair.
He said he taught his daughter, Moore’s mother, to never accept people calling her down for the colour of her skin.
Afterward, Martin said he wants people to know “that we’re human beings. We’re not f’ing Indians, we’re not drunken Indians, we’re human beings.”
He said he sees positive signs in Port Alberni, where he has been living since May 1. “I have hope for Port Alberni,” he said.
Reghan Geddes, another organizer, urged people to be actively anti-racist. “What a lot of well-meaning white allies don’t realize, and I’ve been guilty of this myself, is that it’s not enough to just ‘not be racist.’ We must be actively anti-racist. That means calling out our ignorant friends and family,” Geddes said.
“There is no excuse to be ignorant in 2020.”
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