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“Discrimination towards Indigenous youth has to end”: Marchers confront RCMP after eight-kilometre justice march

By Andy Crosby

Dozens of students participated in an eight-kilometre march from Carleton University to RCMP headquarters on the Vanier Parkway on March 9 to demand justice for murdered Indigenous youth.

The rally, which began in the university atrium, was prompted by the recent hit-and-run of 22-year-old Brady Francis from the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick on Feb. 24. 

Summer-Harmony Twenish, a queer Algonquin Anishinabekwe from Kitigan Zibi and art history student minoring in Indigenous Studies, addresses the rally in the Carleton atrium. Credit: Vincent St.Martin

Summer-Harmony Twenish, a queer Algonquin Anishinabekwe from Kitigan Zibi and art history student minoring in Indigenous Studies, addresses the rally in the Carleton atrium.
Credit: Vincent St.Martin

“When Brady was killed it shook me up. It was difficult to be away from the community,” said Carolyn Simon, a Carleton student from Elsipogtog who helped organize the rally. “This was happening during the Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie verdicts, and it pained me to think that this might happen to one of my fellow community members.”

“I wanted to bring the #JusticeForBrady movement to Ottawa, also not forgetting the other murdered Indigenous youth,” she told The Leveller.

The students blocked the road for hours, causing delays in the afternoon commute. Their aim was to exert pressure on the RCMP to avoid a repeat of injustice dealt to the families following the acquittals of Gerald Stanley in the murder case of 22-year-old Colten Boushie from the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan and Raymond Cormier in the case of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba.

The driver of a GMC truck fled the scene after striking Francis in Saint-Charles, N. B., just north of Elsipogtog, while Francis waited for a drive home. The RCMP seized a truck on Feb. 25 as part of the ongoing investigation, but no arrests have been made, according to a news release dated Feb. 27.

“The purpose of the rally was to put pressure on the RCMP to progress in the investigation of Brady Francis’ death,” said Simon. “Also, to tell them that the discrimination towards Indigenous youth has to end [because] so many Indigenous people are unfairly killed and nothing comes of the investigations; the suspect ends up being found not guilty.”

A small group, including Simon and Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail from Attawapiskat First Nation, approached a group of officers standing on the driveway closer to the RCMP headquarters. The exchange was filmed by Trycia Bazinet, a PhD student in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies.

“We have walked for eight kilometres to this place just to show you that we are willing to travel great lengths,” said Simon. “We are here to deliver a list of demands so that one day Indigenous youth will finally face justice, and that we will not be overrepresented in jails and we will not be failed by the judicial system any more.”

Wabano-Iahtail demanded that the officer who received the demands, identified in a Facebook post as an Inspector Cooper, read them aloud.

The Leveller obtained a copy of the demands, which read:

  1. We demand the RCMP continues to work on the case of Brady Francis and ensures to treat it with the utmost fairness. Treat this case the same as you would for a deceased white person or a family member. We demand that the family be treated with respect and care. We demand the RCMP maintain their professionality always, treating evidence with confidentiality and making sure that it is not altered in any way.
  2. On a broader scale, we demand that the RCMP confronts racism towards Indigenous Peoples and people of colour, and aims to do better. We demand that the RCMP begins anti-racist and anti-oppression training for all of its staff. This includes a portion on the history of the RCMP and why it was created in Canada, including its role in carrying out the colonial project. The RCMP must implement disciplinary actions in the event of racism towards Indigenous folks.
  3. We demand that the RCMP becomes aware that each territory under “their” jurisdiction is Indigenous land. These lands are governed by the legal orders of the original Nations of Turtle Island. The police institution needs to learn about these legal orders and it needs to start respecting them and consult with Knowledge Holders, Medicine Bundle Holders, and Language Speakers when appropriate. The RCMP needs to be aware that there are alternatives to policing here.

“As the colonial state police you have failed us, you have failed our families. You have failed the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys,” Wabano-Iahtail told the group of officers. “You have not respected our treaties, our friendship, our peace, our respect. You have violated our laws.”

“I am holding you responsible for your injustices that you have brought here on our lives,” she said.

After the group dispersed, some participants returned to campus to partake in a solidarity rally being held for striking CUPE 2424 workers (see page 1). Bazinet told The Leveller that the organizers took the strike into consideration when planning the march, that they “chose a route so as to not disrupt the picket line.”

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 10, No. 6 (Mar/Apr 2018).

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