Manitoba

Winnipeg woman asks why nobody spoke up to racist bus riders

A Winnipeg woman was about to take a bus home from work on Monday when her route was diverted due to a rally in support of Wet'suwet'en. That's when she says she heard disturbing racist slurs coming from others on the bus.

Indigenous woman reacts to incident during Wet'suwet'en march in an emotional and widely-shared video

Violet Baptiste hopes people will stand up for those who are targets of racialized violence or harassment. (Submitted by Violet Baptiste)

A Winnipeg woman's commute was recently delayed by a rally in support of Wet'suwet'en — but it was the disturbing racist slurs coming from other transit riders that affected her more.

Violet Baptiste posted an emotional video reacting to the experience on her Facebook timeline earlier this week, which has now been shared more than a thousand times.

"It's really hard being a Native person in Winnipeg, and especially it was hard being Native today," she said through tears in the video.

Baptiste, whose mother comes from Fisher River Cree Nation and father is from Berens River First Nation, says she was waiting for a bus to go home at the corner of Osborne Street and River Avenue on Monday when people involved in the demonstration began marching.

"I was just standing there and then I can hear them, 'Oh my God, they're stupid protesters,' and 'All these damn Native people, why don't they go get jobs?' and 'Why don't they go do something else? Why don't they go protest somewhere where they won't bug people,'" she recalled.

Emily Amos led protestors down Portage Avenue during rush hour on Monday in a solidarity march supporting the Wet'suwet'en hereditary leaders in B.C. who are opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline and RCMP enforcement actions. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Anger boiled over last week after the RCMP began arresting people trying to prevent the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline which was planned to go through Wet'suwet'en territory in Northern B.C.

Marches in solidarity with the people who identify as land defenders were held across the country on Monday.

Baptiste asked the people at the bus stop if they knew why the rally was taking place, and tried to explain that they were blocking traffic in solidarity with people in Wet'suwet'en territory, but she didn't feel heard.

"It was a constant bombardment of a group of people just saying whatever they wanted about Native people and I couldn't even have a voice because every time I tried to say something, I'd have three or four people ganging up on me trying to challenge that," she said.

When Baptiste finally got on the bus, she says the insults continued until she got off 20 minutes later.

'Challenge that thinking'

Baptiste wonders why nobody stepped in.

"I'm not saying everyone has the same beliefs and I'm not saying that everybody has to believe what I believe — we're all different — but what someone could've done was tell these people or at least acknowledge that what they're doing was very ignorant," she said.

WATCH | Violet Baptiste's heartfelt reaction to racism on the bus
Winnipeg's Violet Baptiste says it's "really hard being a Native person in Winnipeg." 5:08

This isn't the first time Baptiste has heard these stereotypes hurled her way, and she knows it won't be the last.

She says her children have also been taunted about their heritage and culture at school.

Baptiste hopes people will stand up for people who are being attacked.

"I want each of my non-Indigenous friends to challenge that idea, to challenge that thinking that we're all lazy, and drunks and should get arrested. That we're jobless and not doing anything with our lives," Baptiste said.

"I'm a strong woman, but having a group of white people abuse me for 15, 20 minutes on a bus, telling me everything that's wrong with Native people isn't right."

 

With files from Cory Funk