Montreal rally condemns police killings of Indigenous people, calls for change

Friday’s demonstration marked the anniversary of the publication of the final report of the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

More than a year after MMIWG report released, protesters say nothing has changed

Calling for better protection of Indigenous women, Jessica Quijano, co-ordinator of the Iskweu project, says 'we need to confront the leaders, the mayor. Valérie Plante, where are you?' (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

Speaking to a small gathering of peaceful demonstrators in downtown Montreal Friday afternoon, Jessica Quijano called for the reallocation of police funding to intervention workers experienced in de-escalation. 

"I have been doing this work for 20 years. You do not need a gun to do this work," said Quijano, who is the co-ordinator of the Iskweu project at the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.

The Iskweu project helps families of victims and works to prevent disappearances.

Quijano said she has received support from the city's Black community, as similar demonstrations against police brutality and racism were held in Montreal and across North America.

"We are confronting a lot of the same issues," Quijano said. "And we need to confront the leaders — the mayor. Valérie Plante, where are you?"

The demonstration was held just over a year after the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) released its final report

Demonstrators held signs with slogans like 'End state-sanctioned violence against Indigenous people' and 'no more stolen sisters.' (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

The demonstration was co-organized by Missing Justice Collective, a group that works to build awareness about the violence and discrimination experienced by Indigenous women living in Quebec.

The collective's co-ordinator, Dayna Danger says in a statement that "we denounce the current situation and lack any meaningful implementation of existing recommendations from either the national or provincial inquiries and other leading testimonies."

The statement says there is "continued inaction" following the MMIWG report's release.

"The current spike in violence and increased surveillance bring into question which communities are being best served in light of the ongoing health crisis surrounding COVID-19," the statement says.

The demonstration was held Friday afternooon at Place Norman Bethune in Montreal. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

'We get ignored': Nakuset

Nakuset, the executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal, said the city has some "really amazing intervention workers that work with our people."

Indigenous people are often victims of violent crimes and those crimes go unreported unless intervention workers catch wind of the violence. Those workers then go to the police, she said.

"And we get ignored," she said.

Jessica Quijano says 'you do not need a gun' to help the Indiginous community. She's calling for police funding to be allocated to intervention workers instead. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

It's time for change, Nakuset said, and that change can start with the Montreal police (SPVM).

She said Indigenous leaders are willing to sit down to meet with police officials to work on ways to prevent the racial profiling of Indigenous women.

Amid growing calls for reforms, Montreal police Chief Sylvain Caron held a news conference on June 5 to announce the Montreal police service is committed to eliminating any practice of racial profiling. 

Caron said he, along with elected city officials, want police officers to do their jobs "free of discrimination and racism."

Marc Miller, Canada's Indigenous services minister, said earlier this month that there "needs to be a full accounting of what has gone on" when it comes to the violence by police against Indigenous people.

With files from Verity Stevenson