Fort Smith holds anti-racism rally in solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Approximately 60 residents and local leaders gathered in Fort Smith, N.W.T. on Saturday for an anti-racism rally in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. 

Approximately 60 people showed up in support

About 60 community people gathered in Fort Smith, N.W.T. on Saturday for an anti-racism rally.  (Pierre-Emmanuel Chaillon)

Approximately 60 community members and local leaders gathered in Fort Smith, N.W.T., on Saturday for an anti-racism rally in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. 

Community members, elders, and local leaders gathered and shared stories, at the four-way intersection at the centre of  town where people held up signs with anti-racism messages. Organizers called for accountability and community involvement in police services across the North. 

The community was joining in on a worldwide wave of protests and rallies against anti-Black racism and calls for an end to police brutality. The movement was sparked by the recent death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

Kushalini Naidoo was one of the people in attendance and said it was great to see the community show so much solidarity. 

"It was so great to have that acknowledgement ... in our community people that came together to recognize the pain and the suffering endured and racism is not okay. It just isn't okay."

For Naidoo, the issue is something that is close to her heart.

"I was born and raised in South Africa and I was subjected to apartheid discrimination and all of those ugly truths that we had to we had to endure growing up."

Kushalini Naidoo says it's important to remember that racism is 'upheld by many' here in Canada. (Submitted by Kushalini Naidoo)

'It is relevant in the North'

Naidoo said it's also important to recognize that racism happens in this country too. "Right here in Canada we face the same pain with our Indigenous brothers and sisters," she said. Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black-Indigenous woman who died during an encounter with Toronto police, has also been remembered at movements across the country.

"Canada is not free from racism," Naidoo said. "We experience that here with Indigenous [people]. I've experienced that coming into the country from South Africa."
Lesley Paulette was one of the organizer's of Saturday's rally. (Pierre-Emmanuel Chaillon)

The event was organized by members of the Midwives Association of the Northwest Territories, who came up with the idea while discussing how their association could show solidarity with the movement.

"It was important for people as a community to ... acknowledge what's happening and recognize that it is relevant even in a small community in the far North," said Lesley Paulette, one of the organizers.

"I think there was recognition from the community that it was important to not be silent on this issue."

This week, the federal Indigenous Services minister said he was "outraged" and "pissed" by the continuing pattern of police violence against Indigenous people in Canada. These comments came in the wake of a video circulating of a man in Kinngait, Nunavut, who was arrested after being struck by the open door of a moving police pickup truck.

Many who drove by honked their horns in support and waved at those who were gathered. A couple of local RCMP detachment members also came by the event. 

"People stood up and people wanted to talk to one another about it. And I think that's the beginning. You know people were identifying issues and you know that was a success," said Paulette.

Naidoo said she hopes that elders and leaders sharing stories about ongoing struggles with racism will help create change on a local and national level.

"I hope that their words will be a catalyst in working in our community and our country up to its blatant racism that is still being upheld by many."

As sign at the rally calling for an end in 'racism in police'. Organizers called for accountability of police services across the North. (Submitted by Kushalini Naidoo)