Nova Scotia

Justice for Regis rally held in Halifax

Regis Korchinski-Paquet had Nova Scotia roots. The Toronto woman died after falling from a highrise building earlier this week while police were on scene. Her family believes police were involved in her death.

Woman with Nova Scotia roots died after falling from Toronto highrise building

What happened inside the apartment is unclear. But family members of Regis Korchinski-Paquet's believe she was pushed from the balcony. (Regis Paquet/Facebook)

A rally was held for Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Halifax on Saturday afternoon.

Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Toronto woman with Nova Scotia roots, died on Wednesday after falling from a highrise building while police were on scene.

Her family believes the police played a role in her death.

"I think that in Canada there's this misconception that we don't have police brutality in the same way that it exists in the United States," said Kate Macdonald, one of the organizers of the rally.

"And I think it's important that when we see these injustices happen here, that we take the time to properly acknowledge this systemic oppression that takes place in Canada as well."

The rally began at Victoria Park in the city's downtown. Tape was placed on the ground to ensure people could comply with the COVID-19 public health regulations. However, under the province's Health Protection Act, only gatherings of fewer than 15 people are allowed outdoors, and that limit was exceeded. 

Halifax Regional Police said in an email the event was attended by "hundreds." But no one was arrested or ticketed during the event and they "respect the public's right to a peaceful protest." 

Kate Macdonald helped organize the Justice for Regis rally. (Kate Macdonald)

People held signs with messages like, "Black lives over property, black lives over capitalism," "Black lives matter, justice for Regis," and "Honouring Regis Korchinski-Paquet." Halifax Regional Police attended, but stood far back.

Macdonald, an African Nova Scotian woman, said what happened to Korchinski-Paquet hit close to home. She said they are the same age.

"I think for me it's like a really stark reminder of my mortality," she said.

The rally eventually moved from Victoria Park to the Halifax Regional Police building on Gottingen Street.

Outside, they chanted, "No justice, no peace, no racist police."

Days before Korchinski-Paquet's death, George Floyd, an African American man in Minneapolis, died while a police officer kneeled on his neck during an arrest.

A sign made by Shone Bracken, a Justice for Regis rally participant. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)
Catie Mace, a Dalhousie University social work graduate, expressed her thoughts. (Elizabeth Chiu)

That death sparked protests across the U.S.

The police officer involved has been fired and charged with third-degree murder.

According to Korchinski-Paquet's family, what began as a 911 call for help for her ended in her death.

Her family's lawyer told reporters earlier this week Korchinski-Paquet was an active member of her church, a talented gymnast and proud of her Ukrainian and Nova Scotian roots.

But in the last five years, the lawyer said Korchinski-Paquet began experiencing epilepsy, and the family sometimes required help from police.

The woman's family believe police played a part in Korchinski-Paquet's death. "And, yeah, I stand with that," Macdonald said.

Justice for Regis rally in front of the Halifax Regional Police building on Saturday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

On Saturday afternoon, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage tweeted a message seemingly in relation to the rally and recent violence against black people.

In a retweet of municipal manager Derico Symonds, Savage said: "Nobody should die with a knee on their neck begging to breathe. Racism is real and we all have a responsibility to own that truth and change it."

With files from Elizabeth Chiu