Today's anti-racism protesters — in their own words
Thousands marched through Ottawa to speak out against anti-black racism
Thousands of people took to the streets of downtown Ottawa Friday, marching in solidarity against anti-black racism and police brutality.
CBC Ottawa asked some of those protesters why they felt compelled to come out and make their presence felt. Here's what they had to say.
Note: some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Claude Dee Laguerre
I decided to come out today because I, being a part of this community, have not only seen the injustices taking place — I have also been a victim of these injustices. I feel that it is important as a person of colour to make my voice heard and to help amplify the voices of people who have lost their lives or been subject to discrimination, who are no longer here and able to speak up for themselves.
Speaking to police brutality in particular: I have been pulled over more times than my friends, for reasons that have not been disclosed to me. Sometimes I'm just pulled over for random checks. Sometimes it's because they want to run my licence plate and make sure everything is in order. I don't have a criminal record. I've never committed an offence — even as much as a parking ticket.
I want to make it known that we will no longer be silenced, and that we will come into solidarity to fight these systemic oppressions.
Axel-Eitel Kutnjem Ntienjem
I came out today to protest against, first of all, the killing of George Floyd by American police officers. But also to protest against systemic racism — not only in Canada, but also in the U.S. and all over the world. Against black people, but also against other minorities, people of colour and people of the LGBTQ community.
Currently, the Ottawa Police Service, [they only require] 13 weeks for a police officer who's been admitted to train to become a police officer. For me, that is clearly not enough. In places like Sweden, where police brutality is almost non-existent, their police training is two-and-a-half years.
There are places in America where it takes longer to become a licensed barber than it does to become a police officer. If police officers are better trained, then we will see a decrease in police brutality.
I think that racism is obviously a big problem in this society, here in Canada and also in the U.S., especially with all of the police brutality that's happening. And I think the more we talk about it, the more we protest about it, there are some changes that can happen.
I personally don't have many experiences, but I have a friend who has been called racist names because of her skin colour. It's really awful for people to call each other [those things]. We're all human beings.
Kwanzaa, no last name given
I'm a child and youth care worker, and I've seen how black youth have been hurt in the system. And I just hope that there will be a difference. And it starts with our policies, it starts with the police, and it starts with our politicians.
There are a lot of kids who get criminalized in the school systems. They're the ones that get labelled as aggressive. They're labelled as not being able to be controlled. Cops get called on them. I know one story where a nine-year-old black boy, the cops were called on him three times. His mother had no idea that this was happening.
People believe that there's no racism in Ottawa. There is. There's racism in all of Canada. It's just underground.
Renelle Sib and Alex Silas
Renelle: I'm here to ... get my voice heard, but also to actually get change, to empower the younger generation — for them to know that people are standing up for them.
I'm a chef, so I've worked in different kitchens in Ottawa. And [racism] is pretty recurrent. Like, asking me to understand that my hair is a problem — that I need to conform to wearing a hat, otherwise I need to figure out my hair. It's on me. There weren't any alternate solutions. Like, I'm sorry that my whole being is a problem to you.
The amount of racism that you hear in a kitchen, and just the hospitality business, it's really, really vile. As a young black woman, it's very difficult to navigate those waters.
Alex: I'm just here to be an ally. I'm here to educate myself more on the issues — it's such a big crowd, it's hard to hear the speakers — but I'm here to be an ally. I'm here to support my partner. And we need change, and we need real change more than empty words.
Ashley Iradukunda (left) and Chesna Shenge (right)
Chesna: Change has to happen, because our people can't continue being killed. I hope that people can actually see what's happening, and that the system can change. Because so many people are dying, and they're not doing anything to help us.
In class, teachers can act differently toward me than the other white students. I know there's so many other people who've faced worse, and I hope that can never come to me or my family. It has to change.
Ashley: I came to use my voice for good. I hope the system changes, and there's justice for all the people who've died because of police brutality.