Protesters implore P.E.I. leaders to take stand against racism
'We cannot truthfully say that racism does not exist here'
About 25 people stood in the rain outside the P.E.I. legislature to peacefully protest the ongoing racial issues across the country and in the United States.
The death of George Floyd in the United States has reignited anger across North America. A police officer has been charged in his death.
Tamara Steele, president of P.E.I.'s Black Cultural Society, said though violence and hate crimes aren't as prevalent on P.E.I. as they are in larger provinces, "we cannot truthfully say that racism does not exist here. We cannot truthfully say that racial profiling by police doesn't happen here."
As Premier Dennis King and leaders from P.E.I.'s political parties listened, Steele implored them to take a stand against discrimination and to be mindful when creating or reviewing legislation.
"We ask you to consider what you can do as our leaders to ensure that those who are meant to serve and protect are serving and protecting everyone equally, to ensure that job security for all Islanders is equally protected," she said.
"Our feelings of safety here on this beautiful Island diminish every time we hear of a new case of anti-black violence in the news. Every time we personally face racially motivated aggressions and micro-aggressions."
King called Steele's speech a "powerful, moving and touching statement."
"Obviously what's taking place in the United States is geographically a piece from us but it's cause for us to realize that systemic racism and discrimination and hate is here too," he said.
"Even if the conversation is uncomfortable it's a conversation we need to have and we have to keep calling it out."
Earlier Tuesday in the P.E.I. legislature, Gord McNeilly, the Island's only black MLA, said he has had a difficult time reconciling with the reality of what's happening on the news.
"On one level I've been occasionally resigned but I will not give up or be afraid, neither should any of us.
McNeilly said in times like these, he is reminded of his father, Russell McNeilly, whose commitment to a just and multicultural society was so great he was awarded the governor general's award for volunteerism in 1992 and the New Brunswick Human Rights award in 2004.
"He did not do this work for the awards, he did it so I could have a better life and you could have a better life and everyone could be equal," McNeilly said.
"Like him, we cannot stop insisting on embracing diversity and on real inclusion, we must be diligent because racism is real."
Chijioke Amadi, vice president of Black Cultural Society who also attended Tuesday's protest, said racism is a "pandemic" that needs to end.
"Our hearts are bleeding," he said. "At some point we need action."
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With files from Cody MacKay, Ken Linton, Tony Davis and Sara Fraser