Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Michael Oliphant and Annie Pierre

‘Bring your angry self forward,’ speaker urges

Hundreds of Yukoners attended solidarity vigils in Whitehorse and Dawson City on Saturday to protest police brutality and systemic racism against black and Indigenous people.

By Gabrielle Plonka on June 8, 2020

Hundreds of Yukoners attended solidarity vigils in Whitehorse and Dawson City on Saturday to protest police brutality and systemic racism against black and Indigenous people.

“I’m excited by the support from the community,” Paige Galette, a vigil co-organizer, told the Star this morning.

“We do have a strong community, we do have great people, we do have great allies, but we need to do better and we need to do more.”

The Whitehorse vigil took place at the downtown Healing Totem begining at noon. 

After the addresses of several speakers, attendees marched up Main Street. The crowd staged a die-in at the CBC Yukon building to protest the media’s representation of marginalized groups, then proceeded to block traffic outside the Fourth Avenue RCMP detachment.

The vigil was one of hundreds to take place across the country in recent days in response to the deaths of two Canadians in the presence of police.

Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Afro-Indigenous woman, fell to her death after a confrontation with police in her Toronto apartment on May 27.

Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman, was shot to death during a police wellness check in her New Brunswick home last week.

The two deaths have sparked outrage over the country’s long history of police brutality and systemic racism against people of colour.

The vigil centred around black lives, using the hashtag “They Matter Here.” T-shirts printed with the chant were free for people of colour in attendance.

“It’s really important to understand not only that black lives matter, but we matter in the Yukon, and everywhere, really,” Galette said.

“Yes, there are black people in the North … our experiences matter, and need to be highlighted.”

Locally, several speakers gave their accounts of existing as people of colour in Canada and the North. 

Annie Pierre said the previous week had been an intense time of processing difficult conversations and remembering violent acts against people of colour.

“The sad part is, I struggle with my rage as a black woman, because of the myth of the angry black woman,” Pierre said.

“I say no more, today…. Today and every day, let’s hold space for those who have lost our lives and say, no more.”

Several speakers placed the onus on the white people in attendance to educate themselves on systemic racism and police brutality in Canada.

“White guilt, I heard something about guilt earlier,” said Michael Oliphant.

“It’s time to put your guilt aside, and bring your angry self forward.”

Oliphant spoke of the challenges of activism.

“We live in a system of white supremacy, and I hate to talk about this, because I run the risk of alienating myself from my community, and the people I love,” Oliphant said.

“I fear the repercussions.”

Galette told the Star that it’s pivotal that people who don’t have lived experience of racism work on educating themselves without expecting people of colour to do that heavy lifting for them.

“When we’re talking about experiences as black people, as Indigenous people, as racialized people, recognizing it’s very taxing for us – it’s demanding, it’s emotional,” Galette said.

“We don’t have the privilege to not hold these conversations with children, so asking us to explain our pain and asking us to justify our pain. ... If you can Google how to find a plumber in town, and information about COVID, and when stores are open, you can Google how to be a better ally and why hashtags are important.”

Galette noted that racism does exist in the Yukon. Last week, she saw photos of Yukoners wearing shirts depicting white supremacy.

“These are our co-workers, these are our next-door neighbours,” Galette said.

A book published last January, Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada, features a chapter written by Galette on her experience of being black in the Yukon. The cover photo was also shot by her, and was co-edited by three founders of Black Lives Matter Toronto.

“It’s reflections on the movement itself, the movement in Canada, people’s experiences,” Galette said.

“There’s a lot of really awesome folks that contributed.”

Galette said she was pleasantly surprised to see the high attendance at Saturday’s vigil.

“Maybe, we didn’t think Yukon was ready to have this conversation – the night before, we had jitters and butterflies,” she said.

“We saw that turnout, and thought, ‘OK, people are obviously ready to have this conversation.’”

See more photos and coverage of Dawson City’s vigil.

Be the first to comment