Marjorie Roden, Daily Herald contributor
This past Sunday afternoon at the Saskatchewan Legislature Grounds in Regina, over 1000 people came out to support both the Black Lives Matter and other human rights’ atrocities that have taken place on Canadian soil.
“As you can see in front of us, all of us here are people of all nations coming together for one cause,” said Chilombo Mwela, one of the event’s organizers at the rally’s opening.
“This power can shape the hearts of people all over the world, to create change, not only in Regina, Saskatchewan, but everywhere. This is also to remind all of our black brothers and sisters that we have excellence within us.”
The opening blessing was given by Elder Lorna Standingready, and as she clutched a bundle of tobacco, the traditional gift elders are given before they speak, she gave the large crowd a lesson in Indigenous traditions.
“This tobacco was dressed with a red cloth, a red cloth for woman, the life givers of this race and many other nations.
“And in the days to come, give us the strength to carry on, carry on the good life for what we envision and for what we fight for in a good way, for our children, our grandchildren, and those unborn. Watch over us now, as we go on. Bless each of us. Bring us peace and comfort as we go on.”
Among the many speakers to follow Elder Standingready was Jordan Ames-Sinclair, who began his presentation in a humble manner.
“I’m not exactly sure how good of a speaker I’m going to be, because as I stood back there, watching and seeing all the beautiful faces on this beautiful day, I was just struck by such a powerful emotion, I almost fell over.”
Certainly, the large crowd held people from varying ethnicities, from Black to Indigenous, East Indian to Caucasian, Asian to Middle Eastern, and many others. Ames-Sinclair continued.
“It’s about making people aware because there are folks in Saskatchewan that believe racism doesn’t exist here. We just have to look at cases like Coulten Boushie to see that racism exists in Saskatchewan. Everyone, not just the people standing here today, but everyone needs to open up our conversations on what black racism is, and what all the forms of racism, including Indigenous and New Immigrant racism are, and how it affects us here in Saskatchewan.
“We need to start the conversation about how we have learned the behaviour to be racist…we need to unlearn it.
“We need to learn to begin to treat everyone as equals while respecting we know where you came from and we know where you came from and know the struggles that you have been through.”
Aimes-Sinclair added, “This week, this month, and frankly, since Canada has been founded, we have witnessed racism against black people and Indigenous people, as well as to the worst, murder of George Floyd, in Minnesota….some people see us as “radicals”, but I have to say, what is radical to me is that I don’t see the entire city of Regina lined up all the way down to the SGI building witnessing this.”
Rhonda Rosenberg from the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, another ally for the Black Lives Matter cause, clarified that “when people think about racism, they think about people with intention, being mean, saying names, not renting an apartment (to a minority), things like that, one person to another. That’s only one kind of racism.
“We also have systematic racism, we see it in our justice systems, in policing, in our juries, in corrections, and a number of Indigenous people being incarcerated in this province, young people too. And we see it in our high school systems, our social services systems. We can change policy. People can change policy. We must stand up and look for policy change.
“But even harder than that, our culture has colonialism, and white supremacy at its foundation. We have to look inside ourselves as well as in our systems, as well as question the media. We have to question what we see, and hear, and learn without even knowing that we’re learning it…we need to come together and support each other, and understand that our struggles against all different kinds of oppressions, our struggles would be better together, so let’s stay strong.”
Obianuju Juliet, Bushi, one of the other organizers of the rally from the Black Lives Matter: African Communities Unite group, agreed fully with these statements, drawing the similarities between the struggles of Africans in Canada with that of the Canadian Indigenous population.
“Racism does not belong in this democratic country. Justice does. Peace does. Love does. So we have to take responsibilities, each and every one of us, and to my white allies, those of you who may have white family members, or co-workers that have a different and deep hatred towards Black people or Indigenous people, I want you to speak up. Do not give up. Love will always win, not hatred. Racism does not belong here, but love does. Now before I speak on the history, and also to celebrate Black history, I want to talk about Saskatchewan.
“Canada has a racism crisis. Let’s take the steps to end the loss of life here in Canada. Let’s start with the killing of Indigenous women, let’s start with the castration of Indigenous men. They are human beings, and they deserve to live in this country. And yes, I may be yelling, but I am angry, so you’re just going to have to deal with it.”
Later in her speech, Bushi stated, “We are not anti-police. We are anti-police brutality. In places like Toronto, black people are 20 times more likely to be shot by police, Indigenous people are twice as likely to be shot by police than white people. In Quebec, Indigenous people are ten times as likely to be killed by police.
“In Manitoba, Indigenous people represent 58 per cent of those killed by police, and here in Saskatchewan, Indigenous people represent 62 per cent of those killed by police. Now if this does not disturb you, I don’t know what will.
“Blatant denial that racism exists in Canada saves only those who benefit from it. But silence is also violence. When we are silent, we are also complacent to allow police abuses to continue, unabated, and in the case of Black and Indigenous people, to get worse.”
Bushi made a request to “my allies, I am calling on you today. I want us to write to our MP’s, so that our police officers can wear bodycams. We want our police officers to wear bodycams.”
Though there are no immediate plans for more rallies in the coming days, it should be noted that the Regina City Police did help with the rally by setting up a roadblock near the Legislature so that, unlike the rally last Tuesday, vehicles would not be able to drive through the roadway where people stood.