Carrier Sekani Family Services is voicing its support for the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
President of Carrier Sekani Family Services Chief Corinna Leween says the issue of racism resonates with Indigenous people across Canada and in Carrier Nations.
“Similar to the experiences, injustices and racism faced by the Black movement, First Nations have faced these challenges for over 500 years,” she said.
Mary Teegee, Executive Director of Child and Family Services at CSFS, says society can no longer be complacent with this behaviour and systematic discrimination.
“Indigenous people have a long history of injustice,” she said. “We, regardless of ethnicity, must no longer tolerate injustices perpetuated by colonial violence.”
Floyd’s death at the hands of police in the U.S. is a stark reminder of discrimination that Indigenous people face each and every day, she said.
“It is evident, many First Nations (people) are imprisoned, face prejudices and inequality,” said Leween. “Just as concerning is the number of Carrier men who have died in recent years, while incarcerated.”
In 2003, RCMP were criticized in a report for the use of stun guns and restraints in the death of Prince George man, Clayton Willey. Recently, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) recommended charging five RCMP office over the 2017 death of 35-year-old Dale Culver who died after he was pepper sprayed. The IIO is now investigating the recent death of Everett Patrick, a Lake Babine Nation member who died in custody after a stand-off with police in a downtown store. Police used a dog team to arrest Patrick, who was assessed, and released, by medical staff at the hospital prior to being taken to jail.
“The protests occurring around the world denouncing the abhorrent murder of yet another Black man is a cry from humanity saying enough is enough,” said Teegee. “How can we claim to be a fair and just society if the most marginalized people can be killed at the hands of individuals who wield power and are there to protect us?”
She said Carrier Sekani Family Services recognizes many police officers are virtuous and work well with Nation members, however Teegee says change still needs to occur.
“We are no longer talking about changes to government policies, to funding, to the policing and judicial systems – we are talking about changes that need to occur within each individual who wields power over another person,” she said. “We stand with our brothers and sisters to raise awareness about colonial violence we endure each and every day in Canada.”
“Education starts at home and is the responsibility for all citizens,” said Leween.
CSFS invites all members to join the protest at Prince George City Hall at 2 p.m. this Friday to support the Black Lives Matter movement. As we are still in the midst of a pandemic, attendees will be practicing physical distancing guidelines, such as wearing a mask and keeping two metres apart.