Healing walks in memory of Chantel Moore held across the Maritimes
HALIFAX -- Communities across the Maritimes held healing walks on Saturday in memory of a young Indigenous woman who was killed by police in Edmunston, N.B. last week.
A large crowd came turned out to the walk in Edmunston, the city where 26-year-old Chantel Moore died after being shot by an Edmunston police officer on June 4.
The group walked in silence for more than a kilometre through the streets of Edmunston.They said it wasn’t a protest, but a healing walk for Chantel Moore and her family.
“We’ve been hurt too many times. How can we ever trust any police force?” asked one member of Moore’s family.
Moore moved to the community three months ago to be near her mother and six-year-old daughter.
On Saturday, New Brunswick’s Indigenous community gathered around the family, many of whom travelled from British Columbia to be there for Chantel’s mother Martha.
“I want justice. There’s no need for anybody to be shot. There’s no need for it,” said Martha Martin.
Martin says she now has to be her daughter’s voice.
“We can all come together as one. The message is clear here, that we can all come together as one.”
A private funeral service was held for Moore in Edmundston on Thursday where she was remembered as a kind soul who united family from both sides of the country.
“There are times since this has happened that I feel so much anger,” said Nora Martin, Chantel’s great aunt. “I start to feel that hate in my heart, but I had to let that go because that’s not who I am, that’s not who we are.”
Quebec's independent police investigation agency, the Bureau des enquetes independantes, is investigating the shooting. Police have said an officer performing a wellness check allegedly encountered a woman with a knife.
On Saturday, dignitaries spoke about the hurt and loss in the community. That includes New Brunswick’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jake Stewart, who says he’s in support of a public inquiry into Chantel’s death.
“We do have a systemic racism problem. There’s a heavy bias in the province,” said Stewart. “I just don’t speak from the perspective of MLA’s, I mean it’s throughout government, throughout the system.”
“I shouldn’t have to go out and fear my life. Nobody should,” adds Jayla Okoye, a 17-year-old resident of the Tobique First Nation. “I just want everyone in my community to say ‘we want justice!’.”
Elder Imelda Perley, one of the organizers of the healing walk, says more events will be planned in the near future.
“I’m just encouraging people not to be ashamed of their culture and not to be assimilated,” says Perley. “(We don’t) call it a ‘protest’. I don’t want that word in our language, because that’s not the way we do it.”
Healing walks held across the Maritimes
The Edmunston march was not the only healing walk held on Saturday. Simultaneous walks were held in Fredericton and Moncton, and in Nova Scotia in both Membertou and Halifax.
At the Halifax event, the colour of gold could be seen everywhere.
“Before Chantal would part, or leave, a group of family, she would say the phrase ‘stay golden’, and it was her favourite colour,” explains Amanda, one of the organizers of the Halifax healing walk.
The death of Rodney Levi, an Indigenous man killed by police on Friday night in Sunny Corner, N.B., marked the second time in nine days that an Indigenous person shot and killed by New Brunswick police.
The news of Levi’s death was discussed frequently and changed the tone of the Halifax event.
“Some of our organizers knew him personally,” said Raven Davis. “When doing a water ceremony, it’s important that water is the focus, and unfortunately that cut is very fresh and very deep, and so the water would lose its focus. So in honour of tradition and protocol, we’re going to put that aside so our grief can be held together.”
The march began in Grand Parade Square, outside of Halifax’s city hall, and took over several downtown streets, before ending at the headquarters of Halifax Regional Police.
“How many people is it going to take before we begin to see equality for Indigenous people in Canada?” asked Misha Bakshi.
The demonstration also saw calls for the defunding of police departments across Canada.
“If we took even a small portion of what we’re putting into our police budget in Halifax, and put it into even fixing our roads, how different would this city be?” asked Bakshi.
“Somebody commented to me, ‘you’re really good at organizing these things,” said Amanda. “I said ‘because we do it too often.’ That’s why we’re also pushing the message of abolishing police, because we don’t need to do this anymore.”
However, organizers made it clear that Saturday’s events shouldn’t be called protests, but rather healing walks.
“A different opportunity to gather without a significant sign of anger,” clarified Davis. “Even though we may be angry inside, we’re transferring this anger into something that actually supports our collective healing.”
Chantel Moore’s family plan on flying back to B.C. this week, but say they have hired a lawyer and are calling for a public inquiry into Chantel’s death.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jake Stewart says an inquiry will be discussed this week.