Iqaluit’s recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest provided an opportunity to bring awareness to racism and police brutality in Nunavut.
Nunavummiut showed support for anti-racism by holding the demonstration 11 days after the death of a black man named George Floyd. The 46-year-old man was killed by a white police officer in Minnesota on May 25.
“We feel the pain of our brothers and sisters in the south,” said organizer Clayton Greaves, on June 5.
Nunavut stands in solidarity with the rest of the world, he added.
Greaves believes people often internalize all the oppression and racism, which leads to a negative impact on their well-being.
The protest provided a voice to people who “needed to let it out,” said Greaves.
Inuk protester Jukipa Kotierk, 25, was one of those people. She energetically led protesters to chant, “No racist police!”
Kotierk used the platform to address issues of police brutality and racism in Nunavut.
Unfortunately like the black community, the Inuit community also shares the trauma of police brutality, she explained.
Kotierk advocates the reallocation of RCMP funding to social programs for health and wellness for marginalized communities in Nunavut and Inuit.
“The RCMP need to be much more than culturally competent and anti-racist at this point,” she added.
She also talked about how racism against black people exists and is upheld in Nunavut.
“I see my community causing other communities harm and it’s time to put a stop to it,” said Kotierk.
Another protest organizer, Murielle Jassinthe, said the event is “really the beginning of a bigger conversation and it’s a call for action.”
She believes when individuals keep silent, they are participating in a system that pulls people apart in daily life.
Amid the hundreds of protesters, Daniel Legacy’s big red and white sign stood out with the words “Solidarity with Kinngait.”
“As a white man that grew up in Northern Ontario, visible minorities just weren’t there. So as I went to university, I started getting exposure. And I understood what it meant to be an ally,” Legacy explained.
“I’m here to just be visible, to help, to listen, to do whatever I’m asked for, to make the community stronger,” he said.
From the BLM protest, he hopes the community will come together more than ever. Instead of having fractured groups, he prefers to see a solidarity network of all groups that will support each other.
Legacy said he came out to show solidarity and really wants to see it for Kinngait (Cape Dorset).
“I really want to see those police officers brought to justice. There’s no call for what just happened there,” he said.
On June 1, an intoxicated resident of Kinngait was struck by the door of an incoming police truck and arrested by five RCMP officers.
Legacy also wants to see Nunavut have its own police force.
“But that’s dependent on the Inuit and the leaders of Nunavut to look at those options to disband the RCMP and create a territorial police for Nunavut.
“We recognize that every not every officer (is) doing bad things,” said Greaves.
“We know their job is hard, however, police need to become more involved with the community, as opposed to just policing the community.”
“It’s about engaging in relationships with people. When there’s a good relationship between police and communities that helps to build a healthier community, and that’s what we want to see in Nunavut,” said Greaves.