A group of Black and Indigenous families brought their case for defunding Canadian police forces to the steps of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office across the street from Parliament Hill on Saturday.
The Ottawa rally included the families of 10 people who either died or were injured during encounters with police: Anthony Aust, Eishia Hudson, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Jermaine Carby, Jamal Francique, Chantel Moore, Andrew Loku, Abdirahman Abdi, Rodney Levi and Chantelle Krupka.
Each family shared their own stories, and some called on the federal government to make changes to defund, disarm and dismantle police forces across the country. Some who spoke said they want to see money that usually funds police groups go to the families affected by the violence.
The event was held one day after a video surfaced of Montreal police kneeling on a 14-year-old’s neck. It also coincided with Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States that was just made a federal holiday.
“We’re seeing police killings happening on the regular, where now it’s just something that we see on the news and we just sort of move on with our lives,” said Syrus Marcus Ware, one of the rally’s organizers and a core team member with Black Lives Matter Toronto.
“It is outrageous that we’ve come to accept this level of brutality from a force that we pay for — billions and billions of dollars that could be reinvested into our communities.”
Ware said it was important for families to tell personal stories about their loved ones instead of relying on reports from media or police, which Ware criticized as flawed.
Victim’s mother wants action, not an apology
Nhora Aust spoke about her son, Anthony Aust, who died after he fell from a 12th-floor bedroom window in Ottawa during a no-knock raid at his home. Ontario’s police watchdog was investigating his death.
Nhora Aust said she doesn’t want an apology, but rather action from the federal government.
“They not only took my son’s life. They took my life, they took his father’s life, his siblings’ [lives],” she said.
“I am asking you to stop doing this, because as we speak … every day there are children going through this, there are families going through this.”
‘The system is built against us’
William Hudson told those in attendance about his 16-year-old daughter Eishia Hudson, who died after being shot by police in Winnipeg in April 2020.
“She had her whole life ahead of her,” Hudson said. “She was a good kid, didn’t have a criminal record.”
The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, one of Manitoba’s police oversight agencies, looked into the case — but the officer who shot her was cleared of any wrongdoing.
“Why is it that former police, ex-cops, [are] working in these investigations units?” Hudson asked the crowd.
“The system is built against us, and it’s why we’re here today, standing together.”
In an interview with CBC’s The House, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the federal government recognizes that systemic racism exists in Canada’s criminal justice system and that they’re committed to change that.