Timmins takes to the streets to combat racism, call for change
TIMMINS -- More than 70 people marched the streets of Timmins Wednesday in solidarity with communities protesting racism and race-based violence across the globe.
Kendrick Jeremiah, 15, decided to organize the protest following public outcry over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. and of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, both involving police.
“Canada also has racism in here, it’s just hid really well,” said Jeremiah. “Whether it’s the colour of our skin, however we identify, we all have to stop this.”
The group walked from Mountjoy Historical Participark on Riverside Drive to city hall, chanting “Black Lives Matter” with signs raised.
Vanessa Genier, Jeremiah’s mom, said as an Indigenous person, there's a shared experience of racial inequality and oppression with black communities. Jeremiah being transgender and having mental-health issues only further informs the reality of the ‘other’ being treated differently in society.
Making a lasting change on that front means continuing to speak out, said Jeremiah.
“You need to use your voice to help people, rather than just standing by and being silent.”
Timmins has a small but active black community, said city councillor Kristin Murray, who joined the protest and spoke about racial inequality at city hall.
With both black and Indigenous roots, she said people of colour go relatively unnoticed in the city and so many Caucasian people may lack the sensitivity to properly communicate with those of other ethnicities.
“I have my daughter with me today and when she goes back to school, she will be amongst predominately non-black kids,” Murray said. “They need to know how to interact with her, they need to know to respect each other.”
Timmins Mayor George Pirie said the quick assembling of protesters after two days’ preparation affirms that ending racism is something that every morally “right-thinking individual” is on board with.
“That message carries through to all races and all creeds, it’s universal,” Pirie said. “It’s something that everybody understands and recognizes, that we have to end racism and it’s possible to do that.”
Increased education in schools surrounding black and Indigenous history would be one item in a long checklist to stop racist thinking in our society, Murray said.
Exposing students to diverse experiences and developing racial awareness at a young age will ingrain that sense of empathy, she said. But today, Murray said communities need to stand together and be willing to put in the effort.
“There’s a lot to be learned throughout the community and I hope people see this as a small part of a bigger picture and a lot of work to do.”