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CANADA

Youth lead peaceful protest outside of Toronto’s Old City Hall

Camping outside of Toronto’s Old City Hall are our youth taking a stand and saying no more injustice for our people. The first night of protest on March 4 had overnight temperatures of -13 degrees celsius, but that didn’t stop 23-year-old organizer, Koryn John. She is protesting the overwhelming miscarriage of justice towards Canada’s First Nations in the wake of the Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie verdicts.

In it for the long haul, John, a Bear Clan member originally from Thunder Bay, has called Toronto home since she was nine-years-old. She has been active in the community feeling at home at rallies and pow wows. This is her first time organizing an event like this. She was inspired by similar protests in Winnipeg and Calgary.

Her motivation is simple as she considers, “I could be the next Tina Fontaine, you know what I mean? So, my sister could be, so it is very important that we all come together to see what we can do.”

“We have to let people know, that no, no, no our youth cannot be killed or they cannot be murdered and no one’s going to get away with that,” expressed John. “We’re not going to do that anymore. That is why we are going to stay here as long as we can, I don’t care if it is a week or two or a month; we’re going to try and push it as long as we can and show people, you know, because that’s really what we are trying to do, right? It’s to show people you are not going to get away with hurting our youth.”

Her prime location in front of Old City Hall was chosen for both safety and visibility perspectives. Queens Park was considered, but she decided against it.

“You want people to see, you kind of want to be right in people’s face,” John explains. “You want to be right in the open – right where traffic is and there’s no better place than Old City Hall to do this.”

In camping out, she is looking for those responsible for Fontaine’s death to be held accountable. That starts with the people whose care Fontaine was under: child services.

“Why was she put up in a hotel alone? Why did this happen to her?” asks John. "This is alarming when those who are entrusted to care for our youth allow things like this to occur and slip through the cracks. Who authorized that decision and what discipline, if any, are they facing?

Then there is the man accused of Fontaine’s murder, Raymond Cormier, and the question of his guilt or innocence despite the trial’s not guilty verdict. Acknowledging the prior relationship between Cormier and Fontaine, John makes no statement either way as for Cormier’s guilt or innocence.

“I don’t know exactly what went on in the trial and what made them think that Raymond had nothing to do with it and see if he did have nothing to do it, than whatever fine,” stated John.

John’s focus then turns to the police and questions “Are they actually even looking for other people? And what are they doing about that and how are they looking for other people?”

“If they’re not doing their job properly this is why all across Canada we’re doing this for people, so that people don’t forget about Tina and it didn’t die down, because the more this dies down in the public and the media, they’ll get off scot-free and just be another cold case,” continued John.

This raises the larger issue of police indifference to our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and apathy on the part of the police on cases where First Nations are the victims. If it wasn’t a First Nations girl wrapped in a blanket and thrown into a river, would police already be looking at other suspects?

Still in the early days there is no end in sight to the protest – so far things have been positive.

“We’ve had people honking, shouting out, stopping by and there’s a lot of foot traffic, as well as traffic with the vehicles, so that’s we wanted to do. We wanted to be busy, somewhere as busy as possible and hopefully also perfect,” said John. “We’re very peaceful. We’re open for conversation, anyone is allowed to come down. It’s no judgment, nothing like that.”

By Kristin Grant

6 March 2018 

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