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The rally, the racism, the work: Reflecting on a week of race relations in Kingston

Last week, Jemma Dooreleyers attended to rallies in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and attended Kingston: Let’s Talk Race, an conversation on race in Kingston. Here, she reflects on those events, what she saw, and what she heard.

The rally

Hundreds of people filled Confederation Park in downtown Kingston for a ‘Justice for George Floyd’ rally on Saturday, Jun. 6, 2020. Photo by Jemma Dooreleyers.

“Black lives matter,” “Say their names,” and “No justice, no peace” could be heard echoing throughout downtown Kingston on the afternoon of Saturday, Jun. 6, 2020, along with Canada, the United States and the rest of the world. 

Hundreds of Kingstonians attended a peaceful Justice for George Floyd Rally in Confederation Park in Kingston on Saturday. As the mic was opened up to the floor, speakers of all different walks of life, ages and races offered their experiences, support and solidarity to Black and Indigenous People of Colour who have been harmed by racial profiling, racism, and police brutality in Canada, the United States and around the world.

This outpouring of support and attendance comes as a relief to the organizers of this event after they received backlash online for some oversights in the organization process.

“I feel very happy with the turn out,” said Casey Heffernan, a 19-year-old white man, one of the organizers of the rally. “I’m thankful for the amount of support and love that everybody brought forward, as well as the concerns.”

“We have all been heard now and we will continue to be heard now until a change is made. I hope that the silence doesn’t come back, I want people to keep being vocal, keep speaking until they are heard.”

Hawani Brooks, another organizer of the event and also a Black man, said that he was glad with the turn out, as well.

“Continue to raise awareness for this oppressing issue. This was a breaking point for too many, but this was just an eye opener for many more,” he said after the event was over.

“For now, I am satisfied, but there is still work to be done.”

The racism

Two men hold up their signs at the rally in solidarity with Black Lives Matter that took place in Confederation Park on Saturday, Jun. 6, 2020. Photo by Jemma Dooreleyers.

As one speaker at the event put it: “The violence in the United States is appalling, but the silence in Canada is hurtful.”

Many have called out Canadians for ignoring the racism in this country over social media, saying that Canadians should not be so quick to be relieved that “at least we aren’t the United States.”

From the extensive research the Toronto Star and other Canadian media outlets have done, it has been found that police brutality and racial profiling against BIPOC in Canada is very prominent.

For example, a CBC investigation found that of all 52 of the people killed by police in Toronto between 2000 and 2017, 18, or one-third of them were Black men. A study by Canadian Diversity found that Black men were 17 times more likely to be stopped in the street by police for random checks in Toronto than white men.

In the past week, a 29-year-old Black woman named Regis Korchiniski-Paquet died after Toronto police entered her apartment and she fell 24 stories from her home in High Park, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation near Tofino, B.C. named Chantal Moore was shot five times by an Edmundston Police Force Officer in New Brunswick during a “wellness check”, an Inuk man was hit by an RCMP officer in his truck in Nunavut.

That is just in policing. Indigenous mothers and babies are almost twice as likely to die during childbirth than non-Indigenous mothers in Canada. The areas of Toronto that are the most affected by COVID-19 are the areas that are predominantly racialized, and the Toronto District School Board is currently undergoing an investigation in relation to a racist letter going around.

Canada’s Prime Minister, dressed up in brown face during his time as a teacher. Racist comments, slurs and graffiti were circulating around Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College just last year.

Not to mention the historic racism that was committed against every minority at some point in immigration policy, schooling, and even internment camps. The list goes on and on and the point is that racism and systemic prejudice affect every aspect of Canadian life. Just because Canadian’s don’t talk about the ‘tough’ stuff does not mean it doesn’t happen.

The work

The speakers of the Kingston: Let’s Talk Race panel hold up their hands during the public talk that took place online on Friday, Jun. 5, 2020. Screenshot by Jemma Dooreleyers.

So, as almost everyone at the rally and vigil have been reiterating, there is still work to do. But what to do?

According to a panel called Kingston: Let’s Talk Race that occurred on Friday, awareness is just the beginning.

The panel was organized by Aba Mortley, the Chair of the Tourism Kingston Board and Co-Chair of Queen’s University Council on Anti-racism and Equity, and consisted of eight prominent People of Colour in the Kingston community, as well as Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson.

The panel included:

  • Tiana Edwards, the Officer of Direct Response Appeals in the Office of Advancement at Queen’s and founder of the blog, Keep Up With Kingston. She is currently completing her master’s in Cultural Studies, specifically on how inclusivity policy in Kingston affects and interacts with Black people in the community.
  • Ted Hsu, the Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands from 2011 and 2015 and currently on the executive of the Chinese Association of Kingston and District
  •  Ryan Carter, the chaplain for the Canadian Armed Forces.
  • Sunita Gupta, past president of the India Canada Association, past Director of Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce and member of the Kingston Immigration Partnership for six years
  • Ekta Singh, a professor for St. Lawrence College who completed research on historical systemic racism at Queen’s University
  • Bhavana Varma, president and CEO of United Way KFL&A. 
  • Jagdeep Walia, the Division Head of Medical Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics at Kingston Health Sciences Centre and the president of the Kingston Sikh Cultural Association
  • Lavie Williams, a Human Rights Practitioner with a focus on Anti-racism.

The work that all of the panelists agreed on is as follows:

  • Listen. Listen to the experiences of BIPOC people in your community. Listen for ways that you can help.
  • Educate. Multiple times, Bryan Paterson was told that more education around different lived experiences in Canada were crucial to moving forward. Education for elementary school children, for high school children and resources for discussions you can have as a family. Educate yourself through books and google.
  • Make space. Who isn’t being included? How can they be included?
  • Support. Support businesses and causes owned and organized by BIPOC.
  • Learn. Learn what microaggressions are and how to be anti-racist.

And finally, Be. Be with each other and get to know one another.


Jemma Dooreleyers is a Kingstonian who is about to enter her fourth year at Ryerson School of Journalism. She has been a contributor for the Kingstonist in the past and is excited to be a full-time intern. She has written for a number of student publications such as the Ryersonian, Kaleidoscope, the Eyeopener, Her Campus and the White Wall Review. This year, she was the Arts Editor for Ryerson Folio, a general interest magazine. She is currently back in Kingston for the time being, social distancing with her mom, a dog, and two cats.

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One thought on “The rally, the racism, the work: Reflecting on a week of race relations in Kingston

  • June 8, 2020 at 5:29 pm
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    Amazing reporting – I’m glad local media has you and your skills!

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