THUNDER BAY - A grassroots movement is looking to raise awareness about unnecessary violence and death facing vulnerable members of the community.
“It’s for everybody in the community,” said Ma-Nee Chacaby, an Anishinaabe elder and member of Not One More Death.
“It’s for the city, for the police, big business people, anyone who lives in Thunder Bay to understand we don’t want anymore deaths in the families or the youth or anywhere. We don’t believe in violence as a way to do things to people.”
Not One More Death held a gathering on Tuesday at Paterson Park to remember those in the community have been lost due to poverty, racism, suicide, and violence.
More than 50 people attended the gathering and the names of those who have been lost were tied to a teepee setup in the park.
“We should not be doing this as a ceremony reminding us that we lost these people,” Chacaby said. “We should be looking forward to having a safe community to live in. Thunder Bay should be a safe place, a place where you can be free and walk around and not get beat up when you go out. Or away from racism and try not to put anybody down.”
Chacaby spoke particularly of youth in the city who have faced racism and discrimination, and she believes policing needs to change and social workers and Indigenous outreach workers should work with police when responding to calls involving people with substance abuse issues or mental health issues.
“We don’t want anymore death happening to young people in the city, young First Nations people,” she said. “We are totally against racism. I am totally against what policing does to the vulnerable people.”
Chacaby shared her own personal struggles with substance abuse and how she changed her life because she didn’t want to walk down that path.
“I walked this journey,” Chacaby said. “I started to do something with my life because I didn’t want to be one of the statistics. I wanted to be away from that environment.”
Not One More Death says its work is to “hold powerful people and institutions in Thunder Bay to account for actions, policies and practices that enact or enable violence against Indigenous, racialized, poor and other marginalized people in the city.”
It plans to hold gatherings on or near each solstice and equinox to continue to raise awareness and provide the community an opportunity to mourn those who have been lost.
Chacaby said being out in the community will help people become aware of these issues and reflect on the changes that need to be made.
“Even just doing it if they don’t come today, if they witness it, or they heard about it on the news, they might start thinking – we want this place to be safe,” she said.