June 5, 2020
Courtesy Lianne Marie Leda Charlie. Read a poem the Northern Tutchone artist wrote to accompany this illustration at the link. (via Instagram)


Like you, we've spent the past several days watching the terrifying images of police brutality happening in cities across the United States. We've also been inspired by the actions of ordinary citizens across the world who've taken to the street demanding an end to racial injustice. These events have reverberated across the North, as well. We wanted to show our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by focusing this week's newsletter on northern stories and images related to its cause. If you'd like to educate yourself on what's happening right now, or just want to help, there are many lists of readings and resources out there on how to support Black people.

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 


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All over the world, citizens are rallying to decry police violence and stand for Black lives. The North is no exception.

A solidarity rally took place last Friday in downtown Whitehorse for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell to her death in Toronto after a confrontation with police.

“To be Black, Indigenous, and/or racialized in Canada is to be swimming against the current and to be reminded regularly of how disposable your existence is,” organizer Asad Chishti wrote in an email announcing the event. “We need better support systems and deserve the right to keep breathing and living.”

Today in Iqaluit, Nunavummiut gathered outside the RCMP's "V" division headquarters. Here’s a
video from Sima Sahar Zerehi of the crowd chanting “Take your knees off our necks.”

The demonstration was organized by local resident
Bernice Ivalu. Nunatsiaq News puts the number of attendees at more than 200. Impressive turnout, according to APTN’s Kent Driscoll.

“After asking around, the only Iqaluit rally anyone can remember that was bigger was when the town ran some delivery drivers out of town for alleged bootlegging and drug dealing, and that was pre-1999,” he tweets.

Another Black Lives Matter vigil is being held tomorrow, June 6, in
downtown Whitehorse.
Demonstrators at the BLM rally in Iqaluit on Friday. (Courtesy Sima Sahar Zerehi)
There have been renewed calls from Nunavut politicians and members of the public for body cameras on RCMP officers. This comes after a video surfaced this week showing a Mountie in Kinngait using the door of a moving vehicle to knock someone over. The officer is now under investigation and has been removed from the community. The man who was arrested was subsequently violently assaulted in his holding cell by another inmate.

APTN reports, there are currently five different investigations into police misconduct in Nunavut just since January, 2020. Incidents include a prisoner who died on the way to the hospital, a child who was hit by a police cruiser, and three men who were shot by police (two of whom were killed).

“There’s been
too many deaths of Nunavummiut when police get calls from community members,” David Qamaniq, MLA for Tununiq, tells CBC. Qamaniq’s own son was killed by an RCMP officer in what was ruled a homicide. Since 1999, there have been at least 15 deaths in Nunavut at the hands of RCMP officers.

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, the territory's MP and a strong supporter of 
Black Lives Matter, is also advocating to open up a “conversation” around body cameras and greater accountability for police behaviour. So is Nunavut Tunngavik Inc, which released a statement condemning the recent offences.

“The consistent and increasing frequency of these violent incidents involving the police indicate these are not one-off events, these are systemic issues within the justice system,” it reads in part. “It is time to begin a move toward a trauma-informed system of care in Nunavut.”

Of course, it’s not just the eastern Arctic. Police in the NWT have so far this year
pulled guns on innocent bystanders, been removed from communities after their past sexual assault convictions came to light, and shot a dog who was being held in the arms of a Yellowknife resident.
Illustration by digital artist Dayle Kubluitok (via Instagram)
“Black people are woven throughout the North’s modern history. Roughly 100 Black stampeders came to the Yukon during the gold rush. A generation later, thousands more arrived to construct the Alaska Highway and Canol Pipeline.” 

The above passage is from a 2009 Up Here cover story on the whitewashing of the Yukon’s history. Somehow, the story, written by Katharine Sandiford, never made it up onto the website. 
So we published it online this week

“The fact is, the Yukon was built, in no small part, by Black people. Yet, in the modern Yukon, those contributions have largely been forgotten.”

Thankfully, some things have changed since 2009. The contributions of African-American builders who helped construct the Alaska Highway (and the road from Norman Wells to Whitehorse) are
increasingly being recognized.

Many more stories have been shared over the past week about the experience of being Black in the North. The Toronto Star
published a story by Paige Galette (who’s been a chief organizer of the Whitehorse demonstrations) on her experience moving from Ontario to the Yukon:

“As I walked in the streets of Whitehorse, I couldn’t help but notice the number of Indigenous people. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone. Yukon is home to fourteen First Nations, eleven of which are self-governing. This is a fact that is barely discussed in Canadian history, politics, or education. I hold a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and political science. Never did we learn about Indigenous governance. But I was required to learn about the colour of the carpet in the House of Commons and the Senate. Am I surprised? Absolutely not. This country is founded on colonialism, racism, and genocide.

Fellow Yukoner 
Alistair Maitland also talked to CBC about confronting the realities of racism in his home, and what’s happening in the United States.
Asad Chishti speaking at last Friday's "Justice for Regis" rally in Whitehorse, which was organized by himself, Paige Galette, and Meriya McPherson. Speakers were Antoinette Oliphant, Annie Pierre, and Colin Wolf. (Image courtesy Dan Bader).
“Let’s be honest—there isn’t a whole lot of diversity in who you see represented,” writes Adil Darvesh about the imagery of the outdoors. “It’s mostly young, affluent, white people. Sometimes there’s a dog.”

The communications coordinator for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Yukon chapter writes in CPAWS' latest newsletter that the environmental movement has historically lacked diversity and inclusion, even while Indigenous and Black communities have been on the front-lines fighting against
environmental racism. And those battles for environmental and racial justice go hand in hand, says Darvesh. “What’s the point of advocating for clean air, if people still can’t breathe?”

A person of colour himself, Darvesh says he's had someone threaten to call the police on him for not being where they thought he was allowed—much like birder
Christian Cooper in Central Park. That incident from two weeks ago spurred a #BlackInNature hashtag meant to showcase the many Black scientists and nature enthusiasts who can be found in the great outdoors. People like Justine Hudson, who’s research studying beluga snot we profiled last summer in our Science and Research issue.

Now is also probably a good time to refloat Black contributions to Arctic exploration from noted figures like 
Matthew Henson and Barbara Hillary.

Meanwhile, several outdoor and environmental advocates, including the Yukon’s Asad Chishti, co-authored a set of anti-racism calls to action for environmental and outdoor societies, which you can read
right here.

For all the other outdoor enthusiasts, “now is not the time to post your adventure photos,” says Gloria Liu, for
Outside Magazine. “Post something anti-racist instead. Better yet, do something anti-racist instead.”
Another shot from Sima Sahar Zerehi at today's rally in Iqaluit. (via Twitter)


Some 3,000 Finns gathered for a Black Lives Matter protest in Helsinki. (Helsinki Times)

About 4,000 Icelanders attended the demonstration in Reykjavik. (
Reykjavik Grapevine)

Norway officials said only 50 protesters could gather in Oslo. Over 15,000 showed up. (
The Nordic Page)

There are only 3,000 people total in Kotzebue, a tiny town in the northwest corner of Alaska. But they, too, marched in solidarity. (
via Twitter)
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