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Speakers share stories of racism at event in Nelson

Spoken. Heard. was organized by the West Kootenay People for Racial Justice

Intimate stories of racism experienced by Black, Indigenous and people of colour in Nelson were shared at an open forum Monday.

The three-hour event called Spoken. Heard. was organized by the West Kootenay People for Racial Justice. A large crowd spread out across the grass at Lakeside Park to listen as various speakers described how their lives in the West Kootenay have differed from white people.

Some stories were submitted anonymously and focused on alleged harassment by police. The event took place near the Nelson RCMP detachment, and organizers said they had invited officers to take part.

But no uniformed RCMP officers were present, and no officers in plain clothes stepped forward when asked to.

That was in contrast to a similar event held June 8 outside the Nelson Police Department headquarters that featured Chief Paul Burkart taking questions for over two hours. Burkart’s previous participation was acknowledged Monday by Dr. Shelina Musaji, who was critical of the RCMP’s absence.

Monday’s gathering was a relaxed affair. One speaker talked about life as a Jamaican immigrant working in Castlegar. Another said his grandfather had been sent to the Japanese internment camp near New Denver during the Second World War, but that he hadn’t been aware of it until moving to Nelson.

One woman, a local doctor who is white, took the mic to express her shame at not knowing Sinixt history and pledged to learn more. Another woman meanwhile spoke about how she has had to discuss racism with her six-year-old daughter, who is a person of colour.

It was the third such event held in Nelson since George Floyd, a black man, died while being restrained by white police officer Derek Chauvin during an attempted arrest on May 25 in Minneapolis.

@tyler_harper |
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Tyler Harper

About the Author: Tyler Harper

I’m editor-reporter at the Nelson Star, where I’ve worked since 2015.
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