"Our communities are powerful if we're together.”—Kayla Ironstarr
By Brittney Pastion
Social work students at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) are walking for justice, with the Freedom from Injustice Walk that began at the Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench on May 7 and will conclude June 7.
The goal of the walk is to raise awareness of the injustices that Indigenous people face in Canada, and particularly within the justice system, and to bring attention to issues facing Indigenous youth.
“(We’re walking and) praying for all communities, all tribes, and all people because our communities are powerful if we're together,” said Kayla Ironstarr.
Co-organizers Katryna Smith and Ironstarr felt compelled to take some kind of action after Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley was found not guilty of a charge of second degree murder in the shooting death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie, and Raymond Cormier, who was found not guilty of second degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.
“It rocked a lot of emotions” said Ironstarr, who thought of her nine-year-old daughter at the time of the Cormier trial. “I held my kids tight that night knowing that a man was walking free.”
The event will take place across the nation ending in Manitoba, stopping in Brandon and Winnipeg. A pipe ceremony will begin each day for the core group which includes the flag staff carrier, family members and a veteran, with more people expected to join in Regina.
The organizers say that this event is a way for those affected to be empowered.
“We hope that they have the courage to stand up for themselves and for their families.”
“Change only happens when you're willing to utilize your voice,” said Ironstarr.
“The goal is not just to fund the walk,” said Smith, with all the left over proceeds going to the families of Colten Bushie and Tina Fontaine. “We want to make sure that they understand that they're not standing alone in this life.”
A community challenge has also been put out to encourage students to donate one kilometer to help the organizers drive a portion of the trip. Each donation will be followed by a live-video on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FreedomFromInjusticeWalk/
Donations can be made to help with gas and food during the month long journey.