Indigenous women in communities across Quebec say they are sick of the racism they encounter daily and are calling for an independent provincial inquiry into systemic racism against First Nations people in the province.
At a protest in Quebec City, some of the women took their turn explaining what it is like for their communities — will they be served last at a restaurant? Will they be ignored by store vendors?
Some spoke of being referred to as “thieves” and “savages.”
Pénéelope Guay, the coordinator at the Maison Communautaire Autochtone Missinak said women in Val D’Or are afraid for their safety.
She said those who accused police of sexual assault, “now go out in two’s. They don’t go out alone anymore.”
The women are calling for a public inquiry into racism in Val d’Or, and other communities across the province, one of the recommendations from the independent observer who followed the investigation of Sûreté du Québec officers accused of sexual assault.
WATCH BELOW: Sexual assault accusations
First Nations women said they felt betrayed upon hearing that no charges were laid, adding they fear for their personal safety, especially when they’re alone.
“I don’t want to be picked up by the police and you don’t know what’s going to happen. Trust is not there anymore,” said Donna Larivière with Femmes autochtones du Québec.
“I’m afraid for my nieces and my sisters when they go out. This needs to stop.”
Some argue the national inquiry isn’t large enough to give a clear picture of all the realities specific to Quebec.
Protesters said with all the work the national inquiry has to do in only two years, it will be impossible to properly inform the Quebec government on how to make First Nations lives safer.
“I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg and they don’t want to see what’s really happening,” said Larivière.
Indigenous women argue Philippe Couillard‘s government is resisting a provincial inquiry.
Nevertheless, Tuesday afternoon, the premier said he would sit with First Nations leaders with an open mind and wasn’t ruling out a public inquiry.
Soon after, Native Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelley said “the premier was quite clear: we can’t leave things here.”
Then, the PQ called out Kelley for contradicting the premier in question period.
The minister reiterated the same thing the government said last week – that a national inquiry would cover Val D’Or.
Kelley’s press secretary clarified the minister’s position after question period.
“Mr. Kelley wants to work with indigenous leaders to immediately start improving the quality of life. That’s the priority,” said Chantal Gauvin.
Guay said indigenous leaders like her won’t settle for anything other than the full public inquiry they are calling for.