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Edmontonians gather for anti-racism rally, speak out against controversial historical figure

Spurred on by a violent and deadly confrontation between white nationalists and anti-racists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, dozens of Edmontonians gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday night to speak out against racism and bigotry.
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Spurred on by a violent and deadly confrontation between white nationalists and anti-racists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, dozens of Edmontonians gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday night to speak out against racism and bigotry. . Global News

Spurred on by a violent and deadly confrontation between white nationalists and anti-racists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, dozens of Edmontonians gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday night to speak out against racism and bigotry.

“It’s not only a thing in the United States,” said Bashir Mohamed with the Edmonton chapter of Black Lives Matter. “They think it’s a thing [that’s] isolated to the U.S. And I think that’s a huge mistake because a lot of this hate does fester here.

READ MORE: Edmonton police watching for increase in hate crimes following violence in Charlottesville

“A part of it is also acknowledging the monuments we have for people who have done terrible things to vulnerable groups,” he said.

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Mohamed was referencing a recent push to consider changing the name of an Edmonton community and other local landmarks named after the controversial historical figure Frank Oliver.

Oliver founded Edmonton’s first newspaper and created the Northwest Territories’ first public school system before embarking on a career in politics.

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In the late 19th century, he served as an MLA in Alberta and later as an MP. It was during that time that he implemented an immigration policy banning black people, and another that chased the Papaschase First Nation off its land.

READ MORE: Should Frank Oliver’s name be removed from public spaces in Edmonton?

Watch below: On Aug. 25, 2017, Fletcher Kent filed this report about a group raising concerns about Frank Oliver, the man a downtown Edmonton community is named after, due to his controversial past.

Should the city rename Oliver neighbourhood?
Should the city rename Oliver neighbourhood?

“This is a very live history for me,” said Conor Kerr, a descendant of the Papaschase First Nation. “I was raised by my grandmother and I heard all these stories firsthand from her and she’s still up in Castle Downs.

“She can point out places for the Papaschase First Nation. When we’re going across the High Level Bridge, she’ll point down to where the low level is and say, ‘That’s where my grandmother was born.'”

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View photos from Saturday night’s rally below:

Conor Kerr, a descendant of the Papaschase First Nation, spoke at an anti-racism rally at the Alberta legislature on Aug. 26, 2017.
Conor Kerr, a descendant of the Papaschase First Nation, spoke at an anti-racism rally at the Alberta legislature on Aug. 26, 2017. Global News
Spurred on by a violent and deadly confrontation between white nationalists and anti-racists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, dozens of Edmontonians gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday night to speak out against racism and bigotry.
Spurred on by a violent and deadly confrontation between white nationalists and anti-racists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, dozens of Edmontonians gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday night to speak out against racism and bigotry. Global News
Spurred on by a violent and deadly confrontation between white nationalists and anti-racists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, dozens of Edmontonians gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday night to speak out against racism and bigotry.
Spurred on by a violent and deadly confrontation between white nationalists and anti-racists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, dozens of Edmontonians gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday night to speak out against racism and bigotry. Global News
Spurred on by a violent and deadly confrontation between white nationalists and anti-racists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, dozens of Edmontonians gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday night to speak out against racism and bigotry.
Spurred on by a violent and deadly confrontation between white nationalists and anti-racists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, dozens of Edmontonians gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday night to speak out against racism and bigotry. Global News
Bashir Mohamed, with the Edmonton chapter of Black Lives Matter, spoke at an anti-racism rally at the Alberta legislature on Aug. 26, 2017.
Bashir Mohamed, with the Edmonton chapter of Black Lives Matter, spoke at an anti-racism rally at the Alberta legislature on Aug. 26, 2017. Global News

Kerr said it’s not his place to talk about renaming anything and that he would leave it to “elders and leaders from the Papaschase First Nation, Enoch Cree Nation and Michel Band to work with elected officials from the City of Edmonton.”

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“My place here is to start with the educational aspect on who the Papaschase First Nation were, who my family was and how we, people living on Turtle Island, on Treaty 6 Territory… can work on existing and moving forward.”