Dozens of Indigenous youth have been camping outside Toronto’s Old City Hall since Sunday afternoon in protest of two controversial verdicts that came down last month in the separate murder trials in connection with the deaths of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine, and some of them say they plan on staying there for months.
“You can’t get away with killing native youth and we’re going to tell people that,” said protest organizer Koryn John, while surrounded by other Indigenous protesters, multiple occupied tents and several bright neon signs.
She banded with another 23-year-old indigenous youth, Ezra Seaborn, to create the sit-in protest outside the national historic site after hearing about the two verdicts, which came down only two weeks apart.
“When it comes to both verdicts, I felt empty. I felt lost,” said Seaborn.
Twenty-two-year-old Colten Boushie was shot and killed when trespassing on a Saskatchewan farm. The jury found 56-year-old Gerald Stanley not guilty in early February. Shortly after, a Manitoba jury deemed Raymond Cormier not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Tina Fontaine.
“We weren’t even finished mourning the loss of, and grieving, Colten Boushie,” said John.
“And then all of a sudden we got hit with Tina Fontaine. It was like a punch in the gut.”
The Toronto Indigenous youth decided to join a movement condemning both trial outcomes and country-wide rallies that show support for First Nations groups. One of the forms of sit-in protests is called the Soaring Eagle’s Camp, which began in Winnipeg and has been picked up by other activists across Canada.
“This is the fourth camp across Canada that has opened up,” said John.
“So we’ve gotten inspiration from that — it’s just an extension from that camp. We all felt this all over Canada. It was a very hard time all of February.”
WATCH: Toronto Indigenous youth protest Boushie, Fontaine verdicts. Kamil Karamali reports. (March 5)
John said at its peak, the camp has seen roughly 50 Indigenous and non-Indigenous protesters come out to support their cause. But even at its least crowded points, the protest consistently has at least a dozen people sitting-in at any given time.
“We’re raising awareness … In the Native community, we’re all family. So it’s like we’re all coming together and supporting one another,” said John.
John said she wants to see accountability for the deaths of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine and is willing to camp out in protest for as long as it takes to get answers.
“The longer, the better. I’m personally prepared to go a month, two months — I’ll stay out here as long as I can.”