About 30 Yukoners protested peacefully for justice outside courthouses in Whitehorse and Watson Lake on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing took place inside the capital’s courtrooms.
“The court case today is about violence against an Indigenous woman and we want to end that violence,” said Miriam Mueller, policy and advocacy advisor for the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council.
David Kotchea, a Watson Lake resident, was present in court on Monday facing assault charges. The details of the preliminary hearing are under a publication ban.
The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend.
“We’re here to support our sister organization, who is really afraid of having that man back into the community,” Mueller said.
“We don’t want to get involved in the court proceedings, but … we want to work with everybody to end the violence and the underlying causes of why there’s so much violence against Indigenous women.”
Mueller said she hopes this case will bring attention to the pervasive violence that Indigenous women face in the Yukon.
“This could bring attention to the fact that violence against women is not just a thing people talk about, but it’s real, and Indigenous women are hurt in our community today. This is one of the cases where it actually comes to court — in a lot of cases, it does not.”
The rally on Monday was part of a broader movement advocating for the justice promised in the recommendations set out by the federal Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report.
“We’re here today to try and make those agreements have teeth, where we’re saying, ‘We’re watching.’ We’re here, and enough is enough,” said Heidi Marion, with the Yukon Status of Women Council.
“We’ve had it with our Indigenous women getting assaulted, with no recourse to justice. We’re here today to be visible to be supportive.”
Beverly Brazier, another attendee, responded, “Why wouldn’t you?” to the question of what brought her to the rally on Feb. 22. She expressed desire to be an active ally to Indigenous women seeking justice.
“Part of our commitment to reconciliation … is to witness, and to show up, and to mostly be quiet and listen, and be where things like this are happening,” Brazier said.
“Women in general are victimized outrageously, Aboriginal women, how much more so. That’s unacceptable at so many levels.”
Brazier added that people should feel more inclined to show up in the fight against violence during the pandemic.
“When we’re so aware of how our lives intersect and how our health and lives depend on each other, we should do whatever we can to stand together, and say, ‘That’s enough, now.’”
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org