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All day, after the news that a brown business owner was beaten by three white guys on our main street, my mind has been back in 1995. Hard memories of the 10:00 pm phone call that said, people are storming the Market in protest of Indigenous fish seller, come, come. I went. I took my 10 year old son and I stood in front of a booth where a single Nawash woman sold Georgian Bay fish. Around me and a few other counter protesters were one hundred white men including local politicians and justice officials set on ending Indigenous communities competition with the sports fisheries. That evening a couple of Indigenous kids were stabbed in a downtown public parking lot.

Just a week before, I had quietly peeled a Heritage Front sticker from the outside wall of Greyfair Furniture. I didn’t know then who the Heritage Front was then, and with no internet, It took me a while to find out.

As a community we dealt with that crisis by creating a counter protest group, The Neighbors of Nawash. We opened a bank account to support fishers whose nets had been cut, equipment burned, just as we would have responded to a neighbor’s barn catching fire. Our sole purpose was to say – in an equally public way – this is not who we are as a community. Eventually – after a great deal more activity – The Neighbors staged a public event where local fishermen and Nawash fishers shared a stage to talk about their growing, and shared concern for adequate conservation of the Georgian Bay Fisheries.

So I’ve been asking myself, what does Friday night’s event on our main street mean and what are the lessons of then for now, as intolerance builds again in our community. I don’t know the details of this recent event, but we have seen swastikas and racist slurs on public buildings, black paint used to deface the multi-colored Market crosswalk in protest, one assumes, of its message of racial and gender tolerance. This summer saw protesters from outside our community bussed in to protest the library’s drag storytelling event for kids. These things are connected; intolerance grows again.

I, along with many others, put flowers down in front of the Curry House today, where the attack took place. It was my own small private way of saying – this is not us; not who we are as a community. In times of growing intolerance, silence is quietly complicit. It becomes necessary- public officials and private citizens alike- to find ways to speak up for the kind of community we believe ourselves to be.

Marilyn Struthers




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