Some relatives and friends of an accused gathered outside the Wetaskiwin Courthouse recently to protest racism and demand changes at the Edmonton Remand Centre.
The protest took place July 14 during the bail hearing for 27-year-old Jesse Cabry, whose brother Erik, 19, died while the pair were in custody on aggravated assault charges. Both were arrested on June 1 at their home in Maskwacis and then transferred to the remand centre.
Jesse has stated he tried several times to get medical assistance for his brother, including pushing a button in their cell on four occasions. Erik was taken out of the cell once then returned after received treatment at the remand centre. He was later transferred to hospital on June 21. He would pass away the following day.
Doctors told their mother Wyoma Cabry that Erik had a lung infection, that his kidneys were failing and that his heart was enlarged.
During the protest, people stood with signs reading — “stop systemic racism” and “First Nations lives matter.”
Jesse Cabry was scheduled for a second attempt at a bail hearing, which protester Jamie Smallboy suspects would be postponed again.
Smallboy said the events leading to the arrest were a result of systemic racism in law enforcement.
“All of it was systemic racism from beginning to end,” she said.
Smallboy said that the arrest and the treatment of the brothers at the remand centre would have been handled differently if they were not Indigenous.
“Had that been a white home, they wouldn’t have went and kicked in the door … They wouldn’t have made an elder pack her grandchildren up and leave in the middle of the night,” Smallboy said about how the RCMP’s handling of the arrest.
“Because it’s an Indigenous home and our people are so accustomed to that treatment, it happens so often that they are comfortable with it — they are comfortable with the way they treat us. And that’s why we are here.”
Advocate Lyndsay Vreadner with the Black Lives Matter organization in Edmonton was also present at the protest, holding signs alongside Smallboy and others as they chanted, “no justice, no peace” — a phrase that has become a popular slogan during the Black Lives Matter movement.
Vreadner said she came to join the protest to help stand against systemic racism against Indigenous peoples. When talking about Erik she said, “His life was lost and there is no justice.”
A statement from the Alberta Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General stated, “Correctional staff and onsite medical professionals responded quickly and professionally.”
It added that a full internal review will be conducted.