Dozens of people attended the celebration of life for Regis Korchinski-Paquet at Africville Park in Halifax on Saturday.
The Toronto woman with strong ties to Nova Scotia died in late May after falling from a balcony. Police were at her family’s apartment at the time. Her family believe police played a role in her death and the incident galvanized Black Lives Matter protesters in Toronto and beyond.
“Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black woman who was full of life, died after falling 24 storeys. How she managed to fall from her balcony is still unclear,” Pastor Stephen Gough told the crowd.
“… In all certainty, only Regis, the police and almighty God know the real truth and what really happened on that fateful day.”
The celebration of life was held outside the Africville Museum in Halifax at Africville Park. There was a large chalk display out front with messages like, “Justice 4 Regis” and “R.I.P. Regis.” A Black Live Matters sign was posted to the museum’s exterior wall.
There was also music, dancing, food and balloons and people sharing positive memories of Korchinski-Paquet.
“Regis was the same age as me, and I think it would be remiss for me to say that I could never end up in a situation like her. So I’m going as hard for her as I would want people to go for me,” said Kate MacDonald, a community activist and one of the organizers of the memorial.
“And I think it’s all of our responsibilities to fight for each other’s justice. No one is free until we’re all free and our liberation is tied.”
According to Ontario’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU), police had been called to the apartment on the evening of May 27 to respond to a violent family disturbance.
WATCH | Pastor Stephen Gough speak at celebration of life for Regis Korchinski-Paquet:
Korchinski-Paquet’s mother initially said she believed her daughter was shoved off the balcony by police, but the SIU cleared five Toronto police officers of wrongdoing in her death earlier this week.
Claudette Beals-Clayton, Regis’s mother, was at the celebration of life in Halifax but did not want to be interviewed. She is originally from Nova Scoti.
MacDonald has been in contact with Beals-Clayton and said she called her after finding out the police were cleared.
“I don’t think anyone was surprised, unfortunately, but it is still heartbreaking, obviously, that the justice system only serves justice for some people,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said she has questions about the third-party units that investigate police. She said it’s often ex-officers investigating current officers.
Instead of funding those units, MacDonald said the money should be reinvested into community safety and mental health initiatives.
“Very rarely do we see culturally appropriate or culturally relevant or apt services for racialized and marginalized folks,” MacDonald said.
Pastor Gough said Black people have been lied to for a long time. He said now is the time to ask questions.
“Black women, Black men, Black people are dying in the street because there is and has been for many centuries an attitude that Black people are less than the white supremacists who are scrambling to maintain their hold on Black people and the world,” he said.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.