Indigenous Woman Attacked at Trudeau Climate Rally

An unknown audience member at the Trudeau Climate Rally assault's Vanessa Gray, whose hair is thrown across her face, Mar. 4, 2019 Toronto, Ontario (Photo by Keitha Keeshig-Tobias)


TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, March 8, 2019 (ENS) – A young Indigenous woman protesting Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s environmental policies on Native land was assaulted by a Liberal supporter during the Prime Minister’s climate rally at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto Monday night.

Video taken by another audience member shows that during the assault the Prime Minister looked on and did nothing to help her. The Prime Minister’s team removed the victim from the hall and did nothing about the attacker.

Vanessa Gray 2019 (Photo by Keitha Keeshig-Tobias)

The victim, Vanessa Gray is a community organizer from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, an Ojibwe First Nation band government. The Aamjiwnaang live on the shores of the St. Clair River in southwestern Ontario across the U.S. border from Port Huron, Michigan.

On March 4, Gray attended Prime Minister Trudeau’s Climate Rally at Danforth Music Hall. Here is her account of what happened that evening.

“I went to ensure that the voices of Indigenous people were present and to draw attention to the ongoing colonial and environmental violence that Indigenous people experience in Canada.”

“Before arriving at the event, I hid a Canadian flag in my shirt that said, ‘No Justice on Stolen Native Land,’ on it to remind those present that ground zero of environmental violence is occuring right now on unceded land – a material reminder that the Unist’ot’en and Gidumt’en have not given their free, prior, and informed consent for Coastal GasLink or any company to establish pipelines or industrial work camps on their territories.”

“At around 8:15pm, there were a series of disruptions from protestors. After two people who interrupted Trudeau’s speech were forced to leave and as he continued to speak, I threw the flag into the air and said, ‘No Justice on Stolen Native Land.’”

“The next thing I knew I was being thrown. As seen in the video of the assault, the older white male who was standing in front of me turned around, grabbed me by the arm, and threw me into the crowd of people.”

An unknown audience member at the Trudeau Climate Rally assaults Vanessa Gray, whose hair is thrown across her face, Mar. 4, 2019 Toronto, Ontario (Photo by Keitha Keeshig-Tobias)

“Shocked, but not deterred: I rose up and continued to speak, No Justice on Stolen Native Land. I said this over and over until security pulled me from the rally.”

“The Trudeau Government continues to violate the rights of Indigenous people and prioritizes corporate profits over the wellbeing of all of us. The Trudeau Government advocates for climate change, but bulldozes through the unceded territories of Indigenous people to build their unsustainable pipelines.”

“As an Anishinaabe kwe from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, land protector, and researcher of environmental violence: I have firsthand experience, knowledge, and expertise in how the Trudeau Government and Canada enable assaults on Indigenous life and livelihood from their lack of regulations on multibillion-dollar corporations, such as in Chemical Valley where over 40% of Canada’s petrochemicals are processed, to the purchasing of the Trans Mountain pipeline system, to the incident on March 4, 2019 when Justin Trudeau witnessed a young Indigenous woman being assaulted in front of him and responded, ‘Oh boy, oh boy.'”

“It is deeply disturbing that in a country where Indigenous women are 3.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to experience violence and where Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 7 times that of non-Indigenous women that many of the people attending the event, including the Prime Minister himself, witnessed me being assaulted, but did nothing. Instead, I was removed from the building and tossed outside.”

“As for the man who assaulted me? He was allowed to remain inside of the event to listen to the Prime Minister finish his speech.”

“This is what happened.”

“This is how the Prime Minister acted when an Indigenous woman was assaulted in front of him.”

“This is Canada.”

On Twitter, audience member artist Keitha Keeshig-Tobias, who took photographs and video of the assault, posted her comment on what happened to Gray. “This is the sad state of affairs in Canada an Indigenous Woman trying to bring attention to the Environmental Disaster in her community and she gets assaulted, thrown to the ground, then forceably removed.”

“All the while, tweeted Keeshig-Tobias, “Supporters of this so-called Feminist-Environmental-World-Leader chant” Trudeau, Trudeau, Trudeau” not one person helped her not one person gave any concern for her well being. This is what Buying Pipelines has done to Canada, and it makes me terrified for my life the life of my children.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, standing far left, watches the assault on Vanessa Gray by the man in the blue jacket, far right. Mar. 4, 2019 Toronto, Ontario (Screengrab from video by Keitha Keeshig-Tobias)

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2019. All rights reserved.


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