Montreal neighbours demanded fence to push out Inuit - which led to woman's death, friends say
MONTREAL -- Their friends want it known that they’re much more than two more Montrealers without homes, or even two random victims of car accidents.
To Montreal’s Inuit community, Kitty Kakkinerk and Dinah K. Matte were not only loved, they were victims, in their own way, of COVID-19 -- and of the way fellow Montrealers pushed them to the city's furthest margins during the last few months.
At least one of the women's lives would have been saved, their friends believe, if a particular group of neighbours had been a little more compassionate.
“I'm not a city planner, but the people who were there believe that if this fence was not there, that would not have happened,” John Tessier, who works at the Open Door shelter, told CTV News, pointing to a brand-new fence along Parc Ave.
Kakkinerk used to spend most of her days on that block on Parc, hanging out with friends and family, including her brother, and looking for spare change.
“She was funny, always laughing, making jokes,” said one friend, Lizzy Akphatak.
Lately, she and her friends had even fewer options than normal. Many shelters are closed because of COVID-19.
On top of that, a fence was just put up at the empty lot where they congregated—at the urging of residents who wanted to keep homeless people out of it.
“Because of the complaint of a very vocal minority of the neighbours, the owner of the property decided to put up a fence around the lot,” said Tessier.
“Because of that, people were forced next to the street.”
Last week, Kakkinerk was at the lot, as usual, and witnesses have described how the fence played a role in the car crash that killed her.
Friends say Kakkinerk was running from an abusive partner that night—literally running—and, trapped by the fence, she ran outwards into the street, where she was struck by a truck and killed.
Her brother watched her die, the friends have said.
“She got hit by a car—she's gone,” said one friend, Thomas Hainnu. “That was my good friend.”
On Wednesday a vigil was held for Kakkinerk and for Dinah K. Matte, who was also struck fatally by a car this summer.
Intervention workers say the reduction in services during the pandemic was a major factor in both women’s deaths.
“There’s been too many [deaths] this year for lack of services,” said Sarah Carriere from the First Peoples Justice Center.
“I'm so fed up with COVID,” she said. “Bring back the shelters, bring back the services, bring back the mental health supports.”