By Lincoln DePradine
Family and friends wept openly at a weekend public memorial for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black woman who fell to her death from a balcony while police were in her apartment on the 24th floor of a building at 100 High Park Avenue in Toronto.
“I want to extend my love to you,’’ LaTania Willis, Korchinski-Paquet’s aunt, said while choking back tears on Saturday.
Willis was speaking to a diverse group of hundreds who gathered outside the High Park Avenue apartment building for the memorial to Korchinski-Paquet, who died May 27 last.
“I want to extend my arms to you and I want to tell you, thank you so much. I want to thank you for staying strong and standing with me and my family,’’ said Willis, sister of Korchinski-Paquet’s mother Claudette Beals.
Beals, in tribute to her daughter, sang “God Favours Me’’, which includes the line that, “love is patient and caring’’.
The tribute was part of a program that began with family members holding hands in a procession ahead of a horse-drawn carriage bearing a white casket at the front of the apartment building.
In addition, as part of the program, there were Indigenous music, prayers and the release of doves.
The memorial was followed by a march to High Park. It was the first of what’s expected to be the annual “Regis Korchinski-Paquet Walk for Justice’’.
The combined memorial and march were put together by family members and other individuals, as well community organizations such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) – Toronto.
“It’s all about justice for Regis today,’’ said Silvia Argentina Arauz, Ma’at Legal Support Services director.
Regis Korchinski-Paquet, 29, lost her life after police were called to the High Park Avenue building, where the family lived.
Relatives said the woman was in distress over a family conflict and the calls to the police were made out of “safety” and “concern.”
Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s mother said she wanted the police to take her daughter to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for help.
After police arrived, they were met in the hallway of the building. Korchinski-Paquet and the police left for the family unit on the 24th floor of the building after she told them she needed to use the bathroom.
What happened inside the unit, with Korchinski-Paquet falling to her death, have been the subject of a probe by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The incident also has sparked protests, with demands for police accountability and calls for action to address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.
The SIU is concluding its investigation and says a report of its probe could be issued next month.
Ma’at Legal Services, which has been representing Korchinski-Paquet’s family, has ordered a second autopsy in her death.
Ma’at, whose principal lawyer is Knia Singh, also has put together a legal team to conduct a secondary investigation into death of Korchinski-Paquet.
“Our investigation leads us to believe that there is a sound basis for criminal liability against the officers who burst into the apartment,’’ said legal team member Howard Morton, a former SIU director.
Roc’a Wrld, a family member who helped organize last Saturday’s memorial and march, said he was “really grateful’’ to everyone who attended.
“These are very, very trying times for the family,’’ he told The Caribbean Camera. “We want answers.’’
NDP MPP Dr Jill Andrew, who attended the event, said Korchinski-Paquet “called for help’’ but didn’t receive it. She promised that, “we will continue to fight hard to ensure that Regis’s legacy lives on’’.
Ravyn Wngz, a BLM – Toronto activist, said the community is “in grief and rage’’ over Korchinski-Paquet’s death.
“What happened to Regis shouldn’t have happened,’’ Ravyn Wngz said. “We know that the Regis family called for a wellness check for her to be taken care of; and now, we are here mourning her loss.’’
Korchinski-Paquet’s younger brother, Reece Korchinski-Beals, delivered a eulogy on Saturday, saying his sister will be missed by everyone who knew her.
Like other relatives, Peter Korchinski was highly emotional in speaking of his daughter’s death.
“She was my whole life, ’Korchinski said. “I’m never going to stop fighting for you. Never, ever, ever.’’