Friday, April 13, 2018

"The lights down there, that's where we land"

There is so much Saskatchewan in the news these days. Seems every time I turn on the CBC I hear Piapot Plains Cree First Nation Reserve-born Buffy Ste. Marie sharing her wisdom and insights with Roseanna Deerchild. The music Buffy is making now, at 77-years-old, is astounding.

Another newsmaker is the Remai Modern in Saskatoon, which looks amazing, but is not without its contradictions, as brought to light by scholar and curator Jen Budney.

But there is devastation, too. The murder of Colton Boushie at Biggar; the botched crime scene investigation, the bogus trial (no indigenous jury members) and the subsequent acquittal of his killer, Gerald Stanley, has resonated beyond provincial boundaries.

More recently, the traffic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus and a semi-truck. Sixteen dead.

On April 8, 2018  freelance journalist Nora Loreto noted on Twitter the millions of dollars raised through a Broncos GoFundMe campaign, before tweeting this into the grief stream:

The response to Lareto's decontextualized tweet has been intense. Not just tweets from those in search of an outlet for their grief, but from Maclean's magazine, where Loreto has published her writing.

Rather than remind readers that Loreto's tweet was issued within the context of a larger conversation concerning systemic and structural racism in Canada, rather than remind the public that her tweet is consistent with the kinds of emotional and intellectual bloodletting encouraged of all Canadians through the findings of the 2008 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, rather than further encourage those who might be offended by her (decontextualized) tweet to examine and talk about the grief that ails us in the course of our everyday lives as not unrelated to the grief of those whose children were "scooped" and given to the families of another cultural milieu (Buffy Ste. Marie?), or imprisoned in residential schools, Maclean's took the proverbial low road and turned its back on one of its own (a journalist, freelance or otherwise) by treating her as if her comment was off-hand, malicious, when it was anything but.

Should Maclean's have issued a statement in support of Lareto's comments? No, not a statement, per se, but a thoughtful editorial that has the potential to re-direct her comment from the hands of those who only know their anger to the kind of teaching moment that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has asked of all Canadians through its findings.

Back in 2013, Saskatoon-raised Joni Mitchell enraged many Canadians when she told the CBC that "Saskatoon has always been an extremely bigoted community. It's like the Deep South..." The context, in this instance, was her exhaustion with a city that kept trying to honour her, but kept failing to raise the necessary funds.

"At one point," says the CBC, "there was a museum proposed to recognize her work. Mitchell had suggested it have a first nations component [Mitchell's father. William Anderson, is of Norwegian and Sami descent]. The idea eventually fell through."

In closing, here are some honest and inspiring words from Celeste Leray-Leicht, one of the grieving mothers whose son was a member of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, as quoted from the April 11 online issue of the Hockey News:

This is the kind of comment that I hope Maclean's and other news agencies pick up on in order to, in the words of Joni Mitchell, "turn this crazy bird around" and publish something generative -- not something inculpatory.

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