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Communities Demand Inquiry

Don Kossick

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SPRING 2000      v30 n02 p04  
Justice Now!!! The Truth Must Be Known The recent tragic deaths of Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus, the admitted abandonment of people by the Saskatoon City Police at the Queen Elizabeth Power Station, and questionable circumstances of other deaths in Saskatoon has sent shock waves throughout communities in Saskatchewan. It has been one of those devastating moments that asks people to question what is happening in their communities, and to ask how people should live and work together.

Hundreds of people participated in the vigil organised by the students of SIFC to mourn Lawrence Wegner. A week later hundreds (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) walked down 20th Street to the Saskatoon Police Station to call attention to the deaths of Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus. They all carried a deep emotional message for an end to the silence and violence, and the need to get to the truth of what has happened.

A police investigation into the actual circumstances may bring to light what happened in those particular circumstances, and will examine who should be charged. However, what it will not do is get to the heart of why this happened in the first place. What historical and contemporary conditions within our society have led to a situation where people can be treated this way? In addition, getting to the truth of these circumstances will be the most disturbing but the most important process that could happen now if any justice is to emerge from these tragic events.

It means that non-Aboriginal people facing up to the continuing social and economic inequities that destroy Aboriginal communities and individuals; Facing up to the economic and social deprivations that many people suffer under, while others live in wealth and privilege; Facing up to a society that contains within it systemic racism that humiliates, isolates and kills and Facing up to those who will not come to terms with the legacy of colonialism and who would fight any attempt to create a just society through any measures, including employment equity programs.

FSIN's leadership is calling for a public inquiry into the whole justice system in

Getting to the truth of what has
happened means cutting deeply beneath the
surface of the tragic events

(continued on page 16)


Communities Demand Inquiry

Don Kissick

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SPRING 2000      v30 n02 p16  
Saskatchewan. Such a process, if done right could expose and develop solutions to the deeply rooted problems we all face. If the government heeds the words of Chief Perry Bellegarde and Vice Chief Lawrence Joseph, their leadership and vision will put in place a public inquiry that could reach deep into communities finding solutions going beyond narrow legal definitions.

Grandmothers Vigil for JusticePhotos: Right, Grandmothers Vigil for Justice
Below, After the Cleansing Ceremony, Queen Elizabeth Power Plant March 25, 2000
After the Cleansing Ceremony, Queen Elizabeth Power Plant March 25, 2000
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Maiers

Many communities are ready for this coming together to find common solutions for the good of all. They are sickened by the most recent events and disheartened by the economic and social misery that many live with each day. There is a bridge of awareness growing between both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities creating an overall climate with zero tolerance for violence within and between communities. There is also zero tolerance for the violence carried out by the institutions of the dominant society. It means a common stand against the poverty and powerlessness and a willingness to jointly challenge the institutions that perpetuate the inequities. It means a walking together and bridging between communities and their cultural diversity, but also the need to stand together and not be separated in a common fight against racism and for economic and social justice for everyone.

If all parts of our communities - non Aboriginal and Aboriginal - can initiate this common task of working together rather than apart, we could create the climate that would ensure peace and harmony rather than one of silence and violence.

If this process could happen here in this province it could go beyond being just another public inquiry done by a few, but rather has the potential to be an open public community to community process that could be embraced by many. It could be the blocks laid down by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The Royal Commission called for sweeping changes in the way communities see each other and live together. It has in its numerous recommendations the seeds for how to erase from our society the cancerous attitudes that permit behaviours such as the "Starlight Tours."

This is our common struggle; To reflect on and learn how communities are able to live together and overcome inequities and racism, to face squarely the anger, hurt and sorrow and to build an anti-racist, peaceful, equitable and harmonious society for all.

Don Kossick is Director of the Saskatoon Community Outreach and Education Centre and Producer of the radio program Making the Links, on CFCR 90.5 FM Saskatoon.