To my fellow peers in the news media industry:
You’ve milked the poor cow dry. Ole Bessie is turning back toward you with sorrowful, pleading bovine eyes and crying, “Please, no more!” You’ve squeezed it all out of her. The teat has become red, swollen and chapped.
It’s time to put the race card back in the deck.
Over the past couple of weeks, my contemporaries in the news media biz such as CTV and Global News have been running stories on the family of Colten Boushie, the young man whose life ended in August 2016 on a farm near Biggar that belonged to Gerald Stanley.
It seems that Colten’s family is back in the headlines due to it being the two-year “anniversary” of the trial verdict that saw Stanley acquitted of Boushie’s murder. Unsurprisingly, the family is calling for justice for their loved one, claiming that an “injustice” had been done, and they want to see reform to the Canadian justice system that they believe is prejudiced towards Indigenous peoples.
In addition to the new press spotlight being shone on Colten’s family, it’s opened the floodgates to related articles being published on topics such as the number of First Nations inmates versus Caucasian inmates in our federal penitentiaries, as well as overall tensions that permeate the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the RCMP.
To a degree, I obviously understand where this all comes from. A young Indigenous man died that day when he shouldn’t have. A white man was holding the gun that fired when it shouldn’t have (according to what was presented at trial). A family is grieving, and another family has to live with what all went down. The entire situation is a grave one no matter what side of the fence you’re on.
I remember exactly where I was when the word came down that Stanley was acquitted. It was Friday night, February 9, 2018 and I was attending an event at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon. It was bitterly cold that day, perhaps a harbinger of things to come from an emotional standpoint in the province.
The verdict was in – Gerald Stanley was acquitted. The Internet exploded and social media was an absolute firestorm of views and opinions; some of them extreme, others as balanced as they could be.
My brother Perry actually texted me as soon as the word came down. He knew I was in a large, public place with about 5000 other people, many of whom were about to learn the verdict as well, and I think his concern was that I could possibly be in the middle of Ground Zero if emotions ran a little too high and a riot was to break out. I get it; keep in mind that this is Saskatoon we’re talking about, with a mixed population of Caucasian and Indigenous citizens in addition to the wealth of other cultures represented.
Luckily, there were no reported riots on the streets of Saskatoon that night, nor did I have to bulldoze my way out of SaskTel Centre. Quite frankly, it was just too damn cold at the time and everyone of sound mind just wanted to get home and get warm.
This was two years ago, but it seems that we’re never going to take any substantial steps when it comes to perhaps moving on.
Don’t paint me as heartless. I understand that there is a lot of pain that still remains, and it will never go away, but tell me what good comes out of tearing open old wounds before they’ve had a chance to heal? As far as I can see, as someone who’s been a newsman for 13 years, all that these rehashed articles and recycled viewpoints do is add on to the wall that creates the divide between white people and First Nations people.
If you don’t believe me, take a good long look at literally any comments thread on Facebook whenever an article is posted relating to the Boushie family or the state of RCMP/Indigenous relations.
We NEED to do better than this, news folks. We’re the ones who aren’t supposed to be biased, but that seems to be all I’m seeing with these kinds of stories and viewpoints.
We need more GOOD out there in the world and more GOOD in the news. Tell me about the positives happening between the police and First Nations people. The stories are out there; some of us have just gotten too lazy to look.
If everyone wasn’t so damn busy stirring the proverbial pot these days on both sides of the fence, including us in the media, then maybe this whole wacky idea of “Reconciliation” between whites and First Nations would actually have a fighting chance some day.
But hey, I get it – controversy creates clicks. As long as the web traffic is heavy, we seem to sleep well at night with the knowledge that we’re stoking the race flames and helping to spread hate and prejudice online.
And that’s going to be our downfall as a society.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.