Many of our members and the public generally have expressed dismay about the removal of the statue at the legislative buildings. It has been said that this is a setback towards reconciliation. I would like to offer an alternative perspective.
It was hot. I started from the steps of the human rights museum. I had to bike there to catch up with James Beddome and I just missed the speeches. I got there just as everyone was starting to move from the steps of the human rights museum, then we walked past the Goldeye stadium to Portage and Main. Alternating between the shade and the sun, between the barricades and the speakers. People were handing out water, orange T-shirts and masks. I heard one of the elders talk about the bear teachings of courage. We lined up to march to the legislature.
I was at the back when there was a delay. It was unclear what the holdup was but I was told that we were to be respectful and patient and I still had some sweat to spare, so I didn’t think much of it.
It turns out there was a man in distress that had been holding up the line. I found this out when we came up to the old Manitoba cheese building on portage where police had him physically detained against the side of the building. Maybe 40 marchers had stopped to witness, the phones were out as the officers tried to force him into the police car.
Now he may have been disturbing the March and I wasn’t there to see you what he did to put himself in police custody. But what he did was irrelevant to what I saw next. As the man resisted being shoved into a small confined space on a hot day, more officers came to contain him and gradually the marchers stepped to the man’s defense. Another squad car speeds in with its sirens on.
“Way to escalate” I thought. I might have said, but I probably wouldn’t have been heard above the sirens, which they left on for a few long minutes after they had pulled up. The crowd of marchers we’re getting more agitated. This was not being handled well.
At the peak there were about a dozen officers surrounding the two vehicles and the man being detained and another dozen patrolling the sidewalks. I heard one officer say as he walked by me, we were all very brave behind our masks. Interesting perspective from someone with a loaded weapon and authority on his side. I also thought everyone had masks. It’s a pandemic.
So how did this resolve itself? A few people in the crowd stepped up with water and another stepped in to calm the man down, and help him up. They walked with him without incident to the ledge. 24 officers and One Grandma.
This is not the first time events have gone down like this. I have heard the sadness of the grandmas who knew children killed by police who knew those kids’ lives and who knew like the elder at the March that she could’ve brought the child home safely. I suspect it happens more often when 40+ marchers aren’t watching.
Having seen all that, then I got to the legislature and saw the ropes around some pillars on the front of the legislature grounds and I got close enough to see the statue being taken down. It felt it’s not justified but certainly inevitable.
So if we’re gonna talk about the impacts of the statue falling on reconciliation I would caution my fellow Caucasians on a few matters. I see it happen over and over again. I saw it at the Munk debates when Stephen Fry negotiated terms of Slavery instead of understanding the history of slavery (sorry Stephan but ‘guess you’re right’ isn’t exactly going to cut it). I saw it when Murray Sinclair gave a talk at CMU about the church’s role in reconciliation and a white man got up to ask if Mr. Sinclair could give him some help because the government wasn’t being fair with his land. (In typical Mennonite fashion the whole room was silently but probably horrified but to Mr. Sinclair’s credit he spoke with a man afterwards kindly and at length).
I’ve seen these things, and I hear our premier’s comments and I’m appalled by the ignorance and arrogance, and wonder what is it that we’re not getting about this?
I get it. It sucks when someone hurts something you value. It feels like your world has been violated. Some of you have said you might have been in favor of removing it had gone through the proper channels. When things get done without prior and informed consent it doesn’t help the cause. But you know who has some experience with being on the bomb and their values being violated without prior and conform consent? Indigenous people.
On my way back home, I stopped to ask an officer if they had any special training for that day. He said they were well trained and didn’t need any specifics. He was a bit sparse with the details but I said “interesting” and thought, “Are you sure?” I left for home, had a cold shower, tall glass of water and some shade.
I drove past the legislature later that evening. Most of the martyrs had gone. I saw where the statue had once been. Now I saw the most touching memorial to the most horrific tragedy I’ve ever seen. It felt like something good had been done.
I have heard people saying this was an act of violence against public property. Since that day, I have heard stories of the people that were up close to the statue, the ones that stuck it out while I went home for a cool nap. I have heard about the grandmas crying at the foot of the now monument to the as yet untallied 1000’s of children that didn’t come home. These were youths who listened to their elders to be courageous, saw their elders pain, and did something about it.
This was not an act of violence, it was an act of love.
My Oma was a big fan of the monarchy (she was Ukrainian Mennonite, so go figure), but my Oma also was happiest when my little league soccer games ended in a tie, because everyone wins then. I can’t say what I would do if something brought that much pain to my Oma, but I’m pretty sure I know who’s side she’d be on with this issue.
To my settlers, there are many wounds in this country perpetrated by many hands. These wounds have been festering for generations. As settlers, we really haven’t had to deal with the painful parts of our history. But now is our time to take our medicine, dress the wounds, and listen to our treaty relationship health advisors.
Green Party of Manitoba