“There’s two guys fighting outside” says the Lady in front of my bar.
I run outside to see two five foot something guys facing off against each other. One is a young First Nations guy, the other is a young white guy with his shirt ripped. They’re both bleeding from the face. On the ground there’s a busted beer bottle. Both guys are bleeding from the mouth, although the white guy has a considerable cut on his head. The white guy says something to the effect of “I don’t want to this”, before the First Nations guy calls him a bitch. The FN guy goes at the white guy and the white guy knocks him out on his feet with one punch right on the jaw. The FN guy goes splayed, like he’s falling to make a snow angel, and then I hear his head hit the street. The white guy bolts. The security guard asks the FN guy’s friends if they’re going to help their friend, and their response is “no he’s a bitch” before throwing the downed guy’s hoodie onto him while he convulses on the ground. I’m on the phone with the ambulance because this guy needs one and I don’t have an hour to wait for the VPD. I take the guy’s hoodie and go to put it under his head, then I feel the heavy sticky warmth of pooling blood. He’s got a lot of blood in his mouth, and he’s trying to get up but I keep telling him he’s gotta lay down because we need to make sure he’s ok. The official story was that this guy who’s bleeding all over the place bottled the unsuspecting white guy, then picked the fight and then lost, badly. Some might say that this guy got what was coming to him, but I don’t see it that way. I just see a dumb kid from a rough background who made some bad decisions. When I see this guy laying here on the street I just feel pain and guilt and shame. I wish I could live in a world where white colonialism never did it’s thing to the indigenous people of this continent, and many others. I wish there wasn’t rampant institutionalized exploitive corruption within the government and the native bands themselves. I wish law enforcement could be a worthwhile profession that didn’t enforce stupid laws. I wish that the mental and social health of First Nations people was given as much advocacy as flashy camera friendly pipeline protests parading around Leonardo Dicaprio and Jane Fonda.
I go back inside and wash the blood off my hands, which sadly don’t shake when I see shit like this anymore. I finish work in a fever dream of helping the police with security footage and cashing out before I go home and try to reconcile it all. Justin Trudeau keeps on playing nice guy cards by picking up humanitarian slack, or at least is claiming to do so to heal our international image, but Canada still bleeds. Our cut may not be as deep, but it is infected. We don’t want to talk about this infection. We don’t want to talk about systemic oppression and the hate and resentment it fosters. We don’t want to talk about crime and drugs. We don’t want to talk about the alcoholism epidemic in First Nations people because we’re afraid that we’re going to be called racist for even mentioning the stereotype. We don’t want to talk about the highway of tears or the first nations thirteen year olds that wander around east van at all hours of the morning. We want to ignore all of this, because it hurts, but if it hurts for normal ashamed white people like me, it’s gotta be a lot worse for those that endure this reality. When shit like this happens in front of my face people tell me “You need a different job.”, and I want to smack their rose coloured glasses off their ignorant dip-shit face. If I stopped seeing this stuff, could I then choose to not acknowledge it? How do people live with themselves when they ignore this stuff? I refuse to stick my head in the sand and pretend like these aren’t crucial issues. While our Mayor Gregor Robertson rallies for eventual higher levels of office by appealing to the very clean very friendly very simple environmentalists, think about what he or any other major Canadian Politician has done for the advancement First Nations peoples that hasn’t end up being fickle lip service. Acknowledging the damage done by residential schools is an important step forward, but it is only a fraction of what we as a society must do to even attempt healing and reconciliation-we must recognize the present state of Canada’s relationship to the health and well being of it’s indigenous people, and we must honour them with more than government payouts and cultural platitudes. We owe them far more than that.