It was only three months ago that author Tanya Talaga went to Halifax to deliver one of the 2018 Massey Lectures. The Massey series was called All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward. In the lectures, she referred to her research and writing of her award-winning 2017 book , Seven Fallen Feathers. Seven Fallen Feathers, as I noted earlier, takes a close look at seven Indigenous youths’ deaths in what is arguably the most racist city in Canada, Thunder Bay, Ontario. For more, listen to Canadaland’s excellent series of podcasts called Thunder Bay.
Talaga noted the white racism in this northern city of 120,000, which features an incompetent and racist police force plus a mayor and city council that want to focus on boosterism and saving their “reputation” at the cost of sweeping racism under the carpet.
Seven youths died suddenly in or around city’s rivers and waterways over a period of 9 years. Add another to that list. On Dec. 6, 2018 Braiden Jacob, aged 17, went missing.
He and his family had travelled 540 km south to Thunder Bay from his home on the Webequie First Nation. Ironically, Jacob needed trauma counselling and other health services. His body was found in a park a few days later. A 22-year-old man has been charged with Jacob’s death.
Of course, Jane Philpott, Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services, tweeted her condolences. Naturally, the health services were not available in Jacob’s home community of 800—no one seriously expects they would have been. But the government has made significant improvements to mental health care and “will continue to make those investments.” What does it mean when a “nice” woman like Jane Philpott tweets sympathy? Clearly it means very little in terms of any change to the status quo. What did medical doctor Carolyn Bennett do? She is the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs with a mandate to do “transformative work to create a new relationship with Indigenous Peoples”– yet she made no comment at all on Jacob’s death in Thunder Bay.