Right in the centre - You can’t believe everything you hear


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The title of this column is an old expression. It has been often repeated and I have a longer version. It goes like this, “Don’t believe half of what you hear, half what you see and only a smaller portion of what you read.” This has never been more true.

Another old expression says that a lie is half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on.

Even more dangerous are partial truths, which means many statements contain only some truth. An example is a story about the inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and the recently released report. The first problem is the number of women. Figures have ranged from 1,000 to 4,000. No one really knows the number, but I do know this, when one woman is murdered, it is tragic and we have a problem. The numbers are important, but more important is what we intend to do about it.

The report has been pulled and pushed by many groups, but the real problem is many women have been murdered. Minister of Indigenous and Northern Relations and MLA for Agassiz, Eileen Clarke, said on the day the report was released, “For decades, families have called for recognition of the tragic violence facing Indigenous women and girls. Their bravery has led to the National MMIWG Inquiry. My most heartfelt thank you to the families, survivors and knowledge keepers who shared their stories.” Well said, and Clarke also said we all have a part to play in changing the situation.

The report took three years and its most important function has been accomplished– to show us all that we have a big problem. No woman, anywhere, at any time, should be vulnerable to harm.

The report is very long and detailed, but at first glance, there seems to be some partial truths. For example, it is not only Indigenous women who have been murdered. Many other women have been murdered and by the numbers, more men than women are murdered in Canada.

Women are often killed by someone well known to them, often a spouse. Hopefully the report recognizes that fact. Murders of Indigenous women are often committed by Indigenous men.

Hopefully, the report includes that much of the problem today is the Indian Act and that one of the biggest problems with the Act is that it’s very difficult for Indigenous families to own their own home on band land. People talk about building strong families, but one path, not the only path by any means, is to be able to buy or build your own house. That avenue is not available to many Indigenous people if they stay on the reserve. That shouldn’t be. Some people want to stay close to “home” and if they can’t, it is not a good thing.

The report will no doubt speak about the ill effects of the residential school system. For many, it was a tragic experience. People have been severely criticized for this next statement but for some, maybe only a few, a residential school education provided an education and opportunities that they would not have otherwise had.

I believe there are two main things to take from the report. One is, as stated above, we have a problem and second, what are we going to do about it?

I think the theme over all has to be that The Creator has made a wonderful country and we can learn from our past to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Laying blame on Indigenous people or non-Indigenous people is of little value.

We all came to Canada from somewhere else, some centuries ago, some 120 years ago and some last week. We all contribute to our economy and culture. There should be no “group rights”, only human rights. My family does not dwell on the past, no matter how tough times were. The past is a great place to visit, but a poor place to live. We must all learn from the past, thrive in the present and build for the future. The choice is ours.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.