SACHIGO LAKE – History has shown us that there are times when humankind and civilization loses its way. But how and when does a society as a whole stop, confront how things that have gone wrong, and insist on change?
We all know from our common history that the loss of humanity is a dangerous place to be.
On July 8, 2022, Eva Whiskeyjack, a beloved member of our community, took her own life in Marina Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Eva was a bright young woman who spent the last two years working hard to protect her community from the ravages of the pandemic. She had been a valued member of our team, but more importantly, she was a young mother, providing for her children and family, with hopes and dreams for a better future.
We loved her and had hopes and dreams for her too. For First Nations people, the site where a human soul perishes is considered a sacred and somber place.
The family and friends of Eva congregated in Marina Park to mourn her passing. Many would have visited the site of her death to extend their farewells and pay their condolences.
The deep sadness of losing Eva took on an additional ugly weight as a result of the actions of some members of the Thunder Bay Police Service when we watched as her final place was used as a backdrop for photos of police officers and members of the public.
We can only assume that these were to be shared widely on social media for many others to see. We know that many of you are now beginning to understand the reasons why First Nations people struggle, and why you see many of our people living in poverty, on the streets and in other difficult circumstances.
Thankfully, this generation of young Canadians are being taught the real history of First Nations people in Canada and are openly confronting the legacy of residential schools and the deep intergenerational harm it has caused our people.
They understand too that suicide among our young is the most tragic of these legacies, and one for which all society must grieve.
To the people of Thunder Bay, we ask that you follow your children’s lead and honour Eva and others like her who have ended their lives as a result of deep despair.
We ask that you hold your police officers to account for this behaviour to ensure that our tragedies and the loss of our young are not used as a backdrop for social media in the future.
Standards of decency and compassion are the things that will bind us if we are to move forward as a society. Without these we are destined to repeat the grave mistakes of our past – where some are treated as less human, less deserving than others.
We ask that we work together to achieve what is right, what is just, and for the change necessary to bring the Thunder Bay Police Service back to a place of dignity and humanity.