Recently we published an article about the fighting in Chibougamau. While no one has responded to our article a Cree was upset with a editorial about the situation in a Chibougamau paper. So we bring you a translation of the editorial, which appeared in French, and a reply to it by a Cree.
Point From: La Sentinelle October 2,2002 Unacceptable Events Editorial by Guy Tremblay It is not new that unfortunate events starring Crees from Mistissini, Ouje-Bougoumou or Nemaska happens in Chibougamau. It is so frequent that nobody makes almost anything of it anymore. We see some of them lying down on the ground or comfortably installed on the asphalt of the shopping centre… incapable of even saying a word, drunk from what they’ve been drinking during the night.
Like me you find this quite sad, but since it’s only a minority we prefer to shut our eyes. But there’s always a drop too much in the bucket and this drop happened a few days ago. Business owners and policemen have lived unacceptable events.
Too much is too much! The story has made it around Quebec. Friends and family called me to tell me they didn’t know that there was a Western Festival in Chibougamau.
It is not a question of one or two individuals on a drinking binge, but of women savagely beaten, of a youth who almost died, of policemen assaulted, We’re talking about 20 persons implicated in those incidents. The fact that they were natives doesn’t change anything and shouldn’t change anything. Nobody has the right to play ostrich and do like nothing happened, starting especially with the natives.
On the contrary, they should require assistance so those acts don’t happen again. Let’s not forget that the lives of those people intoxicated with chemical substances were on the line. Those people could have killed others, even within their own group. Those events happened in Chibougamau but they could have easily happen in Mistissini or Ouje-Bougoumou with far more serious consequences.
Some solutions In the short term, the SQ and local authorities see some solutions. We have to see as well to definitively solve this problem. We are not in the Far West era, when we put the lives of policemen and citizens on the line. We have to work at the base of this problem and bring help to certain persons clearly identified. We have no choice if we want to continue living in a city that has a reputation for its hospitality and not for its hostility.
If you think the problem is not that serious, good! Otherwise, if you think I might be right, it is important to take some measures right now and find some definitive solutions. Have a good week! Counterpoint Chibougamau Dear Nation,
A few weeks ago, unfortunate incidents took place in Chibougamau where some youth, mostly Cree, troubled the peace. Arrests ensued, and with them the usual disparaging remarks about Crees. These remarks are usually spoken by a few people from whom you’d expect such comments, not much of a bother as such since you’ve heard them so often.
This time, a chorus of different voices was heard. The most noticeable, in the October 2nd edition of La Sentinelle; the editor dedicated an entire editorial to this subject. In his editorial, Mr. Guy Tremblay spoke about the incidents and how they were unacceptable. While the incidents were deplorable, comments on how they’ve gotten used to seeing drunken natives sleeping comfortably in public areas and how the recurring problems must be solved by the natives themselves are unacceptable.
It is extremely disquieting that Mr. Tremblay seems to put the blame on the Cree. I am still trying to figure out why he is not addressing the issue of bar owners who continue to pour drinks for those already too intoxicated. Or those store owners who will sell beer and alcohol to underage Cree, all the while not extending the same favour towards non-native youth. What about elicit activities? Everyone is aware of the bootleggers and the drug dealers who make tons of money pushing their wares on our people. Why are these individuals not pointed out?
I intended on responding directly to La Sentinelle but I doubt this would have any positive results for our community. Rather, I’m addressing the Cree nation. There are several businesses and individuals who treat us well and appreciate our business in Chibougamau. These, we should continue to support and assist.
However, for those ones who consider us to be a nuisance and not much else (except for the money we provide, which they love), I think it is time to do something.
I for one am more than tired of being grouped with individuals that cause problems. One thing I have learned is that when I have a problem with one person, it is not his entire community who is to blame. If John Doe causes me grief, it is John Doe who I have a problem with and not his family, not his friends, much less his community.
This is why this editorial and the generalizing comments that I have heard once too often in Chibougamau are no longer acceptable to me. Generalizing comments are easy because it requires little effort, be it physically or intellectually.
Nothing excuses destructive behavior whether it is in our community or another, and those guilty of it should and must be punished. Generalizing is just as unacceptable and I feel it is time that we stopped kidding ourselves.
Let’s go it one better than those who choose to put us all in the same basket. Let’s be selective in our patronage and support those who support us.
As for those others, whom we all know, let’s stop supporting them. You know which business I am talking about. Those establishments that make Cree customers pay up front before the service is even delivered, those businesses that sell us something and fail to meet basic quality standards nobody in Chibougamau would ever accept, those stores who peddle alcohol to our children and the list goes on. If these people are smart enough to judge a person by the colour of their skin, then maybe they’ll be smart enough to survive without our money. If they survive, good for them, at least we’ll know that it’s not thanks to us.
The best we can do is support business in our community. And if you can’t find it locally, then save your money and drive past those businesses that dislike us and past Chibougamau.
Andy Baribeau Mistissini