Xavier Kataquapit: They came in the night

Under the Northern Sky Columnist Xavier Kataquapit

by Xavier Kataquapit

(www.underthenorthernsky.com) – I experienced a theft of an array of tools from the back of my truck a few weeks ago. I had left things in the truck overnight because I had planned to leave earlier the next day. I do my best to be careful to put away valuable items in a safe place but on that night I was a little careless.

I discovered the robbery late the next day when I went to fetch some tools and noticed that they were not in the truck. I was confused as to why someone would want to rob me. I don’t have an incredibly expensive collection or fancy possessions but it was a lot of time, effort and expense for me to gather all those tools and items over many years.

The experience made me think of an important life lesson I learned earlier. It has to do with the realization of the fact that people do bad things because they feel that they no longer have a choice, that their lives no longer matter and that they feel that the only way to get ahead in this world is to take what they can. People end up in dire straits for many reasons and in extreme cases of addiction, one no longer cares what they do as their only focus is in getting enough material together to sell, get some cash and buy their next hit.

I grew up in Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast and I witnessed the downfall of many lives due to addictions. My dad Marius worked as a general contractor building and renovating in the community in order to make some money for our family. Myself and my brothers were more or less apprentices of many trades under the direction of our father. Back then, we kept a large supply of tools in order for us to do our work and it was a regular occurrence for us to have things stolen.

One of the saddest occasions of theft we experienced was on long cold winter nights when desperate people would steal loads of firewood from our log pile. Dad would never go after these people as we often knew who they were. Instead, we would offer to help. Mom and dad had seen enough desperation throughout their lives in the remote north and they knew that when people were left with nothing or very little, they would resort to desperate actions. They understood that for many reasons, a family could end up with no wood for their stove during minus 40 below weather.

I never really could put to words the lessons my parents taught me about why people do bad things until I read a passage by Victor Hugo who wrote in his book ‘Les Miserables’ – ‘If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness’. I also noticed that passage after reading about the Civil Rights movement with Dr Martin Luther King Jr who used this same quote to describe the reality of black America. He argued that crime was rampant in black America because ‘the policy makers of the white society had caused the darkness.’

When I decided with my partner to turn to our local Ontario Provincial Police detachment in Kirkland Lake to report the theft I was hesitant as Indigenous people have had a difficult past with authority and police services. Soon after my call several young police officers showed up to gather information on the theft and to interview us. I was surprised at the respectful, kind and caring manner in which all these young officers engaged us. Sadly, I think many of us have based our idea of policing on outdated realities and I was pleasantly surprised to see a new culture of young police men at work.

I have travelled to many parts of the world and I have realized that a police force is only as good as the government in control of them. Happily, we live in a democracy where our police forces for the most part are held accountable to the public they serve and that is a big deal. Perhaps as we develop as a democracy one day we will have a country that is more equitable, better educated and well cared for. I see that hope in the young officers that helped me during a time where my possessions were stolen.

We need to work to make our society as fair and progressive as we can so that our young policemen and women have less tragic issues to deal with and the reality of desperate people with no hope and suffering from addictions is diminished. That is what you call a win/win situation.

For more columns by Xavier Kataquapit visit www.underthenorthernsky.com.

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