Poor old Jean Chrétien. He’s already been called an “assimilationist” (in the House of Commons this week, by NDP MP Niki Ashton) for daring to suggest that perhaps some of the people of Attawapiskat, the remote northern Ontario reserve now effectively on suicide watch, might want to head somewhere more hospitable.
Given that when the former Liberal prime minister was the federal Indian affairs minister, he and his wife adopted his son Michel, who is Inuit, as an 18-month-old from an orphanage in Inuvik, he may even be the ultimate assimilationist.
And it was no grand success or easy journey either, for any of them I suspect. Michel has had the predictably troubled life of a kid torn between the mainstream and his own culture, so damn his adoptive parents, I suppose, for having tried to do a good thing.
Chrétien’s comments, and they were more nuanced than the headlines suggest, and the story of Attawapiskat and some of the other remote reserves in this country, remind me of a murder trial I once covered in Ottawa.
A great young woman named Donna Jones had been subjected to dreadful violence and degradation for four years by her indolent and vicious husband Mark Hutt, whom she would not leave, could not leave and whom she protected always, even to the death.
In the end, Hutt scalded her with burning water, the burns became infected, and she died on a grimy mattress in their basement 11 days later, on Dec. 6, 2009.
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