Monday, June 7, 2010

Murder is a Crime...

Unless it was done
by a policeman
or an aristocrat
--“Know your Rights” by The Clash

I’ve given myself enough time to absorb the implications of the fact that Michael Bryant is essentially absolved in the death of Darcy Allen Sheppard, and can speak about it without frothing or feeling like I may explode. I’m not going to dwell at length about the whole sordid affair, in which Bryant doesn’t even have to go to trial because it has been determined that Sheppard was on a homicidal/suicidal rampage that night and was essentially the architect of his own misfortune.

However, I have to point out that had that been the other way around – there is no damn way Sheppard would have been absolved. Perhaps at the end of a long, convoluted process – but highly doubtful. Essentially the message is, in the end, that in this country, a white dude can kill a Metis guy and have it be the victim’s fault. Somehow it always is made to be that way when the circumstances are in a white person causing the death of an aboriginal one -- the victim was drunk, or angry, or a drug-addicted prostitute who put themselves in harm's way.

I know people will argue differently, I know they will say that Sheppard was clearly bent on causing shit of some kind and that he would have figured out a way to make something happen, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the optics of the situation, and what privilege means in Kanata.

I’ve experienced this kind of thing before and know what happens when a white person kills an indigenous one.

And in this instance, it obviously means that aristocrats get treated differently.

People don’t want to talk about the wider implications in this entire incident, but I do. The circumstances surrounding each man could not have been different. Michael Bryant, born into every advantage and exercising the full entitlement that privilege bestows upon him – the education, the political position, the wealth, the seamless career but for this one little speed bump. Contrast this to Allen Sheppard– Metis, poor, shuffled around to foster home after foster home, alcoholic, full of rage, unable to hold down a job other than bike courier, and most likely determined to make someone pay for his hatred towards himself. I don’t think he could help being what he had been made into. It takes luck and fortitude and discipline to rise above the circumstances of one’s birth, and I don’t think this man could have done it.

The whole thing was definitely a tale of two cities and an almost stereotypical example of class warfare in action. While it was a tragic intersection of lives, I can’t help but feel that everything I know about justice in this country has been reinforced by this instance. And I have never felt that there is any meaningful justice for those of us who are aboriginal.

I hope to be proven otherwise one day. Guess hope springs eternal.