Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Putting Out The Fire Of Cyber Smoke Signals

The heart of this suit is not strictly a Métis issue but an attack on the principle of free speech and free expression which should be of paramount concern to all Canadians. It appears to be orchestrated by those who would consign any viewpoint that does not mirror their own back to the days of endless separate solitudes.
This is one more reason to read The Last Amazon.
Valarie was the mother of two at that time and had not yet progressed to the ‘mother of many’ designation. She had been isolated for more years than I could possibly have imagined when I first met her. It was the first time that I actually enjoyed doing the laundry. I loved her sense of irony and her quick wit. She stayed on till I finished doing the laundry and I brought her home for coffee. She was busy warning me about the dangers of living in a downtown high rise. Just the other day she heard a terrible racket in the hallway and went to investigate and the strangest thing happened. She turned the corner to walk into the stairway and before she knew what was happening she was lifted several feet off the ground and pinned by her neck against the wall by a man using only one hand. She was at eye level to the largest black man she had ever seen who was demanding to know what her business was. He had another man in a head lock at the other side of him. She managed to croak out that she lived there and only came out to find out what the racket was. She thought she was a goner but he let her go and ordered her to go home immediately as he was taking care of it. She ran back into her home and was shaking so hard that she could barely get her key into the door. She just finished her story and I was in the process of commiserating sympathetically when the Last Amazon’s father came through the door. Valarie jumped to her feet and screamed that’s him and ran out the door petrified.

I was so use to the Last Amazon’s father’s size that most times I took it for granted that his size and appearance often made him immediately intimidating for those who didn’t know him. I admit that it did have its uses and I wasn’t above using it to my advantage when dealing with rude store clerks. I really miss those days when a store clerk would give me a hard time and I could just call out for his attention and the clerks would immediately sweeten up. I always thought it was really wasted on him because he would often go out of his way to assure most people he was not a threat (unless his family was threatened) and went to great lengths of courtesy to put most people at ease. Being 5’ and not particularly intimidating looking, I have always resented being forced to prove that I am not a benign soul by doing something extreme to prove my point.

Of course, I gave the Man a good what for and lectured him long about going around scaring the neighbors and I was more than a trifle annoyed that he probably ruined the only chance I had in a long time for company during the day. He tried to justify it by saying he caught the man smoking crack in the hallway and he wasn’t going to let the some crackie poison the air where his wife and daughter lived, but if I recall correctly, I think I still burned his dinner that night.

Valarie did gather her courage a few days later and came by to apologize for screaming and running out the door when the Man came home from work and so begin a 14 year friendship that has yet to end. In the course of getting to know each other I learned that Valarie was Métis and originally from Northern Ontario. She lived a very troubled early life that was marked by alcohol and extreme abuse. I was very curious about her culture as she made only the vaguest references to it and I had retained very little information from high school history courses beyond that the fact that the Métis were a mixture of Native and European ethnicity. There was some vague memory that Louis Riel was Métis and played a role that is still considered controversial in Canadian history. Such was the extent of my knowledge.

One day I asked her what being Métis meant and she floored me with her answer; it was to be marked by birth as second rate and to never quite being able to measure up. Where she grew up in the North her family was shunned by the Native community who possessed treaty status, and when her family moved to the city they were shunned by their neighbors for being too “native”. When she took the mandatory Canadian history courses in high school she learned that the man her father revered was judged a traitor to this country; she simply hung her head in shame. Up until very recently she could not tell you what it means to be Métis except to say that it was not something she would ever willing choose to be if the choice was hers alone.

But an interesting change happened about 18 months ago. I started to blog and being a good friend she started to read what I posted. Eventually that lead her to read Darcey at Dust my Broom and from Darcey’s site she found other voices; both Métis and Native. For the first time, she has been given a glimpse into her own solitude and experience. She has heard the voices that were silent to her before. There is a hidden value to internet, blogs and blogging, and it is this; it is a way to reach out to others that previously would have remained firmly locked and entrenched in their separate solitude.

All of which brings me to the bizarre defamation lawsuit brought by Manitoba Métis Federation against Cyber Smoke Signals for hosting an online petition calling for a halt in funding the MMF for amending the bylaws or funding a new election until the MMF has complied fully with a Court of Queen’s Bench order issued January 27, 2004 which calls for a fair and democratic vote.
This is the lawsuit that was referred to here. The Last Amazon links to some resources to provide more information about this case. Question: Does anyone see a legitimate cause of action in the original documents under question? The incestuous relationship between MMF and Lionel Chartrand is most interesting. I will, in the near future, post more information about this lawsuit. Stay tuned.