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Murderpeg
July 11, 2014 5:46 PM   Subscribe

"Winnipeg is the capital of Manitoba, Canada — and for 16 of the past 33 years, it has also been the country's murder capital. The prairie city is home to just under 800,000 people, about 10 percent of whom are Aboriginal, meaning Winnipeg boasts the largest urban Aboriginal population in Canada. Largely impoverished and facing continual discrimination, the community has given rise to violent Aboriginal street gangs." Vice reports (17 mins).
posted by stbalbach (30 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I cannot possible bear to link to anything recent, but violent crimes (hyper-violent crimes) against aboriginals are under-reported in the Canadian mainstream media. Like holy shit.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:02 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


Absolutely heartbreaking.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:51 PM on July 11


KokuRyu: "violent crimes (hyper-violent crimes) against aboriginals are under-reported in the Canadian mainstream media. Like holy shit."

Not that it matters, much, but are you talking about violence among aboriginals or violence by non-aboriginals against aboriginals?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:53 PM on July 11


I suspect KokoRyu is thinking of the mind-blowingly horrific attack on Marlene Bird in Saskatchewan.

A lot of Aboriginal women die too soon. Not enough is known about why, though domestic violence is likely part of the story (scroll down for perpetrator and event characteristics).
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:07 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


(proximally; obviously the Canadian government's continued shameful treatment of First Nations people has something to do with it)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:09 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Not that it matters, much, but are you talking about violence among aboriginals or violence by non-aboriginals against aboriginals?


Little of column A, little of column B. Fucked up either way.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:11 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I have in my head, a list of Secret Cities I may run off to if I ever need to Get Away. Before I met my wife (who's cold intolerance is notable in a native New Hampsterite, with Boston and Quebecois blood in her no less), Winnipeg was high on it. Endless, featureless prairie - with a major city plunked down in the middle of it. Some of the coldest weather outside of the arctic circle, and definitely the coldest major city (in winter) outside of Russia. Yet it's filled with quirky and lovely and unique culture, and all the trappings of modern civilization, including stuff we can't get here in the 'States (decent healthcare).

It's kind of par-for-the-course it would be racist and violent in ways at once tangental and orthogonal ad congruent to other major cities. Also, heartbreaking.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:21 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Don't forget the black flies! Plenty of those, too!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:36 PM on July 11


I'll die with the black flies pickin' my bones...
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:40 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


These videos always blow my mind.

In the US the equivalent stereotype gangster would be hispanic. Watching North American Aboriginal gangs almost strikes me as satire. I went to school with kids that looked like these guys. They appear to be American Indian to me. When I hear "Aboriginal" I think bushmen if I am being uncharitable. Inuit if I am trying to be sensitive/correct in my mind. As an American, if you want me to think Aboriginal for Canada you have to say, "First Nations." Even then I imagine people that look more like Eskimos (and yes, I know the baggage behind that word).

I consider myself a bit educated on these issues (I listen to CBC News and As It Happens), but I have to admit I feel totally ignorant when reading about any of this.

Things like the fact that "1,000 native women murdered, missing in Canada over 30 years: RCMP" didn't even make the news in the US (that I am aware of) until some non-Aboriginal woman was murdered (she was researching their deaths). I can't find a link to her being killed, so she may have actually been Aboriginal, but my point remains. You can have 1,000 die without notice, but when one different dies, well, only then is notice taken.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:44 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


cjorgensen: It was on the blue when it happened and yes, she was indigenous too.
posted by foxfirefey at 7:56 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I really want to like these Vice mini-docs and I really want them to be good. Even though they did a good job taking the dudebro essence off of this one, it's still way too short to actually explore the situation in a way that even approaches meaningful or informative.

I wish they'd make a fifth as many "documentaries" and actually make them completely, but they feel like clickbait as it is and I suspect that's actually what they're going for.
posted by rollbiz at 8:03 PM on July 11


Said it before, saying it again:

The plight of First Nations people in this country, especially First Nations women, is Canada's national shame. Every single one of us who isn't First Nations should be cripplingly ashamed at how we treat First Nations people, and should be working to do better at ameliorating the ongoing tragedy.

Things like the fact that "1,000 native women murdered, missing in Canada over 30 years: RCMP" didn't even make the news in the US

It's barely registering on the radar of most Canadians, to be honest.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


I lived in Winnipeg for a couple of years and my ex-wife works for the Public Interest Law Center which is a sort of governmet funded ACLU - they sue the Crown [government]. She worked all day, came home, ate dinner and worked till bedtime if The Walking Dead or a Jets game wasn't on was her routine.

I'm hesitant to talk about it because it pisses me off so badly. About half of her cases involved "First Nations" [Indians - or a specific tribe here south of the parallel].

There is one analog to the the US and one not so much but becoming closer. Black-on-black violence as it is here in the US is reflected in Native-on-native violence.

The national police force, which polices the reservations [Reserves in the vernacular] the Mounties, are never drawn from the community and they move from one place to another. They are pretty much an occupying army.

Some of the problem is structural. The Canadian government pays the leaders of tribes to negotiate oil or mineral rights. They pay tens of thousands a year to elected tribal representatives which disincentives a settlement. Corruption is rampant. My ex, who is utterly dedicated to making the world a better place would be the representative for the tribes and no one would be there, the representatives were shopping.

Canada is not the paradise we think of if you are First Nations.

Anyway, as I said, I lived in Winnipeg and I was never afraid anywhere - I live in NOLA though.
posted by vapidave at 8:35 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Canada is not the paradise we think of if you are First Nations.

Exactly my point. From ignoring treaties to the utterly horrific residential schools to the fact that the highest suicide rates in Canada are amongst youth living on the rez, and that's leaving aside the thousand or so missing, presumed murdered, aboriginal women that apparently about seven Canadians give any fucks about.

The whole tragedy is so awful, and so shameful, it's impossible to know where to start. There are attempts--the creation of Nunavut out of a chunk of the Northwest Territories is a small step in the right direction--but it seems like governmental positions across Canada are basically "Let 'em die out." It's disgusting.

Personally I think we need, via Constitutional amendment if necessary, a certain number of seats reserved (pun unintended) in both provincial and the Federal parliaments for First Nations people, similar to the NZ model with the Maori.

I remember, actually, watching the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. They started out seeming to really honour the First Nations heritage in BC. Then my neighbour and I realized those poor drummers had to drum the entire time the athletes were on parade. Her comment: "Oh look, we're screwing them again. Fuck."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:55 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Watching North American Aboriginal gangs almost strikes me as satire.

That's my first impulse too. I grew up in a relatively tough neighborhood and gangs were an emerging problem, early 90's. Pirus and crips were staking their claim, and then I moved to Wisconsin in '93 and chuckled at the local Hmong gangs. Ha ha, those Hmong people are a minority, and they are trying to be like other minority gangs! But I was more disgusted by the casual racism of people outside of my "clique" in high school, which was one of those rag-tag groups with a Mormon Jock two tried to "injocktrinate me", ha ha, two Stoners, a Preppie couple, some hardcore nerds...the only thing that we really all had in common was a strong distaste for the redneck racist mentality, and that there were no Hmong among us. No pun intended, but nobody really hung out with them, and they didn't hang out with us, they had their own entire clique with no clear "out-out-group" standouts. We did recruit a lone Chinese guy though, so we felt good about that.

What's my point? I dunno, but when I'm depressed I think about how nice it would be just to not have to really work in the traditional sense. When a minority of people feel depressed and oppressed, it's pretty common for the younger generation to unite and find some way to make a living without having to participate in "good faith" with a system that has failed them or refused to allow them true entry. That's really what happens. "White preppie gangs" are called fraternities or mere cliques, and they have a pretty guaranteed path to success laid out in front of them, and know that if they buy into the system, they will be rewarded. Not every single one, mind you, but the difference is stark.
posted by aydeejones at 8:56 PM on July 11


Note: street hustling is hard, dangerous, high risk work, but there's a "be your own boss" mentality, even if you aren't, that strongly appeals to people. I don't speak from a total position of ignorance, I was pretty immersed in it and had to go to school assemblies about it and had friends who talked about how they'd join the crips before they graduate high school and be set for life. Even if you end up making minimum wage slinging crack on a corner, you still might feel more empowered knowing there's a crew that has your back, than making minimum wage at McDonald's and being you against the world.
posted by aydeejones at 8:58 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Not that it matters, much, but are you talking about violence among aboriginals or violence by non-aboriginals against aboriginals?

violence by non-aboriginals against aboriginals
posted by KokuRyu at 9:52 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


violence by non-aboriginals against aboriginals

aka Canadian history since 15-something. It hasn't stopped, it's just changed form from outright genocide to deliberate neglect and apathy.

opinions, I haz them, etc
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:28 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I think the content linked to in the OP simplifies two intersecting yet complex issues. One is the murder/gang problem in Winnipeg. The other is the systematic oppression of Canada's aboriginal people that has resulted in unspeakable and continuing loss - of culture, of opportunity, of identity, and countless other effects. I would like to first comment on the murder/gang problem, then provide a perspective on the wider situation of aboriginals in Canada that draws from my own familiarity with research on this subject and the personal experience of my extended family.
---
The murder/gang issue seems to be a complicated problem that, while no doubt rooted in poverty and other factors (some discussed and some no doubt not mentioned in the video), extends beyond the aboriginal community and includes new gangs and splinter factions from other communities. It also includes the more well-known biker gangs that operate across Canada, all/most of whom appear to be engaged in a massive turf war. In 2012, the Sun reported the entire West end of Winnipeg is a "warzone". A retired homicide investigator in the area confirmed on a personal blog: "That’s the reality of downtown Winnipeg, that is the truth". A recent report indicates this is only getting worse.
---
The second issue. I wish I could provide much more of a window to it than is possible here. A brief outline of some aspects of the problem:

The efforts to force assimilation, such as residential schools, dispossession of lands, and a forced dependency on the state, have robbed an entire generation of the tools necessary to succeed in the very society they are expected to assimilate to: identity, community, mental and physical health, family support networks, not to mention economic resources.
The racial discourse in mainstream Canadian society continues to dismiss the systematic dispossession and disempowerment of aboriginal peoples as irrelevant to current affairs. Despite international recognition that there is a serious problem, and recognition by Canada's own royal commission regarding the lasting detrimental impact on native communities, the everyday discourse of politicians and citizens alike refuses to acknowledge that there is an existing problem that needs to be addressed. In 2009, the Prime Minister remarked that Canada had "no history of colonialism". Instead, public discourse centres around notions of "accountability" for the federal money allotted to native communities. This discourse has much in common with the typical discussion about poverty that focuses on paternalistic judgment about "irresponsible spending" rather than addressing underlying issues (eg., poverty and lack of education and opportunity) that contribute to negative outcomes.

Moving to urban centres often happens as an intended step toward prosperity from remote communities. However, the process of leaving their home communities often separates aboriginal youth from support networks and requires more economic resources than staying put. Even when, like in Shamattawa, MB, milk is 14 dollars for 4L. Functioning in complete poverty within an environment of institutionalized discrimination is a recipe for failure and tragedy. Retaining and recapturing a sense of identity and belonging after leaving the community can also be difficult.

posted by Acaecia at 10:42 PM on July 11 [19 favorites]


My point was that there are horrific crimes committed against aboriginal folk (typically women) and no one really gives a damn.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:44 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


The other is the systematic oppression of Canada's aboriginal people

Not to be a pedant, but the use of the possessive in this case is not great. Kind of a symptom of the problem.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:45 PM on July 11


Things like the fact that "1,000 native women murdered, missing in Canada over 30 years: RCMP" didn't even make the news in the US (that I am aware of) until some non-Aboriginal woman was murdered (she was researching their deaths). I can't find a link to her being killed, so she may have actually been Aboriginal, but my point remains.

Her name was Loretta Saunders and she was Inuk.
posted by makonan at 12:20 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Not to be a pedant, but the use of the possessive in this case is not great. Kind of a symptom of the problem.

KokuRyu it can be seen in two ways. On one hand, sure, I acknowledge that it's manifesting the entrenched power relationships and I didn't catch it and might have on another day. That said, would catching it have been useful? I'm not convinced that worrying about syntax in what is obviously a well-intended contribution is a useful thing to do, for one thing. But on another level it may even serve to hide less recognizable forms of bias in my language that stem from my position outside the communities being discussed. In my original comment, I tried to outline where I was coming from so that it could be understood as a single perspective rather than an objective analysis. I see now that it was not well-implemented. So, I am from Winnipeg, I grew up in first and second-hand contact with these communities but am not from one. There is my bias, or as much as I am willing to share of it on the internet.

One more point here. In this specific case, I don't think that adjusting the syntax after the fact is a good idea. This is because it would mean revising the language so that it no longer reflects the reality of continued paternalism and subjugation that is at the root of the problems we are discussing. I think that avoiding the reality in language allows for further dismissal of the problem as something of the past.
posted by Acaecia at 12:35 AM on July 12


My tiny little northern BC town of about 4000 people was famously the 'murder capital' -- in terms of murders as a percentage of population -- of not only Canada, but all of North America for a couple of years back in the early 80s.

It has calmed down quite a lot since (and not a little, I like to think, thanks to the efforts of my mom, who still lives there, and was mayor for about 14 years in total starting not long after that time).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:57 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Winnipeg's homicide rate is high by Canadian standards (4.09 per 100,000 in 2012, says Stats Canada), but bear in mind that even in years when it spikes, it's only about on par with the US as a whole (4.7/100,000 in 2012). Here's a map that might give a sense of how geographically restricted it is. Nearly all of the violence is north of the Assiniboine and west of the Red; 3/4 of the city is pretty quiet, and if you're white and middle-class, you can ignore it if you don't follow the local news.

Anti-aboriginal racism is a cross-Canada phenomenon, but it's much more in-your-face in the Prairies. If there's hope for the future, it's in the increasing cultural/political clout of First Nations communities here -- 10% of the population could be enough to swing a few local elections. Developments like Neechi Commons are also a hopeful sign.
posted by irrelephant at 8:08 AM on July 12


vapidave: "The national police force, which polices the reservations [Reserves in the vernacular] the Mounties, are never drawn from the community and they move from one place to another. They are pretty much an occupying army."

The justification I have heard is that this is intended to reduce the chance of bias when an officer will have to handle disputes involving his own relatives or an old friend. The same policy is applied to small towns, not only the reservations. It is true however that this has the consequence of the RCMP often being seen as something imposed upon the community by Ottawa.


Winnipeg is large enough to have a city police force rather than an RCMP detachment, and it will be made up of Winnipeggers, but you get a similar problem if you have too many police from southern Winnipeg patrolling the North End.


Irrelephant accidentally didn't link to a map, but maybe this will do the job.




The Vice video is interesting to me in that it names the gangs. The local news typically does things like this where they just mention "one of Manitoba's gangs" out of a policy that naming the gangs would give them publicity.
posted by RobotHero at 9:40 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Whoops, messed up the map link. RobotHero's is better anyway.
posted by irrelephant at 9:57 AM on July 12


One great city!
posted by stevil at 1:58 PM on July 13


One great city! ftfy
posted by Gor-ella at 3:48 PM on July 14


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