Last month, Tamara Johnson decided to make noise in Thunder Bay by offering what she called a “reward.” But what Ms. Johnson refers to as a “reward” is considered a “bounty” in the eyes of Thunder Bay Police Chief J.P. Levesque and Fort Williams First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau. What’s the difference?
The dictionary definition of a reward is “money that someone receives for finding and returning something or for helping the police.”
The dictionary definition of a bounty is “money offered as a reward, especially for catching or killing a criminal.”
Based on these dictionary definitions a reward is not the same thing as a bounty. A reward can be as simple as a sincere, heartfelt thank you that is not expected but certainly accepted if offered. A bounty has an expectation of payment for services rendered.
This is what Ms. Johnson posted – in part — to her website on August 31, 2014.
When Ms. Johnson approached the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal to have her ad placed, the newspaper refused to publish it (which is their legal right). This resulted in these comments made by Ms. Johnson to her Facebook page.
In order to understand where the problem with the wording lies, it’s important to read what’s written as Ms. Johnson wrote it without emotional commentary.
Ms. Johnson related on her website how the alleged incident occurred on St. Paul Street, and allegedly involved eight people. She claimed that when a police cruiser “happened on the scene” that seven of the eight involved parties left the area. She also stated this was a good thing as otherwise, in her opinion, it could have led to nine murders. I will address the murder commentary later in this OpEd piece.
Because Ms. Johnson read a Letter to the Editor in the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal that was penned by an “Ian Robinson” in which he alleged that one of the involved parties was called “white boy” she states that the other seven people who were part of this alleged incident could not have been white. Ms. Johnson stated that, based on Mr. Robinson’s comments, in her opinion, the other seven people were undoubtedly First Nations peoples.
Is that a reasonable assumption to make?
According to Statistics Canada, Thunder Bay is a culturally diverse city (according to the 2006 Census data). Over 72,000 residents in 2006 claimed they had European origins, and more than 58,000 more residents claimed their ethnic origins were in the British Isles. Those with reported their ethnic origins as English came in at over 34,000, with Scottish origins came in at over 26,000, and with Irish origins came in at over 22,000. People who claimed Eastern European origins nearly topped 28,000.
Those with French origins were nearly equal to those with Irish origins, and those with either Southern European origins or Western European origins were slightly fewer to those who claimed Canadian origins.
But you know, after those with Ukrainian, Finnish, or German origins were logged, came those who laid claim to Aboriginal origins. Scandinavian, Polish, Swedish, Dutch, Norwegian, Welsh, and other origins came in smaller numbers after that.
The first question is this: Do people from any of the other ethnicities identified in the Statistics Canada summary sometimes have darker skin tones? According to Benjamin Franklin, some of the ethnicities in the Statistics Canada summary actually do have darker skin tones.
But did Ms. Johnson state that the seven who got away in the alleged incident were Indigenous peoples? On August 31, 2014 she wrote on her website: “I will also infer the attackers were native.”
There is no proof that the alleged attackers were native. There is no proof that identifies the ethnicity of the alleged attackers. What is known is that one person claims to have been attacked by seven other people.
Based on media reports, the Thunder Bay Police Department has the matter well in hand and continues to investigate. No arrests have been made because the investigation is ongoing. That’s how the system works.
To foment hatred against “natives” on the basis that the victim in the alleged attack was repeatedly called a “white boy” is irresponsible. To state that the alleged attack was “clearly motivated by hate and racism” is to draw a conclusion that, when coupled with the claim that the “attackers were native,” is incorrect and seriously flawed.
Considering that putting a bounty on the heads of Indigenous peoples is something that has happened in Canada and the United States in earlier generations, the fact that someone in this day and age would offer what Thunder Bay’s Police Chief calls a “bounty” endangers everyone regardless of ethnicity.
Now getting back to the possibility of “nine murders” Ms. Johnson mentioned, I have to admit I’m somewhat perplexed by her comment.
Who is she alleging would be murdered and by whom? And who would be the lone survivor of such a heinous attack?
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