Friday, the Thirteenth

 

What this country needs is more unemployed politicians....Angela Davis

 

 

 

Lake Melville MHA and Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Environment, Perry Trimper, had barely settled into his plush office at Confederation Building in St. John's, NL, when his mouth betrayed his brain.

On Friday, the thirteenth of September, he had, to quote children's author, Judith Viorst, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. To be completely accurate it all started the day before.

First though, by way of background, allow me to take you back to the night of May 10, 2016, when the illustrious Jerry Dean, MHA for Exploits, rose in the people's house to announce to one and all that he had pinpointed the reason for the dire financial situation in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"There's a sense of entitlement in the province," said the former mayor, "in which we demand jobs and services from government that our province cannot afford." A return to self-reliance and perseverance was called for, said the now unemployed member. It was his one shining moment at the podium--and his last.

His remarks were met with outrage on social media. "The people of this province," said one, "damn well know how to live on a shoestring budget because they have been forced to do so by the elected officials who have run our province into ruin."

For the next four years, shunned by both Liberals and PCs alike, Jerry Dean was doomed to wander the halls of Confederation Building like the chained and tormented ghost of Jacob Marley. There was no forgiveness. On May 16, 2019, he was voted out of office.

Fast forward to Dear Leader's press release on September 6, 2019, announcing his new cabinet. "I look forward, said Duh-wite, "to the unique set of skills and fresh ideas the ministers and deputy ministers will bring to their new roles."

Fresh ideas indeed.

Six days later, on September 12, Minister Trimper left a voice-mail message on the phone of Dominic Rich, a staffer with the Innu Nation in Labrador. The problem was that Mr. Trimper, a minister of the crown, forgot to hang up. He then engaged (along with another person) in a racist diatribe against the Innu, all of which was recorded on Mr. Dominic's phone.

He (and she) accused the Innu of having "a sense of entitlement," "a god-given right to demand services." Said services being little more than a reasonable request for financial assistance to hire an interpreter to assist unilingual Innu in communicating with government offices--a right by the way, which is now recognized under newly enacted federal legislation, Bill C-91, An Act Respecting Indigenous Languages.

Trimper's vitriol flowed freely into the open mike. "They always play the race card on me," whined the self-righteous minister as he dove ever more deeply into the cesspool of racism and intolerance.

On Thursday evening, September 12, Chief Gregory Rich of the Innu Nation released the recorded comments. The s..t hit the fan as the saying goes. Duh-wite blew a gasket. Trimper dashed over to the CBC studios to apologize on-air in the middle of the evening news hour.

On Friday, September 13, Perry Trimper 'resigned.' Dear Leader accepted the resignation and then dashed off to the Big Land to apologize to all and sundry for the sins of his government.

In numerous statements, ex-minister Trimper promised to repent and seek forgiveness whilst wandering in sackcloth and ashes through these pine-clad hills.

I have some advice for the ex-minister as he does his penance.

Perhaps in your wanderings, Mr. Trimper, you would do well to walk in the humble shoes of the Innu and reflect on their recent history as victims of a brutal colonial past.

You might start with a journey to the basin of the Upper Churchill River. In 1960, this verdant valley hosted one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet. In 1969, the Churchill Falls Corporation with the collusion of the Newfoundland Government flooded this 5000 sq. km chunk of traditional Innu territory without consultation with the Innu and without forewarning.

As you gaze out over the Smallwood Reservoir, you might try to imagine what it must have been like to emerge from your cabin in the morning on flood-day and feel the waters slowly rising above your ankles.

You might talk to Innu men and women about their experience with the residential school system, the deliberate destruction of their language and culture, and the physical and sexual abuse of their children.

And think, too, what it must have felt like to be forcibly relocated from your traditional hunting territory in 1967 to Iluikoyak, an island off the Labrador coast where you were expected to leave your former life behind and pursue cod-fishing as a livelihood. 

And think about living is a crowded shack with no running water and no flush toilet. Your community soon became a quagmire of violence and despair.

Listen to the stories of those deeply affected and then you might spare a few words of sympathy for the families who lost loved ones to suicide and alcoholism.

And think too, how you might have coped, Mr. Trimper, had you been on the land in the prime hunting and fishing seasons during the 1980s and 1990s when your territory was used as a training ground for NATO fighter pilots. Low-flying supersonic military jets screamed out of the dawn as you emerged from your night of rest.

You then noticed that the caribou were disappearing, and there were far fewer animals to trap. And nobody listened to you because those with political power rarely listen to anyone.

I'm sure you get the picture.

And I wish you well on your long, long journey.

 

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