Reconciliation is so far away. And now is not the right time. We are so distant from each other, miles and miles apart, even though we live next door. How do we move closer? How to begin at the beginning? Hello, my name is. Nice to meet you. Where are you from?
An RCMP officer banged on the door of a trailer to tell Colten Boushie’s Mom that her son had been killed. He is deceased, the officer said. Officers came into her trailer and searched it. Opened all the doors and cupboards. Meanwhile, Colten’s mother collapsed on the floor. Get yourself together, the officer said. Have you been drinking? He smelled her breath. Asked Colten’s brothers, Have you been drinking?
Gerald Stanley, the farmer who shot Colten, didn’t know him. He used a semi-automatic handgun. He didn’t ask, How do you do? Where are you from? The kids in the pickup didn’t know that farmer either. No one sat down and introduced themselves.
Margaret McKeown, my grandmother, kept a rifle filled with rock salt in her bedroom. When drunk fishermen came to the house to steal farming equipment, she opened the window, shot them in the butt and watched them run away.
Would the RCMP officer have helped Colten’s mother up, made her tea and held her hand if he could see she was a Mom? Not a criminal but a mother? If we don’t know each other, there is nothing to reconcile, only hard words, stony ground. Walls with no doorways leading through. No garden on the other side, that we could walk in together.
I know of a town and a reserve. The mayor and his son went on a canoe trip with the chief and his son. They travelled together on that rushing river, adventuring to a place they had never been. It is part of the process of creating. To build a community centre, a hockey rink. Something that wasn’t there before. To make a place where strangers can sit side by side and ask, How are you?
Rock salt hurts like hell. A Tokarev semi-automatic kills or maims. In the absence of knowing each other, comes the warning shot from the ramshackle farmhouse in a bush clearing. Comes the bullet through the window of the pickup truck. The problem is always the same and keeps repeating. Gerald Stanley’s wife says This is private property. What did you expect? Colten’s mother says We share the land. You say you killed him for trespassing. You violated the treaty. Nobody owns the land.
We are side by side in a place of stories – some shared, some growing out of this ground, in this old place, on land that belongs to no one. It is not the right time. It’s the only time. How do we get close enough to each other? Close enough to tell the old stories, close enough so we can hear them, be claimed by them and find ourselves changed?