“Cops don’t know shit. They’re just frontin'” – Siasi Tullaugak / WKT5 #11
It’s December 12, 1977 around 11 p.m. and my 13-year-old sorry ass is standing at the southwest corner of Sainte Catherine and Atwater waiting for my dad to pick me up after an Aerosmith concert – blue jeans, jean jacket, and tan work boots, we called them workie joes. It’s a well-worn ritual. My sister shuffled the pavement impatiently waiting after ELO and Heart shows. Now your father will pick you up at 11 p.m. sharp, so you be there at the corner, don’t keep him waiting. If the encore ended early you might grab the cheapest thing on the menu at the new McDonald’s, kitty-cornered from The Montreal Forum. You sit in the dining area with all the other kids waiting for parents, the air thick with cigarette smoke, trying to make a Christmas ornament out of one of the tin ashtrays. If he’s late, you might drop a dime in the pay phone on that corner – Where is he? Well, he left 15 minutes ago! One thing’s certain, he was going to make you wait, he wasn’t going to drive around Cabot Square four or five times. A stranger asks you for a cigarette, but you know that’s not what he’s really ask for. You offer him one then quickly move on to another part of the corner. Finally you recognize dad’s head silhouetted above the steering wheel. You trudge through the slush into the car. Right on Atwater, then the Ville-Marie Expressway to Decarie, Decarie to the 401, take the Sources Boulevard exit and you’re back in the safe arms of the suburbs.
Forty years later a crisis would unfold in this neighborhood, though the problems had been simmering since the early 1980s.
One of the first to report of the ongoing crisis in downtown Montreal was the Montreal Gazette’s Christopher Curtis. On August 29, 2017, the body of Siasi Tullaugak was found hanging from the small balcony of a Chomedey Street apartment. Within 24 hours, Sharon Baron’s body was found hanged in a closet inside her apartment in Dorval. In both cases the Montreal police considered the deaths of the two Inuit women as suicides. People who knew the two women said they suspected foul play, but when they tried to communicate this to the police their information was brushed aside:
“This was just hours after they found (Tullaugak) and the cops wouldn’t even write down what we were saying… It felt like they just didn’t take it seriously.”Anonymous witness, “Women’s deaths spark fear, mistrust for Inuit community”, Christopher Curtis, The Gazette, September 8, 2017
Both Tullaugak and Baron frequented Montreal’s Cabot Square. Today the small park on the western edge of the city is well known for drug and sex trade solicitation. Cabot Square functions much like New York City’s Washington Square park, it’s popular both with tourists and the city’s fringe subcultures, it can be a very different experience day from night. That McDonald’s is still there, kitty-corner from The Forum, though the Montreal Canadiens have long moved their act south to The Bell Centre. After a brief stint as a Japanese restaurant, the McDonald’s building became The Resilience day shelter. It’s been the main refuge for the neighborhood’s urban poor since Open Door moved their ministry from St. Stephan’s Anglican Church just south of the square to the McGill ghetto east of the city. Since that move in 2018, according to Resilience’s website, “14 people have died, mostly indigenous woman” from the Cabot square area.
Two sources said they were with Siasi Tullaugak in the early morning hours before she died in the lobby of an apartment building on Rue St. Marc, a couple of blocks from the square. Around 4 a.m., they say they observed the 27-year-old leave the building with a man in his 30s. “I smoke crack cocaine and I drink but that night I was sober….And I’m telling you she left with that man.” The Montreal police’s Aboriginal liaison officer insisted that, “… investigators have done the legwork on this. They’ve looked at all the information that was gathered.”
Siasi and Sharon both came to the city of Montreal from Quebec northern regions, spending years drifting in and out of any number of the city’s roughly 40 homeless shelters. In 2017 David Chapman was running the Open Door shelter, then still located south of Cabot Square. Chapman was well acquainted with both women:
“These were women who came to Montreal in search of a better life., having seen more than a person should see in their youth… What they found when they got here was people looking to take advantage of them…. one definite problem is that, particularly young Inuit women, they don’t have confidence in the police.”David Chapman, “Women’s deaths spark fear, mistrust for Inuit community”, Christopher Curtis, The Gazette, September 8, 2017
Chapman stated that he would often drive Open Door clients directly to the Montreal airport and put them on a plane back to their northern villages – a one way ticket being a cheaper and more efficient intervention to get the women off the streets and out of life-threatening situations involving drugs and sex trafficking. According to recent statistics – which are not so recent – roughly 15% of Montreal’s Indigenous community are in need of core housing assistance.
The non-profit community is not immune to conflict and controversy. Online reviews for the Resilience shelter say the staff regularly abused patrons. Another offered, “No Federal Government should ever fund any part of Resilience. It’s a scam and the staff are ignorant….” In 2019 David Chapman was fired from Open Door for insubordination. Workers reported they were subject to “instances of violence” due to understaffing at the facility which by then had moved to Park Avenue. Where do you go when you can’t trust any of the people who are there to protect you?
Tullaugak was from Puvirnituq, a small fishing village on the eastern shores of the Hudson Bay. According to her niece she could be annoying and loving at the same time. “She was feisty, she would tease you and she wouldn’t take any flak from anyone. But there was a tender side to her. She looked after the elderly women on the street, she shared her food and drinks and she could be very nurturing.” 28-year-old Sharon Baron came to Montreal from an Inuit village near the tip of Ungava Bay. According to John Tessier, an outreach worker with Open Door, “(Baron) was more cool and collected. Real quiet. She was sort of the opposite of Tullaugak in many ways but she had a swagger about her.”
How does someone like Sharon or Siasi end up on the streets? One possible scenario I’ve heard goes like this. Perhaps you’ve come to Montreal accompanying an elderly relative for surgery. None of the clinics in northern Quebec offer specialized medical treatment, so you must visit one of the major hospitals in Montreal. The government will provide for the patient’s care and lodging, but not for you. So for the duration of the medical treatment – which may last several weeks – you’re left to your own devices. You’ve heard of the Cabot Square area, others have come before you and done the same thing. So you take the 3 kilometer walk along Ste. Catherine from the bus station up the street from Parc Emilie Gamelin. The area is flashy compared to your village, it’s got clubs and condos and coffee shops. You stop in a bar and order a coke. A man approaches you and offers to buy your drinks. Later that night when you’ve nowhere to go, he offers you a place up the street for your lodging. For a while the drinks and lodging ( and later drugs) are free. But then one day he starts demanding that you pay the rent. When you say you can’t afford it without a job, he offers you one, working for him in his sex trade. Before long you’re addicted to crack, and doling out sex in exchange for a fix, and receiving regular beatings for failure to pay your rent.
By mid September 2017, Vice News reported that it had obtained information from a police report where Siasi Tullaugak called 911 just hours before her death about a man who was trying to force her into a downtown alley. Later that evening she talked to police officers about the event. In addition, nine sources came forward to say that the man was a known pimp from the area who targeted Inuit homeless women attempting to coerce them into sex trade work. Further, before learning of the police report, The Gazette interviewed the man. The alleged pimp stated he had been drinking with Tullaugak at a bar at Towers street and Ste. Catherine in the early morning hours the night that she died. Around 3 a.m. they moved a block east to the St. Marc apartment – a building locals by now had identified as one they commonly referred to as “the crack hotel” – where he last saw Tullaugak leave the building around 4 a.m. with an unidentified man. Other witnesses from that night say they saw Tullaugak get into a silver sedan after leaving the building.
“Around 5:30 a.m., I went to lay down but something told me to get up, I heard a really deep scream coming from Chomedy St…. About two minutes later, police started flying down the road. I guess that’s when they found the body.”3 a.m. man / pimp – “Tullaugak’s death raises suspicions”, Christopher Curtis, The Gazette, September 13, 2017
The day after Curtis published his story, police announced they had reopened the investigation into the death of Siasi Tullaugak. But it took investigators over two weeks to interview staff and clients of the Open Door. The shelter was a focal point of Siasi’s existence, she’d eated her meals there and used the computer terminals to communicate with family back home in northern Quebec. Jessica Quijano project director of Iskweu, a Justice Canada program designed to address the high levels of violence against Indigenous women in Montreal assessed the situation as follows:
“Historically, with missing and murdered Indigenous women, people know who the suspect is, but don’t believe police will follow up on the information they provide.”Jessica Quijano – “Constant Danger and Fear”, Christopher Curtis, The Gazette, December 19, 2017
Two key witnesses in the matter eventually left the city out of fear for their safety. Locals believed police weren’t thorough enough in their initial investigation because Tullaugak was homeless, Inuk and an addict.
The question nags – Why would someone call 911 fearing someone was trying to force them down an alley, then decide to take their own life two hours later? Selena Ross wrote about the place where Siasi Tullaugak was found hanging:
“The porch had the wrought-iron railings that are typical of Montreal. It was raised, like a low balcony, leaving enough space underneath to accommodate the entrance to a basement apartment. Curved steps led up one side, and on the opposite side, the top railing was screwed to a homemade wooden planter full of flowers.
Tullaugak’s body hung from the side of the porch that held the planter, the police reportedly told the homeowners. That was part of why it didn’t make sense when police deemed her death to be a suicide.”“Branded: How Inuit women in Montreal end up on the street – or dead.”, Selena Ross, National Observer, October 16, 2017
Tullaugak was short, barely five feet tall, she was often mistaken for a high school student. Her feet would have barely been off the ground, possibly as low as a foot above the sidewalk. Her family insisted that she was not suicidal (though this is sometimes true; as difficult as it is to hear, it was possibly the case that Sharon Baron took her own life. More on that later). Within days, police told the media that Tullaugak hung herself from the balcony of her apartment. Tullaugak was homeless she lived on the streets, often under balconies such as the one on Rue Chomedey. The actual owners of the Chomedey property came to the more obvious conclusion, “She didn’t die here. She was dead when she arrived here. Somebody hanged her here.” Within two days police closed the case. That’s not even enough time for a coroner’s determination. How did the coroner believe Siasi died?
Though Sharon Baron may have committed suicide, the trajectory that brought her to that end is not an unfamiliar story of what happens to Indigenous women who come in contact with the hard edges of Cabot Square. The following is from the reporting of Selena Ross.
Baron had been living with her boyfriend, Meeko Griffin for 5 years in their Dorval apartment. Meeko was a former pilot for Air Inuit. One summer, he proposed spending July and August at his family’s camp in Kuujjuarapik, along the coast of Hudson Bay. While visiting northern Quebec, Baron’s mother was attacked by a polar bear and had to be flown to Montreal for treatment. Baron would visit her mother regularly while she was convalescing in a facility that happened to be across the street from Cabot Square. One evening around 1 a.m. she was waiting for the night bus to take her back to Dorval at the corner of Sainte Catherine and Atwater, when a man approached her, started chatting, then offered her some crack.
“It’s definitely someone I didn’t know,” said Meeko Griffin. “And I did get the feeling it was someone she didn’t know either.” Sharon wasn’t in the habit of taking hard drugs, but, “… in this case Sharon tried crack.” Sharon then went missing for about a week. Meeko eventually found her in the Cabot Square area and took her home. Meeko says after that she was no longer the same. She became loud and argumentative. She’d often return to the downtown area. When she’d return home she’d have bruises on her body, often crack pipe burns. This is when Meeko realized that Sharon had become addicted to drugs and was doing sex work. Within six months she’d moved out of the Dorval apartment and was living on the streets.
Interactive map of Cabot Square area: click here.
In 2016 Sharon Baron returned to Dorval, trying to get clean. She had a new boyfriend, Matthew Smith, and they lived together in a one-bedroom apartment. The night she died, Sharon and Matthew were high on vodka and crack cocaine. Matthew passed out, so Sharon went to a neighborhood bar. Staff said she appeared her normal self. Smith woke up in a hospital bed, with police telling him he had called 911 reporting suicidal feelings. When police arrived at the Dorval apartment, they found Baron hanging in their closet. There was no suicide note. Smith stated that he didn’t know she had wandered into the closet because he had, “completely blacked out”. He said he had no doubt that Baron committed suicide, though exactly what the coroner determined was not known at the time Selena Ross filed her story.
The rumors that spread among the denizens of Cabot Square range from a serial killer – possibly a pimp / drug dealer who disguises the deaths of his sex workers as suicides – to, at the very least, a pimp / drug dealer exploiting Inuit women and driving them to these unfortunate outcomes.
The man who heard the screaming from Rue Chomedey at 5;30 a.m. – allegedly Siasi’s own pimp – was asked if he could remember any similar cases from the area. He recalled the case of 33-year-old Nunavik homeless woman named Nunia Grey. Grey was found November 3, 2011 hanging in the bathroom of a crack house on Atwater Street. There was no suicide note. The body was in such an advanced state of decomposition that the death was again quickly ruled a suicide. Like Sharon Baron, Grey had come to Montreal to accompany a relative during a medical procedure.
According to John Tessier, the outreach worker with the Open Door shelter, Grey had been part of the same group that Tullaugak would later join, with the same pimp. Tessier elaborated, “He’s been in this area for 20 years and he’s been doing the same thing for 20 years – basically corralling young Inuit to do whatever it is they do to help them get high.” This pimp would regularly brand his ‘property’. His trademark burn was “two lines from a crack pipe,” often on a victim’s arm, as a kind of tattooing. The man’s court records included at least two charges for assault with a weapon and one for conspiracy to commit murder. However. in developing a profile, it’s important not to become too attached to any one individual. People from the area described two to three men who work the Cabot Square neighborhood singling out Inuit women. None of them were Inuk.
In the matter of Nunia Grey, is Tullaugak’s pimp basically laying out a confession, a road map for his own actions? Here you get the feeling that this pimp is deliberately taunting reporters like Selena Ross, because he knows there’s no evidence, and he knows the Montreal police really won’t make the effort to pursue justice. I exchanged messages with Ross about the interview:
“I didn’t trust pretty much anything I heard from the pimp. I presented it at face value. And I don’t have much new to say about those particular cases, four years later, but there have been some related violent episodes downtown since then, which was really depressing to hear since it seems not much is changing.” – Selena Ross
The police will quickly rush to a verdict of suicide because that’s the easiest outcome to manage. Maybe it is suicide. Maybe these woman, displaced from their homes, reach a point of despair; they miss their families, they miss their culture. So they do what they’ve heard others have done in the past and take their own lives. Or maybe it’s someone taking advantage of this cultural phenomenon and masking murder as suicide. As Jessica Quijano of the Native Women’s Shelter offered about Tullaugak’s death, “I don’t think it was anything like some serial killer with an elaborate plan… I think it’s just really easy.”
Time passes. People stop talking about Sharon and Siasi. Their names get added to rolls of ‘murdered and missing’. They’re called out at annual vigils at Cabot Square. Cabot Square is of course named after John Cabot. The Italian explorer – it’s actually Giovanni Caboto – is said to have been the first European to discover North America. There’s a statue of Cabot at the centre of the square that hasn’t been toppled yet. I guess it’s designed so that people to congregate at the old navigator’s feet. ‘Give us your tired, poor, huddled masses’, or something like that. And they did.
Last year Christopher Curtis left The Montreal Gazette. In his words, “…to do the projects that I wanted to do and not really work on traffic reports and bullshit.” He now works on projects like richochet and his own, The Rover that focus on stories no longer covered by Canadian investigative journalism, specific Indigenous issues being one of them. Yes, the CBC and Globe and Mail will certainly blanket their news feeds with residential schools stories, but who’s going to cover Val d’Or?
I spoke with Christopher about the events from 2017 around Cabot Square. He said the pimp who is a suspect in the Siasi Tullaugak case currently might be in prison for sexual assault. He’s well known in the area as being a “scary dude”. Known as “O.D.”, he once tried to spar with Chris, but Chris is bigger than him: “Motherfucker, I will kill you.”
As we talked, the focus turned to the case of Donna Paré, an Inuit woman who disappeared from Montreal in December, 2018. Little is known about the Paré case, so I’ll just read from what is reported on the Montreal Police’s website:
“Ms. Donna Paré was reported missing on March 26, 2019. She has black hair and brown eyes. She last heard from her in December 2018. Ms. Paré is homeless and could use places such as the Berri-UQAM and Place-des-Arts metros, the McDonald’s on Sainte-Catherine Street East or Berri Park. Investigators fear for her health and safety and she may have bad associates. She does not have a bank card or cell phone.
Sun Youth will offer a reward of up to $2000 for any information that would allow us to find Mrs. Donna Paré.
Anyone with information about this disappearance can communicate it by calling 911, going to their neighbourhood station or sending it anonymously and confidentially to Info-Crime Montréal at 514 393-1133 or online.”
The McDonald’s they are referring to is the one south of Place Emilie Gamelin, and I am well familiar with the area. BAnQ, Montreal’s major library is located north of the parc, so I spend a lot of my time when I’m in Montreal in that area doing research. In fact, that sound you hear at the beginning of the Francine Da Sylva podcast, that’s the sound of metal rigging hitting the side of a flag banner pole outside that McDonald’s. I had supper two times in that McDonald’s over a long weekend. I didn’t go to The Gilded Truffle, I went where the cops and people hang out for two Quarter Pounders with cheese, thank you very much. When I left at dusk, I tried to snap a picture of a girl and her pimp and the guy nearly took my head off. As Christopher Curtis told me, “If [Paré] was hanging around Emilie Gamelin, that’s heroin…. if she went missing, you have to assume she’s dead.” Then futher:
“I remember just being shocked at how quickly that went away. And by that point I was losing a lot of that free time that I used to have in the newsroom to look into these kind of things, so I didn’t follow up as much as I could have or would have wanted to. I’m kind of still kicking myself about that. “
Emmanuel “Pacman” Stark
It’s hard to know exactly what happened to women like Donna Paré. People are fearful, unwilling to talk. They don’t want to disappear. We have some knowledge of victims like Siasi and Nunia, we know even less about the men who abuse them. For some perspective, consider the case of 49-year-old Emmanuel “Pacman” Stark, a Montreal pimp found guilty in March 2021 of orchestrating the gang-rape of a young woman.
Stark first met the young CEGEP student at a Pierrefonds fast-food restaurant in 1995. He moved into her apartment and insisted she work as a stripper for him, forcing her to clubs like Caesars Palace in downtown Montreal and demanding she get on stage. Caesars Palace is a 10 minute straight-shot down Sainte Catherine street from Cabot Square. One day, between seven and nine men showed up at their Laval apartment. The student was gang-raped while Stark collected money from them saying, “all this wasn’t for free.” The student ended up sex trafficking for him, with all of the money going to Stark. When she refused, he would beat her. The woman only escaped when one time Stark beat her so badly she ended up in the Sacre-Coeur Hospital. She evenutally was able to leave his terrifying influence by fleeing from Canada.
At trial, the judge was considering whether to sentence Stark as a dangerous or long-term offender. In 2018, he had been convicted of human trafficking, with 13 charges extending from offences committed between 2016 and 2017 in and around Place Emilie Gamelin. In these cases, Stark preyed on two area crack addicts, and made them work for him as prostitutes, again without sharing any of the money he received. At the time, both women were residents of Montreal homeless shelters. “He had the machete and the crack, so you do what he tells you,” one of the women testified. During the trial it was disclosed that Stark had a lengthy criminal record and was described as being a member of a Montreal street gang.
The Coroner Reports
As I mentioned earlier, it would be nice if someone went back and found out what the coroner had to say about these cases. Well, someone did. Me.
Sharon Baron’s coroner’s report provides the following circumstances of death. On the evening of August 29, 2017, Baron and her partner, Matthew Smith consumed “alcohol and street drugs (crack)”. They arrived together at their Dorval apartment at 11:10 p.m.. Smith was so intoxicated he could not remember what happened next. The apartment entrance surveillance camera captured Baron leaving the building at 12:44 a.m. on August 30, 2017. She may have had a bottle under her arm. She returned at 2 a.m., then left again around 4 a.m. Her return was not captured on camera. At 7:32 a.m., SPVM officers received a call from a man who said he was suicidal. He told dispatch he has a knife in his hand (this turns out to be Matthew Smith). After police and paramedics arrived and managed to get Smith under control, police searched the home and discovered Sharon Baron semi-seated, curled up on the floor of the wardrobe of the bedroom. In trying to extricate her from the closet, police found that she has been hanged. After unhooking her from the closet, paramedics attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and an ambulance was called around 7:38 a.m. During this time Sharon Baron showed no rigidity and her skin was still warm. Paramedics continued to try to resuscitate her as she was transferred to the emergency room of the Lachine Hospital, but they were unsuccessful. Sharon Baron was pronounced dead at 8:41 a.m, August 30, 2017.
Sharon was hung with a computer power cable. The toxicological analysis showed evidence of cocaine in her system and a blood alcohol level of 216 mg; a high level that can trigger anger and depression, memory loss, and severe physical disability.
The coroner’s analysis elaborated further on the circumstances that led up to Baron’s death. Sharon Baron had lived with Matthew Smith for approximately two years. Both had, “alcohol and cocaine use disorders.” According to a police report, Baron was frequently absent from home, engaged in excessive consumption of drugs, and often only returned to Dorval when she was financially strapped for money. There were often physical conflicts, police were called to intervene in December 2016 and July 2017. According to police reports, Baron proposed a suicide pact several times to her partner. No suicide note was found in the apartment the night she died. The coroner concluded that Sharon Baron died of compression asphyxiation of the neck structures following the hanging, finally determining, “It is a suicide.” Note here that in the 2012 case of Nunia Grey, the coroner also determined a probable cause of death by “asphyxiation by hanging” with a conclusion of “suicide”.
Siasi Tullaugak’s coroner report is interesting when viewed in the context of the above conclusions. At 5:53 a.m., August 29, 2017, a SPVM patrol car was intercepted by a passer-by who told officers there was a body hanging from a building. Police then found Tullaugak hanging from the balcony of the Chomedey street apartment building. She was identified by her ID papers which were found in her clothing. Police were unable to resuscitate her, and Tullaugak was pronounced dead at 6:50 a.m. at the Montreal General Hospital. Hanging was determined as the cause of death, but the instrument used to hang her wasn’t identified. Toxicological analysis was performed, but the results were not disclosed. The coroner determined that “Siasi Ikidluak Tullaugak died of suffocation by hanging”, then concluded “This is a violent death.” The report goes on to say that it is not the role of the coroner to pronounce the civil or criminal person responsible in such matters, and, as this is “still an open file at the SPVM”, the analysis of the event remains open.
“Violent death” is in stark contrast to the definite conclusions of “suicide” in the cases of Baron and Grey. It also directly contradicts the police’s determination of suicide in the initial days after the discovery of Tullaugak’s body in early September, 2017. Here, I should point out that Sharon Baron’s coroner report was submitted in March 2018. Siasi Tullaugak’s report took over a year further to complete, the corner submitted the report in May of 2019. It’s not unusual for a coroner to take some time to file a report, though it is odd that Siasi’s report took an additional 14 months, when both victims were pronounced dead essentially within 24 hours of each other.
When I contacted the Montreal police to give an update on the Siasi Tullaugak investigation I was told, “Unfortunately, I can’t give you any information concerning this case.” When I pressed, I was told to file an access to information request. I did, and I will be reporting out on the SPVM’s response in future postings.
MUSIC: I WANNA KNOW WHY
The election of a new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau in 2015, and the 2019 publication on the report on Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls were yet more moments of failed promises for Canada’s Indigenous peoples. The long history of abuses suffered by Indigenous women in the Val d’Or region of Quebec at the hands of the Surete du Quebec, and the 2019 Viens Commission report that came out of that crisis, are more painful and embarrassing reminders of injustice ( more on that here). Then in 2020, Quebec’s Premier, Francois Legault appointed a former Montreal police officer, Ian Lafrenière to take over the province’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.
“I think one of the main challenges is to rebuild trust between Indigenous nations and police officers, and who better than a police officer, who understands that problem, to solve it?”Premier Francois Legault
Nakuset of Montreal’s Native Women’s Shelter said she was ‘shocked’ at the news of the Lafreniere appointment, “I almost thought it was a joke.”
About the Montreal police force, the SPVM, Christopher Curtis had this to say:
“They have a low clearance rate, they’re fucking lazy, they’re super racist, they all live in the fucking suburbs. They’re really rough. When I was covering something I got knocked once by a cop… just out of nowhere he cold-cocked me in the face. I was covering a protest, I clearly was identified as a journalist, I had a camera. I guess I didn’t move fast enough and he just fucking smacked me. And he didn’t knock me down so he smashed me again. He had like his shield and his baton, he was a real fucking jerk. But I would wanna smack my face too though…”
Putting Ian Lafrenière in charge of Indigenous affairs isn’t just a case of placing a wolf in the fold, it’s leaving the wolf with keys at the entrance of the whole fucking farm.
Turning back to where we started, it’s 1977 and I’m standing across from Cabot Square. Was that a ‘there but for the grace of god’ moment? Not even close. A whole lot of advantage put me on the same street corner Sharon Baron would face decades later. I had a dad with a car, and a home to go to. That home had a phone to call. When I entered McDonald’s, no one would try to escort me off the premises. I could afford a concert ticket. When I say, ya, but I paid for that ticket with money from my paper route. How’d I get the paper route? Why’d The Gazette hire me to deliver their papers? In the summer of 1983, I was back at Cabot Square, sitting on the grass with friends, waiting for The Forum doors to open so we could see the David Bowie concert. No one harassed us, the police didn’t try to esport us from the park.
When I get sick, I can go to the doctor. Where I currently live there are at least a half-dozen modern medical facilities – many of them, like Duke, the envy of the nation – within driving distance. I don’t have to to take a bus or plane to get there. I don’t get attacked by bears. What can you do? Everyone says I’m sorry, but no one wants to change anything.
Alanis Obomsawin 1988 documentary, No Address, focuses on Montreal’s Indigenous homeless population. It’s important to bear witness. It’s important to document: