Photo: Corporal Benjamin 'Monty' Robinson (center)
When an aboriginal man, Frank Paul, was dragged into an alley by Vancouver Police where he died, aboriginal activists didn't let anybody forget it. For years, they held media events to raise awareness about this death and the police misconduct that led to it. And rightly so.
But when an aboriginal man, RCMP Corporal Benjamin 'Monty' Robinson, supervised what would prove to be the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski -- his mother prefers the term 'murder' -- at Vancouver Airport, aboriginal activists lost their tongues. Not a peep out of them after it happened. And not a peep out of them during last week's Braidwood Inquiry -- even though these activists are generally media microphone hounds. They didn't ask any questions about why a fellow aboriginal would think it was ok to shoot a man five times with a taser gun, even though the first shot left him on the ground writhing in agony. Long before I noticed that the cop supervising these shots was aboriginal -- he looks Cree to me -- I thought the videotaped shooting resembled the killing of a moose. Even the ending where Robinson mounts the shot man lying on the floor, pressing his knee against his throat, seemed like a hunter in the finale of a moose hunt.
I didn't expect aboriginal activists to go all out and hold street marches and demonstrations for Dziekanski the way they did for Frank Paul. But in a case that has become Canada's Rodney King with the videotape being viewed around the world, they could have at least made a brief statement.
Actually one aboriginal man did make a brief statement, a volunteer dishwasher at Carnegie who tops up his welfare cheque with the 80 cents an hour that white povertarians pay him. This aboriginal man spoke up in the cafeteria line-up at Carnegie last week; he said that aboriginal cop should buck up and tell the truth -- lawyers demonstrated Robinson to be a liar at the Inquiry -- and give the victim's mother a sincere apology. But he's not an activist. He's a dishwasher, not a spin doctor maximizing cash flow from the Indian Industry.
Robinson was accused at the Inquiry of doing little to help Dziekanski survive after the excessive tasering. This is not the first time Robinson's been accused of neglecting the medical needs of a non-aboriginal. An assault victim and former pizza restaurant operator, Greg Garley, alleged in 2005 that Cpl. Robinson and another officer failed to respond to his medical needs. Garley got himself to a hospital for treatment. Garley's lawyer, Robert Levin, says the allegation against Cpl. Robinson amounted to "neglect." The matter has been settled but the terms have not been disclosed. And you can bet aboriginal activists as high up as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, who has repeatedly made public statements about police indifference that has led to aboriginal deaths, won't be delving into this one.
From now on when I hear aboriginals on the Downtown Eastside ending made-for-media events with their prayer for "All my relations", I will be thinking of Robert Dziekanski taking it like a moose.