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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

The healing power of hockey

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Patti Gower
The Globe and Mail, November 7, 2001

Part 2 of 6: The Blizzard calms a racial storm


Missisauga locator The story of the Blizzard's lightning success, the harmony it has restored between two communities and the tragic loss of the best hockey player the reserve has produced in a generation has its source in a river of racial tension that persists despite the Cinderella story on ice.

Born in 1981, a full decade after the Osborne murder, Perry Young grew up on a reserve that knew little of the antagonism or poverty that had shaped its past. Like most of the 1,500 residents, he lived in a subdivision of compact prefab homes, played on the reserve's nine-hole golf course and attended its $9.5-million school.

People on both sides of the river still marvel at the transition. Only a generation ago, they had a situation that was as close as Canada could get to the Deep South. The 7,000 residents of The Pas never crossed the river to the reserve, and the natives went to town only to shop, drink or go the movies, where they were expected to sit in a separate section.

The division was about more than segregation; it spoke the unstated but common belief in both communities that the Crees were inferior people. Band councillor Henry Wilson remembers going to watch westerns with his boyhood friends and, even though they had to sit in the Indians-only section, "when we came home, every one of us wanted to be cowboys. No one wanted to be an Indian."

Discomfort turned to antagonism in 1971 after the Helen Betty Osborne killing, which became international news and the subject of a film. Whites still joke about "HBO, The Movie," in which an entire town was presented to the world as conspirators to murder.

But while the killing further divided the communities, more fundamental changes also were under way. Once bold enough to call itself "Chicago of the North," The Pas was in steady decline as its timber-based economy wilted.

Across the river, a more positive change was afoot: OCN was emerging from the Osborne case as one of Manitoba's more forward-looking bands. Money from a land-claim settlement with the federal government was invested in a modern hotel, high school, the hockey arena and the region's biggest shopping mall, a dream of the late chief Gordon Lathlin, who had tired of having his people ignored by shopkeepers in The Pas.

The new school and rink meant that white and Indian kids rarely saw each other, not even for peewee hockey. Rather than share the ice, Cree teams drove all the way to Thompson about 400 kilometres away for tournaments, while The Pas kids went to Winnipeg.

The reserve's new mall proved to be almost as divisive. Local shopkeepers - the ones who had refused to serve natives - claimed that, with the allure of an IGA grocery store, Saan department store, Tim Hortons and Shell station, it would siphon off their business. Vandals smashed the mall's windows.

But instead of anyone losing business, retailers on both sides of the river began to see a steady rise in traffic as the mall helped the twin communities to become a shopping magnet for northern Manitoba.

Then the Crees began lobbying for a junior hockey team.

Ever since The Pas had lost its beloved Huskies when the old northern Manitoba league folded in the 1980s, no one from the town had been willing, or able, to provide financing for a new team. The Crees, for once, were in a better position. They had a $50-million-a-year business operation to backstop a new sports franchise, and a game plan to sell junior hockey to the north.

The struggling MJHL was not so sure. Its teams were so leery of making the long bus trips north - to "Indian country," they called it - that they demanded that OCN pay travel costs for visiting teams. The band agreed, and the league responded by waiving its usual waiting period. Instead of two years, OCN was asked to have a team on the ice in four months.

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 6):

Photo Essay
A Sporting Chance


1. More than a game
Bridging the community after Helen Betty Osborne's murder

2. The Blizzard calms a racial storm
OCN emerges from a murder looking forward

3. 'The Pride of OCN'
The tragic life of Perry Young

4. The subtle differences
Talent isn't the problem, one coach says, but discipline

5. 'There isn't a white way of passing'
Two communities look for ways to work together

6. Home to a feared Champion
The Cree Nation is no longer an easy target for racists


 
 

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Two worlds - photo essay


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