Native People in Modern Society On Thursday February 4, 1992 I went to Native People Center of Toronto. My assignment was to interview a Native person and find out how Native people live in modern society and is there any professionals among them. That was my first time in Native People Center and to tell You the truth I was kind of surprised to see that old building and that cafeteria inside where the Native people who live on the street (or at least they looked like they just came from there) can have a cup of coffee. There were also a couple of showrooms with paintings and a secretary behind the front desk. I tried to talk to the secretary and ask if she could give me any hint how to find the right person because I really didn’t feel like talking to the people in the cafeteria (that would not help my assignment in any way). The secretary first said that there’s nobody in the center who could help me because all of the staff is very busy and I would have to make an appointment.
When I asked her for the appointment she said that nobody takes care of interviews in the center. Well I was lucky there was another woman passing by and I asked her for help. That lady’s name is Fran Longboat and as found out later she is a pretty well known person in the whole Toronto Native community. Fran said that there are quite many Native professionals in the city and she tried to call a Native lawyer to make an appointment for me but the person wasn’t there. Then I finally got a business card of a person to interview, guess who? — A cop! OK I went down to 40 College street and asked for Bob Crawford. Bob met me very gladly and said that I came in the right moment because he had nothing important to do and he agreed to give me an interview. We decided to go to the cafeteria located in the same building and have a cup of coffee.
I didn’t have a tape recorder on me and had to write the main points down so I can’t provide the exact words of Bob but I’ll try to do my best. My first few questions were about Bob’s past. He is an Algonquin from Goldenlake. Bob spent his childhood in Pembroke, Ontario. Bob has never been in a reserve.
At 16 years of age he started to live separate from his parents. He has been 24 years on the force and did all kinds of police work, he was even working as an undercover cop for 10 years. Since 1989 Bob is working at 40 College and he is the head of Native Liaison department. This department is taking care of education of police officers and also other people like TTC workers, Bank workers, School staff, Students how to interfere with Native people. Bob also is a kind of chancellor for Native people who get in trouble and helps them to return to normal life. Mr. Crawford is married on an Irish person and has two daughters.
On my question if Bob knows many professional Native people, he said that he does and gave me an example of John Kimbell who is the first Native orchestra conductor he also said that there are 35 Native police officers on force right now. Bob said that there are not too many people who are educated and have a job among Natives and most of them who come to the city end up on the streets. Bob said that this happens because it is very difficult for them to live a normal life. Many of them were taught in white schools that Indians are bad and they forgot their culture. It is very hard to believe that you can reach something when everyone has a definite stereotype for you, a stereotype of a man on the street. These people don’t have a culture, traditions, their lives are broken. Native culture is playing a very big role in Bob’s life.
He strongly keeps all the Traditions. And believes in them. Even one of his doughters who is half Native keeps the same religion. He told me a true story that happened to him last year. Bob had a cancer and his life was in a real danger.
But before he went for the operation he visited his relatives in the reserve. The old people gave him some natural medicines and said that if he will believe that he will survive he will survive. The operation took 14 hours. During the surgery one of Bob’s lungs collapsed and the doctors started to lose the hope but he survived. Now Bob believes two times stronger than before because he knows that it really helps. Well lets come back to the Native people who come in town. Most of them are very poor and can’t afford any high education unless the reserve helps them. But the reserve has a very little of money for education they have to spend money on rent, food, medicine, etc.
So even if they want sometimes they still can’t go to study. So it is not easy at all for Natives to live in the modern society. And no wonder we see so many lost people on the street. I am enclosing some information about New Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit of Metropolitan Toronto Police which was designed by Bob Crawford. I hope that this idea would help.
I am also enclosing the business cards of Fran Longboat and Bob Crawford. 2.