August 31, 2006
Thanks for your article on native fire-fighters
Dear Mr. Sandberg,
I thank you for your informative and interesting article in today's paper. After working in the core area of Winnipeg for several years, I have had the honour of being acquainted with many former firefighters. The stories they have had to tell were eye-opening, to say the least. Many men who were homeless at the time I met them wanted the non-Aboriginal peoples to know that they had contributed many years to working hard in Manitoba, be they pilots in remote communities, or firefighters.
Your article certainly will aid in informing the general public of the respect and understanding deserved to those who have served Manitobans in the past, and those who continue to risk their lives to serve all of us now.
The most important thing that my friends have told me is that they want "whites" to know that native people who fight fires are not lazy and out for public money. Most of these gentlemen I know never collected welfare, and would rather languish on the streets of Winnipeg, than collect government monies.
Unfortunately, the way society is going, our once brave soldiers, pilots, and firefighters are elderly, sick, and non-ambulatory. They are forced to collect welfare in order to acquire housing. My former "dancing buddy", Mr. Charlie Wasakase, now has gangrene, and I have not been seeing him lately. He is one of the staunch holdouts, who refused welfare.
Mr. Wasakase now says he cannot even stay at shelters, that depend on welfare for financing, because he is recently retired, and on pension. His last stay at a shelter he was robbed of his bank card and monies, after cashing a cheque. He is such a gentle, and considerate man, I am concerned for him.
Someone needs to take care of all of these people who were once so hard-working and proud, and now are forced to either swallow that independance, mistaken for pride, or else face abuse, theft, torture, intimidation, or worse at the hands of gangs, drug addicts, and police. The system is killing them slowly and painfully, economically, physically, psychology, and physiologically. Our brave elders deserve so much more.
Thank you for reading my verbose letter. And God bless you for all of your hard work and sacrifice.
Diana Robbins, Winnipeg
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy
is an independent public policy think tank whose mission is "to broaden the debate on our future through public policy research and education and to explore positive changes within our public institutions that support economic growth and opportunity."