It is a hard heart that has not been touched by the terrible circumstances of Raymond Silverfox’s death. But rather than point fingers at this individual or that institution, it is time for all of us to take a good, honest look at ourselves.
Our institutions, be they schools or churches or police forces, simply reflect the values and attitudes of our community. Whitehorse is, and has been for a very long time, mostly divided between native and nonnative elements. There are very few nonnative persons who have close friends in the native community. And there are very few native persons who have close friends in the nonnative community. Is it any wonder that there is a lack of empathy and understanding between the two solitudes?
Faced with the daily spectacle of the homeless, the alcoholic, the drug-addicted in the streets of Whitehorse, who has not been guilty of blaming the victims for their own situation? It is part of the dialogue of denial that justifies our callous attitude to the suffering around us. It is how we practise indifference to each other as individuals.
I will not deny that an inquiry into our policing institution is needed. We must do everything we can to prevent a similar tragedy. However, the problem has roots below the official bottom line. We can demand that individuals be singled out and punished, but we know we are all part of this problem. We can demand changes in our institutions, but without changes in our own hearts and minds, our legislation is futile.
The tragedy of Raymond Silverfox’s death is a personal wake-up call to every person of every racial background in Whitehorse. There will be no easy solutions. But this must not stop our spiritual leaders of all faiths from stepping up to ask us, “What kind of society do we want to live in?” A sincere and respectful dialogue about how to bring compassion and caring back into the daily life of this community must begin now. Yukoners are rich in knowledge and resourcefulness, and we have a long history of thinking ‘outside of the box.’ People of good faith and sincere effort can make a difference. The good health of our community depends upon the good health of each individual.
I hope our outrage and shame will lead us not to retribution, but to a change in our own hearts and minds. That is where true justice and compassion is found.