October 23, 2018

Winnipeg
0° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

A mom beaten, a son changed

Trauma still vivid in Robinson's mind

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/8/2013 (1881 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As a 10-year-old boy, Eric Robinson looked on in horror as his mother was badly beaten, a transformative event that would influence his future political career.

"Her non-aboriginal boyfriend was beating the hell out of her, hitting her like a man would hit another man in a boxing match," Robinson recalls.

"I tried to defend her and I was knocked against the wall" and lost consciousness.

The young Robinson, by then a survivor of three horrific years in a northern residential school, remembers coming to the next morning in his mother's arms.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 60 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 60 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 60 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/8/2013 (1881 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As a 10-year-old boy, Eric Robinson looked on in horror as his mother was badly beaten, a transformative event that would influence his future political career.

"Her non-aboriginal boyfriend was beating the hell out of her, hitting her like a man would hit another man in a boxing match," Robinson recalls.

Eric Robinson and his wife, Catherine, with their daughter, Shaneen, in this undated photo. Robinson's father is seen at left.

HANDOUT

Eric Robinson and his wife, Catherine, with their daughter, Shaneen, in this undated photo. Robinson's father is seen at left.

"I tried to defend her and I was knocked against the wall" and lost consciousness.

The young Robinson, by then a survivor of three horrific years in a northern residential school, remembers coming to the next morning in his mother's arms.

"Here she was cuddling me, trying to be a mother, and yet when I woke up to see what this guy did to her, it was simply appalling," he recalled in an interview Wednesday.

His mother, an orphan who spent virtually all her childhood in a residential school, would not play a significant role in his upbringing. "She (later) died a miserable street death," Robinson said.

Fast-forward half a century and Robinson, now a 20-year MLA and a longtime cabinet minister who has championed the cause of learning the truth about hundreds of murdered and missing Canadian aboriginal women, is on the political hot seat.

A Winnipeg women's shelter, at odds with the province over funding and other issues, has obtained an internal government email in which Robinson referred to backers of a fundraiser as "do-good white people." His critics have labelled the comment racist and demanded his removal from cabinet.

It's why, in telling the story about his mother, he refers to her "non-aboriginal boyfriend." "I can't say 'white' anymore," he deadpanned Wednesday, revealing an ever-present sense of humour.

Speaking in 2008 about his residential-school experience, Robinson said he could "still taste the lye soap placed in my mouth for speaking my language, Cree."

In an address in the Manitoba legislature, he said being molested at a young age by a priest brought him "a lifetime of pain and anguish. Being told it was my fault and later learning to blame everyone around me has taken a toll on my personal relationships."

Later on, alcohol and drugs were a temporary relief but only accelerated his feelings of despair, he said.

But in 1976, through a combination of conventional treatment and traditional teachings, he "sobered up." After receiving a certificate in drug and alcohol counselling, he worked for a time with the down and out in northern B.C.

For a good part of the 1970s and early 1980s, he held a series of broadcasting jobs, winding up with the CBC in Thompson.

From there, he worked as an activist with a number of aboriginal organizations and landed a job in the late 1980s doing research and conducting prison-inmate interviews for the landmark Aboriginal Justice Inquiry.

As a cabinet minister in the Doer government, beginning in 1999, he would be instrumental in implementing many of the report's recommendations, including placing control of First Nations child welfare in aboriginal hands.

Robinson was a driving force behind the formation of the Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Foundation, named after the aboriginal high school student who was abducted and murdered near The Pas in 1971.

The foundation will this year surpass the $1-million mark in bursaries that enable aboriginal students to attend post-secondary school.

In the legislature this week, Premier Greg Selinger, in defending his embattled minister, noted Robinson was one of the first to meet with Osborne's family to acknowledge their suffering. Asked Wednesday in what capacity he made the visit to a family he knew of but not well, Robinson replied: "as a fellow human being."

Meanwhile, Robinson said witnessing his mother's brutal beating as a boy has helped direct his actions ever since.

"I think that's what ignited a bit of the fire in my stomach to this day to do what I can for marginalized people, particularly women," he said.

"I haven't been an angel all my life either, but at the very least I've done my best to be a protector of the life-givers of our people."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us