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This article was published 5/12/2017 (852 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Instead of a gift welcoming him to the neighbourhood, a Winnipeg Métis man says someone left an anonymous letter filled with racist, anti-Indigenous comments while he was moving into his home last week.
After unpacking boxes at his new place on the 300 block of Kensington Street in St. James last Thursday, Tashie McKay walked to his mother’s house down the block to take a break and drink a cup of coffee.
Looking out his mother’s front window, he noticed someone walk across his yard and drop a letter in the mailbox. The envelope was addressed to McKay’s landlord, who — over the phone — gave him permission to open it.
"Quit renting this house to these dirty reservation bush Indians. People on this street don’t appreciate this crap. We are sick of seeing these scummy Indians around here," read the handwritten note.
McKay, 31, said it was disappointing, although not surprising.
"Yeah, it made me concerned. My son is staying with his mother now till this all blows over. This stuff, the racism, has happened pretty much since I was in Grade 3," he said.
"I thought people would have grown up by now. Back then, growing up in the ’90s, people would be like that. But I thought people were more mature nowadays, more civilized, more understanding. It’s disappointing because nothing has changed."
Later that day, McKay boarded up his front window and went to stay with his mother temporarily. He said he was concerned the person would come back and escalate the situation, potentially throwing rocks through the window.
His mother posted a photo of the letter on social media, which has since been shared more than 1,200 times and garnered hundreds of comments. While McKay didn’t expect that sort of response, he said it was nice to know people cared.
"I tried to react passively to it (the letter), because you can’t get angry all the time. That’s my defence mechanism, to be passive towards it," he said.
It’s a strategy he learned growing up in Winnipeg, where he said anti-Indigenous racism was a fact of life. When asked about experiencing racism as a boy, one incident in particular sticks out to him.
"I was going to school one morning. It was winter time and a man was hosing to make a skating rink (flooding the ice). Out of nowhere I got splashed. He looked at me, deliberately, and called me a ‘dirty Indian,’" McKay said.
"He kept hosing me, spraying me with the garden hose. I was trying to process it, thinking why did this happen? I was shocked."
He was nine years old at the time.
Niigaan Sinclair, associate professor of native studies at the University of Manitoba, said the racist note in the mailbox is representative of the anti-Indigenous racism prevalent throughout the country.
"It happens across Canada on a daily basis for Indigenous peoples. The reality is that Indigenous peoples are foundationally a part of our economies, our communities, our society. It’s unfortunate when people make gross stereotypes and mischaracterizations such as these," Sinclair said.
"This individual wasn’t even willing to put their name on the paper. To me, that’s a coward and someone not even ready to have an adult conversation. They won’t leave their name because they’re too scared to stand up for these views."
When contacted, a spokesman for Winnipeg Police Service said they’d not been notified of the incident.
"While the letter is repugnant, it does not break any laws and there is not much we would be able to do at this point," he wrote in a statement, before adding he’d encourage McKay to file a report nonetheless.
In order to ensure he and his son are safe, McKay said he plans to install a security camera on the property.
When asked what he’d say to the person who left the letter, McKay said, "Grow up."
"Just stop repeating the cycle. People are always stuck. They’re stuck in that same damn cycle, it passes on from generation to generation. But I do forgive the person, honestly. I want to demonstrate that I do forgive the person," he continued.
"Again, it’s just disappointing. My mother used to read the Bible to me. In the Bible it says, ‘there’s nothing new under the sun,’ which means everything is always the same. And I believe that."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.