Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Book Review: Police Line – Do Not Cross

Truth and Reconciliation 

Whistleblowers have earned their place in society. With the recent discovery of 215 First Nations children's bodies out west, I checked back in my notes. 

Head medical officer for Indian Affairs
Dr. Peter Bryce

I was researching the residential schools, after the Truth and Reconciliation Report, I found the first report (1907), by the head medical officer for Indian Affairs, who spoke truth to power. He was ignored, his report leaked but ignored. 

 There was another whistleblower for this subject, who tried to speak truth to power about this issue of residential schools, and the racism and genocide embedded in our history. 

Kevin Annett, a church minister in 1997, was attacked, after being warned to be quiet. He had his PhD. blocked, and United Church staff blocked his subsequent employment in B.C. He was shunned by church staff and clergy. He brought the skeletons out of the closet.

This occurred right across our country. Even as late as 2008, there was still no one to do anything about it.. This from Kamloops This Week (KTW) in B.C.:
"But Annett’s claims that Tk’emlups was home to a mass grave were met with stiff opposition and severe doubt by local and regional Catholic Church officials, who in 2008 told KTW his allegations rested solely on anecdotal evidence and rumour."
When we know better, we do better, I thought.

For these reasons, I make it a point to read, and learn, and share these important stories. The history of the RCMP is one filled with horrific examples of officers taking children away from our First Nation families. They were the law in many remote locations. They were racist white men, working with indigenous people, who disrespected them. My first father-in-law told stories about making First Nations do chores around his RCMP detachment in the Yukon. 

The Missing Murdered Indigenous Women, who simply ignored by the RCMP, or poorly investigated by police members who were either incompetent or racist, has tainted Canadian History. You've heard, I'm sure of the Highway of Tears. It continues. What can we do about it? Share their history. Tell the stories, be an ally. This leads me to this book, about the sexual, physical and emotional abuse a police officer was subjected to in Ontario.

Police Line Do Not Cross

The #MeToo movement has revealed a great many women who have been sexually assaulted.  This includes many women, including women of the police services, and women of colour. Stories abound. This one is moving.  It is a story of weakness and strength, PTSD, perseverance, courage and failure, and the price society pays for the systemic racism and misogyny, in our policing systems.  Change has to come. 

This is a powerful memoir. I had to read it over a number of days. Kelly Donovan is part of a group of amazing whistleblowers who give up their health, their jobs, their incomes, to speak truth to power. Her research, the work she did, I am in awe.

Unfortunately, the old boys network lives long in policing, with females making up only 20% of the police service. Kelly's research in her first book was amazing. She made change occur. She sat on panels, and made a difference. This book covers more of her personal story as she sought to call out her police chief in Waterloo, Ontario. 
"There are so many of us, all with the same stories of retaliation and lack of independence. In the end, the system was big; and we were small." – Michael Douglas, p.107.
I think the shocking part of it, is the access to information she made, to find out how much money the police force spent to prosecute her and try to silence her, which far exceeded common sense. Police union lawyers do defend the men, but not the women who are being abused. 

Kelly reported her situation to every government department possible. In June of 2017, due to the pressure and her health issues, she left policing and wrote a 93-page report called, The Systemic Misfeasance in Police Management and the Coordination of Suppressing of Whistleblowers.”  
"I was beginning to think that in order to be elected or appointed to government you had to either be absolutely incompetent, or so good at the 'gift of the gab' that you could talk circles around anyone and be proficient at talking out of both sides of your mouth."
The misfeasance and malfeasance, as the old boys protect the other boys, hits home. You can see it in many professions, as well as the RCMP, the OPP, and the #MeToo movement demonstrates this. It's about power and corruption, and misplaced loyalties.

This is her latest update, my jaw dropped:

Over $400,000 now and counting! (I don't even work there!! I quit!) The silence of truth-tellers is worth a LOT of money to those whose abuses of power will be exposed, as you know Effy. knows too!

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@Barrie Summy


Barrie said...

A couple of thoughts: I'm planning to read Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, which just won the GG Award for First Novel. And..Kelly Donovan has shown so much stamina and persistence. It's incredible. Thanks for reviewing!

Tom said...

...a terrible story to hear.

Red said...

You correctly point out that many forms of abuse are still taking place. they are just in different places like the RCMP

Phyllis Wheeler said...

This makes me sad.

DUTA said...

Don't kid yourself! There's no reconciliation, there never will be. That's Colonialism. You and your european ancestors are colonialists; you've robbed the natives of their land. In a few years you'll get rockets like the israelis, accused of having stolen the land of palestinians.

William Kendall said...

Thank you for reviewing.

Angie said...

Jenn - more examples of human beings who can only feel "good" or powerful when they are lording it over or bullying others .... so sad.

John Jantunen said...

Thanks for this. In The Saddest Words - William Faulkner's Civil War Michael Gorra references Walt Whitman writing (in 1882) of how neither fiction nor poetry had yet the capacity - the language - it needed to deal honestly and openly with the human costs associated with the civil war and I couldn't help but draw a clear parallel to our nation's literature which has also failed to create the capacity to deal honestly and openly with the human costs of the legacy of violence against Indigenous People which has woven and continues to weave the very fabric of who we are as a nation. There's been some progress of late but what I've noticed, rather conspicuously, is that the fiction authors we most esteem who write about this legacy of violence (in its myriad of forms) are those 1) who only tell us the story we (The Whites) want to hear and 2) who never, as James Baldwin wrote, "force us to re-examine ourselves and release ourselves from many things that are taken to be sacred, and to discard nearly all assumptions that have been used to justify our lives and our crimes for so long." I can't see how that's going to change unless white authors also engage in creating that capacity - that language - which is what I've tried to do now for seven novels (and counting). For my efforts I've been blacklisted from every literary festival in the country and the CBC and even the library in Bracebridge, my hometown, refuses to carry No Quarter, a book set in a lightly fictionalized Muskoka which was nominated for two literary awards (and which, as far as I can tell, is also the first novel written in this country which speaks of the communal burial pits such as the one discovered in Kamloops).

Sarah Laurence said...

I was horrified to read about the mass graves for Native children. The US has its horror stories too. It's appalling how the settlers mistreated the native Americans for generations.

The memoir looks intriguing. I have so much respect for whistleblowers given the atrocities that happen.

Kay said...

We’ve heard about this here in Hawaii. I imagine the whole world has heard of it. There’s been such racist horrors because of colonialism and sadly, racism just doesn’t go away. I’m wondering why the pope refuses to apologize for it.