Sharing my journey as an Indigenous person is important for many reasons and I believe it can help others learn as well. Life has taken me on a difficult, traumatic yet beautiful experience.
I have learned that my past actions were often misguided, and that has been difficult to come to terms with. I repeated behaviour I knew didn’t fall in line with societal norms such as making it to work or focusing on making ends meet financially. Instead, I spent my money on things I didn’t need to make myself feel better, but that made my situation worse. I applied pressure on those around me to fall into those same patterns.
I was born in Winnipeg, entering this world at a complete disadvantage yet filled with love and hope. The state of what we are facing as users and a struggling minority is difficult and complex, within a society that tends to disregard us and push us to the side. I believe people should take the time to experience and understand their personal journey and not punish themselves with shame and guilt for being unable to cope. This grief and cycle of abuse has been passed on intergenerationally since time immemorial.
We should honour a daily, delicate balance consisting of harm reduction — I do this by reducing substances I use to a manageable level so I can maintain my daily routine.
The atrocities and unintended violence and pain people put on each other can be diffused with co-operation and better intentions. Equality and sharing information through arts and media is just one of many ways we can nurture each other and grow together. I started playing drums and guitar as an escape from the world I lived in.
No human is perfect without flaw. An understanding of marginalized people by those who were afforded the advantages of colonization and having a stable background is helpful for those who suffer and have suffered like me. Another common denominator in this battle is the abuse of power and systemic racism from the top down. It leaves those suffering as victims of murder, genocide, rape and other exploitation.
Lost and alone, many individuals like those in Cabot Square and on the streets of Montreal are struggling and trying to come to terms with this cycle. As government institutions create pressure with new developments and their own denial of systemic racism, gentrification, increased surveillance and policing, it leaves many falling deeper into vices and negative patterns associated with survival.
But this painful reflection of violence and struggle is preventable if we all take the time to understand where we can collaborate and develop our roles as people who can manage and decide what’s best for ourselves, within a social climate that is supportive.
After the passing of family members or other tragic events such as abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse, it can be easy to fall into this cycle of deteriorating mental and physical health. The trauma and struggle to function within a city or province or country that fails to recognize this reality is an overwhelming force. My personal battle with alcoholism, pain and creating has allowed me to see how I am connected with many good people and loved, yet lost.
The lack of infrastructure for generations prior to mine is an obstacle I never understood. I grew up believing people were always happy, open-minded and caring — this optimism I held actually was denial and really just a survival mechanism. Tragically, it seems that this crushing weight of financial gain and growth will continue to make those who are in this cycle fail and struggle unless these issues are addressed.
But if the Indigenous people who are suffering cannot meet their basic needs, there are resources that can help. Native Harm Reduction Montreal’s aim is to provide Indigenous marginalized people with access to a safer supply, information to shelter, food as well as resources that are there to them such as the First People’s Justice Center, The Iskweu Project, AQPSUD, RÉZO, and Stella, l’amie de Maimie.
I personally am humbled and embarrassed, yet still learning. This experience is a common story for many people (not just Indigenous) in the streets, drug dealers, sex workers, homeless and/or struggling at home to survive. I hope to contribute through music and media to share stories as it has always been the traditional way for Indigenous people. I hope to explore my place in this as an individual, and hope by sharing my journey and experiences that others will benefit.
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