On Thursday February 4, 1992, I went to The Native People Center of Toronto. My assignment was to interview a Native person and find out how Native people live in modern society and if there are any professionals among them.
The Center was located in an old building and consisted of a cafeteria and a couple of showrooms with some paintings. I asked the receptionist for help but was told in a rather unfriendly fashion that there was no one there whom I could interview. She said that the staff was very busy and I would have to make an appointment. When I asked her for the appointment she said that nobody takes care of interviews in the center.
Feeling very disappointed, I was about to leave when I saw another woman and I asked her for help. The lady's name was Fran Longboat and as found out later she is a pretty well known person in the whole Toronto Native community. Fran said that there are quite many Native professionals in the city and she tried to call a Native lawyer to make an appointment for me but the person wasn't there. She then tried someone else and I was able to get an interview with a police officer, Bob Crawford.
Bob was very cordial and happy to talk to me. I began the interview with a few questions about Bob's past and found out that he is an Algonquin from Goldenlake. Bob spent his childhood in Pembroke, Ontario and has never been in a reserve. At 16 years of age he started to live separate from his parents. He has been 24 years on the force and has held a variety of different jobs. He was even working as an undercover cop for 10 years. Since 1989 Bob is working at 40 College and he is the head of The Native Liaison Department. This department supervises and coordinates the education of police officers and also other people like TTC workers, Bank workers, and School staff. Bob also acts as a kind of chancellor for Native people who get into trouble and helps them to return to normal life. Mr. Crawford is married and has two daughters.
On my question if Bob knows many professional Native people, he said that he knows a few and told me about John Kimbell who is the first Native orchestra conductor. He also said that there are 35 Native police officers on force right now.
Bob said that unfortunately there are not too many people who are educated and have a job among Natives and most of them who come to the city end up on the streets. Bob said that this happens because it is very difficult for them to live a normal life. Many of them were taught in white schools and encountered a great deal of prejudice He went on to say that it is very hard to believe in yourself if everyone around you looks down upon you.
Native culture plays a very big role in Bob's life. He keeps all the Traditions and believes in them. Even one of his daughters who is half Native keeps the same religion. He told me a true story that happened to him last year. Bob had a cancer and his life was in danger. But before he went for the operation he visited his relatives in the reserve. The old people gave him some natural medicines and said that if he will believe that he will survive he will survive. The operation took 14 hours. During the surgery one of Bob's lungs collapsed and the doctors started to lose hope, but he survived.
Most Natives who come to the city are very poor and can't afford any higher education unless the reserve helps them. At this time, the reserve doesn't have much money for education as they feel that they have to concentrate on helping people with rent, food, medicine, etc. They also help natives find jobs so that they can become self-sufficient.
Bob ended the interview on a positive note by saying that he feels that more and more opportunities are opening up for his people and that they are becoming more accepted.