WINNIPEG, Manitoba – An ad on a buy-and-sell Web site that characterized Native boys as animals and offered to ethnically cleanse them from the city has sparked a blaze of outrage and prompted a First Nations leader to initiate an investigation by city police and Canada’s Human Rights Commission on a hate crime allegation.
The ad, headlined “Native Extraction Service,” appeared on www.UsedWinnipeg.com on March 3 and 4.
Underneath the headline was a photo of three Native teenagers and the text: “Have you ever had the experience of getting home to find those pesky little buggers hanging outside your home, in the back alley or on the corner???
“Well fear no more, with my service I will simply do a harmless relocation. With one phone call I will arrive and net the pest, load them in the containment unit (pickup truck) and then relocate them to their habitat.
“It doesn’t matter if they need to be dropped off on Salter (Street, in Winnipeg’s North End) or the rez, I will go that extra mile. The North End of Winnipeg is where many city dwellers of First Nations descent live.
“My service is free because I want to live in the same city you do, a clean one,” the ad said.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper, who was notified of the ad March 4 by a First Nations mother who had been searching the Web site for a television set for her children, responded quickly with a press conference and decision to trigger a police investigation.
“This is a hate crime,” Harper said. “The ad should have never made it to the Web site in the first place. The people who own and operate www.UsedWinnipeg.com must be held accountable and guarantee better screening processes are in place so something like this won’t happen again. The aboriginal youth in the photo have been unnecessarily victimized and we will not tolerate it. This is a reality that we see far too often as First Nation people. We will be asking the police to treat this as a hate crime and to investigate further.”
MKO is a nonprofit political advocacy organization that has represented 30 First Nation communities in Manitoba’s North since 1983.
The UsedWinnipeg Web site is owned by Black Press, a company based in Victoria, British Columbia that operates 47 online classified sites from a site called www.UsedEverywhere.com, a free, online marketplace for used goods.
“We strive to consistently provide high quality ads from private and commercial sellers. In conjunction with our loyal users, our staff moderates the ads to ensure that scammers are identified and illuminated,” reads the Web site.
UsedEverywhere did not return calls seeking comment.
CBC News reported that UsedEverywhere’s general manager Tish Hill apologized for the ad and said it had been posted late March 3 and pulled the following day after users deemed it offensive.
Hill would not reveal the name of the person who posted the ad, but said the information would be turned over to police should they choose to investigate.
The investigation has been launched, MKO spokeswoman Shaneen Robinson said March 9.
“The police have opened a file. We will wait to hear back from them as to whether they deem this illegal, which might be hard to do considering what’s on the Internet these days, and what kind of charges might be brought. We are taking this to the Human Rights Commission whether criminal charges are laid or not. We want to hold the person who did this accountable and educate him from our point of view as aboriginal people and share with him how much this hurt our community and how disrespectful and uneducated it was.”
The three teenagers in the photo are members of the Swinomish Indian Tribe.
“We are saddened by the fact that some people still harbor extreme hatred toward Native people as this advertisement demonstrates. But we are also encouraged that many more people recognize this as a racist attack on a generation of Native American youth who for the most part are law-abiding citizens striving to overcome generations of poverty and oppression and live productive lives,” said Brian Cladoosby, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community chairman. “We hope that calmer heads prevail and that the individuals responsible for posting this ad are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
The three Swinomish boys, who are filmmakers, participated in the award-winning film “March Point” for Longhouse Media, a filmmaking collaborative that brings media professionals and Native youth together. The photo was used on www.UsedWinnipeg.com without Longhouse’s permission.
Tracy Rector, Longhouse Media’s executive director, said she was “shocked” by the advertisement.
“We want the person charged and prosecuted, not specifically for the illegal use of our official ‘March Point’ image, but because what they did was a heinous act of violence. It is a blatant racist ad that attacks our youth. Also, we want to stand in solidarity with the Native leaders in Manitoba, Canada, such as Grand Chief David Harper, who are condemning this ad.”
Longhouse Media has consulted legal counsel, but the organization’s initial inclination is to work with MKO “so that we stand in number against this act of hate and racism,” Rector said.
Native students at the University of Manitoba also expressed outrage in a blog posting March 9.
Eric Funk, an aboriginal student in the science faculty department, said he thought at first that the ad was for a Native run business.
“As I came to read it over, I could see it was a blatant racist ad targeting youth and degrading them as unwanted. It never ceases to amaze me how much stupidity exists out there. To attack our youth like that – it’s hurtful and disgusting.”
Tara Gosek, president of the U of M Aboriginal Students’ Association, said the ad shows “more work is needed to tackle (racism) – to show that we’re not that stereotypical dirty, poor Indian digging in garbage and that we’re [not] all drunk and alcoholic.”
Ryan Bruyere, UMASA coordinator, said the ad’s language resonates with history.
“The last time they tried to extract the Natives was the whole residential schools episode in Canadian history, so when they mention that word ‘extraction,’ it’s not just an emotional attack; it’s also a political attack. It hits home that there is actually a segment of the population that wishes we weren’t in existence.”