As part of the Canada Reads 2018 long-list, Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City is truly an eye-opening account of racism and the terrible loss of 7 indigenous young adults. These deaths occurred between 2000 and 2011 in Thunder Bay, Ontario. It is shocking to read about the lack of police response and mistakes during the investigation and coroner’s examinations. It is hard to imagine that students in Northern Canada have little access to school and are forced to move South leaving behind their families and support network.
With a lack of secondary school options, indigenous families have few options but to send their sons an daughters to Thunder Bay to ensure their education. The young adults end up boarding in this city with various amounts of supervision and support. Unprepared for new freedom and city life, 7 of these students became involved with a mixture of alcohol and drugs and sadly died or drowned in unexplained circumstances.
The families were far away, notified sometimes days later and poorly supported after their terrible losses. In addition to the loss of their child, these families dealt with their own generations of issues related to horrific experiences in residential schools.
This book truly was eye-opening and I hope, will make Canadians stop and think of the racism that continues today. These students would have been future artists, hockey players, educators, parents and contributors to society. Their potential was lost to the river, to substances and their families were denied answers, investigation and closure. This is a book that Canadians need to read and is a well-written narrative which makes me think about the difficult choice of indigenous families to choose keeping their family together or sending their children away for education at a time when young adults need their family support the most. I hope that this book makes a difference and that no more lives are lost to the river because of racism and indifference.