On Thursday February 4, 1992 I went to Native People Center of Toronto.
My assignment was to interview a Native person and find out how Native
people live in modern society and is there any professionals among them.
That was my first time in Native People Center and to tell You the truth I
was kind of surprised to see that old building and that cafeteria inside
where the Native people who live on the street (or at least they looked
like they just came from there) can have a cup of coffee. There were also a
couple of showrooms with paintings and a secretary behind the front desk. I
tried to talk to the secretary and ask if she could give me any hint how to
find the right person because I really didn’t feel like talking to the
people in the cafeteria (that would not help my assignment in any way). The
secretary first said that there’s nobody in the center who could help me
because all of the staff is 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. Well I was lucky there was another
woman passing by and I asked her for help. That lady’s name is 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. Then I finally got a
business card of a person to interview, guess who? — A cop! OK I went down
to 40 College street and asked for Bob Crawford.
Bob met me very gladly and said that I came in the right moment because
he had nothing important to do and he agreed to give me an interview. We
decided to go to the cafeteria located in the same building and have a cup
I didn’t have a tape recorder on me and had to write the main points
down so I can’t provide the exact words of Bob but I’ll try to do my best.
My first few questions were about Bob’s past. He is an Algonquin from
Goldenlake. Bob spent his childhood in Pembroke, Ontario. Bob 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 did all kinds of police
work, 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 Native Liaison department.
This department is taking care of education of police officers and also
other people like TTC workers, Bank workers, School staff, Students how to
interfere with Native people. Bob also is a kind of chancellor for Native
people who get in trouble and helps them to return to normal life. Mr.
Crawford is married on an Irish person and has two daughters.
On my question if Bob knows many professional Native people, he said
that he does and gave me an example of 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 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 that
Indians are bad and they forgot their culture. It is very hard to believe
that you can reach something when everyone has a definite stereotype for
you, a stereotype of a man on the street. These people don’t have a
culture, traditions, their lives are broken.
Native culture is playing a very big role in Bob’s life. He strongly
keeps all the Traditions. And believes in them. Even one of his doughters
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 a real
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 the hope but he survived. Now Bob believes two times
stronger than before because he knows that it really helps.
Well lets come back to the Native people who come in town. Most of them
are very poor and can’t afford any high education unless the reserve helps
them. But the reserve has a very little of money for education they have to
spend money on rent, food, medicine, etc. So even if they want sometimes
they still can’t go to study.
So it is not easy at all for Natives to live in the modern society. And
no wonder we see so many lost people on the street. I am enclosing some
information about New Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit of Metropolitan Toronto
Police which was designed by Bob Crawford. I hope that this idea would
I am also enclosing the business cards of Fran Longboat and Bob