He was a 51 year old
native man, and was the sole witness to the murder by three Vancouver
policemen of another key aboriginal activist in our network, Johnny
The sudden death of
Ricky Lavallie on January 3 has wiped out the last of my original core
supporters among urban native people in Vancouver and Winnipeg. Our
original nucleus of the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD)
has been extinguished.
In barely two years, all
of our strongest activists, and those who forced the missing
residential schools children into national and world consciousness,
have died: Chief Louis Daniels, Elder Phillipa Ryan, Johnny Bingo
Dawson, William Combes, Harry Wilson, and now Ricky Lavallie.
These deaths follow on
the earlier, equally sudden demise of key eyewitnesses to murders in
Indian residential schools: Archie Frank, Willie Sport, Joe Sylvester,
Virginia Baptiste, Nora Bernard, and Harriet Nahanee.
These witnesses, and the
dead native leaders of our FRD, were instrumental in publicly naming
the churches and government of Canada as being guilty of crimes against
humanity. And they have all paid the ultimate price for doing so.
I charge these religious
and state organizations with their murders.
I charge the E Division
of the RCMP with complicity in these deaths, along with the head
officers of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada,
and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In the case of Ricky
Lavallie, I charge the Vancouver Police Department with complicity in
his death. For I have two separate videotaped testimonies of Ricky from
last August, in which he states that a Vancouver police sergeant
threatened him with imprisonment and death if he continued to speak
about his witnessing of the deadly beating of Bingo Dawson by the same
sergeant and two other Vancouver cops on December 6, 2009.
I have written the
following obituary and tribute to my friend Ricky, for his steadfast
courage and devotion to the missing children. I hope and pray, as
always, that some of the spirit of such a brave soul will pass into us,
and help us all awaken from complicity. Let us see and name the
murders still happening, and bring down those responsible. Otherwise, how are we
any better than they are? ……………………………………………………………………..
Ricky Lavallie: May 20,
1960- January 3, 2012
His tears flowed so
easily whenever he remembered how his five year old brother was killed
by a catholic priest bearing an electric cattle prod at the Portage la
Prairie residential school in 1968. He carried the terror of that day
with him at every moment, for he refused to numbly forget. But
nevertheless, Ricky Lavallie was always at my side at every rally and
vigil outside churches across Vancouver, and he never wavered.
I lost more than a
friend in Ricky, but a brother warrior: one who could have created the
usual excuses of most people to stay away from all of our righteous
confrontations with cops and priests down the years, as we battled
impossibly for disclosure and justice. Rick more than anyone had enough
cause to hide, but he never did.
I once marched with
Ricky and only eight other people down one of Vancouver’s busiest
streets during rush hour traffic, bearing the banner that he clung to
like his memories: “All the Children Need a Proper Burial”.
As passersby gawked at
our little army, and cars lurched to a stop to let us pass, I turned to
Ricky and said,
“How are we doing, Rick?”
He smiled, which was
rare, and shouted cheerfully,
“We’re doing great!”
Ricky was the one who
walked with me to the front of a church sanctuary during a busy mass,
as we occupied the main catholic cathedral in Vancouver on Palm Sunday
in 2007. I recall how he gazed solidly at the priest who was berating
and threatening us, and said quietly to the red faced idiot,
“When are you gonna give
me back my brother’s body?”
Before we were banned
from the airwaves of the former “Vancouver Co-op Radio” – now a muzzled
subsidiary of the corporate Pattison Media Group – Ricky regularly
regaled our listeners with life on the streets, his time in the death
camp called residential school, and with his latest song, strummed out
on a three strong guitar we kept lying around the studio. But his best
moments were with his fellow survivors of church torture, when they
faltered on the air and broke down in the flood of dark remembrances
that he carried and endured so nobly.
“That’s okay, we’ll get
those bastards” he’d say softly to a man or woman amidst their sobs,
placing a large and tender arm around them. And then he'd shout into
"Screw those churches!"
We did get those
bastards, again and again, and Ricky showed me in the flesh how and why
his kind are inheriting the earth. He was the kind of man who no bribe
and no threat could stop: and so, even now, he hasn’t been stopped.
Ricky’s great joy, of
course, was that he was a central character in our documentary film
Unrepentant. Just to know that his story and that of his brother were
now known to millions of people around the world seemed to make up for
all that he had lost. Whenever he saw me on the grimy streets of East
Hastings he’d lumber over to me and ask for another few copies of our
“They can’t ignore us
anymore, right?” he’d exclaim.
The last time I ever saw
Ricky was in October, during the Occupy Vancouver encampment. My friend
spent his days there leafleting mostly indifferent occupiers about the
residential schools genocide, and he never stopped talking about his
murdered brother to anyone who would listen.
From there, one day, he
led a dozen people on a Sunday morning to the same cathedral he had
helped occupy that bright Sunday in 2007, and he stood almost alone in
the face of dozens of burly Knights of Columbus and the usual brutal
phalanx of cops who try so pathetically to guard the church from
Ricky Lavallie left the
world in such a spirit, as he had lived: resolute and unbroken and
truthful, despite his scars, and his deep fears.
It’s never enough to
write about another fallen hero, or to remember him, or even to
continue on in the sacred work he died for. The long sadness, the
lengthening shadow of aloneness among we fewer and fewer veterans of
this campaign, is never lessened by the bright light of their example.
But somehow we carry on anyway, like Ricky, remembering, as he always
did, all of the little ones who suffered and died, and the ones who
will tomorrow if we let go of our banner, or our memories.
Ricky Lavallie. He is present.
Ricky Lavallie (left) with
Chief Kiapilano and Kevin Annett (right)
This email is hosted by Jeremiah Jourdain on behalf of the
International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) and
Kevin Annett - Eagle Strong Voice (adopted May 2004 into the Anishinabe
nation by Louis Daniels - Whispers Wind).