No More Party Lines

Hundreds gathered at the Winnipeg legislature, September 12, to participate in the Winnipeg Water Walk. Credit: Sheila Redsky via Facebook

If you would have asked me a week ago if my brother could do anything that would surprise me I would have said no. I’ve known my brother for 39 years (yes, that’s how old I am), and, like me, he is not afraid to share his opinions with anybody, whether they ask or not. So I was pretty sure I knew where he stood on every issue.
My brother and I have some things in common. We like the same books (science fiction, fantasy), we both like to be right, and we both have fantasy football teams. Politically, however, we have our differences. My brother volunteered for his local Conservative Party candidate four years ago, and presently has a sign supporting that same conservative incumbent on his front lawn. The only time I had a political sign on my lawn was for the Green Party.

A surprise
When my brother asked me over to his place after my uncle’s funeral to drink margaritas at 3 p.m. while enjoying the view of his pool, I was not surprised. When he said I should join him as he marched in support of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation [with the Winnipeg Water Walk, September 12], my first thought was that he was joking and trying to get a rise out of me. So I said nothing.
Later, when we were lounging out back enjoying the margaritas and beautiful weather, he said, “I’m serious, you should join me at the march.” I nearly spit out my drink! I was a little more than surprised; I was shocked! I asked him what his motivation was to support this Indigenous group. He said his church had put on their sign outside that they supported the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. He admitted he knew nothing about it so he did some research.
This is my brother’s summary of the situation:

“A hundred years ago the city of Winnipeg was looking for a good source of drinking water. In exchange for access to the water in Shoal Lake, the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation was promised road access, that they would always have clean water, and a big piece of land. There’s no road, and they’ve been under a boil water advisory for 17 years. They need 30 million dollars for the road and clean water. The city of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba have both committed 10 million, they are just waiting for the federal government to commit their 10 million. A deal is a deal. If you make a deal you have to follow through. That’s why I’m marching in support of Shoal Lake 40.”

Give credit
I can see how that line of thinking fits perfectly with his values. As someone who is self employed, the value of keeping your promises is very important to him. I’m proud of my brother for stepping out of his comfort zone, recognizing the injustice done to this community, and actively showing his support.
I didn’t march with him and feel guilty about it. I had tickets to go to Odysseo (it’s like Cirque du Soleil but with horses) with my husband’s family. I have been reluctant in the past to inform, let alone encourage, my brother to participate in any activism I have been a part of. Going forward I plan on giving my brother more credit to be open minded to new ideas. It gives me a sense of hope that if my brother, from whom I mistakenly expected little empathy, feels called to go march in support of this cause, then perhaps it is possible for a positive resolution to this issue regardless of party lines.

Elisabeth Franz-Warkentin is the Associate Publisher of Geez magazine.

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