Gay First Nations Canadian Says House Burning Was Hate Crime
The blaze that destroyed a gay Native American’s home was an anti-gay hate crime, the victim says.
The blaze destroyed the home of Raymond Michell, a resident of Pegius First Nation, a Native American community near Winnipeg, Canada, reported Canadian news service CBC News in a June 1 article.
Authorities are investigating the blaze as arson, but Mitchell thinks that it may also have been a hate crime. Remnants of food and drink--including beer bottles--were found in the kitchen of the incinerated house, but it seemed that some electronic appliances were missing from the scorched ruins.
"Someone had broken in, partied, obviously ate and set fire to the house," Michell told the media. The victim had lived in Pegius as a child, but left, he said, because of the town’s anti-gay attitude. He later moved back to Pegius; two years ago, he and his boyfriend, now deceased, built the now-destroyed house.
"In this day and age with the way things are with rights and same-sex marriages in Canada, I just really don’t feel safe here," Michell said of the community, which has about 7,200 residents. "I would say it’s the same thing as when I was a child. It’s homophobia. It’s alive and living here just as I left it." Michell told the media that he would be leaving Pegius once again.
His claim to the media was not reflercted in the police statement he made, according to Sgt. Bill Richards, who said that Michell had not indicated that the fire might have been set out of anti-gay animus. The community’s chief, Glenn Hudson, also downplayed such speculation, telling the media, "Traditionally, historically, we’ve been very accepting of all colours and walks of life."
According to the chief, Michell could receive $1,500 from the council to help him recover from the loss. Michell said that the community had not made any overtures of assistance.
The residents of Pegius First Nation--which is the largest of the First Nations communities--are descended from Cree and Ojibway Native Americans, according to Wikipedia.