Friday, August 24, 2007

The Blue Apartments

(A continuation of an earlier post exploring how I ended up on the wrong end of a termination letter)

I am not sure if the blue apartments continue their existence in Kenora. They were the first place I looked for lodging when I moved to this small city by Lake of the Woods to work for the now defunct Kenora Enterprise weekly newspaper. The landlord took me to the basement and down a narrow, dimly lit hallway. Pipes lined the ceiling. The air moved like water in a lagoon. A baby cried through the walls, the television. A squat woman with glassy eyes stood in one doorway, her black hair hung like wet yarn to her shoulders. The landlord opened the door to the apartment advertised on the front door. It had no windows and smelled like years-old sweat.

Later I stood in the window of one the apartments, which was more of a simple room with a sink and no toilet. A 16 year-old from one of the northern fly in communities lived there and he was in the middle of a drug transaction with some friends. From the window I saw one of his friends leave the front door and walk to a building cross the street. A few minutes later another young man emerged from that building and disappeared around the corner. Not long after, while we chatted, there was a knock on the door. The drugs had arrived. "You wanna smoke" said one of the guys. The 16-year-old said he didn't do crack. Two others left. One came back, face and eyes blown behind tears.


Things began to go wrong for me at the Kenora Daily Miner and News during the Max Kakigamic case. I had move to the competing daily from the Enterprise three months after my arrival in Kenora. The editor of the Enterprise called me an "asshole" when I quit, taking a pay cut to work for the daily. Not long after he sold his newspaper to Sun Media-owned Bowes, which also owned the Miner and News.

I knew I had to soon find another job after the editor of the Miner received a call from Kenora police chief George Curtis urging him to remove me from the police beat. My editor complied and put me onto city hall. The phone call had been triggered by my confrontation with the lawyer representing the man accused of Kakigamic's murder. There was a publication ban on the trial. I had included every detail already published about the case in my coverage. The accused's lawyer did not like this. During one court hearing the lawyer asked the judge to repeat his publication ban order. I took this as a threat. I was the only reporter at the hearing. After the judge left I confronted the lawyer and challenged him to cite any story that even came close to breaching the ban. He said a story I had written describing the nightmares Kakigamic's mother was having about her son's killer was inflammatory against his client. Curtis had been on the stand that day and heard our argument and used it as an example of why his force wouldn't deal with me. I was a "loose cannon" he said.

There were two other reasons.

A Kenora police officer had drowned during a private dive and the Winnipeg Sun wanted the story. I wanted to work for the Sun. I had always romanticized the Sun tabloids. I pushed hard to get details. I went down to the police station to maybe talk to some of his colleagues. Curtis confronted me at the station, roared I was a scavenger and kicked me off the property.

The second came after the OPP investigated a false claim I had sifted through files at the OPP's courthouse office. I have no idea how this was sparked and I wasn't even aware of it until my editor informed me about it while he explained why I would be removed from the cops beat.

Mongering little shit disturbing asshole

While covering city hall I reported on a late 1990s city council motion restricting the use of pesticides on municipal property. I remembered there were little signs on the front lawn of the police station advising that the grass had been sprayed and wrote a story. Curtis phoned me. The moment I answered the phone he attacked. " You mongering little shit disturbing asshole." I would not call him names, I said. My editor heard this exchange, walked over and hung up the telephone. Curtis later phoned to apologize.

But the damage was done.

I will buy you flowers, someday

I have one regret from Kenora. Kakigamic's mother asked me to lay flowers at the place where her son was found beaten to death, the imprint of a heavy boot tattooed on his neck.

I never bought the flowers.

No comments: