The death of Gage Guimond, by the numbers
Only one word captures what we've read in the aftermath of the death of two-year-old Gage Guimond.
And we're not talking about the circumstances of the boy's death. We're talking about the life of his relatives.
Okay, maybe two words. Simply appalling.
Mention the word poverty and the usual suspects toddle out like wind-up toys to grab the spotlight and chatter their well-worn bromides.
Hold up a mirror to the actual face of poverty and listen to the silence.
It's the numbers that tell the story.
Let's start with Number 11.
Gage Guimond's grandmother on his father's side had 11 children.
She has a sister who also had 11 children.
These two women produced 22 children between them.
The grandmother is 46 years old.
Her 11 children range in age from 15 to 27.
That means she was continually pregnant for 12 straight years.
As in two degrees of separation.
The woman accused of Gage's death is related to both his parents.
She is the father's great-aunt and the mother's aunt.
In other words, Gage's father and mother are second cousins.
That's how many children from this extended family are in the custody of Child and Family Services.
Gage's one aunt on his father's side had all her 11 children seized, Gage and his sister were both CFS wards, and Gage's aunt on his mother's side had two of her three children taken away. And that's only the ones we know of. His paternal grandmother has 13 grandchilden and we can only account for five.
Gage's mother is 20 and her oldest child is three. She got pregnant at 16.
Believe it or not, that's a relief.
Winnipeg Free Columnist Lindor Reynolds said the mother was 17, which would have made her 13 when she got pregnant. And it's a crime to have sex with anyone under 14.
Eliminating Gage's 21-year-old father, there's not a man to be found in any story about this dysfunctional extended family.
11 children by one daughter, and no mention of a father (or fathers).
11 children by another daughter, and no man.
Gage's father had two children by one girl and, in the two years since Gage was handed over to CFS, has already fathered a third by another girl.
The Winnipeg Sun carried a story about Gage's father and how he blames the child-welfare system for failing his children. It failed to mention where he works and how much he was contributing to the support of his children.
For now, that's another zero.
"A FEW DOZEN"
That is how CTV Late news descibed the crowd that attended the "Powwow to Honour Children".
The event had been organized by a group led by the sister of Matthew Dumas.
Somehow the concept of Manitobans' outrage over the violent deaths of small defenceless, neglected children had been stretched to cover the death of late car thief.
If you remember, Dumas was a legal adult when he got himself shot by police.
He made the decision to run from the cops who wanted to ask him questions about a robbery. No doubt being in breach of probation and having the car thief's handy helper, a screwdriver, in his pants fuelled his run.
Winnipeg newsthingy Mychaeylo Prystupa of CBC TV was more than happy to repeat the spin that the "tragic death of Matthew Dumas" was in the same league as a defenceless 2 year old battered to death by a caregiver.
The only difference being Dumas's fight with police who caught up to him and his refusal to drop the weapon as he advanced on a police officer even after being pepper sprayed several times.
The collective family of Phoenix Sinclair who joined as one to refuse to be part of the media circus at the Legislature.
Phoenix Sinclair's foster mom, Kim Edwards, called the event the charade it was. Speaking on behalf of Phoenix's parents, she said the orchestrated event was "a meaningless vigil" and asked why nothing had changed since Phoenix slipped through the layers of bureaucrats and social workers to her horrible death.
The Sum of the numbers is greater than it's parts:
* single parenthood starting in many cases as young teenage pregnancies;
* unrestricted childbearing year after year -- with the offspring heading straight into CFS care;
* a guaranteed life of welfare - although sometimes mistaken for poverty, mostly only poverty-industry administrators, professors and out-of-touch columnists cleave to that jargon, because the average Winnipegger will understand that 12 straight years of being pregnant doesn't leave much time for education or employment.
* intensive police labour resulting in criminal charges and trials, which themselves employ Legal Aid lawyers, tie up the courts and costs untold millions, before even factoring in the expense of the inevitable public inquiries and the parade of expert witnesses and buck-passing bureaucrats and politicians;
* and of course, the funerals of the children.
And finally, we note that a week after Gage was laid to rest, nary a peep is heard from opposition leaders Hugh McFadyen and Jon Gerrard, to the relief of the NDP.
Q: Who speaks for the dead children, killed when they are wards of the province of Manitoba and on the NDP government's watch?
A: It's not so much a number as a mathematical sign
Less than Zero.
According to word on the street, not a single elected official bothered to go to Gage Guimond's funeral.
A regular reader of the Black Rod wrote us about the Free Press sewage piece and included a pat on the back to the reporter, which we are pleased to pass along.
" I want to mention that Mary Agnes Welch wrote a good article this last weekend on this topic. I hope that your blog can complement her on a job well done and encourage the editors to not hide this type of article in a long weekend edition of the paper in the future."
Done and done.