Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meeting Matt

Matt Bushby with fiance, Claudette Osborne-Tyo in an undated photo
When I first met Matt Bushby, he wasn’t at all what I expected him to be. Sitting across the table at a Tim Hortons restaurant in Winnipeg, Bushby is articulate, well spoken, and confident. He makes no excuses for the aspects of his life that have been publicly aired in the media since his fiance, Claudette Osborne-Tyo, went missing in the early morning hours of July 25, 2008, and he certainly doesn’t hold back when he tells their story.

“Claudette was very much a pawn of the system,” he says, as he fiddles with his extra large coffee cup.

With a far off look in his eyes, as though he is reliving a time gone by, Bushby begins to tell me about Claudette. In what is only our second face-to-face meeting, the conversation flows easily; Bushby is candid and speaks freely about the sorted details of his spouse.

Almost instantly he acknowledges the so-called ‘white elephant’ in the room -- Claudette's widely reported crack addiction and her involvement in the sex trade.

"What she did to support her habit was not part of our relationship," he explains. "I accepted Claudette and her addiction with the understanding that we couldn't be together if, and when, she was using (crack). But, I never judged her for it. -- I never called her names, or called her down...She had enough of that in her life."

Bushby says that the media portrayal of Claudette is inaccurate. He admits that she had an addiction problem, but says that the media's emphasis of that part of her life failed to show that she was also a kind and caring wife and mother.

“Dirty laundry sells,” he says. “For the media to label her in that way, it’s really disheartening. It’s almost like their legitimizing the events that occurred.”

Bushby describes Claudette as a private person and a homebody, who kept up to date on current events and who had a "well formed opinion on everything from the Gulf War to local issues."

"She was like a sponge for knowlege," he says. "She wanted so badly to be educated."

He still gets emotional when he speaks of his “soul mate.” He carries her photo and a handwritten love note in his wallet, and says that he has some pictures of Claudette that he will not be posting on the Internet or in the media, so that no matter what, their children will have a piece of their mother that nobody else has.

Sitting at the corner table in the now empty Tim Hortons restaurant, over three hours had passed since we started talking. The conversation has been emotionally exhausting for both of us, yet we both agree that Claudette's story needs to be told properly.

Bushby confesses that he's wanted to write this story for a long time, since the 21-year old disappeared, but he says he doesn't have the writing ability. 

“She was so beautiful, she deserved the role of wife and mother,” he says, as he gets lost in his memories. "She was so much more than they portrayed her."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Start...

I started this blog as a year-long school project.

My original goal was to write a book about the growing number of missing Aboriginal women in Manitoba. However, through the process of preparing for my project (meeting family members of missing women; attending vigils, concerts, events and rallies; researching old news archives, etc.) I've discovered a number of things that have become instrumental in this blog.

The book I wanted to write: My instructors loved the idea for my book. However, they but thought it would be better suited for a blog. "The stories aren't finished," one of them told me. True. Plus, a blog allows me to circulate this information to a wider audience for free!

Missing Aboriginal women became Missing and Murdered Women: I went back and forth on the decision whether to write about all women, or only Aboriginal women.

Since I am part Aboriginal, I knew that I would have a different perspective than a non-Aboriginal person would have. I also understood that this particular problem (in Canada) affects more Aboriginal women than non-Aboriginal women. However, when it came down to deciding who to write about, I realized that I couldn't exclude someone just because they didn't fit into a racial or cultural parameter that I had set up.

When a woman goes missing, no matter what colour her skin is, her family still aches. That's what is important.

In wanting to humanize these women, I realized that I too had to let go of my preconceived ideas: When I pitched the idea for this project my biggest argument was that I hated the way these women were portrayed in the media. I said that I could do a better job of telling their stories, because I would put my heart into it and give these women (Many who have been deemed unworthy of our attention based on the labels they've been given) a human face.

I honestly thought that I was open minded, and didn't cast judgement on these women (or their families) based on certain aspects of their lives.

However, I startled myself when I realized how shocked I was to meet Matt Bushby (Claudette Osborne-Tyo's fiance), and discover that he was so smart and nice. -- I had just assumed, based on how Claudette was labelled a crack-addicted sex-trade worker in the media, that he would be different than he was. (As brutal as it sounds, I went into this wondering what kind of guy dates and has children with a sex-trade worker. After learning about Matt and Claudette, I realize now that it is someone who is far less judgemental and ignorant me. Thank you Matt, for unknowingly showing me what I should have already known.)

What is this blog going to do?: Honestly, I don't have great hopes that my blog is going to solve these cold cases, or reunite these women with their families. No, I am not that naive.

I simply created this blog to tell stories and raise awareness about these women and their families.

Style: This blog will not be written in formal journalistic style. Yes, I'm a journalism student, but I already broke the cardinal rule of journalism (staying unbiased) by becoming too emotionally involved.

This blog will contain my own thoughts and experiences as well.

Please read, pass on the link, and consider opening your mind and your eyes about these all too common stories.

Thank you.