The body of a woman, identified as Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook, was pulled from the Rideau River on the morning of September 19th. According to an article in the Globe & Mail published on September 23rd, Ms. Pootoogook had lived in Ottawa for roughly nine years, "sometimes on the street and in shelters, sometimes plagued by alcohol and drug abuse". Commenting on a news story about her death posted on the Internet, Ottawa Police Sgt. Chris Hrnchiar wrote that it "could be a suicide, accidental, she got drunk and fell in the river and drowned who knows".
I happen to agree with Hrnchiar on this point. Maybe Pootoogook's death was a suicide. Or, maybe, just maybe, she got drunk and fell in the river. I don't make the suggestion that she got drunk and accidentally fell in the river because she was Inuit.... I make the suggestion that she got drunk and accidentally fell in the river because she had alcohol and drug addiction issues. Of course we won't know if Pootoogook was drunk at the time she decided that using water was a better mode of transport than using land, and we won't until, or if, the results of a toxicology report become public.
I've mentioned the concept of Occam's Razor in the past; a principle which, succinctly put, holds that the simplest explanation to explain something is the most tenable. In the Pootoogook example, an individual who had battled with alcohol addiction, the simplest explanation for her death was that she got drunk, fell in the river, and drowned. In other words, the suggestion is that Annie took the plunge (intentional or otherwise) because or when she was drunk, not because she was Inuit.
Had the dead body found in the Rideau River been that of Patty O'Furniture, a renowned folk legendary bodhranist of Irish descent who had struggled with alcohol addiction for several years, would Occam's Razor hold that Spudboy fell in the drink because he was Irish? Or because he was a pisstank? Irish drunks fall in the river because they're drunk, not because they're Irish. Polish drunks fall in the river because they're drunk, not because they're Polish. Russian drunks fall in the river because they're drunk, not because they're Russian. Hungarian drunks fall into rivers because they're drunk, not because they're Hungarian. And finally, Annie Pootoogook may have fallen in the river because she was drunk, not because she was Inuit.
Is it possible that Annie Pootoogook was murdered? Yes, absolutely. But since the media didn't report that responders had dragged a bullet-ridden corpse from the water, a cadaver mutilated with multiple knife wounds or a charred corpse that could only be identified by dental records, the possibility that she was murdered, given her alcoholic predilections, may not have been the first image on the police radar. But what if Annie Pootoogook didn't commit suicide, didn't get drunk and accidentally fall into the river and wasn't murdered? How else could she have died?
Annie Pootoogook may have been struck by lightening. I've seen the aftermath of lightning striking a tree and there were shards of wood and toothpicks strewn over quite a distance. I suspect if Annie had been struck by lightning, the resulting discharge may well have blown her right out of her shoes and into the river. Yup... lightning. It's a definite possibility. Or perhaps poor Annie Pootoogook was acting under the influence of a hypnotist and, under post-hypnotic suggestion, told she was an Arctic Char and she decided to breathe water. Does anyone know where Ravine was that night? Or, perhaps Annie was chased by a couple of dogs and, fearing for her life, jumped in the river and accidentally drowned, a consequence of a thwarted dog attack. This, indeed, is quite possible given that our region already has at least one recent documented attack. (This may, in fact, be more tenable than either of the lightning or hypnotist hypothesis although, admittedly, the "got drunk and fell in the river" scenario does sound pretty plausible.) Similarly, I doubt a satanic possession, a demonic spiritual guide or a talking raven are worth considering. To quote Hrnchiar, "who knows".
Of course Hrnchiar said more, much more, than just suggesting "she got drunk and fell in the river". In a subsequent web post, he implied that Indigenous people are to blame for their own hardships "because much of the aboriginal population in Canada is just satisfied being alcohol or drug abusers, living in poor conditions etc?.. they have to have the will to change, it's not society's fault." Those comments, in my view, were and are quite unacceptable.
It is, however, quite unfortunate that the media, and other pundits, were quick to crawl up Hrnchiar's ass for suggesting that "she got drunk and fell in the river". To reiterate, Pootoogook lived in shelters or on the street and struggled with alcohol and drug addictions. It is NOT racist to suggest that Pootoogook may have gotten drunk and fallen in the river because there's a distinct possibility that that is precisely what may have happened. Consider this: Ottawa police are currently looking for Deborah Walters, a 49 year old Caucasian woman who went missing November 2nd. I have absolutely no idea if Deborah Walters struggled with drug and alcohol addictions as Annie Pootoogook did. But at the risk of being called a racist, I'd bet half my stuffed armadillo collection and two bottles of Wild Turkey that if she did, then there's a distinct possibility that Walters got drunk, fell in the river and drowned. She was, after all, last seen in the 100 block of Montreal Road, a stone's throw from the Rideau River. Hell, I'd go so far as to say that even if Walters didn't struggle with alcohol and drug addictions like Pootoogook did, and only drank occasionally, there's still a chance she got drunk, fell in the river and drowned.... albeit a slightly lesser chance.
Of one thing there can be little dispute: Annie Pootoogook's death, and life, seem quite tragic.
Submitted by Norm de Plume, 31 October 2016