[soft guitar music]
Nicolas Crier 0:15
You’re listening to Voices of the Street, a podcast series brought to you by Megaphone Magazine, featuring original writing from the 2021 Voices of the Street literary anthology. This podcast is recorded on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations.
Yvonne Mark 0:39
Megaphone is changing the story on poverty by promoting social equity, amplifying marginalized voices, and creating meaningful work. You can purchase a copy of the anthology from your local Megaphone vendor and for more information visit megaphonemagazine.com.
Jules Chapman 1:06
These stories may deal with difficult topics. Please see the show notes for more information about the topics in this podcast; there are places to reach out for support.
Paige Smith 1:23
For this episode of the Voices of the Street podcast, our host, Yvonne Mark, speaks to Megaphone author Denis Gates about his piece, “Without Prejudice”. Published in the 2021 Voices of the Street Anthology, this work tells the story of Dennis's experience with incarceration and navigating the legal system as an Indigenous person.
Yvonne Mark 1:54
Okay, my name is Yvonne Mark and I'm part of Megaphone and it's been, how I've started to grow and my dreams as a writer and sharing circles and whatnot, given me a lot of confidence, and I'm totally looking forward to my first podcast, and sit with Dennis of who I've just met this, less than half an hour ago. So I'm very honored.
Dennis Gates 2:21
Thank you. I'm honored. My name is Dennis Gates. I'm a Haida Gwaii native.
Yvonne Mark 2:32
If you have Kleenex, I might get a bit emotional. I don't care. And we learned in our culture when you have tears, to have it and burn it. But you know, I mean, not everyone's like, but I'm just, I find emotion. Yeah, I'm not gonna say I'm going to be crying all the way through. I'm just it's very, this to me, I'm honored to meet Dennis. That's such, I just loved that piece here. I was born up in Haida Gwaii, by the way.
Dennis Gates 3:01
Oh, we're both Haida Gwaii.
Yvonne Mark 3:03
I'm not, I'm not Haida.
Dennis Gates 3:04
Oh, you're not?
Yvonne Mark 3:05
I'm Nisga’a-Gitxsan because my dad logged up there, so we wouldn't have to go the residential school.
Dennis Gates 3:12
Oh, you got out of it?
Yvonne Mark 3:12
Dennis Gates 3:13
Yvonne Mark 3:15
We were in Sandspit. We were in the town, Sandspit. I know lots of people from Haida Gwaii.
Dennis Gates 3:21
Yeah, all of them are my cousins. Like I said, at the end of the story, when I get back to the jail. And I go in, and I wash my face. And I look in the mirror. And the first time in my life, I saw red Indian look back at me. And that's because my friend had identical charges. And we had exact same records. And for his charge, he got two years less a day.
Yvonne Mark 3:56
Dennis Gates 3:57
Right. And the way it ran was mean. I couldn't afford a lawyer. So, MJ was hired to do my talking for me.
Yvonne Mark 4:14
Dennis Gates 4:14
And he set it up. And he set it up pretty well. He watched. He watched me squirm. He talked me out of not pleading guilty. Had I pled guilty, I'd have probably gotten two years, right. But he talked me out of it. And then he went on and did some real shady things to make sure that I didn't get out. Right. Which really upset me. And I haven't been able to talk about it in 29-30 years, because, no matter how far this country's gone, we're in the same place we were 100 years ago before the white man came, right?
Yvonne Mark 5:05
Yes, just by reading your story. I see so much injustice, the stereotype and I completely, completely relate to how you felt. Like I'm a writer myself, I write short stories. I'm 66. I've written all my life, but I had the self esteem of a slug when I when I sobered up and in 2005 I felt lower than the snake's belly. I would, you know, and oh, anytime anyone would ask me what I was doing, I remember, "Oh, it's just my poetry. It's just it is." I couldn't I didn't know how to. I didn't know how to have self confidence. And you shared about the mirror, you know, I could, I was invisible in the mirror. I was ugly. I felt ugly, low life. Messed up mother, I failed as a mother, I failed as a daughter, I failed as a sister. And this isn't on your topic, but I watched a semi run over my son Wayne in 1988. I was on the brink of suicide and it took me down into the drugs and alcohol. But I've been on the streets here since I was 16. So, 50 years in the Downtown Eastside and it is a miracle that I lived through it.
Dennis Gates 6:38
It appalls me, it just gets right on my nerves, us treated like, I walked in, and I was sentenced to 10 years. And I walked in. And I appealed it, like the sheriff told me to. I had some pretty good people on my side. And real good lawyer that had decided to represent me. So, it was a great thing. And he won five years back out of that 10 year sentence. So I was released. Conditions were so strict. I had to petition. I had no freedom. And it took me all but three weeks, and I was pushed straight back into the system. Because I couldn't handle it over here. I mean, even four years is a hard time and it was rough go. What I would like all the aboriginals and natives to hear me is, don't give up.
Yvonne Mark 8:09
I totally admire your courage to share this, you know, like I feel the emotions, I feel, you know, and I've heard a lot of these halfway houses, but as I feel that, our stories, it doesn't matter whether it's incarceration or child apprehension or whatever. It needs to be heard and justice has to be, you know, there's got to be justice you know, thoughts and such lives matter, these lives matter, these lives matter, what about our lives? That's what I that's, that's my question.
Dennis Gates 8:44
You're not gonna find justice here.
Yvonne Mark 8:45
Yes, I know.
Dennis Gates 8:46
You're not gonna find it. Real good to get to get that off my chest. The actual stories, 17 pages and filled with a lot of stuff in there, right. There's some pretty funny stuff. There's some pretty scary stuff. It was a real relief to write it down and to examine it myself and to recall everything on it. It got me motivated, you know. It's got me going now. I'm doing my best to stay sober. Not succeeding, but I'm doing my best. I'm on my way to writing a book now. And all and thanks to Megaphone, they gave me the strength to look at myself and reality of everything, right. When I sat down and wrote that piece. I had a whole lot of trouble, right? Excuse me, I do get emotional.
Yvonne Mark 10:32
I feel stories like this have to be told because most people think we're just crying the blues and blah, blah, blah, blah, we're just all talk. Exaggerated, poor me, you know, and we're always, there’s just that label is always, you know, we've always got that label on us and, and I think it's just wonderful for both of us, to have that courage. Courage is the key word, the courage to change, to believe in ourselves and say, "Yes, here's my story." And, and I will, if one person can learn from this story, I'll tell it a million times. Yeah.
Dennis Gates 11:16
Lord turned to Solomon and said, Solomon, I want you to change the world. And Solomon looked up at the heavens and he said, "Lord, the world is such a vast place and I'm just one man, how do I change the world?" And in all his vast wisdom and knowledge, the Lord looked back at him and said, "Don't worry about the world, change yourself."
Yvonne Mark 11:46
This series was produced with support from the City of Vancouver, BC Arts Council, SFU’s Community Engagement Initiative and SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement.
Jules Chapman 12:01
This podcast was developed through a mentorship program led by Helena Krobath. Special thanks to the Storytellers and Voices of the Street writers, the supporting mentors, and the audio production team.
Please see the show notes for more information about the topics in this podcast; there are places to reach out for support.
Nicolas Crier 12:19
Our theme song was created by John Brennan, with extra music and sound effects by John Brennan and Helena Krobath.
Sound engineering, editing, mixing, and mastering by Paige Smith, Fiorella Pinillos and Kathy Feng. On behalf of the participants of the Megaphone Podcasting Pilot Project, I would like to give thanks to our Executive Director, Julia Aoki, both the board of directors, and all the hardworking vendors out there keeping our organization alive. Thank you.