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State Murders and State Funerals

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
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What was the funeral for Mario Hamel like?  Likely sadder than most as the details surrounding his violent death are still unclear; although as most people might understand it, if someone has been shot to death by many bullets it is seen as murder.  Yet Mr. Hamel's funeral was probably not as opulent and heavily attended as some, and it likely put further hardship and expense upon the victims family and friends still full of questions and grief.

"He was a generous person, honest," said Denis Dailleux, a friend of Hamel. "The kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back if it would help you."

Contrastingly just this week another Montrealer received a widely covered state-funeral where big media made it out to be a historic moment in Canada's political landscape.  Jack Layton died at home after battling cancer while on medical leave from his job as leader of the NDP, the current official opposition in parliament.  It is speculated that the total cost to the taxpayers could exceed half a million dollars (which is admittedly less than Laytons expenses in 2009-2010 of $628,913.68, the highest of all MPs.)  Up until now Canada did not have state funerals for Opposition leaders.  The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is not commenting on the state funeral for Jack Layton, except to, "affirm that this honour is befitting of his status as a currently serving leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, on medical leave when he died.”  When even the taxpayer watch-dog group decides, before the actual costs are unveiled that it is worth every cent, who will question the expense or necessity of a state funeral?

What are the major differences between the loss of Mario Hamel and Jack Layton?   
While Layton was an employee of the state and arguably a highly visible representative of the government of Canada, Hamel was killed by the state likely because of his visibly lower social status and his anti-social behaviour; as the newspapers can't wait to remind us: he was a homeless person.

"Police in Montreal shot and killed two men on Tuesday, a homeless man who was a suspect in a disturbance complaint and a passerby who was on his way to work at a downtown hospital."

Corporate news reports of the two police killings and the following funerals use very choice words and quotes to make sure that the reader will build assumptions and find closure on the murders.  CTV irresponsibly cites speculation and hear-say from a friend who is unwittingly incriminating Hamel while mourning the senselessness of his loss: 

"A guy with a knife, against four cops… it's not like he would have been able to do anything," said Hamel's friend Wilfred Larose. "I think it's disgusting." 

Is it disgusting or enraging?

"Witnesses reported that as many as 10 shots were fired by three officers, killing the suspect, Mario Hamel, as well as Patrick Limoges, who is said to have been 50 feet across the street from police."

Certainly nothing new about this case has been reported since the bodies were laid in the ground.  Though the Journal de Montreal (and subsequently the Gazette) assures us on the same day of his funeral that, "A surveillance video at UQAM shows that Mario Hamel charged police twice with a knife before being shot by police on St. Denis St. on Tuesday".  While this video may never face public scrutiny the statement made by Le Journal is hear-say, and we are expected to trust these large media-outlets (Quebecor Media and Canwest Global Communications Corp.) to relay what could easily be shown to the masses directly in the same way their round-about words are delivered.  These profiteering news-tellers are sure to dish some dirt on the victim while not bringing into question the passed conduct of the three shooters involved in the killings and how they are being dealt with now.  Recent history tells those of us who want answers that there may never be any words to suffice.  It is much more likely that the three people who gunned-down a distressed and troubled man will receive no punishments and retain their jobs armed with the same offending weapons.

When a man with very little wealth and power is killed by the state it is swept away as an anomaly in the everyday workings of law and order.  Yet, when a man who has made a career of enforcing the state order which creates poverty and disparity dies of natural and predictable causes he is praised for his efforts and held up as a nationalistic hero as we all pitch in for his funeral. That is disgusting.

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Thanks, J


for bringing this great analysis to the front of what the mass views as a routine treatment of one of the State's "great" losses. There should be no lesser victim in this tale. When will we acknowledge where the real tragedy lies?


Or we could just be sheep.

It's talk like the rhetoric in this video of a Halifax memorial for Layton that is really worrying:

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