This column is read and heard by many who don’t live in Winnipeg, but the story of the month, possibly the story of the year as it relates to what is news involves Winnipeg’s new police chief.
Devon Clunis came to Canada from Jamaica when he was 12 years old. He joined the Winnipeg Police Service 25 years ago, and for the past 14 years he has served as Chaplain of the department.
He talks openly about his strong Christian faith, and he gave an interview to a Christian newsletter in which he suggested that prayer might help in the effort to reduce crime in Winnipeg. He said a lot more than that, but that was the buzz phrase that became ‘the story’.
The other phrase that more properly should be the story was when Clunis said “I believe something phenomenal is going to happen in our city”. He could very well be right if the debate that has been ignited turns into a meaningful discussion that leads to a more caring community, a place where neighbours watch out for each other and random acts of kindness are no longer considered ‘unusual’.
I have not met Chief Clunis, but it strikes me that his intent was totally positive. He was not saying that prayer alone can solve crime, or that people who don’t pray are less valuable than those who do. But the treatment of his words by the mainstream media was sadly predictable.
Religion is a topic that the media avoids like the proverbial plague, and news outlets in Winnipeg might easily have missed the story altogether. The interview with the Christian newsletter was posted online on October 11th. It took 12 long days for the media to find it.
When they did, they went immediately in search of comment and reaction from the ‘usual suspects’, the academics and politicians who began the process of distortion, and taking the Chief’s words out of context. It was not an impressive performance.
Clunis has no doubt learned some hard lessons about dealing with the media. I hope he learned them well, but I sincerely hope he doesn’t decide to hide his faith away in a closet.
49 years ago, on a much larger stage in Washington DC, another black man said “I have a dream”. The prairie city where I live could use such vision to make this community a better place.
I’m Roger Currie
You can listen to Roger Currie’s commentary by clicking the link below: