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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

From: Dan Smoke

Can you believe this?? I hope you're sitting down while reading this.


PUBLICATION The Calgary Herald
DATE Tue 11 Jun 2002
BYLINE Ric Dolphin

HEADLINE: No simple solutions to native problems

Wherever I travelled during my recent sweep across the West, there always seemed to be a place nearby where there were cars on blocks, paint peeling from the clapboard and a lot of people of working age who weren't.

Many Canadians instantly recognize these nests of hopelessness as Indian reserves. They are a legacy of our well-meaning Victorian forbears who believed they were being humane when they gave the conquered tribes a place to call their own.

The road to hell, as we know, is well populated by missionaries, social workers and all of those other well-intentioned folk who are sure they are doing the humane thing. But if the current plight of the Indians isn't proof of misguided charity on a horrendous scale, I don't know what is.

On my trip, whenever the subject of the local natives came up — be it the Nootka on Vancouver Island, the Cree in Winnipeg, or the Blackfoot of southern Alberta — voices would be lowered and the same line of argument would ensue.

Treaty Indians receive billions of dollars a year in aid; their food, housing, university, college and medicine is free; they pay no taxes; they can hunt and fish whenever they want to: and they are accorded special treatment by the courts, the schools and employers.

Despite all of this largesse — okay, probably because of it — their society is a shambles. Rates of addiction to alcohol, cocaine, gambling, glue are eight to 10 times the norm.

Birthrates, encouraged by child welfare benefits, are three times the non-Indian level and the progeny are typically fathered by several men, usually absent.

A disproportionate number of native children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition that predisposes them to not working or to the drug-oriented criminal world. The number of Indian youth in criminal gangs, at least in the gang-central city of Winnipeg, increases by 20 per cent a year.

Unemployment in the native population everywhere hovers between 60 and 80 per cent. And although they constitute only six per cent of the general population, Indians account for 43 per cent of the social work caseload and 50 per cent of the prison population.

Still, their leaders — left-wing lawyers, for the most part, trained in the arts of grievance and entitlement — clamour for more. More land, more programs, more free this and free that, more good money after bad for ever and ever amen.

For all of the problems faced by the aboriginals are, say these professional apologists, the result of white oppression and racist policies.

Many of the people I talked to about this in the West, from the mayors of the cities, to the drivers of the taxis and the cops on the beat would — off the record — provided a succinct, one-word response to such contentions. It begins with bull and you know how it ends.

That Indians have everyone to blame but themselves for their predicament may still have currency among the CBC classes and the social workers whose numbers are bolstered by failure. But those of us without the vested interests or the inclination to wallow in the delicious collective guilt are beginning to wonder why our politicians lack the guts to do what is necessary.

"Have you been along Main Street?" the 23-year-old University of Manitoba political science student asked me as she served me supper in the Winnipeg restaurant where she worked to pay her tuition (something a native student wouldn't need to do).

"It's like the Third World. That's what the politicians should be dealing with right now, but you know they won't."

A Chinese-Canadian friend of mine in Edmonton, whose parents suffered a discrimination similar to that of their native contemporaries, nonetheless managed to rise from dishwasher to multimillionaire restaurateur.

He hunts and fishes with some of his friends from the nearby Enoch band, a once oil-rich community that squandered its royalties and now believes that a subsidized casino is its ticket to prosperity. The restaurateur has been approached to invest, but says he would never do business with the natives.

"They have no concept of what money is," he says. "It's always been something that they've had given them, with no risk or effort. Getting it, losing it, what does it matter? They're not getting any of my money."

His solution to the Indian problem — and it is the biggest problem that the West currently faces — is a giant payoff.

"Right now we're paying, what, $20,000 a year for every man, woman and child? Okay, you give 'em each, I don't care, $100,000. And that's that. No more reserves, no more tax exemption, no more treaty status — and they have to buy hunting and fishing licences like the rest of us."

In five years, the outlay would have been covered by the current annual federal expenditure on Indian welfare. After that, we'd have an extra $8 or $9 billion a year with which to put against the national debt.

I heard versions of this payoff scheme from people throughout the West — my favourite version had the province of Saskatchewan being handed over holus-bolus to the country's natives.

There is a seductive simplicity to such concepts. But simple solutions have never been the style in a country ruled by lawyers and bureaucrats whose livelihoods depend on complexity.

Instead we get more programs, more social workers, more crowded jails and the promotion of the belief that a re-infusion of native culture —healing circles, folklore in the schools, etc. — will somehow fix the problems of a people who are being spoiled rotten already.

The latest scheme is the Klein government's plan to allow casinos on reserves — a policy that bears some resemblance to the whisky trading of yore. But more on that next time.

Ric Dolphin can be e-mailed at dolphinr@theherald.southam.ca

Responses to Dolphin's column

From: David Wiwchar INTERNET:wiwchar@nuuchahnulth.org
Subj: Letter sent to Ric Dolphin

Ric; I was really disappointed to read your June 11th editorial on First Nations issues, which was one of the worst examples of "writing without research" I've ever seen.

When I worked at the Edmonton Journal a few years ago, I respected your writings and respected you as a journalist. That respect is gone.

There were so many blatant errors in your editorial that I really don't know where to begin.

Problems on First Nations reserves have many sources, the bulk of which flow from the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. The Residential school system was neither "well-meaning" nor "humane". It was set up to destroy First Nations cultures and societies and there were many speeches made in Parlaiment to verify the argument of attempted genocide.

In these Residential Schools, children as young as 2 years old were forcibly removed from their families and communities by Indian agents and police officers, and taken hundreds of miles away to places where they were not allowed to speak their language, talk to their brothers and sisters, or live the lives of free-spirited children.

I'm sure you would fight like hell Ric, if someone tried to do this to your children. But for First Nation's parents resistance translated into imprisonment.

First Nations people in Canada are not "conquered". They've been beaten down by a system of oppression but here on the west coast they have never lost title to this country through the internationally accepted system of wars or treaties.

Every single paragraph of your editorial is wrong at best, and incredibly racist at worst. I could point out all the negative stereotypes that you insist on perpetuating but I won't. As a First Nations person I am far too busy working at my job, paying my taxes, and saving money for my children to go to school so I really don't have the time to point out all your errors.

One of the first rules of writing is to "write what you know". This rule does not expire after 10 or 20 years in journalism Ric. It always applies. Obviously you've forgotten this as your editorial contains nothing but uninformed racist lies. Do your research. You owe it to yourself and your readers deserve it.

David Wiwchar
Managing Editor & Southern Region Reporter
Ha-Shilth-Sa -- Canada's Oldest First Nations Newspaper
Ph: (250) 724-5757
fx: (250) 723-0463


My Response to the Editor of the Calgary Herald

Dear Editor:

I have made reference to this article in numerous conversations with other people and have forwarded it to many. I am disgusted with your paper for running it. I thought long and hard about my response to this piece. I had to put it away for a couple of days, because I was so angry.

I copied the article which you will find below, and have made some changes to it that I think you will find interesting. Let me know how it strikes you.

This editorial is full of such blatant racism, it is the kind of racism I experienced while travelling out west on the prairies with a youth group in 1991. I am Native and coming from Newfoundland, had experienced racism before. But not this kind. While in the prairies on more than one occasion, I feared my personal safety from cowboys who would have me disappear of the face of the earth.

When I saw this article, I had a similar gut reaction to the cowboy incidents.

The piece is driven by clear hatred for all Native people. It makes blanket statements about Natives. It is full of stereotypes and in this day and age a newspaper shouldn't be feeding this kind of hate propaganda to Canadians. Truth and common sense seems to have eluded your newspaper. How dare you print this crap. If this was written about another race of people, heads would roll. It is unacceptable that you run this kind of hate-mongering about me and my people. It is tantamount to KKK and white supremacy tactics.

Get some class.

The big problems with it, I shouldn't have to explain but I will because obviously you need some education:

- The "forebears" you refer to were not "well-intentioned", they wanted to and did kill Natives in Canada. The concept was terra nullius, or empty land. That is how Canada was founded, on Native blood. There are all kinds of proof in history like the Beothuk in Newfoundland, people were paid to kill them and they were totally obliterated.

- The residential school system, adoptions and forced resettlements were all policies of assimilation, but were not well-intentioned because as we all know, had horrendous outcomes.

- Canada has been for many years, been condemned by the world human rights commission for its treatment of Native people.

- Not all Native people are status Indians. Many, as am I, are not tax exempt and have no special status. For those who are status indians, their forefathers signed treaties with the government of canada and are legal binding agreements. Like it or not.

- There are many Native professionals who are as hardworking as other Canadians, we are not lazy people as you would have everyone believe. I myself am a writer and small business owner.

- No more money goes to the average Native than does a white Canadian. The quoted dollar figure in the article means nothing.

- The high birth rate mentioned in the article and the reason for it, you are going totally by assumption. There is no basis in fact that the high Native birth rate is driven by welfare payments.

Calgary Herald, hire some educated writers who aren't racist hate mongers.

Mitzi Brown

More responses to Dolphin
Dolphin paints racism, and NOT a solution

Dolphin racist, press council rules
Dolphin's column was so hateful that the Alberta Press Council couldn't stomach it, apparently:

Calgary Herald rebuked over column

EDMONTON (CP) — Columns published in the Calgary Herald that portrayed native reserves as "the road to hell and . . . a society in shambles" lacked balance, credibility and crossed the boundaries of fair comment, the Alberta Press Council has ruled.

"The Herald . . . has the responsibility not to publish material likely to encourage racial discrimination," the council wrote in upholding a complaint against columns published by the newspaper last June 11 and June 13.

"The Calgary Herald displayed poor judgment in publishing columns containing racial comments that are primarily substantiated by unverified nameless sources."

The columns by Ric Dolphin also described reserves as "nests of hopelessness" and said "birthrates encouraged by child welfare benefits are three times the non-Indian level."

The Council said all natives were painted with the same brush in the columns by being characterized as producers of offspring for the sole purpose of obtaining welfare benefits.

The Council also concluded that Dolphin's assertions in the column relied heavily upon nameless sources including a cab driver, a waitress and a medic.

As a member of the Alberta Press Council, the Herald is now required to publish the Council's full decision, council chairman Bruce Hogle said Monday.

"We know it (the ruling) is strong. I think this is an error in judgment in writing," Hogle said.

"I think the one column went just beyond the boundary of good taste."

The complaint was filed by Mitzi Brown, the founder of Native Media Watch, a group of aboriginal journalists across Canada who monitor news reports about aboriginal people.

Brown said she is satisfied with the council's handling of her complaint. While Dolphin's columns were objectionable, she said it was the fact a major newspaper published them that made her really angry.

"This article had to get by a couple of other people before it went to press and they let it go," Brown said from her home in Toronto.

"This to me says as an aboriginal writer that his perceptions of what native people are systemic in our society. It means it is OK to malign, hate, mistreat us, disrespect us in this way."

Lorne Motley, deputy editor of the Herald, said the newspaper will abide by the council's ruling and will publish the findings on the complaint sometime in the future.

However, Motley said the Herald is concerned that the Alberta Press Council accepted a complaint from someone outside the province.

"Quite frankly, we didn't get any complaints from the people we serve here in the southern Alberta area," Motley said.

"We are not a Toronto newspaper. We are here to serve our readers." As for the content of the columns, Motley said they could have been handled differently.

"I would agree that some of the wording in the columns in question was looser than I would prefer."

He noted that the Herald published a rebuttal to the columns on July 11 and that Dolphin received support from at least one reader in a letter to the editor.

The Alberta Press Council is an independent, voluntary body that serves to protect the public's right to full accurate news reporting.

Its members include the Herald, six other Alberta dailies and the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association.

CP 1848ES 10-02-03

Rob's comment
This is another example of "blame the victim for the crime." Lazy, good-for-nothing Indians want a government handout. Ho-hum.

Related links
Canada's First Nations Governance Act is nothing of the sort
Indians as welfare recipients

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