Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Thursday, April 14, 2005
The Halifax Herald Limited
Tory MLA Gary Hines is critical of the native community's demands for compensation in return for giving up the revenue from gambling terminals.
Natives 'prostituting' themselves
MLA's remarks about VLTs on First Nations spark outrage
By AMY SMITH / Provincial Reporter
A Conservative MLA said Wednesday native bands are prostituting themselves by seeking money in exchange for reducing the number of video lottery terminals on reserves.
"I think presently the stance that Bernd Christmas and others have taken regarding this from the native community is that they're willing to prostitute themselves at the expense of having a social conscience and I think that's totally wrong," Gary Hines, MLA for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, said during a meeting of the legislature's public accounts committee.
"I want to be on record as having said that."
Mr. Christmas, CEO of the Membertou band in Sydney, could not be reached for comment.
But he has said previously that if bands are asked to remove VLTs voluntarily, the province would have to put something on the table, such as dealing with land claims.
Membertou Chief Terry Paul said he was astounded by Mr. Hines's "idiotic" comments.
"I'm shocked that statements like this would come from an elected representative of this province," he said Wednesday. "It's mind-boggling."
He demanded a public apology from the Conservative MLA.
Lawrence Paul, chairman of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs, said if a sincere apology isn't forthcoming, the assembly will discuss the possibility of taking Mr. Hines to court.
"It's quite insulting," he said. "He's putting us in the same category as a prostitute or a gigolo."
Nova Scotia's new gaming strategy calls for cutting 1,000 of the 3,245 machines in licensed establishments.
The bands, which have a total of 615 machines, do not fall under that plan because they have contracts with the province. But Nova Scotia hopes to negotiate a new strategy for responsible gaming with them.
The 1,130 machines in Nova Scotia's two casinos won't be shut down either.
Mr. Hines said the bands should recognize they and the province have similar problems when it comes to VLT gambling.
"I think in the social form, they could step away from the cost of getting out of the agreements that are presently in place and help their people," Mr. Hines told reporters after the meeting. "I think the final statement that they make should not be, 'Bring your chequebook along.' "
Liberal MLA Danny Graham said he was surprised by Mr. Hines's comments.
"I think it reflects an insensitivity with respect to this entire issue," Mr. Graham said. "This is a problem for all Nova Scotians, and we have to find a solution together and not start to point fingers or for that matter in this case, to stigmatize a single group of people."
Rodney MacDonald, minister responsible for the Office of Health Promotion, refused to comment on Mr. Hines's remarks.
The minister said the province has started to negotiate with the bands about VLTs.
"There are machines throughout the province in First Nations communities. I believe that our First Nations leaders have the same interest as our provincial government does, and that's to ensure that there's a balance put forward for their community and for their people."
This is not the first time Mr. Hines has caused a stir.
In May 2004, he apologized for telling a joke about a federal cabinet minister prostituting himself at a retirement home.
Mr. Hines told the joke at the opening of an energy regulators conference in Halifax, where he was representing the province in welcoming about 300 delegates from Canada, the United States and Mexico.
Since tribes use gaming revenues to fund social services, one can hardly say they're prostituting themselves at the expense of having a social conscience.
One can argue philosophically whether gambling is good, neutral, or bad, but the "prostituting" image is problematical. It implies the aboriginals are weak, selfish, greedy, and immoral. It's the latest in a long, long line of such characterizations.
Any band of schoolboys, from ten to fifteen years of age, are quite as capable of ruling their appetites, devising and upholding a public policy, constituting and conducting a state or community, as an average Indian tribe.
Horace Greeley, Letter 13: Lo! the Poor Indian!, An Overland Journey, from New York to San Francisco, in the Summer of 1859, 1860
Would Hines say the same thing about white executives at a Las Vegas- or Atlantic City-based corporation? Do they prostitute themselves for greater earnings? Do they lack a social conscience?
Maybe so, but Hines didn't attack everyone who participates in gaming. He singled out Native people. That's discrimination based on race and therefore racism.
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