Nanaimo paper under fire again for offending First Nations
Published Monday, September 23, 2013 5:54PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:26AM PDT
The Nanaimo Daily News is making headlines once again for publishing a letter that First Nations leaders describe as racist and insulting.
The letter to the editor, titled “No groups in Canada should get special status,” acknowledges historical injustices against aboriginal groups while still blaming them for their current struggles.
“The First Nations in Canada have tenaciously clung to their tribal system, refusing to evolve as equal Canadian citizens and perpetuating the perceived notion that they remain under the heel of non-aboriginals,” author Bill McRitchie wrote.
McRitchie goes on to say that aboriginals have used this notion to make “outrageous demands for land and taxpayer money.”
The letter sparked outrage on social media, where some expressed shock and disbelief that the Nanaimo Daily News would print another controversial letter just months after it was forced to apologize for offending aboriginals.
Demonstrators rallied outside the paper’s office in March to protest another letter titled “Educate First Nations to be modern citizens,” which claimed indigenous people have a history notable only “for underachievement.”
Publisher Hugh Nicholson eventually apologized to the crowd and said running the letter was a mistake.
He declined to comment on McCritchie’s letter Monday, but Snuneymuxw First Nations Chief Doug White told CTV News it’s just as offensive as the first.
“The letter conveys ugly sentiments,” White said. “The basic idea is that indigenous peoples are less than other peoples – that somehow our way of life, our culture is not valued in the same way as other ways of life.”
Metis blogger Chelsea Vowel also pointed out that the letter was printed just one day after the Truth and Reconciliation Week in Vancouver, an event designed to foster healing among residential school survivors.
In a blog post, Vowel described the sentiments expressed in the letters as “Colonialism denial,” a term she defined as an attempt to downplay the impact of First Nations oppression in Canada.
“Canadians need to stop pretending that these evils happened only in the distant past. The unavoidable truth is that these evils happened in your own lifetimes, and what is worse, continue to happen,” Vowel wrote.
The blogger ended her post by publishing the phone numbers and email addresses of Nicholson and the newspaper’s managing editor Mark MacDonald, as well as a link to the B.C. Press Council’s online complaint form.
The Council said it received more than 100 complaints about the first letter within about 24 hours of it being published.