“Ladies, I apologize. And you, sir, are worse than Hitler.”
— from “The Simpsons”
There’s a rule of thumb in public policy debate that as soon as you evoke the name of Hitler, you lose.
I rarely watch “The Simpsons,” but I remember doing a spit take during the above episode in which a Department of Motor Vehicles supervisor catches Homer’s two sisters-in-law smoking on the job. Homer saves them by grabbing the two butts and claiming them as his own, eliciting the cited response.
No one’s called me Hitler yet — at least, not to my recollection. But I’ve been labelled a lot of other things.
I try not to let it bother me; when you publish personal opinions and criticize the actions of others, you should expect pushback — some of it even justified.
In the past month or so, I’ve written a few columns on native rights, specifically on the Idle No More movement and on the Labrador caribou hunting ban. In both cases, I’ve been critical of the message being sent by native groups.
Discussion of aboriginal affairs in Canada inevitably gets bogged down in notions about race. Natives and their advocates liberally accuse critics of being racist.
It’s odd, given that the emphasis on race is inherent in treaty rights themselves.
The Indian Act is largely predicated on what percentage of aboriginal blood flows in your veins.
It’s not simply a matter of racial pride or preservation.
It is institutionalized discrimination.
Some of those who commented on my thoughts seemed to be reading between the lines. In those cases, I’d like to set the record straight.
First, on the issue of caribou hunting, a few readers put words in my mouth about the decline of the George River herd.
“The government has no idea why the herd went from 800,000 to 20,000. Their credibility on this issue is zero,” wrote Doug Smith. And a commenter named “Fintip” asked if I was “so naïve as to think the aboriginal hunt is the principal, let alone sole, factor in the herd's decline?”
Actually, no. Only in Fintip’s mind did I even remotely imply this.
Government science is not perfect. But it is better than resorting to a mishmash of individual opinions derived from local experience. The point is to try, as best as possible, to rise above competing interests to gain objective insight. This province’s commercial fishery illustrates the same problem.
On the topic of Idle No More, there was this gem from one Leo Stamp: “It's time for Jackson to crawl back under the rock from which he came. By his incoherent ramblings we see that he knows absolutely zilch about our First Nation peoples and how they have been raped since whitie (sic) set foot on North America. He must also be an ass-kissing Harperite, our very own want-to-be dictator.”
Apart from inflicting incoherent ramblings on the readership, I deny all these charges, especially that of being a Harperite.
“Granny” (not mine) lectured me on Canadian law, and ended by saying my writing was “full of misinformation and outdated stereotypes and shows little awareness of current Canadian law and reality.”
To that, I only add that outdated stereotypes are the inevitable fallout of perpetually isolating one class of people from society as a whole.
Finally, I should add I received as much, if not more encouragement for what I wrote, often in hushed tones as if not wanting to rock the boat.
I think — or at least hope — that the collective guilt era of Canada’s aboriginal history is coming to an end.
First Nations members would do well to embrace the vision of leaders such as Shawn Atleo and Matthew Coon Come. They are strong advocates for education reform and resource benefits, and they also understand the importance of adjusting to modern realities.
That is what native people need most right now.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s