No, you’re a racist

Peter Jackson
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“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

commentary editor.


Organizations: Department of Motor Vehicles

Geographic location: Canada, George River, North America

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Recent comments

  • Winston Adams
    February 07, 2013 - 12:56

    Peter, your responce to FINTIP was not well reasoned. 1 the main difference between you and Randy Simms is that Rany later said he was sorry and that his remarks were stupid. You continue your anti aboriginal stance. 2Not only do you not 'utterly acqience to critics, you agree with no position of the critics 3 you say the reasons for the decline in the herd is beside the point. As the reasons for the cod decline is of no significance? Surely if hunting by the Innu is not a significant cause and other factors are the primary cause, this would support a Innu limited hunt for food? 4 What good record of science do you support on the Labrador caribou? They spent 15 milliion on research of the decline of the Nfld herd. I am not aware of major research on the George River heard. And as to the cod science. This year with much warmer water there was a large increase in the cod and caplin. And large cod that wasn't supposed to exist in quantity was rather plentiful, as Earle McCurdy noted. And the very warm water caused many birds to abandon their young for lack of food and move north. Now for 3 decades the ocean here got much colder, at several hundred feet deep is was well below the freezing point of fresh water, and cold enough to push cod and caplin south and into deeper water. So many of the fish had moved. So fisherman were in some respects more right than scientists. So don't discredit the innu elders entirely in support of our science. 5 There is a very good item by MUN professor on the history of aboriginal connection to the environment and mother earth. The Idle No More Movement has a universal appeal for anyone with concerns for the damage being done to our environment. You discredit this aspect to the movement. And, Where did you say the aboriginals should have special rights? 6 Elder knowledge on the caribou is "mystical omniscience" , you mean gobbligook? 7 You suggest treating everyone the same as this is not racist. So you don't support the special rights of aboriginals they have under law and treaties, as this is racist. You don't begrudge aboriginals certain priveleges. Unless it it hunting caribou that they have a special right to, within limits they also have knowledge to judge these limits. Can you list the priveleges and special rights that you support? And as to hitching to your wagon, do you have a wagon? A covered wagon? Why not get a toboggan? 8 and why is success stories for aboriginals easier in British Columbia? Are others more supportive of aboriginals there? Do we, you, have a problem here? Or you suspect it is the aboriginals here entirely at fault?

  • Fintip
    February 07, 2013 - 09:55

    It's one thing to feign indignation Mr. Jackson, but it would help your credibility if the slights that so offend you were real. I agree that to invoke the name of that evil dictator in debate is tantamount to capitulation. Knowing that, why would you choose to do so in your introduction. As you concede, no one actually made such an odious comparison. Your intention perhaps was to draw a parallel with the word ‘racist’. Despite your inflammatory headline however, your column contains no indication that anyone actually accused you of being a racist. If all this was little more than a cheap theatrical trick to solicit sympathy then I think it’s beneath you - and beneath the standards I would expect of the Telegram. I understand that you want to blunt the push-back from your columns, but intellectual honesty demands that you at least acknowledge the objections of your critics. Otherwise you risk coming across like a radio host who invites a native leader onto his show, yells nasty invective at him, and then cuts him off before he can respond. In my response to your previous column, I endorsed government's decision to impose a hunting ban. However I also highlighted your failure to at least acknowledge, if not discuss, the responsibility of other parties and other factors for the precipitous decline of the George River herd. Quite reasonably you championed the role of science (even if you disparaged indigenous knowledge in the process) but then missed an opportunity to hold government to account for its abysmal record of scientific research. But of course that wouldn’t have supported the central thesis of this and previous columns in which you argue that the only salvation for native peoples is for government to treat them exactly the same as everyone else. You might not have a racist bone in your body, but that stance is guaranteed to earn you the back-slapping praise of racists everywhere. Even the discredited academic from whom you have repeatedly drawn support, Frances Widdowson, has since backed away from her initial contention – still your contention – that Canada’s natives should receive no special rights, privileges or public support. I don’t begrude you or Professor Widdowson the right to espouse such extreme positions. Not surprisingly, these sentiments have gained public traction in the wake of financial mismanagement by some native governments. Your column even received the seal of good housekeeping from the pseudonymous John Smith who has become something of an unofficial spokesman for the premier’s office. But spare us the crocodile tears Mr. Jackson when other knowledgeable, intelligent people vehemently disagree with your shallow analysis and simplistic solutions. If you want to emulate Margaret Wente, then learn to live with the reality that not everyone is going to love you for it.

    • Peter Jackson
      February 07, 2013 - 11:02

      Fintip: You’re right. The racist/Hitler thing was just a draw. I have been labeled a racist, but didn’t cite any examples. I will answer the rest of your eloquent insertion of words in my mouth as briefly as possible: 1) Your comparison of me to Randy Simms is boggling. I didn’t cut anyone off or call anyone names, nor would I, given the same platform. 2) Am I to utterly acquiesce to criticism, especially when I think it’s off base? How is this fair? 3) I acknowledged NO factors for the decline in the herd, as it is beside the point. Each party can blame the other, but hunting out of spite is indefensible. 4) What “abysmal” record does science have? Scientists do the best they can with the tools they are given. If the government ignores their findings, that’s another issue. You’re wrong about the fishery, by the way. Politicians, bureaucrats and, yes, fishermen pushed to maintain quotas. Scientists chronicled the decline with reasonable accuracy. Read “Lament for an Ocean” by Michael Harris. 5) Ms Widdowson may be less or more integrationalist than she used to be. I can’t read her mind. But where did I say natives “should receive no special rights, privileges or public support”? 6) I don’t “disparage” native knowledge. It has saved the hide of many a “white man,” let alone its own people. But I can’t infuse it with the sort of mystical omniscience that many advocates do. It is what it is. 7) How is treating one race of people the same as everyone else in any way racist? It is the exact opposite. I don’t begrudge natives certain privileges, but merely highlight the dichotomy. And I have no control over who wants to hitch their wagon to mine. 8) Finally, I suggest you look at the example presented by “David” below. It is a true success story. Self-governance, preserved heritage, modern ideas. Easier in B.C., perhaps, but still the right approach.

    • John Smith
      February 07, 2013 - 19:25

      I think...sleights...should be spelled with an e when used in this way...should it not? LOL

  • Fred from Brigus
    February 07, 2013 - 05:01

    Ahhhh I'm going back to sleep. Can't take any more of this BS.

  • Herb Morrison
    February 06, 2013 - 19:00

    Whether or not the Innu choose to hunt the caribou to extinction is notthe higher principle here. The higher principle is whether or not persons or groups, including Government officials should be labeled as racists because they are trying to encourage the Innu people that they need to practice coonservation where their hunting of caribou is concerned. Times have changed apparently and if the Innu people don't realize this, and change their way of life, specifically their huntings practices related to the caribou, ultimately they will be the architects of of not only the demise of the caribou herds but also hardship for all Innu people. If this should happen the only alternative that the Innu people will have just might be to rely on the vewry people whom they have branded as racists, for their survival. The question to be asked should such a scenario unfold would be: should the very people who have been branded racists by the Innu be prepared to assists the Innu who would have, as the old adage goes: "made a rod for their own collectrive arses."

    • Winston Adams
      February 07, 2013 - 07:53

      Mr Morrison Your premise is based on the suggestion that the Innu may hunt the caribou to extinction. That that is a stupid thing as "they made a rod for their own collective arses" , and they will suffer hardship, and that good christain people like you( in another piece, you preach the value of Christainity and your regular church attendance) would likey then turn a blind eye to their need, thus proving we are racists. Surely it is more charitable to suggest the Innu don't wish to hunt the caribou to extinction. That they would consider our science , if we have any, as to why the caribou decline, along with the experience of their elders. And should the caribou be lost to these people, we would be the first to provide assistance. And more so, provide assistance now to enable them to lighten their dependence on the caribou at this time.

  • Winston Adams
    February 06, 2013 - 15:00

    John Smith, since when was everyone equal? If my history is correct, a Chinese woman wasn't allowed to stay in nfld until 1954. Chinese males had a head tax imposed in the early part of the last century in Canada. Canadians aboriginals wasn't allowed to vote until 1960. Janpanese were interned during the war in the 1940s. Aboriginals were to last to receive an apology, and that was as sincere as Randy Simms. Now John, if i was on your property, my rights would not be equal to yours. Doug Smith is right, we owe aboriginals a continuing debt, as we will never return their land. These people are on the whole poor, and deserve better.They have a lot of catch up to do in education and standard of living, and we are generally to quick to throw stones. And if we are so intelligent, why are we, for 400 years been at the bottom of the economic ladder? The Innu are either stupid, as Randy Simms said, or suffer from prejudise, and at times racism, more often subtle racism. And they are not stupid. In other posts, you ,John fully supported Randy Simms' comments. The aboriginals will never receive justice as long so many are ignorant of our history. And which is worse, to steal their land, or riducule them as stupid people? At least Randy Simms doesn't hide behind a false name. But no one seems to be able to say if John Smith is real.So we can say John Smith is not very brave, to hide his identity. But he has lots to say. His character is revealed somewhat in his comments, unless he is a joker. Randy today admitted saying a 'stupid' thing ( in his comments to the Innu chief). Does John still agree with Randy? Peter says he thinks and hopes that the collective era of guilt in Canada in coming to an end. I would suggest it has not started. 40 percent of comments supported Randy Simms stupid remarks, and half of those would be more offensive than Randy. 20 percent thought Randy was wrong in his remarks . A few comments showed ignorance, not knowing an Innu from Inuit. A few commments were considerate. Peter , when did your guilt of aboriginal mistreatment start? We know it has ended. And what were your acts of attrition?

  • Colin Burke
    February 06, 2013 - 13:39

    Some idle speculation: If we simply let the Innu rely on local traditional knowledge of the natural resources on which traditionally they rely to preserve those resources and survive by using them, and if then those resources should somehow disappear, would that allow the rest of us simply to say good riddance to both the Innu and the resources on which traditionally they have relied, since they and not we would be responsible for that? Or is the actual question a little more complex, to the point where feeding the Innu and other factors should be kept from wiping out the caribou?

    • Jay
      February 06, 2013 - 16:16

      There are important traditional, cultural, amd cerremonial issues surrounding the caribou hunt for the Innu. However, can we stop stating this antiquated notion that they are dependent upon the caribou for food, clothing, and shelter. They are no more dependent on it than the Newfoundlander is for his feed of moose. In fact, it's becoming a more and more expensive meal as time passes. I have no problem with the Innu conducting a small, well managed hunt. However, nobody in Labrador will go hungry if there's a ban on the hunt. By the way, there are other groups in Labrador who have the similar culture and traditions surrounding this hunt, but they have agreed to comply with the ban.

  • Doug Smith
    February 06, 2013 - 13:29

    Mr. John Smith, your crying and complaining about first peoples is really unseemly and portrays you as an ingrate. Obviously you have forgotten important parts of our history. The aboriginals lost their land to our European ancestors by armed force and if they kicked up too much of a fuss our forefathers killed each and everyone. Remember the Beothucks? Our forebears used the principle of , “might is right”. The loss of their homeland and control of their lives means we will owe First Nations people a continuing debt, unless and until we give them back the land that was taken from them. So Mr. John Smith, stop whining about a few benefits government extends to the original owners of North America. Doug Smith, GFW

    • John Smith
      February 06, 2013 - 14:50

      Doug...let me just became a member of the Hallipoo tribe right?

    • Ray
      February 06, 2013 - 18:55

      Really? Really???? Isn't that kind of like saying that Grecian's owe Egyptians retribution? The only way anyone moves forward is to forget the past and work towards that future. If it's heritage you're interested in preserving at all costs, give your homes away, and all modern luxuries, and build your tipi... You can keep your heritage without destroying a species, or implying people who were born 5,6, 10 generations AFTER all these atrocities should pay for them!

  • John Smith
    February 06, 2013 - 12:28

    When will the bill be paid? Is there a time in our future when everyone in this country will be equal? Nope...not a chance...the aboringinals are quick to point out that the tab is ongoing, the money must be kept flowing...forever. Canada is a funny place, we are being extorted by Quebec on a constant basis, and we are being extorted by the native groups on a constant basis. Just keep the money flowing...and there will be no sad...

    • Kevin
      February 06, 2013 - 13:09

      A Conbot talking about equality??? Oh, how do you white, privileged, upper-class Cons manage to tolerate your horrible lot in life, left to the mercies of the Quebecois, natives, immigrants, and the poor? Equality is fine... for other folks. The very notion of the underclasses being equal to you would make you choke you hypocrite.

    • John Smith
      February 06, 2013 - 13:39 don't know what class I belong to, what my lot in life is, what color I am, if I am aboringinal or don't know my friend....when you assume, you make an a** out of you not?What I am saying is that untill the native peoples of this country are treated the exact same way as those who ar not considered to be native, then the problems in these communities will persist. the same with Quebec, they deserve no more, or no less than someone for Manitoba. I just personaly feel that everyone should be equal in this country, no matter what color or creed they are.

  • Winston Adams
    February 06, 2013 - 12:16

    Mr Morrison, the issue you define it as the preservation of the caribou herd. This is one issue, but not distinct from the preservation of the Innu, in particular the northern Innu. And you define the issue as caused by the hunting practises, but to what extent is it a result of other causes? And if hunting by aboriginals need to end or be severely reduced for a period, should there not be compensation to people who are so dependent on caribou? Didn't nflders get compensated billions after the cod fishery closed? Are they not as much or more dependent on caribou as we were on cod, as a food supply? And their cost of living twice ours?

  • Herb Morrison
    February 06, 2013 - 10:59

    It is interesting to me is the fact that even through accusation filling the air, no one has bothered to define the term racism. If I refer to a black person using the "N" word, or I refer to a member of one of the First Nations using the "i" word, I can rightfully be accused of uttering a racist slur. However, I don't understand how anyone can be accused of being racist simply because they are critical of a particulqar which has been undertqaken by that person. The issue, which has nurtured the accusations of racism, is the perservation of the caribou herds. It doesen't make a particle of difference if the skin color0f persons whose hunting practices are endangering the caribou is white, red, or sky blue green affirmative action needs to be taken to perserve the caribou. The persons involved in this dispute need to get their act together and decide where their priorities lie.

  • Winston Adams
    February 06, 2013 - 10:20

    Mr Jackson, interesting that you find Homer funny, and that you feel readers compare you to him. Now here again you riducule the Innu knowledge on caribou.You refer to the mishmash of local opinions derived from local experience. That experience, from their elders, you dismis. These people who have survived for centuries from their knowledge of the caribou. And , if rasicm is institutionalized, it is also in the Charter. They have special rights, which gets little respect. And they should have special rights, being the original people, the First Nations. If that has no value, then do you support the notion that might is right? That Sir Humprey Gilbert, Hitler and others who take and steal are on strong moral ground? And you critize Leo White as using incoherent ramblings when he says that Aboriginals have been raped since whitey set foot on North America. Granted that was stong language, but is it not true? In 1984 I took a trip to Labrador on the coastal boat. A man about 60 shared his history and conscience to me. He impregnated a very young Innu girl, but it was kept quiet. I later learned from an associate of his, that the man had told only part of the story. The man was transferred for his crime, to another Labrador community. Here he impregnated a disabled young Inuit girl. Again he was transferred to another Labrador community. Here he impregnated a young white girl. That 's when he really got what was due him. He was dismissed with an honourable discharge! He was a Nfld Ranger. His associate was also a Ranger, so he knew the story. Not much different from the church sex abuse scandals where transfers and protect the reputation of the institution was paramont. Least you doubt this, I can copy to you some RCMP investigation material from the 1990s, but this was some months after the Ranger had died. His name is there. Mr Jackson, I feel you know little of the mistreatment of aboriginal. But what is worse, it seems you are selective on what you want to know.

  • Christopher Chafe
    February 06, 2013 - 09:20

    You a harperite.....LOL LOL LOL man oh man he must not know you or your stance at are that far up the NDP's you know what you can see Mulclair's lungs from down here in NL/

    • David
      February 06, 2013 - 09:56

      The Osoyoos Indian Band is a First Nations government in British Columbia, located in the town of Osoyoos in the Okanagan valley... They are a member of the Okanagan Nation Alliance. The band controls -about 32,000 acres of land in the vicinity of the town of Osoyoos. The band's Nk'mip Desert Cultural Centre is located on the east side of Osoyoos. The centre gives tours in the arid region (similar to desert, but actually shrub steppe) and explains the uniqueness of plant species found there. The current chief of the band is Clarence Louie.Louie has pushed for economic self-reliance by expanding investments, including the vineyard and winery, a four-star resort and a 9-hole golf course. There are more than 400 band members who live and work on the reserve.[ “The singlemost important key to First Nations self-reliance is economic development. Chief Clarence Louie 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 in my opinion you are incapable of being a racist.I agree with your words today.Absolutely.

  • Ray
    February 06, 2013 - 09:17

    Regardless of who or what caused the decline in population, it is fact that it is drastically reduced. With that says, what "right to hunt" excuses a people from wiping out a heard? Pretty sure the argument is more about the native's perceiving this as an attack on their "rights" as opposed to an actual issue. Smarten up.

  • Doug Smith
    February 06, 2013 - 08:45

    Mr. Jackson, I hope you are not implying that I suggested you were a racist. I in no way meant or did that. Your problem like the government’s regarding the reason for the caribou decline is not knowing the cause, so to appear like something is being done to end the decline you and the government have no trouble trampling on the Innu right to hunt. Neither you or the government present any scientific evidence to support your position. Unfortunately , Mr. Jackson, you along with a lot of other Newfoundlanders, have been duped by the politicians. Doug Smith, GFW