First, read the article, by James Furlong:
The CBC issued an apology for the”language used in the article” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/cbc-apologizes-1.1930366
Well I for one welcome the article. It is brutal, yes, but what it describes is even more brutal. Unless brutal language is employed, with no holds barred, who is going to pay attention? The author is rightly incandescent angry about what he has seen in this remote and forsaken place. The article drips with anger and despair. I can’t see any other way to describe this terrible situation. Why whitewash it? A whole community of people is living in degradation and nobody – clearly – knows how to cope with that, not them, not the government, not their so-called leaders, and not the mass of Canadians who have never and will never set foot in these remote Northern locations.
I didn’t find the article “racist” or “prejudiced.” Racist would be saying the people deserve to live like that or that they are just made that way. The contentious bit I guess is the section where the writer says “It’s not the way we are. It’s just the way they are. And because they are that way, they are barely tolerated by most of the white community” – clearly this is addressed to the white community, and points up to the way that the lines of “us” and “them” are drawn. The writer questions this whole presumption of patronization, that “they ” can tolerate living like this while “we” would not. I found this polemic startling and a big wake up call.
One of Canada’s worst “secrets” is its handling of the aboriginal peoples. We are fortunate in that we still do have a sizeable Aboriginal community across the country, small as the population may be. In recent decades prejudice has been reduced and so we do see Aboriginal people taking on visible roles within the wider community. But to often they are hidden, and the stereotype I grew up with of the “drunken Indian” has yet to disappear. The feeling of “that is they way they are” still exists and it is this comforting thought that we in the south live by, that the author is throwing back in our faces.
Yes, the situation is complicated. But the fact remains that huge sums are spent on Aboriginal affairs yet there seems to be problems with the way these sums are spent and who actually benefits. Anyway, it’s not about the money; more money than that is wasted on worse things. But it’s blood money. When we pay it (via our taxes) it comforts us that “the Indian problem” has gone away. Because “we” give “them” a bunch of money. And then we get to see them as ungrateful, incompetent. “What I could do with all that free money! I would not be like them!” and so on.
Ironically, if the CBC had not issued this apology I would not have been aware of the article. It would have been, like the Aboriginal communities in the far North, buried and invisible to the rest of us. But since I’ve seen it, I feel the same burning anger that the writer clearly felt. It’s just not good enough. And what are we going to do? What ARE we going to do?