Letter titled "Educate First Nations to be modern citizens" sparks debate on racism
A public backlash is growing against a letter published by the Nanaimo Daily News.
The letter, written by Don Olsen, a Nanaimo resident who's had other opinions published by community newspapers in the past, ran with the headline, "Educate First Nations to be modern citizens."
It was published at the Nanaimo Daily News' website on Wednesday (March 27) but has since been removed (the original full text appears below).
A Facebook group created in response to the letter describes it as "racist" and has called for the newspaper to print a retraction and for staff to make a public apology.
Update: Today (March 28) the Nanaimo Daily News published an "editorial clarification." "While we would defend Mr. Olsen's right to hold and express his opinion, the sentiments expressed were entirely his own and in no way reflect the views of the newspaper," writes Hugh Nicholson, division manager for Vancouver Island News Group. "The letter should not have run. We apologize for any distress this may have caused our readers."
Another letter written by Olsen and published by the Nanaimo Daily News on January 17, 2013, argues that "the public needs to know more about the real facts of conditions that exist among certain bands of the First Nations People." It goes on to list the alleged salaries of several Canadian aboriginal leaders, and concludes, "It is my belief that if the tax paying public were to know the truth, they would certainly be less sympathetic to the Idle No More cause." The full text of that letter can be viewed here.
What do you think about the Nanaimo Daily Times publishing such controversial views? Was deleting the March 27 letter from its website the appropriate response to the public's reaction? Readers are encouraged to share their opinions in the comments section at the bottom of the page, and asked that discourse be kept civil.
The text of the March 27 letter appears unedited below.
It was only 12,000 years ago, or less and this should be considered; in all those years the so called First Nations:
. Never "discovered" the wheel
. Never had a written language
. Never discovered astronomy
. Had no science or scientific discoveries
. Had no mathematics
. Made no medical discoveries
. Never had written music
. Only "figured out" a drum and a rattle for musical instruments
. Had no metallurgy
. Had no sails for boats (only had canoes)
. Created virtually no mechanical devices
. Possessed almost nothing that required hard manual labour over a period of time, i.e.: building with or carving out of stone
. Made almost no inventions
. Are just in the last 200 years getting caught-up to most of the rest of the world
. Have a history that is notable only for underachievement Are these people in trouble? Yes.
Do they need help? Yes.
Are they responsible enough to look after themselves and efficiently spend the billions the tax payers give them? Certainly not.
The only way to fix this situation is to bring them into society as equals. They should be getting jobs and paying taxes like the rest of us because in reality, they are no more special than any of the other hundred or more cultures that call Canada home.
Turn off the taps. Do away with this "traditional use" and "cultural" nonsense. Educate their children to become modern citizens.
Instead of finding their identity and source of pride in some folks who occupied the land 15,000 years ago. Let them stand or fall on their own account.
Just like the rest of us have to do.
Don Olsen Nanaimo
Mar 28, 2013 at 11:52am
Don Olsen, get your a** to the first nations rez and speak out, NATIVE PRIDE
Mar 28, 2013 at 12:10pm
i think this don olsen is a fuckin idiot and shouldnt have made rude comments towards the first nations this guy is probably a whitey soo idk how he has any say in what went down back in time if anything u want a real story why dont u go camp at a rez for a whole week and maybe youll realize how much they actually do all the things that this idiot said they never did
Mar 28, 2013 at 12:50pm
The letter was published as if it were a column, which is odd. My impression was that it was an opinion piece by a Nanaimo Daily News Jounalist, since Don's name was listed: Don Olsen, The Daily News. What he says is completely ignorant, offensive and naive. It also appeared to be incredibly out of touch and racist.
Mar 28, 2013 at 1:08pm
It should not have been published at all. I haven't seen the physical paper yet but if it was published in there what was the point of removing it from the web. Its already out there and it was captured by lots and lots of people. NDN made a major mistake by publishing this in the first place.
Mar 28, 2013 at 1:38pm
I read the original before it was removed. There wasn't any indication that it was an opinion piece. It wasn't shown as a letter to the editor. More latitude is generally given to Letters to the Editor. The letter purports to give facts on First Nation History and encourages discrimination based on Nationality.
In looking at the letter it appears to contravene at least 2 sections of the Press Code. The following is an excerpt from the Press Council.
4. COMMENT AND FACT
Newspapers should defend their hard-won right to exercise the widest possible latitude in expressing opinions, no matter how controversial or unpopular the opinions may be, and to give columnists, editorial cartoonists and others the same latitude in expressing personal opinions. However, newspapers and journalists shall strive to avoid expressing comment and conjecture as established fact.
Unless the information is directly relevant to the news story or opinion column newspapers should avoid publishing material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, ancestry, gender, religion, marital status, physical or mental disability, age or sexual orientation
Mar 28, 2013 at 3:58pm
I am increasingly troubled by the muzzling of free speech in Canada, all in the name of ensuring that nobody’s sensitivities are in any way offended. The opinion piece by Don Olsen offers some very harsh but somewhat true facts about the ‘First Nations’ – it provides a very skewed and negative view of the ‘First Nations’ but is not ‘hateful’ or blatantly false. You can agree or aggressively disagree with the nature and conclusions of the opinion piece but to actively lobby for this type of speech to be banned is undemocratic and potentially hazardous. The constitutional democracy which allows the small minority ‘First Nations’ to actively fight for their rights and interests, usually to the detriment of the majority of Canadian citizens, should be something that the ‘First Nations’ respect and cherish and not trash whenever it fails to serve their own interests.
Mar 28, 2013 at 4:28pm
I also read the article before it was taken down. It is designed to elicit a reaction and to get us to think, which it clearly did. Everyone who is foaming at the mouth and playing the racist card is clearly lacking the bigger picture. The short, albeit crude opinion letter is clearly pointing out the responsibility (or lack thereof) that has come hand in hand with the native population for the last while and rightfully questions many of the "special" privileges that come with being native (i.e being able to protest on a railroad track when if anyone else did that, they would immediately be arrested.
Instead of immaturely crying about how insensitive it was, why not be useful and write a rebuttal or your own opinion piece to critique it? While it certainly has its faults, it clearly fulfilled its purpose.
Mar 28, 2013 at 4:53pm
Seriously, this is not hate, and nobody seems to be seeking a slander lawsuit against Mr Olsen for lying. I think that First Nations people ARE equal with the rest of society, and should be treated with the respect that that equality entails.
Mar 28, 2013 at 5:22pm
I would not want to be the letters to the editor desker in Nanaimo today. What were they thinking and how could they not know such a letter would erupt into this? It's a letter to the editor, but NDN's own policy states that they edit for clarity, brevity and taste. This letter is tasteful? And I doubt the fathers of free speech had this guy's letter in mind when they fought for it. Read the letter again, only take out the words aboriginal and first nations and insert East Indian, Asian, woman, or handicapped....no one would stand for it for a second. It is interesting to note that the furor that has erupted over the Nanaimo letter is equally vehement between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people alike. Twenty years ago such as letter would have been given a pass and you wouldn't hear a peep. It's not just this letter that is troubling though. I've noticed a shift in the NDN and its sister papers coverage of aboriginal issues, and its different from before. Something or someone changed. After November 2012, you'd think someone gave an order that aboriginal and their issues aren't important so coverage should be scaled back.
Mar 28, 2013 at 5:26pm
I do respect Mr.Olsen right to free speech but Mr, Olsen forgot to mention a crucial event that happened long long ago between First Nation and a European settlers, so let me remind him and the rest of the Public about First Nation people:
- If First Nation would not give up their land, You and I would not be able to live as we are living today.
- If First Nation would not allow development to flourish on their lands we would not have any wealthy cities in Canada.
- If First Nation would not give up their land the Canadian economy would not be as it is today. (80% GDP comes from Northern Canada First Nation Lands) with out them Canada would almost have no economy).
- When First Nations signed Treaty with a British Crown they have been introduced to poverty, diseases, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, ill treatment from the government.