The National Post chose to run a highly inflammatory opinion piece written by Christie Blatchford on Dec 27. The next day the Ottawa Citizen’s editors decided to run the same article on the front page of their newspaper in a premier headline slot. Most reputable newspapers reserve the front page for news and choose instead to publish commentary and opinion on the interior pages, usually near the editorial page or in a Comments section of the paper.
What is disturbing about the Ottawa Citizen’s editorial decision is that this offensive opinion piece denigrates the aboriginal spiritual practices of tobacco offerings and smudging ceremonies as “hideous puffery and horse manure”. Why would the Citizen’s editors try to present such seemingly racist views as news? Have they lost all journalistic professionalism?
The spiritual indigenous traditions of offering tobacco to show respect, smudging with sweetgrass & sage to purify and renew the spirit, and prayer at a Sacred Fire are no more “horse manure” than the Euro-Canadian traditions of offering gifts at Christmas, taking communion to renew the spirit, or praying at an altar in a Cathedral. So how can Blatchford’s ridiculous pronouncement even remotely be considered newsworthy?
Incredibly, Blatchford also suggests that there isn’t enough aboriginal culture left to be worth recognizing First Nation treaty rights. Presumably by Blatchford’s perverse reasoning, Jewish people should have abandoned their culture after the Holocaust, let alone dream of an Israeli nation.
Having abandoned both common sense and logic, Blatchford concludes her piece by insinuating that the peaceful protest by Chief Spence might somehow be perceived as an act of “intimidation, if not terrorism”. It would seem that Blatchford is easily frightened by democratic dissent.
This perspective marks a new low in missing the point of a situation. First of all, the suffering of Canada’s indigenous communities has finally reached a breaking point where people at a grass-roots level simply are not going to take it any longer. To suggest that their protests are some kind of a side-show requires an Orwellian perspective in which everything is the opposite of what it actually is.
Secondly, hunger strikes, blockades, marches onto Parliament hill appear to lead to madness (by those who fear democratic dissent) only because they are a symptom of a greater underlying madness that those protesters are trying to change.
It is a sign of governmental failure when people take to the streets in protest. Something is broken in our social contract and the protesters are visibly calling attention to that problem by exercising their democratic freedom of expression.
When a person starts a hunger strike, willing to die rather than let the status quo continue, they are telling us that something is very seriously broken. When that person is a leader, she is telling us that only the leaders can fix the underlying madness that is causing the problem.
So who is the terrorist? Is it the Prime Minister for knowingly perpetuating a shameful system of colonial “governance” that promotes chronic poverty, substance abuse, abnormal youth suicide rates, and other suffering within indigenous communities? Or is it the woman sitting in a wigwam asking that Harper takes responsibility as a leader and engage in meaningful dialog to find ways to end these very serious problems?