Racism in Hamilton Appalling

The writer asks whether the racism shown toward First Nations people in comments on the Caledonia land claim issue would be considered acceptable if shown toward other marginalized groups.

By Letter to the Editor
Published March 01, 2011

Thanks to some recent highlighting of the Douglas Creek Estates land reclamation in Caledonia, the fiery debate has been rekindled. Given that there has been limited-to-no real progress at the negotiating table in well over a year, I would personally argue that this was a bit of a flame-fanning exercise by the Spectator's quiet newsroom.

That said, bringing this subject to the forefront certainly has its benefits. During the early, turbulent stages of the Caledonia situation, I was taken aback by such hostility within a nearby community. This spurred me to investigate deeper into what it was I was witnessing.

Being curious and, as most have seen on RTH, never one to turn down a debate, I reached out to message boards and real-life individuals affiliated with the Haudenosaunee. Well, "lashed out" might be a better descriptor.

Much to my surprise, I ended up having my eyes opened to a whole new understanding of the Haudenosaunee perspective and their relationship with Canada.

Unfortunately, I also witnessed an absolutely appalling level of overt racism within our community.

Once again, that has reared its ugly head. The comment section on any story posted on the Spectator website is simply riddled with racially charged, ignorant, hate-filled vitriol.

On one hand, I'm grossly embarrassed to be a white, proudly Canadian Hamiltonian; but on the other, I think there is also an educational benefit: a harsh dose of reality about racial insensitivity within our community.

As I've wondered in the past, is there a prevalent phenomenon that excludes First Nations people from our general expectation of racial and religious tolerance? Below are just a few samples from The Spectator's comment sections from recent days.

By: blackberrybold
Mar 1, 2011 11:01 AM Wouldn't it be nice if the army could just bomb the reserve and blow them off the map?

By: scuzzy2142
Mar 1, 2011 10:29 AM They have a lot more than stolen cars....where do you think the "thugs" of hamilton get there guns....tons of weapons on the reserve...hidden away....I remember in the states this happened....response?..they send 5000 troops including tanks to the reserve and literally just walked in fully armed and then they all gave up....why don't we do this here?

By: hombero
Feb 28, 2011 11:50 PM The government should have sent the police in like they did the time before. Unfortunate that some of the natives were killed by police but that's what happens when you don't listen to the cops.

By: hamiltonISdoomed
Feb 28, 2011 4:08 PM I believe I made a comment based on FACTS. Check the police blotters, how many brand new pick ups and suvs are found parted out on SN? How many people on SN work full time? How many pay taxes to which social assisstance and healthcare are paid out from?

By: hamiltonISdoomed
Feb 28, 2011 4:00 PM Are they also entitled to steal pick ups from the hard working people who bought them? Paid the taxes on them? You want to reap Canadian benefits pay Canadian taxes. If not fend for yourselves!

By: Cartman
Feb 28, 2011 9:34 AM Indigenous people Rule #1 when invading a foreign land is to rid the land of the indigenous people. This was the mistake of our forefathers in trying to make peace with these people. They obviously dont get it. Natives lost their land. May not have been right but too bad not everything that happens is right. I am sure when Natives go out and steal from people in Ancaster or rip people off downtown - they are doing the right thing? --- gimme a break - you lost ... wars over.

Regardless of your opinions on the land reclamation, do you think similar statements would be acceptable if directed toward any other groups within our community?


Chris Sanislo
Ancaster, ON

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2011 at 21:28:46

I agree with you, but it's also pretty much par for the course for the spec's comments section. The same thug who in one breath spouts racism is the next piece calling for an end to our police state birth certificate monitoring system. That is, these comments by loonies are not worth your time spent reading them.

There is one commenter there though who really knows his stuff, CharterRights. I'm pretty sure the organizer on the aggrieved redneck side posts once in a while too.

A more worrying issue for me is how little coverage we get of the issues outside of these flare-ups. The press has only been trying to sell newspapers, as you note, or engage in tawdry hate mongering, aka Christie Blatchford. It would be nice to get greater coverage here on RTH too, so thanks for the letter!

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 09:08:03 in reply to Comment 60486

First off, thanks again to the RTH crew for posting this. I really appreciate it.

What I found most upsetting was that, in my opinion, these comments weren't necessarily from the same clowns. Sure, there were a couple that would attempt to go head-to-head with CharterRights -- who would quickly dispose of their stereotypes and scapegoating with actual education. But, the wide range of people, many of whom were decently written and, by all other accounts, came across as 'intelligent', who spouted this stuff really made me question how tolerant and progressive we really are. I mean, we are in fairly close proximity to a few First Nation territories -- how can these opinions be this prevalent?!? And, self-included, the education about key treaties and relationship with Canada is either non-existent or grossly imbalanced.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2011 at 21:35:05

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 09:12:03 in reply to Comment 60487

Not sure about that. Charter simply has first-hand knowledge of the more detailed points of Haudenosaunee/ Canadian relations. Stuff we are completely in the dark on. We tend to blanket 'governing' in to one corrupt group. In reality, much of the pillaging has come at the hands of the federally installed band council -- who the vast majority see as an effort in assimilation.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2011 at 21:36:42

comment from banned user deleted

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 00:22:11 in reply to Comment 60488

Sorry, I won't accept this. Blatchford is a nut with an anti-native agenda.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 00:28:27 in reply to Comment 60495

To give a flavour, her book was entitled "Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us"

That's a balanced account? Horsehockey. It's a tongue job on the nutjobs who have tried to inflame the Caledonia situation.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 11:00:56 in reply to Comment 60496

Anybody else not find it odd that blocking a subdivision development is seen as a "nightmare" -- regardless of the reasons why? Generally, people moan and groan about these developments and jump for joy if they fall through.

Comment edited by slodrive on 2011-03-02 11:01:16

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 21:21:52 in reply to Comment 60539

Admittedly, other than the fact that it was on disputed land, there wasn't much wrong with the development, although it was in the very early stages. It would have made sense for a development to go there.

Equally admittedly, while the original protest was a complete non-issue, once Judge Marshall got trigger-happy with the contempt orders the situation burst into a very big and disruptive protest (and then counter-protest, and then counter-counter-protest) that was really crappy for Caledonia, and those matters got worse when outside agitators started flooding in on a mission to escalate matters.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 03, 2011 at 10:18:10 in reply to Comment 60618

My only retort (if you will -- though, not really disagreeing) is that the video of those late-night rallies that included an incredible number of people who were clearly (though, sure, not beyond a shadow of a doubt) residents of Caledonia taunting and throwing stones at the people on the site was really what changed my perspective entirely.

Thankfully, there was independent video -- since, for some reason, the news outlets didn't seem to notice -- but, it was these videos that made me completely re-evaluate my opinion of the situation.

Rightly or wrongly, it has certainly made me scrutinize the opinions of the locals on the subject. I certainly don't paint everyone with the same brush, but unfortunately, its harder to accept certain assertions/ opinions after witnessing some of that. (That's also not to condone the idiotic antics that took place on the other side,either.)

Comment edited by slodrive on 2011-03-03 10:19:18

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By Cal (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2011 at 22:47:42

Racism, discrimination, reverse discrimination are all terms that we are used to hearing. I don't think there is such a thing as reverse discrimination. Discrimination is discrimination and it is wrong, agnostic to who is its target. I don't think it has "gears". I shudder when I hear the term "reverse discrimination".

Good article. I hope the recent coverage does not unduly inflame the situation and I hope that those that are trying to find a solution, find one respectfully.

Cal DiFalco

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By hammertime (registered) | Posted March 01, 2011 at 23:08:28

Would be nice if the Harper government stepped up to the plate instead of ignoring the situation the past 5 yrs..

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 00:02:50

My favourite aspect of all this racist nonsense is the way McHale and company constantly complain of a "two-tiered justice system". Natives in Canada are far more likely to be thrown in jail than others, more likely to be victims of crime, die in police custody, or any other justice-related statistic you can name. Native people are 1.4% of Ontario's population, but 8% of our prison population (and the western stats are worse). There clearly is a two-tiered justice system, and it clearly does not benefit natives. And while this is mentioned often in official reports, it's almost never mentioned in the media when McHale and his buddies make these outlandish claims.


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By jtford (registered) | Posted March 04, 2011 at 13:09:50 in reply to Comment 60494

Ridiculous! Why do people think life choices are equality based? If certain people break the law and they end up making a slightly larger percent of the prison population, then so what! What have percents of population got to do with it? Its like saying there is a disproportionate number of men in prison! Nobody crunches those numbers.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted March 07, 2011 at 18:40:25 in reply to Comment 60710

They've done a number of studies that show that if you're caught with drugs you are far more likely to do time if you're black than if you're white.

Race definitely factors into these things as do economic issues.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2011 at 10:06:41 in reply to Comment 60494

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 14:54:22 in reply to Comment 60494

Where is your cause and effect? Just because the percentage of natives in the general population does not equal the percentage in our jails is no proof of discrimination. If any other group had done what the natives did in Caledonia the OPP and or the RCMP would have thrown their sorry butts in jail. Can you imagine if a group of pro whites decided to block the main road into the reserve? Do you think the OPP would have simply stood by and stopped the natives from confronting the protesters? The OPP were sued and quietly paid off the worst of the non-native claims.

As far as the comments in the spec I believe that is just the backlash from people who are fed up with the refusal of the authorities to deal with the problem in a fair and impartial manner.

The natives want it both ways. They do not want to pay taxes and yet they want Canada and/or Ontario to help them. They need more drinking water capacity and want the senior levels of government to pay for it. Why should they?

Have you driven through the reserve? Have you seen the difference between the typical house on the reserve and the typical house off the reserve just down the road?

I know a couple of hard working very nice natives and the one thing they have in common is they both want nothing to do with the "low life scum on the reservation." (their words not mine)

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 03, 2011 at 08:48:34 in reply to Comment 60594

If you knew the differences/ difficulties of getting a mortgage on a reserve, you'd understand. Or, did you pay cash for your house?

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2011 at 09:40:35 in reply to Comment 60649

What do mortgage difficulties have to do with routine maintenance and looking after the yard? Cut the grass, plant a flower or a shrub, throw a coat of paint on the wall from time to time. Last time I checked nobody took out a mortgage for things like that.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 07, 2011 at 10:06:04 in reply to Comment 60741

Well, if lack of yard maintenance is that big of an issue, you could pretty much go through any neighbourhood in the city and have some kind of beef.

I dunno, I've talked to a few people about this as well. Some simply don't see manicured nature as being 'better' than what we would consider 'overgrowth'. These are subjective enhancements that when analyzed, are pretty trivial -- bordering on waste-of-time and/or resources. Maybe they are the ones that get it.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted March 03, 2011 at 08:12:27 in reply to Comment 60594

The real question isn't "What do the natives want", it's "What are the treaty responsibilities that the Feds aren't meeting".

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By jtford (registered) | Posted March 04, 2011 at 13:13:24 in reply to Comment 60645

The real question is... is there a real viable claim to the land?
All these years especially now and nothing has happened.
Don't you really think if the government found a real claim it would want to make all this go away? Think about it!

Also, I don't care how wronged you feel, you don't break the law! Two wrongs do not make a right! We have this thing called a civil lawsuit, if you have proof, then get suing!

Comment edited by jtford on 2011-03-04 13:14:49

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 21:26:19 in reply to Comment 60594

I won't put up with racist scum posting lies here.

The Crown has made commitments to the Six Nations and to other aboriginal peoples. That is a trust that it cannot abandon. Promises made need to be promises kept, otherwise the cessions of land and forfeiture of rights of self-determination that were made in view of those promises are null and void.

As to your last comment, that is beneath contempt - you won't even stand behind it, you craven coward. I have family on the reserve - good people, all hardworking, and each worth a hundred of your worthless butt.

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2011 at 12:47:48 in reply to Comment 60619

Case and point. You are racist scum for asking a legitimate question that involves a First Nations issue.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2011 at 09:56:28 in reply to Comment 60619

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By rednic (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 01:05:16

I read the spec article and the comments where over the top or course you missed my comment which ( IMHO) was not racist it went something like this ; 'One can assume MacHales Supporters also complain about too much immigration'.

Racism against aboriginals seems like the last acceptable form of racism ... But in my books hamilton actually does pretty well on this score .. In 25 years of downtown toronto i can never recall being served by a native person in a retail environment. Here that is almost a daily occurrence.

There will always be a few goofs (i may be talking about myself ) on comment boards but IMHO hamilton does much better on this front than our supposedly world class neighbor, The scary part is, it is not even on the radar of our world class neighbor ..

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 01:43:19

do you think similar statements would be acceptable if directed toward any other groups within our community?

Not by the majority, but then statements like these aren't accepted by the majority when directed at First Nations, either. As rednic noted, it is common to see equally ugly statements made about recent immigrants and/or Muslims, and articles about St. Leonard's house and area rating have been followed by hateful comments directed against the poor and downtrodden, often broadly defined as anyone living in the lower city.

Recent articles about comments made by a judge in Manitoba and a police officer in Toronto suggesting that women who dress a certain way invite rape, brought out a frightening level approval of the judge and the officer's attitudes. I hadn't heard such appalling statements made about women in decades.

There is a certain element in the fever swamps of the Spec comment sections, that's infected by a fear and loathing of the vulnerable and marginalized. Sometimes it manifests itself in classism, sometimes in sexism, and in today's example, racism.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 07:34:33

I gave up expecting balanced and polite conversation in newspaper comboxes a long time ago. Regular hijacking by trolls, and then organized groups flooding comboxes with comments arguing for their side (or not even arguing, just posting something like, "Yes! So-and-so is absolutely right!"), means no one learns anything, or even comes to respect and understand those whose take is different from their own (I am of course talking about legitimate sides to any question, here-- certainly a racist post is not a legitimate argument).

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 07:51:27 in reply to Comment 60507

Yeah, this is a good point. Newspaper sites in particular are infested with the ravings of the deranged. Attention-seekers. The problem is similar to talk radio but writ very large - even talk radio has standards of decorum and discourse that go unenforced by newspapers on their comment sections. Why they choose to publish the ravings of people that they would never publish in print is a mystery to me, but newspapers have never "gotten" the internet.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 08:53:37

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 09:16:28 in reply to Comment 60513

While true, I could never imagine the "n" word being posted on a comment section and being allowed to stay their for an extended period of time. However, I came across at least one use of the word "injun", which, has many of the same properties and sting when used by non-natives. So, they may not be acceptable, but they are certainly more accepted.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 09:27:02 in reply to Comment 60518

You're correct. And I didn't mean to imply in my comment that the racist comments directed at aboriginals should be minimized in any way just because other groups are targeted as well. Even the vast majority of trolls would not tolerate anti-semitism or the 'n' word, as you say.

However, the groups I mentioned in my comment have come in for some equally hateful comments. My point was the common thread between these targetted groups was their marginalization rather than their skin colour, and it is their marginalization that makes racism toward First Nations 'acceptable' in certain circles - the same circles that feel comfortable directing hate at other vulnerable groups as well.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 09:28:32

I have also been rather disgusted at the incredible level of ignorance and blind hate displayed by the majority of spec commenters on these issues, but at the same time it doesn't surprise me. They display the same ignorance in most articles on the site.

I would think that the more affluent members of our community are more educated of native issues and certainly not likely to toss around the same generalizations.

I spent much time researching and talking with native friends of mine in the years following the land claim dispute and was glad that I did, instead of just blindly following the hate. I wish that others could put forth the same effort.

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By jtford (registered) | Posted March 04, 2011 at 13:19:41 in reply to Comment 60520

You react to hot heads who should be ignored if they say offensive things, by only listening to the native side? Why not the government, or the negotiators?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 09:33:11 in reply to Comment 60520

I wish that others could put forth the same effort.

Aye, there's the rub. It requires effort.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 09:58:03 in reply to Comment 60522

True -- but not much effort. Google can be an enormous help and the forums (which, I believe have become inactive) allowed one to chat openly and honestly with Haudenosaunee people. Which, I gotta say -- and perhaps this is a stereotype of mine, but man are they tolerant of boneheaded white guys. Most are more than happy to engage in a discussion if you show up with an even somewhat open mind. I pretty much laid all my latent-racism and ignorance on the table and, so long as I was willing to listen, received some enlightening education (including links, references, etc.) to help round my perspective.

It's amazing how much you can learn when you just ask.

Comment edited by slodrive on 2011-03-02 09:58:26

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 10:25:49

I can only imagine the sort of abuse I'm opening myself up to here, but what the heck.

Bigotry, not racism

I don't see much racism in the comments quoted in this article. I see prejudice, negative stereotypes and also bigotry. I hear obnoxious tones and see some really unhelpful rhetoric. I see scapegoating of 'the other'. But not racism.

People from Six Nations are being painted with a broad brush in Spec comment threads, but the accusations are mostly based on exaggerations of real behaviour from people who come from the reserve.

Local Natives are not, for the most part, being dismissed or put down for being Native - they're being put down because of associations many Hamiltonians have with residents of the Six Nations reserve.

There are clearly problems associated with people from Six Nations: poverty, theft, diabetes, alcoholism, unemployment. And it's Natives who most suffer for the problems - not people from the larger community.

Prejudice not always unhelpful

It's generally neither fair nor helpful to judge people by their most obvious group affiliation and the behaviours we associate with that group. But it's not always wrong and it's sometimes wise: I'm a little bit more polite and careful than usual when in a biker bar in Quebec; I avoid groups of young men late at night downtown; I assume that a group of university students who are sort-of loud and drunk at 6:00 pm will only get louder and drunker (and so I call by-law when I would not if my grown-up neighbours were sort-of loud and drunk).

'Racist' is an unhelpful stereotype

'Racism' is a loaded, show-stopping term ...

'The Six Nations Indians are car thieves!'

'You're racist!'

'No, I'm not!'

... no room for progress there.

We should correct unfair generalizations. But flinging the epithet of ultimate opprobrium at people who have a small-minded handle on the problems does not the problems clearer to us or to them. It just makes us feel superior to 'racists' while distracting use from the the truths that can lie amidst the flung muck.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-03-02 10:27:53

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 11:28:28 in reply to Comment 60530


Really interesting post. Very thought-provoking -- appreciate you sharing it. I certainly agree and see validity in the prejudice theorizing.

My only thought would be that many of the barbs used in the comments are the manifestation of racism.

The assertion that "indians" (at best, an questionable label) are lazy and dependent on white-man guidance and handouts - devoid of any sociological context-- screams racism to me. And most don't seem to infer much distinction between on-reserve or off-reserve natives. Perhaps that's my own bias, though.

I don't think anyone, inside or outside the Haudenosaunee community, would argue that there aren't major problems that need to be fixed. Not unlike any community -- particularly those where resources are thin; and exponentially more evident in communities where structural racism has a history.

My only concern is that what we are seeing are the loudest, most obnoxious members of the community. Like with any issue or opinion, it can be an indicator there are many who share similar beliefs but are simply less vocal.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 12:23:22 in reply to Comment 60545

My only concern is that what we are seeing are the loudest, most obnoxious members of the community. Like with any issue or opinion, it can be an indicator there are many who share similar beliefs but are simply less vocal.

Perhaps. But it can also mean that people with more moderate opinions and temperate and considerate ways of expressing them choose not to engage with the loudest and most obnoxious and so refrain from posting in a combox that has already become populated with such.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 11:39:55 in reply to Comment 60545

My only thought would be that many of the barbs used in the comments are the manifestation of racism.

I agree with you, slodrive - I generally assume the same thing. But note that I say "assume."

To condemn loud-mouth critics of the Six Nations as racists because they sound like redneck hicks to us - we, the urban, urbane and understanding tolerant class - is to engage in a very similar sort of stereotyping. Just like the loud-mouth so-called racist, we get to feel smug and superior without the bother of understanding what lies at the root of the objectionable behaviour.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-03-02 11:44:20

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 11:04:00 in reply to Comment 60530

On the other hand....

I'm not racist, BUT "Wouldn't it be nice if the army could just bomb the reserve and blow them off the map?"

I'm not racist, BUT "where do you think the "thugs" of hamilton get there guns"

I'm not racist, BUT "I am sure when Natives go out and steal from people in Ancaster or rip people off downtown - they are doing the right thing?"

I see what you're trying to say but these comments don't pass the "I'm not a racist BUT" smell test.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 11:16:52 in reply to Comment 60540

The first statement in nobrainer's post is almost incendiary enough to pass for racism, I guess. But mostly what I see are attacks on a group of people from a place - a place associated with crime and poverty, not entirely unfairly.

"Goddam Indians - they're always drunk and aren't capable of doing honest work." That's racist.

"The Six Nations is a nest of car thieves and gun smugglers." That's an exaggeration and an unfair generalization which contains some truth that we ignore at the expense of understanding conflicts between the Six Nations and the surrounding communities.

"Asian's can't be trusted." That's racism.

"Wow - Korean immigrants are crazy drivers." That's an exaggeration and an unfair generalization which contains some truth which we might at least consider before loaning our van to that nice Mr. Park next door.

"Racist" is pretty much the worse non-criminal thing we can accuse someone of. We cheapen our arguments and devalue the meaning of "racism" by using it to describe bigotry and unpalatable stereotyping.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-03-02 12:21:49

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 11:38:12 in reply to Comment 60543

"Racist" is pretty much the worse non-criminal thing we can accuse someone of. We abuse the term by using it to describe bigotry and stereotyping."

This is true. But (brace for some exaggeration of my own here), is there another explanation why people would come out in droves because a housing development was blocked?? Generally, I'd say we're a pretty passive group who barely bat an eye when sludge incinerators are being proposed. If an open stretch of land near my neighbourhood was saved from development I know that my neighbours would be quite happy. But, if the "indians" were behind it, would that change their opinion? More than anything, that's a race-based decision.

I agree with the heaviness of the term. But, perhaps we are simply too afraid to use it? Perhaps not enough shame is levied on those who promote, at the least, very close-minded views of situations they are likely quite ignorant of.

Comment edited by slodrive on 2011-03-02 11:39:14

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 13:28:33 in reply to Comment 60547

I take a lot of the anti-aboriginal comments as expressions of the same notion of 'reverse racism' mouthed by Tea Partiers against Obama over the last few years. I'm sure it's been around since reconstruction.

This idea is repugnant, and couched in language of equality. The idea is that now that we are free of our historical baggage, which a black president or post-Delgamuukw treaty environment offers a glimpse of - then white people can finally get a taste of that one argument that's always been off the table, marginalization. It's a convenient time for white people to claim equality when aboriginal people finally are getting Constitutional rights protected and affirmed.

So I don't have much sympathy with the sentiment that 'maybe this is not racism' or 'maybe Aboriginal people are racists too.' I don't deny these are logical possibilities, but given what we've already heard, given our history, this is again a pretty convenient place to take a brave ideological stand on the basis of common sense and equality.

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By Realist (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 10:50:21

Just a matter of time before we have a Wounded Knee incident in Caledonia. You have everyone there standing in a growing puddle of gasoline, one small match will set off the inferno.

WK was a disaster for the natives even though they had widespread sympathy from the general public.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 21:34:08 in reply to Comment 60535

I have family on the reserve, I'm there several times a month. I'd make an observation.

People I talk to are angry at SN, but very few are violent. There is tremendous frustration at a land claims process or accounting process that takes decades to spin itself out, for sure, and that can cause anger when the community develops a feeling that it is under attack. (A number of the angriest ones you see in footage, also, are activists who come from outside for big events.)

SN has big, big problems. It's also a really engaged community where a lot of people are working on solutions, and many more people are much more engaged in constructive solutions than in playing a blame game. The community's making great strides - not always ones I consider positive, but great strides.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 11:42:26

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 13:19:35 in reply to Comment 60549

My experience is apparently not encompassed by your expectations of the denizens of here, Mr. What. Because I have no idea.

What do you think was the (apparently hard for "us" to swallow) opinion of Caledonians to the Douglas Creeks Estate?

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 13:53:02 in reply to Comment 60572

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 12:05:03

If you have ever been in court, or in a formal setting that involves a so called "Native" issue - the second that you disagree - or even dare to question - those representing said Native issue (ie legal counsel, First Nations spokes people or elders etc.) you are first told that you need to be "educated" and if you still disagree you are accused of being "racist".

As Christine Blatchford legitimately points out - there are some very serious issues stemming from Caledonia that have to do with law and order and policing - and have nothing to do with race.

As for "Racism in Hamilton Appalling" - one could just as easily go onto some of the Six Nations oriented news outlets and find a series of almost the exact same comments directed against non-Natives - "Racism on Six Nations Appalling" is equally applicable.

The bottom line - as Moylek points out, calling racism is a common tactic used to stifle honest discussion about real issues.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 21:45:41 in reply to Comment 60561

If you have ever been in court, or in a formal setting that involves a so called "Native" issue - the second that you disagree - or even dare to question - those representing said Native issue (ie legal counsel, First Nations spokes people or elders etc.) you are first told that you need to be "educated" and if you still disagree you are accused of being "racist".

Yeah, and this is horsecrap (I know I am intemperate tonight, but people are making oracular pronouncements based on nothing).

Look, I've negotiated deals on the other side from bands, from native-run businesses, from groups and federations of aboriginal people. Are there unique legal issues in dealing with native people? Yes, there are. Are native people particularly obstructionist with it? In my experience, no, they are not. I often find myself explaining legal concepts to my non-native clients and my fellow lawyers, when these matters arise.

But it's no different from trying to negotiate a deal under Islamic finance, or where canon or admiralty or military law is an issue, or in fact even a Canada-US crossborder deal, or even a deal across provincial borders! (Especially with Quebec)

There is often a touchiness in such situations, that arises from what I consider to be a systematic history of white devaluing of aboriginal law and custom. I honestly don't think that many people feel that way anymore. But it really does mean that there needs to be active listening - and real and honest attempts to make anything from a commercial contract to a fundraising campaign sensitive to the different customs, traditions and legal systems. It's just good lawyering, it's just good business.

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2011 at 12:36:36 in reply to Comment 60621

First of all - my "pronouncements" are based on my personal experience in court involving First Nations issues. My personal experience may be different than yours - but its hardly "horsecrap".

To be frank - court decisions must always be based on fact and rule of law - not some vague sensitivity to any special interest group's customs, traditions or legal systems.

Trying to pussyfoot around First Nations issues - instead of addressing them openly, head-on is a huge part of the problem.

For example, it may be considered a devaluation of aboriginal law and custom, and insensitive to First Nations customs, traditions and legal systems to ask a First Nations elder for some proof of the validity of the oral history they have presented in court - but questioning a witness to establish fact is an essential part of our legal system.

Do I need to be "educated" in First Nations traditions to understand that it is insensitive (at best) to question an elder's wisdom?

Is it "racist" to ask the question anyway?

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By adrian (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 22:30:39 in reply to Comment 60621

(Tybalt, you should consider writing an article for RTH.)

One of the most interesting and informative books I've ever read that dealt with a lot of native history is "What Is America?" by Ronald Wright. This is a book about the history of the United States and how that has created the culture and society of America today, but given the importance of native Americans to that history, much of the book is about that.

The book utterly dispells the myth of the "savage Indian", describing instead sophisticated agricultural societies. For example: many of our crops were domesticated by natives (e.g. maize, potatoes, sweet potatoes, manico, beans and squash); the New World had "towns, roads, governments, priesthoods, armies, art and architecture, books and archives"; by the mid-1820s the Cherokee Nation had higher rates of literacy than in the United States; various native American governments sent diplomats on diplomatic missions to the Old World, including the Cherokees and Iroquois, acting as full representatives of nation states.

I don't think many people realize that although whites destroyed many native societies, they also allied and entered into treaties with many native societies, and those treaties are still legally binding. That of course requires some knowledge of history, which is not a strong point of North Americans, but there you have it.

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By Wayne K. Spear (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 12:26:00

Nia:wen (thank-you) Chris! There is such a disappointing lack of communication between people, and of course lack of dialogue leads to lack of understanding.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 12:28:22

"Is there another explanation why people would come out in droves because a housing development was blocked?"

I think it has to do with the means by which it is blocked as much as the actors. If you're talking about an MOE appeal for an incinerator or OMB appeal for a WalMart, that's one thing; even if you're pro-sludge/pro-WalMart, you're only ever going to get so steamed. The community at large may even be able to forget that there is an ongoing dispute that is dragging on for weeks, months, years.

On the other hand, if you're talking about an occupation or barricade that gives rise to an enormously expensive application of police resources and results in heightened neighbourhood tensions and reduced quality of life, I suspect that the "battle lines" in an an ongoing dispute that is dragging on for weeks, months, years would be considerably more pronounced, regardless of who the actors in the drama are, whatever the details of their socioeconomic circumstance or ethnicity.

In the case of Caledonia, moreover, you're also talking about a relatively isolated population of (according to Wikipedia) around 44,000, in around 4,000 households – so when you've got up to 1,000 protestors combined on the front lines, you're touching a considerable nerve.

Imagine, for example, Hamilton's millenial Red Hill protests replayed with 6,000-11,000 protestors (pro and con) and imagine how public opinion, informed or otherwise, might have been even more inflamed than it already was given the comparatively small number of tree-huggers prepared to lay it on the line.

A complicated equation, and not one with simple answers.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 12:40:32 in reply to Comment 60565

Further to my closing comparison, I am reminded that it was not merely "tree-huggers" (not meant as a pejorative) but that members of the Six Nations Confederacy were among the contingent of protestors who took part in the Red Hill Valley endgame.


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By Brandon (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 13:23:24

I think the real problem here is understanding who dealt in bad faith.

The natives have legitimate issues based on treaties that they signed in good faith but were trampled on by the government and ignored for decades. Now there are a number of good native lawyers who looked at the issues and realized that they are owed something.

The people of Caledonia, however, bought their land and their homes in good faith with no idea of the minefield that they were wading in to and, justifiably, are upset by the whole thing. Naturally, it's the "troublemaker" who gets the blame instead of the faceless bureaucrats who caused all the problems in the first place.

What's the solution? Beyond me, but there's a heck of a lot more going on below the surface than is immediately apparent or known to most of the commentators.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 21:52:02 in reply to Comment 60573

I'd be careful here Brandon. The purported cession of the Haldimand tract, which really lies at the heart of this dispute, was not a treaty, and was never agreed to by the Haudenosaunee.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted March 03, 2011 at 08:21:04 in reply to Comment 60622

Fair enough, it was more of a general comment about land claims rather than a specific comment about this particular issue.

The point stands though that someone illegitimately decided that the land was available and claimed it and everyone after that probably acted in good faith. That original person (or group) is responsible for all the problems, but unraveling them is never simple.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 23:03:22 in reply to Comment 60622

I'm no expert ( or lawyer ) but is this not why the treaties need to be examined and a determination made once and for all .. As a nation we bring closure to many injustices ( the head tax , Japanese internment ) but when it comes to this issue ( native rights / honour ) nothing is done for generations ...

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 15:34:56 in reply to Comment 60573

That further supports my thoughts that the neighbours should be on the side of the Haudenosaunee. At the end of the day, the protesting was against government inaction. The claim was made in the mid-90's. If I purchased land from the government, and wasn't informed of such a claim to the property, I'm going to be mighty peeved with the under-handed seller. And, certainly wouldn't be harbouring ill-will against the claimant -- since, if the shoe was on the other foot, I'd be doing the same thing.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 13:48:13

No surprises there. I think the main reason I grew up never seeing any racism was simply because Westdale is such an insulated community... I don't think I ever met any natives.

I know people in Brantford where the natives are far more integrated into the community, and from what I've heard there are far more issues surrounding racism there.

Does anybody remember the anti-Muslim political cartoons that used to decorate the diner in the Mountain Mall?

Either way, the province bears much of the blame for fomenting these racist feelings. They sat on their hands and offered neither negotiation, compensation, or police action. They just let the protests go on and on and on no matter what disruptions happened.

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By Feds (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 14:12:14 in reply to Comment 60579

Place the blame where it lies, with the Feds. They're the only ones who can negotiate with Six Nations over the treaties the Federal government signed, but they've been entirely out of the picture. All the Province could do was try to keep the violence to a minimum, which they did a decent job of (Remember Mike Harris and Oka?).

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 14:03:09

The difference between "racism" and bigotry and prejudice, as far as my academic training and reading is concerned, is mostly contextual.

Bigotry and prejudice are feelings people have - they may not like natives, black people or Muslims, but while they might occasionally gripe about it to friends, it doesn't translate into larger forces or actions. Racism, on the other hand, involves more than talk. Redlining - the process in which black neighbourhoods were refused mortgages for decades by banks, for instance, was racist. As is the continual targeting of native people by Canadian police, or black and Hispanic people by American cops. These aren't just talk - there's huge bodies of evidence studying their methods and consequences.

When is talk racist? When biotry reinforces broader racism. This relates to specific kinds of "talk" - speech which is public, influential, and advocates racism. For instance, somebody with a relatively privileged position using a public forum to advocate these kinds of actions. When talk-radio hosts endorse racial profiling with stereotypes about black people - that is racist. As is having a bumper sticker that supports Klan lynchings.

So, by this measure, are the quoted statements racist? Yes. They take place in a clearly public forum, encourage military action against Six Nations, contain many hateful stereotypes (geared at encouraging the use of force) and a thorough ignorance of all the surrounding issues.

Oh, and by the way, y'all know that white supremacists have been involved, right? http://www.stormfront.org/forum/t354309/

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 14:45:24 in reply to Comment 60581

Man, I hate to be the one to do it, but I'm going to play the D-card ...

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Racism 1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2: racial prejudice or discrimination

Racism is a belief - it might lead to racist public talk, or action, or neither.

One can even be a benign or even a very kind racist - my family is Southern and I'm related to a few lovely racists who are kind to everyone, regardless of race. And of course, someone can be a bigoted jerk without being a racist.

I'm not out to score pedantry points by challenging undustrial on his definition. It's just that racism is a special and odious kind of prejudice based on race, not just "really bad bigotry against an identifiable group" or "bigotry + action".

Let us take bigotry and obnoxious buffoonery for what it is: denouncing it as racism just makes us feel smugly superior. Besides, racists, in general, are immune to argument.

But bigots of various stripes and shades are all around us - we know them, they are our neighbours and family and co-workers. And the less stripy and shady can, in fact, be reasoned with. Though we must beware that sometimes we will discover through reasoned discussion that their negative prejudices are not entirely unfair.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-03-02 15:01:37

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2011 at 11:57:27 in reply to Comment 60590

Sigh, the D-Card. God forbid someone actually open a school book.

Racism isn't just a bunch of nasty "rednecks" who hate coloured folk. That, too, is a fairly bigoted slur in itself. Racism is a social phenomenon, and it's far more widespread and insidious. It isn't just a belief, but a widely articulated ideology of subjugation, and intimately linked to oppression and marginalization of racial groups. The history of modern racism lies primarily in slavery and the colonial era, as a means of justifying slavery and conquest. While Africans and their descendent might be the best known/studied (European views on Africa were very different before ~1500 AD), as a complex web of racism rose to defend slavery, and "keep them down" after it ended. This also involved Indigenous peoples of the Americas, as they earned their own set of racist myths as "primitives", "pagans" and "savages" for the purpose of taking their lands.

The above-quoted comments clearly fit into this pattern - they make negative characterizations about native people (as violent criminals, etc), reject their rights and encourage swift action from the establishment. Oh, and they are in fact supported by vocally white supremacist groups. If it walks, quacks, and looks just like a duck...

Some (official) background: http://www.un.org/WCAR/e-kit/indigenous....

I don't agree at all that "racists are immune to argument". Prejudice exists everywhere, and people change all the time. Racists change all the time, as do sexists, homophobes, or any other group of prejudiced people - attitudes change. Racist individuals are not the problem. Racism as a social phenomena is.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 15:39:12 in reply to Comment 60590

LOL! "The D-card". Again, great post. Really appreciate your perspective on this. Never really thought of it that way.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 17:58:28

I have read a lot of the comments here and both sides have points that have merit. I think the frustration in Caledonia stems from the fact that for both sides the government dropped the ball. Whether the Six Nations claim has merit or not, there is a proper forum to express it. The courts. Being aboriginal does not absolve one or a group or a Band from acting outside of the rule of law in this country. Blatchford's book deals almost exclusively with this issue. It does not make any attempt to analyze or assign blame to one side or the other with respect to the land claim. Its sole subject is the break down of the rule of law, the failure of the government to instruct the OPP to enforce the law and the abandonment that a community felt over the issue.

If any non native individual participated in the activities that transpired in Caledonia (and are captured on video tape), they would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The G20 summit and its aftermath is simple proof of that. Anarchists that participated in property destruction, violence and the destruction of police vehicles and equipment are being hunted down and prosecuted. They should be. That certainly did not happen in Caledonia.

Wait for it........ here they come...... the accusations of bigotry and racism......

Should I bother to post an image of my band card from the Aboriginal Community of Maniwaki ?

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 18:10:42 in reply to Comment 60606

Maniwaki...home of Gino Odjick!! (I think).

My only issue with that is that when the formal process fails -- as in, when a land claim is filed in 1995, formally accepted, then the land gets sold -- there's understandably limited confidence in the process.

The first step was occupying the land. Ignorable civil disobedience. The fun seemed to start once the police raids and late night gatherings/ shenanigans began.

And, funny you mention that about non-native activity. There were members of OCAP there, on the site, participating in the civil disobedience, who reported being bypassed by law enforcement.

Guess why.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted March 02, 2011 at 19:19:19

The fun started when the Mohawk Confederacy hijacked the protest to suit their own agenda. I'm not familiar enough with the claim to comment on whether or not the DC lands fell inside the claim lands. I do know that the developer bought the land in good faith, it passed all due dilligence in land transfer offices, the OMB, and now that man is out of pocket millions, and out of business as far as I know.

I should be more specific. What I meant to say was that, had a non native person, or persons or representatives of a group, whether they had a legitimate beef or not, participated in the types of activity displayed in Caledonia, say in downtown Hamilton, they would have been labeled thugs, arrested and prosecuted. I then used G20 as a reference.

Once the activity moved off the DC land and into Caledonia, it ceased being civil disobedience and flagrantly stepped over the line into criminal activity.

Don't even get me started on OCAP.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2011-03-02 19:24:00

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 03, 2011 at 10:08:46 in reply to Comment 60612

Mohawk Confederacy?? Not sure what you mean. I do remember the two guy who tried to sue, I believe, the Haudenosaunee for a kajillion, or something, claiming it was entirely Mohawk territory. Not sure that generated more than laughter.

Oh, and I hear ya about OCAP. I was simply relaying that example -- not necessarily an endorsement!! But, I do understand what you're saying there. Definitely see your point.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 23:09:50 in reply to Comment 60612

'Don't even get me started on OCAP.' they made it out of downtown toronto ? Whoa... i have to lie down for a sec all this stuff happening in the world and now this ..

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By hammertime (registered) | Posted March 02, 2011 at 23:32:57

Actually I think the builder did all right by the McGuinty gov. buying him out. The guy is probably retired on some island with all our millions..

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2011 at 23:06:24

I've never understood how the Spec. manages to come down on the wrong side of 'fair minded' in such a blatant way on a number of issues.

O.K., so they don't want to be The Star. They want to be distinctly 'Hamilton'. Perhaps Not so P.C.-? But this is not they way to do it!

The Land Claim is in the hands of the Federal Government. Maybe it has disappeared up a sleeve? Maybe it dropped out of their hands & rolled under a table?

Maybe as we speak, a team of geologists are looking for the banks of the Grande River, as it was when this treaty was signed...(Shooor they are.... :{

The longer the Gov. delays, the longer the Gov. delays. It's worked for over a hundred years, & much longer in many places in Canada. Why would they mess with a static but winning strategy now?

(Somebody said "If the claim had any validity, why would the Gov. drag their feet?" I'd say if the Land Claim has validity, that would be an indication of Why they are dragging their feet. If they drag it out long enough, maybe it will just...go away..?)
If there was no validity, it would have been settled -Yesterday!

The Spec. should just STOP stirrin' it up in that kind of lurid language. It just makes them look Goober-ish.

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