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Setting the record straight

Sue MacDonell's 'inappropriate' comments aren't helping anyone, and they're wrong

Sue MacDonell is the former director of an Ontario Progressive Conservative riding association (the Bay of Quinte electoral district to be exact). She recently resigned from the position after some insensitive and racist posts — simply called "inappropriate" by her EDA — she’d written on Facebook came to light. Mrs. Universe winner Ashley Callingbull-Burnham was one target, as were, well, all Indigenous people in Canada.

“Ewww....what a nasty piece of work this one is,” MacDonnell wrote about the pageant winner, after Callingbull-Burnham spoke up, encouraging Indigenous people to vote in the federal election.


Via huffingtonpost.ca

And back in January:

"If Indians want to eradicate racism, then assimilate. Ditch the Halloween costumes…and adopt 20th Century dress, leave the reserves, stop acceding to demands made by chiefs who live like millionaires while their subjects live in poverty, find unemployment, stop demanding money you haven’t earned, become educated and join our society.”

Where to even begin? Here's a quick attempt to set the record straight for anyone who might agree with Sue MacDonell: 

“If Indians want to eradicate racism, then assimilate”

These words suggests Indigenous people are to blame for racism in Canada. That’s ridiculous, like blaming a pedestrian for getting hit by a car.

Anyone who knows about Canada’s history of colonization, the dark history of residential schools and trying to take the Indian out of Indigenous children, should know that Indigenous culture, different from western cultures, is not the reason racism exists. And assimilating isn’t going to solve Canada’s race problems.

“Ditch the Halloween costumes… and adopt 20th Century dress”

Traditional dress is an important part of Indigenous cultures and is often plays an important ceremonial role. Our clothing is also gorgeous. Whether it’s beadwork, intricate patterns on a dress or handcrafted moccasins, there is nothing like the clothes we make and wear. We can blend these traditions with jeans and t-shirts, with cocktail dresses or business suits, and it’s beautiful.

And ask yourself, when was the last time you saw someone walking down the street in full regalia? Ditch the Halloween costumes? Please.

“Leave the reserves…”

According to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, about 52 per cent of First Nations people in Canada live on reserves or on Crown land. That means that almost half live off reserve, many of them in urban centres.

And, according to the 2011 Census, urban Aboriginal people (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) make up the fastest growing segment of Canadian society. 

“Stop acceding to demands made by chiefs who live like millionaires while their subjects live in poverty”

Most of us have seen the headlines, the stories of the remarkable amount of money some chiefs make. But dig a little deeper and it’s not difficult to see that something like a $900,000 salary is way beyond what's typical.

A Toronto Star analysis showed that the median salary for chiefs is $60,000. The paper’s analysis showed that five of the nearly 600 chiefs audited by the government took home more than $200,000 in a year, but that 42 received less than $10,000. Eight of these received no salary for their work. The view that chiefs are living like millionaires is nothing but a misbelief and stereotype.

“Stop demanding money you haven’t earned, become educated and join our society”

So Indigenous people are living on the land like savages, uneducated, far from mainstream society, eschewing modernity and electricity and the internet? And the only use they see from any government is for handouts? 

None of this is true. Indigenous people of all sorts of backgrounds are equipping themselves with a good education, with degrees and diplomas, to ensure they can fight to make their lives, and the lives of their friends and family members, better. We also know that education is key to fighting things like cycles of poverty, cycles of violence, addictions and a whole swath of other issues.

Indigenous people are not lazy, are not only looking for government handouts. Many of us have been caught within negative systems and cycles but so many of us are fighting and working hard.

For those who agree with MacDonell, we'll just let A Tribe Called Red see you out.

 

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