Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Sunday, June 16, 2019

Canada’s hands are not clean

For years, I have railed against the policies of white supremacists – principally in the U.S., because of the daily deluge of news that spills north across the border, but also in New Zealand/Aotearoa, France, Germany, wherever….

            But I am now forced to recognize that Canada has been, and to some extent still is, a white supremacist nation. More specifically, a male white supremacist nation.

            The catalyst is the 1200-page report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – sanitized by abbreviating it to MMIWG – released Monday May 27.

            I have long known that my province imposed discriminatory taxes and restrictions on Chinese immigrants in past years. And that Canada turned away a ship full of Jewish refugees, and forcibly relocated Japanese residents during World War II.

            But the most consistent victims of Canada’s white supremacist policies have been our Indigenous peoples.

            The report documents the experiences of 2380 witnesses to and survivors of violence against Indigenous females. Whether that constitutes “genocide,” the word used by the report, I don’t know.

            But there is no question that Canada’s policies attempted to homogenize its original inhabitants.

 

Residential schools

            The infamous Indian residential schools were not, as I see them, a program to kill Indigenous children -- although many thousands did die, possibly twice as many as officially recorded. In some schools, I gather, even the documented death rate exceeded 50%.

            Certainly, the schools were an attempt to kill a culture. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called it “cultural genocide.”

            The man considered the chief proponent of the residential school system, Duncan Campbell Scott, did not say he wanted to  “kill the Indian in the child.” He did say, “I want to get rid of the Indian problem… Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic…”

            It was taken for granted that when those incarcerated children graduated, they wouldn’t be Indian kids anymore; they would be white kids.

            Scott failed to realize that, to accomplish his goal, he would need a matching educational program for white people. Because the dominant whites were not willing to accept Indians into their “body politic.”

            In Shall We Gather at the River,author George van der Goes Ladd told of Chief Peguis in Manitoba. Peguis believed that by taking up white men’s ways, he would be accepted into white society. He wasn’t. He was still an Indian. Therefore, inferior.

            The Indian Act, despite several amendments, still treats Indigenous people as semi-competent children, who need wiser adults to make decisions on their behalf.

 

Under-represented, victims

            Fifty years ago, when I lived on B.C.’s north coast, more than 50% of the region’s population was indigenous. But there was not one Indigenous person on city council. Nor, as I recall, on any church or hospital board.

            I hope that has changed. But the report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls makes clear how they continue to be victims in a male white supremacist society.

            A 2005 database documented 582 missing and murdered Indigenous women. In 2014, the RCMP identified nearly 1,200 cases; other unverified estimates run far higher. According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or to go missing than members of any other demographic group, 16 times more likely than white women.

            StatsCanstates that nearly 25 per cent of all female homicide victims are Indigenous women.

 

Penalized by the justice system

            Don’t confuse the issue by focussing on perpetrators –by insisting that more than half the violence against Indigenous women comes from their own men, not from white men. That’s not the point.

            The point is the way those victims then get treated by the Canadian justice system. That’s where those 2,380 personal stories apply.

            The court system treats Indigenous women – victims, survivors, and witnesses -- as unreliable witnesses.

            Reports of assault or disappearance don’t merit proper police investigation – the reason Robert Pickton could kill so many women before attracting attention.

            Indigenous women are often treated as willing victims. Recall the widely broadcast interview where an RCMP officer repeatedly asked the victim of an alleged rape: “Are you sure you didn’t you get turned on? Even a little bit?”

             “We failed to treat missing and murdered Indigenous women like people,” says Signa Daum Shanks, a Métis professor from Saskatchewan.

            Can we stop being a male white supremacist society? I think we can. We’ve already come a long way. Now we must challenge negative stereotyping whenever we encounter it. Especially about Indigenous women.

Barr did to it was not editing.

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Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                       To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca

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YOUR TURN

 

In last week’s column, I argued that even though dictionaries define “redacting” as “editing,” what U.S. Attorney General William Barr did to the Mueller Report bore no resemblance to editing as I know it. 

 

In one paragraph, I deliberately misspelled the word “skills”  to see if anyone noticed it – probably the most basic level of professional editing.

            Tom Watson punned on my spelling error: “From what I have seen, Barr is very proud of his shillful work.”

 

Clare Neufeld picked up the same theme: “I enjoyed the whole umbrage bit of self-denial in your opening paragraph. Speaking of definitions,” Clare looked up the definition of a “shill”: 

“Shill: an accomplice of a trickster or swindler who poses as a genuine customer to encourage others; a person who pretends to give an impartial endorsement of something in which they themselves have an interest.”

            Clare concluded, “I chuckled. Thanks for the opportunity to learn something new.”

 

Pat Graham had her own painful experience of redacting. She bought a “low mileage” second-hand car, “and later learned it had 200,000 km more than the 86,000 I was told.” Pat asked the provincial insurance company for a history of the vehicle: “I received pages all redacted.  I learned that REDACTED meant blacking out ALL names, dates, places, figures.  There was NO relevant info, and I paid per page. What a waste.”

            Pat also wrote an extended commentary on abortion, based on her own experiences with pregnancy, caesarian section, dying on the operating table, etc. However, I’ve decided not to continue that thread, at least for the time being. 

 

Laurna Tallman, who also writes and edits extensively, commented, “I think your elitist dissertation on writing and editorial practice has a limited audience. I run into Grammarly, an editing application, everywhere on the Internet. It addresses my writing, whatever the context, in as pointlessly elitist tones as yours. It takes no account of my changing audience, my expertise in using words in ways the app's inventor and algorithms cannot imagine, the limitations of my computer (the email component of which has no spell-check), constraints of time, or the forgiving nature of the English language that allows most readers to unravel wildly misspelled words for their underlying meanings. Grammarly is almost more of a nuisance and impediment to writing than it's worth. 

            “For people less practiced than you and me, who have decades of learning and of attention the English language ingrained into our smoothly integrating cerebral hemispheres, the standards for communication must be relaxed. For people who have computers without an email spell-check, and lives without vast amounts of leisure, I hope you will cut them some slack.”

 

Jean McCord asked, “May I share this column with my critique group? The parts about editing are great, and although some might disagree with the more political parts, they’ll just have to get exposed to ideas other than the fixed ones they have.”

 

Bob Rollwagen offered thoughts about built-in bias: “When a person is hired to rewrite a paper, what results is generally what the employer wants as a focus. The document in question is now on record and will be public at some time in the future for history to evaluate and pass judgement on as to the intelligence [JT: honesty? transparency?] of those involved. More important is the strategies being employed by both combatants and who will win. None of this is for the benefit of the population concerned.”

 

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TECHNICAL STUFF

 

If you want to comment on something, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca. Or just hit the ‘Reply’ button.

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                       I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

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PROMOTION STUFF…

To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think too many links constitute spam.)

                       Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on YouTube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8

                       Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. The website for this project has closed but you can continue to order the DVDs by writing info@woodlake,com

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has beautiful pictures.

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet

 

ALVA WOOD ARCHIVE

                       The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.

 


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