OTTAWA – ANISHINABEK – On Thursday, October 23, 2014, the Chiefs of Ontario issued a press release to notify our Peoples and all Canadians that we, the First Nation leaders in Ontario, stand with our colleagues in Parliament against all forms of violence in regards to the horrific events that unfolded in Ottawa on Wednesday, October 22, 2014. We continue to offer our condolences to those affected and that we are keeping the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in our hearts.
While we have called on our own Peoples to come together in the spirit of peace at this difficult time, we would like to also extend that sentiment to all Canadians. It has been brought to light that a national journalist, employed by the Globe and Mail, Mr. Bill Curry, has made a harmful presumption through a social media outlet in the midst of the tragic events that unfolded in Ottawa. Mr. Curry, through his Twitter account with over 9000 followers, wrote a supposition at 9:14 am as the shooter was being pursued, tweeted the following: “Eyewitnesses say the suspect has long dark hair and two said he appeared to be aboriginal.”
This is problematic for many reasons and not only did it prove not to be true, we do not condone or excuse these types of blatant and destructive stereotypes being put forth by established media outlets that could have tragic implications to the overall safety of our Peoples. We continue to struggle in an imposed colonial system, yet at the same time, continue to work towards peace, friendship and co-existence. This is a working relationship that, while has progressed some over time, continues to be an unbalanced interaction by way of heavy handed imposition of inappropriate legislation and lack of positive public perception of who the Indigenous Peoples in Canada are.
Last week, Grand Chief Gord Peters of the Association of the Iroquois & Allied Indians issued an “Open Letter to all Canadians and Members of the Media” (ATTACHED) which outlined the problematic issues brought forward by the hasty and unreasonable tweet of Mr. Curry. We agree with Grand Chief Peters in his statement that these types of racial stereotypes of our Peoples should not be used to convey information, that the language used signifies a connection to our Peoples and terrorism and that these types of assumptions feed deep-rooted and thriving racism that still exists in Canada.
We are working towards a relationship that will have Canadians understand who we are and fully respects our culture and traditions as much as we have been respectful and accepting of the diverse beliefs of all settlers on our land. We need not the media to counteract these efforts but conveying un-constructive and appalling perceptions of the Indigenous peoples of our Nations.
We echo Grand Chief Peters and the Association of Iroquois & Allied Indians in challenging Mr. Curry and all members of the media to learn from this example and shape public discourse to accurately reflect all people in Canada, free from bias and stereotype.
CHIEFS OF ONTARIO