'Racist' view getting support, rural Manitoba editor says
The editor of a small-town Manitoba newspaper at the centre of a firestorm over comments that labelled some aboriginal people lazy, corrupt and terrorists, claims most people agree with him.
Morris Mirror editor-in-chief Reed Turcotte estimates that 75 per cent of the feedback he has received is from people who support his position.
In a one-paragraph comment, which appeared earlier this week in the Mirror, Turcotte gave a "thumbs down" to the Idle No More movement and wrote that some aboriginals "are demanding unrealistic expectations of the government and … in some cases, natives are acting like terrorists in their own country. Indians/natives want it all but corruption and laziness prevent some of them from working for it."
The comment grabbed national headlines and sparked outrage from several people, including Morris Mayor Gavin van der Linde, who said he was "shocked and appalled."
In the wake of the reaction on Thursday, Turcotte wrote, "We apologize to those we offended in that regards; however, we stand by the fact that the natives must work to get out of their situation rather than sit 'Idle No More.'"
The ongoing furor then prompted him to publish a special edition of the Mirror on Friday, in which he included 15 letters supporting his position and seven opposed.
Turcotte also printed a followup editorial stating that he believes "citizens, whether they are native or otherwise, have the right to protest and try and make their lives better."
Mayor condemns comments
The latest editorial appears beside two angry letters, including one from van der Linde condemning "in the strongest way possible [the] inappropriate and racist comments" in the original editorial and calling Turcotte's apology on Thursday "weak and meaningless."
In some of the letters, van der Linde, who is originally from South Africa, comes under attack by Turcotte and his supporters.
"If you don't like our right to freedom of speech, then I would suggest you bundle you and your kin and venture back to your homeland and preach your values there," wrote one person, identified only as "M. Gee."
Turcotte added an editor's note to the bottom of that letter: "Could not have said it better myself."
Van der Linde doesn't take the comments about himself too harshly, even with Turcotte calling him a "religious zealot."
"He said some stuff online about me, and that's just the way he goes, because it gets more people to view his online content. And if that's his point, he is succeeding very well," van der Linde said.
Business owners removing ads
Meanwhile, some business owners in the town of about 1,800 have pulled their advertisements from the Mirror in response to Turcotte's editorial.
"I don't appreciate the way his opinion was written. The way it came across as appearing or sounding racist," said Pat Schmitke, who owns Big Way Foods.
"It's a Morris business. That isn't what our little town is about."
Schmitke said he's worried about the impact the editorial will have on the town's reputation.
"They don't look at it as one person's opinion. They're looking it as the town, and that's incorrect," he said.
Helga Rose Hoeppner, who owns Rainbow Income Tax, said on Thursday that leaving her ad in the paper would give the perception that she agrees with the editorial.
"I would have no problem pulling my ad if he does not apologize or put [in] some kind of a retraction," she said.
Turcotte declined requests to speak with CBC News on Friday.
Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, a lecturer in native studies at the University of Manitoba, says he hopes Turcotte will accept his invitation to meet and discuss the editorial.
"I am curious as to where some of these opinions came from, specifically around how people dancing in a mall, or people asking for equality or equal treatment — how asking for any of that labels them as terrorists," Sinclair said.
Sinclair said he has not heard back from Turcotte to date.