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Can Idle No More comment threads be more constructive?

Categories: Canada, Community

First Nations Idle No More protesters hold hands and dance in a circle during a demonstration at the Douglas-Peace Arch crossing on the Canada-U.S. border near Surrey, B.C. on Saturday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

For several weeks now, CBC News has not only covered various Idle No More protests within Canada and beyond, but has also tackled the larger contours and questions that have fuelled the movement.

And as Idle No More continues to grow, so too does the need to have constructive conversations about what the movement means for all Canadians.

Although some CBC readers, both supportive and critical, have made insightful points without resorting to personal attacks, others have pushed the boundaries of respectful debate.

The comments threads below stories, which are pre-moderated, can still get quite heated within the parameters we have set out for our site.

Those attempting to debate the merits of certain ideas, policies and protest tactics have often been drowned out or derailed by those resorting to inflammatory remarks and sweeping generalizations.

Would you say it in a classroom or townhall?

CBC Toronto's Metro Morning host Matt Galloway is among those who have noticed the inflammatory tone of too many Idle No More discussions, and in a Tuesday morning segment he wondered how to carve out a space for a more meaningful exchange.

"Criticism is one thing, and legitimate and informed criticism is important . . . racism is something completely different. For people trying to understand what Idle No More is from a non-aboriginal perspective, those comments muddy the discussion. For First Nations people, it can be much more damaging that that."

Galloway sat down with Keesic Douglas, an aboriginal artist and instructor at Toronto's OCAD University who has done a lot of work around storytelling and stereotyping.

Douglas is among those struggling with the racism that can often surface when First Nations issues make the headlines.

"It's really tough, it's really disheartening," said Douglas, explaining that sometimes he can't make it very far into a thread before needing to stop.

"I keep thinking, who are these people who write these things? Is that my next door neighbour?"

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Our submissions guidelines ask that users be respectful and courteous, "as if you were having a face-to-face discussion."

This has us wondering if our readers feel like the views presented on our site and social media forums could be repeated in physical spaces like town halls and classrooms?

Are you satisfied with the level of discussion and debate in our threads about Idle No More? What can be done to encourage the most intelligent points from all sides to shine through?

Is there something about online forums that make high stakes conversations more difficult? Can you think of a comment on our site that you may disagree with, but believe was thoughtfully composed?

Tags: Canada, Community

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