Jewish Post & News issues apology over opinion piece that angered aboriginal leaders
But editor of Winnipeg-based newspaper defends freedom of expression
The Manitoba Jewish Post & News has issued an apology over an opinion piece that was critical of the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendation and has been found offensive by aboriginal leaders.
The piece was written by former Manitoba provincial court judge Bill Marantz, who was scornful of Canada's aboriginal leaders.
As for the rest of Canada's aboriginal leaders, Marantz wrote that they are "too busy feathering their own headdresses to worry about trivialities like chronic unemployment, poverty, illness, alcoholism and crime."
Marantz predicted in the article that people would be living on Mars by the time the commission's recommendations are enacted, calling it the "Half Truth and Recrimination Report."
He goes on to draw parallels between the "obsession" the aboriginal community has with residential schools to the Jewish community's connection to the Holocaust.
"But Auschwitz was not a retraining camp," he wrote.
In a message posted on the Jewish Post & News website, editor Bernie Bellan apologized to "anyone who was offended by Bill Marantz's column," saying he accepts "full responsibility for not having vetted it properly."
At the same time, Bellan said the issues raised by the column should not be avoided altogether.
"I have received a fair number of emails and calls and have read tweets from individuals who have identified themselves as natives and who have expressed agreement, either in whole or in part with the general tenor of what Bill Marantz had to say," Bellan wrote.
"That is not to say that I agree with Bill Marantz's piece myself. It's simply to indicate that opinions on sensitive subjects are varied. What I find particularly problematic is the notion that we should all be censoring ourselves and that certain subjects should not be talked about in their entirety."
'He mocks the TRC,' chief says
Jim Bear, chief of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, said he found the article offensive and wants to know how the opinion piece ever made it to print.
"He should also give an apology to the First Nations of this country because he mocks the TRC," Bear said.
Bear suggested it may be too late for sensitivity training for the retired judge.
Earlier on Monday, Bellan defended his choice to print the opinion piece and added that he stood behind the opinions of his writers. However, he conceded that some of the language should have been edited.
"He used a lot of slang and language that would be considered stereotypical, so to that extent, it should have been edited. But to say that his opinion in itself should have been censored, it's not something that I would agree with," Bellan said.
"Now, people have disagreed with me on that, but I stand strongly behind freedom of expression."
Aboriginal leaders say the opinion piece questions the depth of racism in society.
"It reflects a certain attitude that causes us to question the objective standards that we expect of professional people in Canadian society," said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
Said Bear, "To me, it sounds like hate material, and if the guy's been an editor for quite some time he'd know the parameters for sure."
Niigaanwewidam Sinclair, a professor at the University of Manitoba, commented on Facebook that he also found the piece offensive, calling it "egregious, ignorant, hateful," but he said he would be satisfied with the paper's apology, along with any submitted responses to the piece.
Bellan invites anyone who is interested in writing a response to the column to email him.
Marantz said he was inspired to write the article after he was involved in a Twitter argument with a person he believed to be the backup goalie for the Winnipeg Jets, but was in fact a reporter for APTN by the same name, Michael Hutchinson.
"I was both surprised and impressed. It's embarrassing to admit that a 25-year-old jock, who stops pucks for a living, knows more about the legal status of the aboriginal people than a former (part-time) provincial court judge," Marantz said in the article when he believed he was talking to the backup goalie.
If you know of an Jewish org that would like to discuss Aboriginal issues one evening, I'm game. <a href="https://twitter.com/BillMarantz">@BillMarantz</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/DoubleEmMartin">@DoubleEmMartin</a>—@Mike_Hutchins0n
"Like the authors of the TRC report, [Hutchinson] thinks you can cure cancer with Band-Aids, provided you use enough of them," he added.
Marantz would not do an interview with CBC, but said he is open to discuss what he said with Bear and Hutchinson.