'It's not too hard' to ask for respect, says FSIN chief of Sask. editorial

Marie Wilson, former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and FSIN chief Bobby Cameron responded to a Saskatchewan newspaper editorial about Indigenous issues.

Bobby Cameron says he wants to talk to column author and mayor of Melfort

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron responds to a recent editorial published, then pulled from the Melfort Journal's website that was criticized for being ignorant towards Indigenous people. (CBC)

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron wants to reach out and talk with the mayor of Melfort and a journalist after a paper in the city ran an editorial that's been criticized for being ignorant towards Indigenous peoples. 

A recent column written by the regional managing editor of the Melfort Journal, Greg Wiseman, stated that everyone deals with racism, "yet only one group seems to always be the ones claiming racism."

The editorial was pulled from the Journal's website Wednesday and a clarification was issued. Wiseman said his words were misinterpreted and he apologized for any offence caused.

CBC has since reached out to Wiseman for a response. 

The piece was written in response to a statement made by Cameron that Indigenous peoples deal with racism daily. 

The editorial was pulled from the Melfort Journal's website Wednesday and a clarification was issued.

Cameron explained on Thursday that he was initially pulled in by the article's headline: "When will it end." But Cameron said he grew frustrated as he read the editorial, which at one point questioned why children are being taught Indigenous history in schools and not more about the impact the Vikings or Scandinavians had on Canada.

"We understand and recognize there are different levels of racism. The comments about the Scandinavian, Ukrainian racism, yeah, there is, but our focus was the skin colour of First Nations people," said Cameron.

The FSIN chief said racism does exist in the province and he believes greater education and awareness — especially for young people — will help to change attitudes. 

Cameron said the author's clarification was a good start, but it didn't go far enough since the article was taken down out of a backlash. 

Going forward, Cameron said correspondence will be sent to Wiseman and the city's mayor in an effort to ensure incidents such as these don't happen again. 

"In a city of Melfort where the surrounding First Nation communities spend their money, they contribute to the economy of Melfort, it's not too hard to ask towns and cities for respect," said Cameron. 

Residential schools 'not a thing of the past'

Journalists are one of society's public educators and it's important that "they be grounded in fact," says Marie Wilson, a former commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Wilson, also a former journalist, was responding to a line in the editorial that wondered why Canadians have to "keep paying for the mistakes of the past," a reference to the residential school system.

"It's not a thing of the past," Wilson said. "And in Saskatchewan specifically, the schools themselves are not even a thing of the long past. For most adults alive in Saskatchewan today, they happened in our lifetime."

The last federally run residential school closed in 1996. Saskatchewan has more people who attended residential schools than anywhere else in Canada, Wilson added.

These are not about hurt feelings. We're talking about systemic problems that have destroyed lives.- Marie Wilson

Wilson said the repercussions of the residential school system are well-established by social science studies and reviews. 

"The other point I make often on that issue of the past, 'when we just want to get over it' ... we would never in a million years think of saying that to our veterans," Wilson said.

"It's because we realize those were life-altering things and that we must learn from those mistakes so we don't keep repeating them." 

Marie Wilson, a former CBC broadcaster and former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said the TRC's 94 calls to action are important because of sentiments expressed in the editorial.

Wilson said the TRC's 94 calls to action are important because of sentiments expressed in the editorial, which she said she does not think represents widespread attitudes in Saskatchewan. The 86th call to action, for instance, asks for the education of media and students on the history of Indigenous people and residential schools. 

"These are not about hurt feelings," Wilson said of the stories told in the TRC's final report. "We're talking about systemic problems that have destroyed lives."

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition, Jill Morgan