Letters July 25 - Seek first to understand

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On July 18th, the Lacombe Globe published a letter entitled “Reconciliation and responsibility” authored by a Lacombian with some strong opinions on the history of First Nations people in Canada that left me confused and frustrated.

His last letter is really a tour de force in bad thinking. The writer’s habit of simply offering opinions without substantiating facts or even cogent explanation does nothing to convince. Democracy depends on an informed citizenry that makes the effort to know the facts, attempts to understand the other side’s point of view and is willing to go the extra mile in someone else’s shoes. Having done his homework to find out what really happened to Indigenous people, the writer is free to offer his interpretation of the facts.

My antagonist simply offers the same opinion over and over without substantiation. One of his claims is John A. MacDonald and the churches of Canada were simply trying to help out the uneducated First Nations by putting their children in residential schools. He writes that “they believed education was the only solution for the survival of the Indigenous people,” and completely ignores the specific quotes I supplied to the contrary. MacDonald and many others are on record intentionally and knowingly using the residential school system to subjugate what they called “the savages.”

Another bit of bad thinking is the turning of a blind eye to anything unpleasant, such as the rape, torture and starvation of Indigenous children by Christian men and women. Quite rightly, First Nation leaders have said if that is your idea of education, our children did not need it.

Another kind of faulty thinking is apparent in the spurious comparison of the experience of Indigenous people to the treatment of Japanese Canadians. By his own estimate, the writer claims to be outlining the true history of Indigenous people over a time frame of 300 years. The Japanese internment was eight years long and followed by an official apology and a compensation package. How on earth is the multigenerational, centuries long, maliciously intentional, countrywide mistreatment of First Nations equivalent to an eight year Japanese internment?

Most egregious for me is the condescension evident in telling a mistreated group of people that what they experienced and endured was not really what they experienced and endured. An abused woman gets to decide if her wounds hurt, not her violent husband. Telling her she was beaten for her own good denies her agency and salts the wound.

My fellow citizen seems to think he is in possession of the true history of the Indigenous people of Canada without giving any facts in support, without taking account of what we know to be bedrock reality (which he simply dismisses as political correctness), while presuming to tell victims that they were not victimized.

I invite him to check his privilege and seek first to understand.

-Scott Lewis,
Lacombe, Alta.