June 17 1994 Halifax Herald

Education vital to wiping out racism in Canada

When MP Herb Grubel recently delivered his outrageous lazy Natives speech, in the protective atmosphere of the House of Commons, he was spouting the stereotypical image of our people now afoot in the minds of a multitude of Canadians.

In my mind, the words of Mr. Grubel reflect the fact that he, like so many of his compatriots, will make every effort to shift the blame to Canada's Native American citizens for the mess that has resulted from the less-than-honourable conduct of his European ancestors towards these Nations. This statement is backed up by a recent study released by the C.D. Howe Institute, which shows that a majority of Canadians believe minorities are to blame for the disadvantages they suffer, and that discrimination isn't.

In formulating their debasing opinions, Mr. Grubel and his ilk will studiously ignore the fact that the White man - by enacting racist laws and setting outlandish policies which were designed specifically for the degradation of Canada's First Nations citizens and the destruction of their cultures - is the architect of the bind that the People are in today. He and his followers will not acknowledge that the modern day dependence of our peoples upon handouts from governments for survival is caused by the fact that they were effectively excluded, by negative racist attitudes, from participating in the economic life of the country for the past three centuries.

Why have these reprehensible attitudes in white society been prevalent for such a long time? Racism and ignorance, that's why! The economic plight of the citizens of Canada's First Nations can be traced, by anyone willing to make the effort, directly to the laws and policies previously mentioned. These laws and policies, combined with white supremacist attitudes, have kept our people undereducated and poverty stricken in the midst of plenty.

In an attempt to justify the unjustifiable, a lot of people would like to point the finger at the tenets of Native American cultures when apportioning blame for the current state of affairs. It seems in their sub-conscious they feel that, if it isn't White, then itís inferior and must be shuffled off into oblivion. These dated attitudes are, to put it mildly, NUTS. Prior to the European invasion of the Americas, Native American civilizations responded in a very responsible manner to the human needs of their citizens for tens of centuries. In the process, they developed some of the highest standards of living then existent in the world. What's inferior about that? If the modern world could do only as half as well as these civilizations did in wiping out poverty among their peoples, it would be quite an accomplishment.

Itís time for this country to accept the fact that it is the keeper of a deplorable sickness that needs long-term intensive treatment. A realistic plan to wipe out overt and systemic racism needs to be adopted and implemented. Education, education and more education has to take place. We must teach our population, once and for all time, that there were no superior civilizations in the world. All had superb values and must be recognized equally.

To begin the process of developing a positive attitudinal change in the minds of whites towards our people, it is imperative that Native American civilizations be recognized for what they were: great human accomplishments. Bring out of oblivion and dust off for discussion the positive assessments of these civilizations by such great men as Thomas Paine and Thomas Moore. Who knows? With the dissemination of knowledge to such people as Mr. Grubel, this country may become, in fact as well as in fiction, a great place for a multinational population to live!

Daniel N. Paul


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