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May 26, 2000 Halifax Herald

Where is society's outrage over proposed genocide?

The headline "Book blames reserves for nativesí plight"appeared over a front-page story in the April 17 issue of this newspaper. The story revealed that in his soon-to-be-published book, First Nations, Second Thoughts, author Tom Flanagan advocated the extinction by assimilation of Canada's First Nations Peoples as a means to solve the country's so-called "Indian Problem." To put it mildly, it outraged me.

Before proceeding I'll cite article two of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide, with paragraph (C) emphasized:

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(A) Killing members of the group:

(B) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group:

(C) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part:

(D) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group:

(E) Forcefully transferring children of the group to another group:

The reason I've taken so long to respond to Flanagan's outrageous suggestion is that I thought it appropriate to wait and sample the outrage that would be forthcoming from white society over such a heinous proposition. To date, one letter to the editor is the sum total that I've seen.

In comparison to this reaction, if an author had held a news conference or released a publicity blurb, indicating that he/she was on the verge of publishing a book promoting the extinction by assimilation of Canada's Jewish, Chinese, or African communities-for the good of the country-the outrage would be deafening.

For starters, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and provincial human rights commissions, federal and provincial governments, churches, etc., would have condemned such a suggestion immediately. Further, it would have been very difficult to find a publisher to publish such racist, white supremacist trash in the first place. However, it appears, as far as our people are concerned, that any type of outrageous suggestion to cure the country's "Indian problem," no matter how horrific the consequence, is not condemnable by society. This is systemic racism at its worst.

These racist attitudes have, during this country's colonial and national existence, caused to be committed against First Nations Peoples by European Canadians every unspeakable crime against humanity outlawed by the Human Rights Convention. Stories such as the foregoing about what Flanagan advocates, and the following report of medical experimentation using First Nations children as human guinea pigs, indicate that things haven't changed much in how Canadians practice racism against our people.

This incident, related in the May 8, 2000 issue of MacLean's magazine, makes one wonder is this modern Canada or a throw-back to the Dark Ages: "Natives denied dental care" "Federal government doctors withheld specialized dental care, such as professional cleaning and treatment of decay, for aboriginal children living in eight residential schools in the 1940s and 1950s to see what the effect would be on their health. The director of the study, Dr. L.B. Pett, said last week that students' teeth and gums were in terrible condition to begin with, and that delaying treatment did not create more decay, but helped keep the study's results accurate."

If a similar story was published revealing that guinea-pig experiments had being carried out on the children of a non-Native minority group, because of their race, the outrage over the inhumanity would be widespread and the perpetrators would be called to task. This is the reaction of civilized people.

But wait, the guinea pigs in this case were only "Indians." Therefore, who, besides us, should sweat about it? The recent statement made by the former director of the program, Dr. Pett, in defense of the indefensible, says it all when describing how blind racism still runs rampant in Canada. A medical professional is compelled by ethical standards to undertake extensive curative treatment immediately after identifying a medical problem, Pett says that waiting to see if the children's physical health would be ruined by withholding treatment was justified., because it "helped keep the study's results accurate." Such beliefs have been previously expressed by those who conducted similar types of experiments on people deemed "inferior" by a majority under the Nazis.

When will this country exhibit some shame and remorse for the reprehensible way it has treated its First Nations Peoples and the way it continues to do so? Just what will it take to garner outrage? Will a report that gas chambers, firing squads, etc., were used to dispatch some be needed to produce a suitable level of indignation?

Daniel N. Paul

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