Dear Editor,

On March 27, the Nanaimo Daily News published Don Olsen’s letter to the editor, which basically asserted that First Nations people are stupid, lazy, uninventive, irresponsible, underachievers, incapable of taking care of themselves; whose only “fix” would be to make them “equals” by vetoing “traditional use and cultural nonsense,” educating “their children to become modern citizens,” discouraging them from “finding their identity and source of pride” from their ancestors, “turning off the taps” and letting them “stand or fall on their own account.”

I won’t bother to address the ridiculous and hurtful claims made by Mr. Olsen (I’m sure others will), except to say that apparently Mr. Olsen is unaware that these actions have been attempted before. Assimilation, outlawing traditions, child abductions and internment in mission schools (basically cultural genocide) are part of Canada’s history, with the most horrific results. And those policies are just some of the wrongs Canada’s First Nations people have survived.

The fact that First Nations have been recovering and seeking their due rights and justice is what really seems to be bothering Mr. Olsen; and unfortunately, he is not alone. His letter brings to light the ignorant, naïve, and hostile sentiments that lurk in the dark corners of non-aboriginal society. As most non-aboriginal people can attest, we hear similar sentiments creep out of the shadows on occasion. I would bet Mr. Olsen espoused his vile opinions to family, friends, and anyone else who would listen.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fallen into stunned silence when a family member, colleague, friend, acquaintance or stranger has spouted such racist opinions, jokes or slurs. Wanting to avoid conflict, it seemed simpler to just ignore them. I have watched others do the same.

One day I realized that being silent was part of the problem. It was tantamount to consent for such behavior, and leads people (like Mr. Olsen) to delusions that their views are worthy of further broadcast. Without offense or opposition, they assume their comments are acceptable, so I resolved to be silent no more.

Silent no more in the presence of ignorant or racist opinions, comments, jokes or slurs. Silent no more while our government ignores First Nations’ pleas for justice and equality. Silent no more during never-ending negotiations for settlements that are long overdue or while millions are spent on delay tactics and legal fees rather than resolutions. Silent no more while First Nation people and communities continue to suffer.

Instead, we can find our voice and, with respect and dignity, seize the opportunity to open up a dialogue; or shut them down if need be Most just do not seem to understand the historical and legal relationship between First Nations and Canada; let alone the human aspect.

I encourage all non-aboriginals to be Silent No More! We need to speak up and work with our people towards understanding and supporting the aspirations of First Nation people. We are all much better off with healthy, educated, self-determined, culturally empowered, economically viable, contributing First Nations. That is the “fix,” Mr. Olsen.

Please pledge to be Silent No More at Let your voice be heard.

Y. M. Quackenbush

Cranbrook, B.C.