IT IS WHAT IS NOT SAID, as much as what is, that matters.
What was said a few days back, spray painted on a sign in Lac La Bois, was hateful and vile. Hateful words of “Fuck Indians” against First Nations, and vile statements of “White Power.”
On Canada Day, Jeffrey McNeil of Kamloops brought the vandalism of the sign to light on his Facebook. The vandalism was a stark reminder that Kamloops is not immune to racism and hate.
McNeil’s post was widely shared by over 2,000. As well, local media covered the story extensively. Local First Nations’ leaders including Chief Ron Ignace of Skeetchestn First Nation and Chief Ryan Day of the Bonaparte Indian Band condemned the vandalism of the sign both with local media and on social media.
Not only First Nations leaders but people from across the community spoke out on social media against the vandalism. Hundreds from business people to volunteer firemen, from university professors to archeologists, from retirees to stay-at-home parents spoke out. While there will be those who are cheering for the vandals of the sign, at least in the circles I follow, of all political stripes, there is condemnation.
Politicians have a unique role, of stating the direction a community should go on issues. On issues around hate and racism, there is only one way, and that is to speak out against the perpetrators and, as was the case of Chief Day who called for education, look for ways to support more positive community values.
Thank goodness for the leadership of Chief Ignace and Chief Day, because many other leaders have been silent.
As of this column’s writing, MP Cathy McLeod has been silent on both Facebook and Twitter. It’s amazing that this level of hate can go unnoticed. And yet, she has posted nothing on either social media site on this most blatant attack.
Her Canada Day posts were of happy Canadians, in red shirt. Pictures of her and other politicians cutting cake. Nothing then or since on the vandalized sign.
To think that McLeod, who is the Official Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, doesn’t understand First Nations’ issues is hard to fathom. There’s no way that she isn’t aware of the systematic racism that First Nations’ have faced, and still do. As a nation, we’ve gone through (or more correctly continue to go through) Truth and Reconciliation.
And yet she has been silent.
McLeod does post about First Nations issues. On National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21, she posted a tweet that it was a “#NationalIndigenousPeoplesDay….Beautiful start to morning.”
If she can see beauty in what is First Nations, then why didn’t she post on July 1, “#CanadaDay Horrific end to the day” along with a picture of the vandalized sign?
One might argue that Facebook and Twitter aren’t the place for politicians to condemn this type of behaviour. Some would argue that politicians shouldn’t use social media to speak out against racial attacks on First Nations’ or statements on white power.
Maybe McLeod doesn’t talk about things that offend her on social media.
But on June 20, McLeod posted of her dislike of a Canadian flag depicting the maple leaf as a marijuana leaf. How, if she was so offended by a marijuana leaf, would she not be outraged by the vandalism on the sign? How is a single plant leaf worth a tweet but the far more offensive than “Fuck Indians” and “White Power” gets no mention from McLeod?
I’ve seen Canadian like flags for Pride, with a Haida theme, and in all types of colours. No different than seeing an American flag with guns replacing the stars: people have the right to make different artistic depictions. None are hateful or racist.
If a marijuana leaf causes McLeod to feel offended, how could the sign not?
A lot of politicians’ social media is taken up with cutting cakes and kissing babies. It is light hearted fodder that shows the community the politicians are out and about. A bit of self-promotion thrown in for good measure.
I have no problem with McLeod or any other politician posting pictures of happy people wearing red shirts and maple leaf tattoos on Canada Day. As a past politician, I’ve done as much myself.
But what matters more, is how politicians react to how others are treated in our community.
The person who vandalized the sign in Lac La Bois has chosen their path of hate. But people like Jeffrey McNeil have chosen to shine light, by giving voice to all those in our community who stand against racism and hate. Leaders like Chief Ignace and Chief Day provide guidance.
McLeod’s silence is a voice for ignoring racism, and turning away from hatred.
I look forward to hearing McLeod speak.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.