An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
LAST WEEKEND I published a column about Pope Francis’ visit to Canada and what’s known as the Doctrine of Discovery.
A lot of folks are demanding that the Catholic Church “rescind” the Doctrine of Discovery, which they regard as the rationale for colonization in Canada. The purpose of the column was to point out that the Doctrine has no force and effect in Canada and that repudiating it again, as has been done by the church several times, would only be a symbolic gesture.
Nevertheless, I said, if that gesture would provide comfort, then it should be done.
Reaction to the column was interesting. More than a hundred comments were posted on CFJC’s Facebook page. Many of them were highly critical of the column and of me for publishing it.
Two things stood out. One was that not a single comment that I read challenged the facts as I presented them. There was simply outrage that I had disagreed with the claims being made about the Doctrine, which is actually a series of papal bulls, or decrees.
The other thing is the belief that I shouldn’t be writing about it at all because I have no connection to residential schools. Only those directly affected have a right to talk about the issue, according to this particular point of view.
I find both of these attitudes unfortunate and discouraging. What went on with residential schools is part of the truth and reconciliation discussion. Truth requires respectful discussion and, yes, disagreement at times. But if we open our minds and hearts to it, and challenge each other on the facts, we’ll get there.
That discussion has to involve all of us, indigenous and non-indigenous. Reconciliation is about the restoration of compatibility, of good relations, of respect. We’re all stakeholders in this, and we all have to be part of the conversation.
When people refuse to examine facts and jump immediately to anger and condemnation in response, and when they contend that only some people are allowed into the process, it brings into question whether truth is their true goal. It feels more like an insistence that everyone else accept one version of it that’s based not on critical examination but on a position already determined.
It’s a case of “my way or the highway.”
The media are complicit in this as they discard the journalistic principles of objective investigation in favour of a biased narrative. The state of the media is a topic for another day but it certainly plays a role in what’s happening right now.
Attacking someone as racist or ignorant because they ask questions or hold a different opinion than you do, or trying to cancel them, isn’t good enough.
The only thing that gives me hope is that I know there are many people who truly do want to get to fact-based truths in order to rectify the wrongs of the past.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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