Another anti-Harper flareup entirely manufactured by the media

There's another inappropriate campaign comment (besides the infamous Ritz listeriosis crack) that has begun plaguing the Tories. And again, its not that serious a comment but is being blown far out of proportion.

Cannon was officially opening his campaign office in Maniwaki, Que. on Thursday when protesters from the Barriere Lake community arrived to make their demands known to Cannon.

Cannon listened to some of the group's concerns before he left in a vehicle.

However, one of his aides, Darlene Lannigan, continued to speak with Norman Matchewan, the 25-year-old man leading the protesters.

In a video clip from the Aboriginal People's Television Network, Matchewan asks if he would be arrested if he came into Cannon's office.

"If you behave, and you're sober, and there's no problems, and if you don't do a sit-down and whatever, I don't care. One of them showed up the other day and was drinking," Lannigan said in the clip.

"Are you calling me an alcoholic?" asks Matchewan

"I'm not calling you an alcoholic, it's just to say you're in a federal office. If you're coming in to negotiate, I expect, there's decorum that has to be respected."

Liberal Party deputy leader Michael Ignatieff appeared on CTV's Mike Duffy Live on Thursday evening and said the comments made by the Conservative aide were troubling because of what they assumed about Matchewan.

"The issue here is what assumptions you start with. If you start with the assumption that when an aboriginal man come towards you in good faith and you think he's been drinking, you have a problem," Ignatieff said. "It's an insult to Aboriginals right across the country.

A statement from Cannon's director of communications, Catherine Loubier, sent to CTV.ca on Thursday afternoon said that the comments did not reflect the views of the Government of Canada.

"We would like to take this opportunity to apologize for an offence given," Loubier said in the statement.

"We also understand these comments were made in a difficult context. That is regrettable. The good news is the parties have agreed to meet later this week in a spirit of collaboration."

Matchewan spoke with CTV Newsnet on Thursday afternoon from Barriere Lake. The part-time police officer and schoolteacher said the apology issued by Cannon's office was "not good enough."

"I was offended...my community is offended (and) they are still upset," said Matchewan. "This goes to show how much they disrespect our communities.

"We were there in a peaceful, respectful manner to meet with Mr. Cannon (and) I do not know why she would say such things. That's hurtful, hurtful words for a community."

Matchewan released a statement to The Canadian Press on Thursday that condemned Lannigan's remarks, calling them "patronizing and racist" and "another example of the Conservative government's disrespect for our community."
Er, I'm sorry, this is a massive non-issue. Not only was this a staffer, but also one who had just recently had to deal with unruly intoxicated Indians from Matchewan's own lobby group. Sorry, no excitement here.

But in the comments on the CTV page, some lib-lefties are going nuts over this. Here are some highlights:
The Conservatives are out control. Yesterday, it was disgusting jokes by Gerry Ritz on dying people and today it an aide to Lawrence Cannon on aboriginals. The Conservatives are still showing their Reform colors.

Mary Ewen
What I find interesting,is how the media failed to make headline news of the Lib. M.P. in Quebec who made disparing comments about Aboriginals.
In fairness,if you're going to attack one Party,then at least report the others gaffes.
Besides,being asked to show up sober for meetings,despite bringing race into the issue,is a fairly honest request.
Inference about being a drunk to a native man... If you don't find the offense in this inference, then you're way too partisan. If a Liberal had said these comments, the Conservative blog-o-sphere would be on fire right now. You're hypocrites.
So this woman had a run-in with someone who had been drinking, who, by chance, was also a native. Supposing that all other natives are always drinking is woefully ignorant. It is hard to negotiate eye to eye when one party constantly looks down their nose at you.
Just goes to show how much Racism still exhists here in Canada after reading some of your comments. Just because on man drinks is it fair to say we all do??
That's like saying because you raped and molested our children in the Residential Schools then all of you rape and molest!!!
Jim Murphy
It is an insult to say that to somone who has never shown that past behaviour.

If the individual who the comment was made to had previously visited the office in such a state the comment may be warranted. However, the Minister's Assistant projected the behaviours of others to this individual and therefore it is an insult.

Hopefully people will see what Stephen Harper and his associates are up to.
Voting anything but Blue!
WOW - I cannot believe some of the comments I'm reading. Do you people honestly not see the problem with this situation? Nowhere have I read that Norman Matchewan was in any way intoxicated when he approached the Minister's office. The fact that he was told to be sober in any further discourse is a blatant use of a terrible stereotype that has been ascribed to Native peoples for decades. Shame on the minister's office and on anyone dim enough to think this kind of exchange is okay at a kindergarten level, let alone a federal government level.

The sooner this bunch of ignorant yahoos is gone from government the better!
I actually thought this sounded pretty bad when I first read the quote but after reading it again it appears that one of the protesters with Matchewan was drinking when they showed up at Cannon's office. Just because Matchewan is native it shouldn't mean that you can't say to him that someone in his group of protesters was drinking when they showed up previously.

Sort of depends if the word 'you' meand Matchewan himself, or if it meant the group of protesters as a whole. If it meant the protesters as a whole it's a completely valid statement. If it meant just Matchewan it's possibly racist but more likely a generalization across the protest group. It wouldn't have been a fair statement but sounds like it's because of the previous actions of the people he was with, not because of his race. If a white protester is drinking when they show up to a person's office, they don't get treated well either. I expect the group would be generalized the same way as this group of protesters was.
Sam Crawford
For me the answer to "where is the story" is the question: would he have said the same thing to a group of women; Muslims; Dentists; Farmers?

What makes it okay to tell a group of natives that they have to be sober? Has there been a problem with groups being drunk when they come to see the minister?
David in Ontario
No wonder there is very little progress with dealing with the unrest in Caledonia and Deseronto in Ontario when ones hears comments like these.

The First Nations are a federal responsibility under the BNA act. With recent attitudes and comments like this by the Conservatives, things will not improve.

Better vote Cons. Diane Finley out of her riding, which I think covers Caledonia. Things will get uglier there. She has done little to resolve that issue for her constituents.

I think Cons. Daryl Kramp is the Deseronto area. What has he done to rectify the unrest there? Things will get heated up there with public views like this coming from Conservatives.

Too many self-inflicted wounds here that do not bode well for the Conservatives and do not reflect well on Canadians as a whole.

Surprising to see so many comments in support of views in this day and age suggesting we have swung too far to the right here in Canada. Shades of the US situation when Kanye West saying "George Bush doesn't care about Black people" to 100 Million people in the US after Katrina hit New Orleans.

Steve Harper and the Cons may get hit hard for this one for those questionable Conservative views/attitudes on race.
Scott Stelmaschuk
I think the problem rests in the fact that the comment was "one of them showed up the other day and was drinking,"...

Lannigan didn't say 'a man/woman showed up yesterday, drinking." or "we had a person show up yesterday drinking." By saying, "one of them", he is specifically referring to Aboriginal people.

Also, this may be personal bias on my part, but I doubt Lannigan would have made the same comments if he were talking to a Caucasian group.

It would be like them addressing a gay rights group and specifically singling out men who came in dresses and make-up. It's a stereotypical image of a community that the Conservatives have about these minority groups and it's clearly coming through now that they're able to speak without PMO permission.
Paul Vancouver Island
To those who say get on with it, take another step back. This is an issue and relevant to an election.

It's about attitude toward First Nations people and there appears to be racism expressed today by conservatives.

Let's bring back the Paul Martin Accord reached in Kelowna that Harper cancelled when he came to power and give back to First Nations the dignity and respect they deserve.
The other 2 incidents were serious:
1) the con shots at the father of a Canadian soldier who died in battle.
2) the light-hearted joking about Listeria deaths by the con Minister.

This newer "incident" doesn't seem comparable (unless maybe something has been left out of the story).

The cons will be PLEASED to see this story, as it may have the effect of WATERING DOWN the COLLECTIVE seriousness of con gaffes. They got a similar benefit when they were being attacked by what seemed like dozens of parliamentary committees.

The opposition parties will be wise to stay on focus with a FEW REALLY GOOD items, as only hard-core political junkies are going to see through a wash of complexity.
Melissa- Ontario
The issue here is the prejudice - she's assuming that since he's representing a native group he's an alcoholic - doesn't matter if a native group showed up drunk at a different time - if he wasn't there she's being rude and offensive.
Nonetheless her comments won't affect who I vote for... not likely conservatives anyways
Doug BC
I'm also finding it difficult to find a real issue here.Is the "noise" being created by the media,or by other politicians?
And,while I'm not sure how intention,or even that it's blatant,I agree that the media,both in Canada and the USA appear to have a slant to the left.Perhaps I've seen it more in American coverage this time.The media seem very determined to elect Sen.Obama.
It gets harder and harder to know what,or who to believe any more.Of course politicians don't do much to clear the air either.And making mountains out of mole-hills seems to be a deliberate way to distract voters from honestly debating real issues.
Hmmm.Now that I think of it,quite a lot like "question period" in parliament.
But here.Sorry.I see no story.If protestors expect to be treated with respect,I think they have to protest with respect.
Typical, typical, and the Tories want to run our country. With an attitude like that, she might as well stay assistant. Her view on Natives may be mirrored by the Natives if every time they see a white man in a suit they know they are going to get screwed in the end. Because we all know the Natives will be on the losing end in THEIR own country.
Tom D.
Anyone who does not see an insult here is either ignorant, insensitive, or biased towards a certain party (most probable), and possibly all three. This has nothing to do with liberal bias,left wing media, or making a story from a non-issue.

This was a generalization made by a representative of the government. It may come as a surprise to those who choose to see otherwise but not all First Nations members are irresponsible drinkers any more than all whites are tea-totalling examples of decorum.

To ask a group to behave "sober" is very insulting and in this case racist, regardless of whether there were prior incidents from a similar group in the past. For example, should a politician in B.C. have the right to say in seriousness to a Students Union group "I'll meet with your group as long as you are not high". It goes beyond the ridiculous to the sublime.

The aide could have simply said "if there is a civil discussion with a respectful tone, we would be happy to arrange it", and that would have been completely acceptable. Instead, an insulting stereotype was thrown in the mix for good measure.

If it really was no big deal, then I can guarantee this party would not have apologized. We are in the midst of an election, and apologies are BAD news. So, obviously someone withing the group realized that this was a major faux pas.

It seems being "Politically Correct" is politically incorrect, literally.
Gerald from Belleville
We, as usual, probably don't have all the facts. But, based on what is presented here, I don't think there should have been an apology.

Consider this sequence, as described in the article(paraphrasing):
1)Matchewan asks if he'll be arrested if he goes to the office (nobody asks that unless there's some intent to challenge or disrupt, or else it wouldn't need to be asked...ESPECIALLY by a part-time cop who would know the law).
2)Lannigan says it's okay, as long as "you" behave and aren't drunk.
3)Lannigan also specifies that one of "them" showed up and was drinking last time
4)Matchewan asks if Lannigan called him an alcoholic
5)Lannigan specifies no, but decorum is expected during negociations

"You" and "them" appear to refer more to the collective protesters rather than strictly Matchewan.

We can deduce, from the article at least, that there had been a previous incident where protesters had shown a lack of proper "decorum" and at least one person had been drinking. It is not unreasonable then for Lannigan to ask "them" to behave and refrain from drinking (being drunk).

This seems like a case of protesters trying to provoke and get a good sound bite to further their protest. Turn it around: Group A show up at your house and make trouble on Tuesday. A member of Group A shows up at your house on Thursday, you tell him to behave based on Tuesday's incidents. It's totally reasonable. In fact, you'd be an idiot NOT to tell him and his group to behave...
No real surprise here, instead of saying "...as long as we are all seriously negotiating" or something not as inflammatory as the "drunken indian" mentality, it would have been a non issue. But when an apology has to be given because the views of the Minister do not reflect that of the GOVERNMENT OF CANADA. I have said it before here and I'll say it again, these are NOT your Daddy's Progressive Conservatives, these are namely Reform hacks. Harper can barely trust them to speak in public without insulting the population of Canada. The narrow mindedness ranges from Stockwell Day mocking climate change saying basically that his constituents (in the Mountains) were looking forward to having water front property, to insulting natives, to mocking those dying from Listeria. Now Canada, see what you are electing to a majority. Me, I'm voting ABC.
And so on, and so forth.

Some of these comments just cry out for a response. The first thing you notice is a consistent claim that Cannon's aide was engaging in "unfair negative stereotyping", namely that any Indian you come across is an alcoholic. Re-read "Vote Anything But Blue's" comments above: "The fact that he was told to be sober in any further discourse is a blatant use of a terrible stereotype that has been ascribed to Native peoples for decades." A terrible stereotype, eh? Well, then perhaps the taxpayers of Canada should ask for their money back.
The National Native Alcohol Abuse Program is a joint effort by the Department of Indian Affairs and Health and Welfare Canada to provide up to $13 million over three year trial period to help native people across Canada to develop and carry out preventive and rehabilitative projects.

In the past, federal and provincial governments have funded a variety of native alcohol abuse projects, but the approach was piecemeal and evaluations of projects success' have not been undertaken. The new program is intended to treat some of these shortages and also to begin to provide a technical support and expertise while giving native people the leading role in designing and implementing projects.

The need for a concerted attack on the native alcohol problem has been acknowledged by all governments and agencies who have been involved in past efforts in this area. Native leaders have increasingly called for greater assistance.
Now why would "Native leaders have increasingly called for greater assistance" if the whole notion of the drunken Indian is just a shallow racist generalization as these CTV commentators are claiming? I know this link was from 1975, but the fact that governments keep funding programs to get Indians to sober up, and the Indians keep asking for more, seems to negate the criticisms being leveled.

Now it turns out Cannon has in fact wandered into a bit of a intra-Indian controversy. Remember how Bill Cosby got in trouble for insisting that much of the socioeconomic problems amoungst U.S. blacks were a result of poor personal decisions and not racist white policy? Well, Glen McGregor for First Nations Drum has an artcle about this very issue:
When Assembly of First Nations Chief Matthew Coon Come warned that native leaders must sober up, he was drawing on a long-standing and persistent stereotype of native alcoholism that never has been proved conclusively.

``Our people smoke too much and drink too much,'' said Mr. Coon Come, Canada's top elected native. ``I think it does not give a good signal if a chief and council and anyone who is in Indian leadership is denying that he has alcohol problems.''

To many, Mr. Coon Come's recent remarks came as a welcome recognition of a health problem endemic to Canada's aboriginal communities.

But to others, it was an endorsement of an unfair stereotype that natives have tried to shake for years.

Had it been anyone but Mr. Coon Come who said it, they suggest, the remarks would be vilified as bigoted and uninformed.

Indeed, former Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin was publicly castigated last year for saying pretty much the same thing as Mr. Coon Come when he suggested many aboriginal leaders in Labrador are ``themselves abusers of alcohol and themselves in need of help.''

His remarks set off a rage of controversy, with Phil Fontaine, Mr. Coon Come's predecessor at the AFN, denouncing the comments as ``a stereotypical image of our people that's so completely wrong.''
So Cannon should really have, instead of apologizing, stood up to Matchewan and his band and told them that if they don't like the notion of Indians being mischaracterized as drunk, they should follow Matthew Coon Come's advice and fix rather than deny alcohol abuse problems in his group (both "his group" as in his protesters and "his group" as in the reservation he represents... its best to be explicit here because it seems that pronouns are being jumped on left right and centre and its best to just be bold from the get-go).

Other comments are almost too hilarious to believe:
Surprising to see so many comments in support of views in this day and age suggesting we have swung too far to the right here in Canada. Shades of the US situation when Kanye West saying "George Bush doesn't care about Black people" to 100 Million people in the US after Katrina hit New Orleans.
Whats surprising is that the poster fails to realize that Kanye West's claims were so laughably and demonstrably false that it boosted Bush's profile: now his enemies were claiming that he was sending the forces of nature into cities with black populations and somehow tricking the black mayor to act like an idiot. These same enemies will call him a "simple moron" the next day, and not once think about the inconsistencies. Likewise this poster: if Canada really doesn't care about Indians, why is the government spending billions on them? It was $5 billion in 1998-99 (under the Liberals, one may note). If anybody has newer figures for how much money DIAND costs us, feel free to post them in the comments.

Meanwhile I find the comment how this gaffe is weak and will weaken the anti-conservative argument to be a much more reasonable leftie to be trying to discuss this with. I don't think the Ritz situation is particularly serious either, at least the cold-cuts gag. The wishing a Liberal minister was a victim was a little over the line for my tastes, but it seems that reasonable leftie is turning out to be right: now the tide is starting to turn in favour of accepting the cold-cuts comment: "In a crisis, Ritz did what people do – resort to gallows humour to cope or make it through."

Lets just hope that bigger campaign issues, such as the Liberals out-promising the NDP by a 4-1 ratio, start to make it to the forefront.

You will notice that I blatently use "Indian" in this post even though it creates an East Indian/West Indian/North American Indian element of confusion. This is intentional, because none of the "more politically correct" terms are suitable. "Native" is a person who was born in the country in which he lives: a Sioux born in South Dakota who moves to Toronto isn't a native, while the hot asian girl who lives next door is because she was born in Halifax. Not only is "Peoples of Canada's First Nations" too long to say, but it and its derivatives are wholly inaccurate as well: these people were tribal communities at best and were not in any practical level "nations". If you can come up with a better term, suggest it in the comments.


Feynman and Coulter's Love Child said...

An article in the Edmonton SUN on Tuesday referred to $8 billion, so lets go with that for now.