Aboriginal anguish: white silence, hate both deafening
As a Saulteaux man and a band member of Weagamow Lake First Nation, I used to grumble that topics pertaining to Aboriginal communities rarely made the headlines, especially when I was covering those issues. But with Idle No More popping up in the news recently, my grumbling has been replaced with frustration over all the hate speech that is freely accessible to the public online.
Derogatory statements made by commentators have become a pervasive fixture on many online news websites and social media sites like Facebook. This is worrisome because movements like Idle No More have received a lot of flack from everyday Canadians who might not have a clear understanding of the issues involved.
Idle No More began in its physical form on Dec. 10, 2012 when protestors took a number from Occupy Wall Street and took up temporary residence in federal buildings throughout the country to fight Bill C-45, a controversial piece of legislation in an omnibus budget bill. As Idle No More gained media attention, I began to notice a lot of white noise.
The latter was the deafening silence of the Harper government, stifled by the cacophony of hate speech being spread throughout social media in response to this movement.
It was actually pretty tense, as I saw one gentleman post a picture of a semi-automatic rifle, saying he was going to “see what the red man has to say about this!” on Twitter. He has since deleted the tweet and made his account private. What was the media’s reaction?
Despite Idle No More advocates clearly stating on the web site and in interviews the mandate of Idle No More to contest changes to the Indian Act and to protect territorial waters, Sun News Network still managed to call those involved in the movement terrorists – but maybe Sun News is a bad example. I digress.
What has the response to Idle No More taught me? It has taught me that an indeterminate number of Canadians see me as a jobless, hopeless drunk who is dependent on the government for social assistance to get by – I didn’t know that, I thought I was doing just fine going to a leading community college to study journalism.
I worry for Aboriginal youth who are more familiar with the Internet who read these messages about death threats to the founders of Idle No More, or the hateful comments left on stories about Idle No More. The movement is a gamble, and not everyone is fully convinced that it will bring positive change. One thing for sure though, is that things must change.
Christian Quequish is a former intern reporter at Wawatay who is now the news editor at Humber College’s student newspaper.
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