February 27, 2004

Frost Hits the Rhubarb

Harper sails into storm with natives Brian Laghi, Feb. 27, 04, Globe and Mail

Ottawa — [. . . .Stephen Harper's] office sent greetings to a Canadian aboriginal organization on the occasion of Republic Day, which commemorates India's independence from Britain.

"As you partake in cultural festivities and events, which honour your ancestors and celebrate your heritage, I am pleased to pay tribute to the members of the Indian community in Canada," the Jan. 26 letter signed by Mr. Harper said.

A red-faced Mr. Harper issued an apology yesterday.

The gaffe prompted the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, which got the letter, to compare Mr. Harper to the Italian-born explorer.

"It is shameful, Mr. Harper, that you as a potential leader in this country choose such offhand forms of communication which make you guilty of possessing a poor briefing staff at best, and racist approaches to policy at worst," said a letter from the organization's president, Rick Lobzun. "This is 2004, Mr. Harper, not 1492 . . . the last time a man got lost looking for India."

[. . . . ] The term Indian was used almost exclusively to describe American aboriginal groups until the midpoint of the 20th century and is still used by many today, including some native bands themselves. Indeed, the federal department responsible for aboriginal groups continues to call itself Indian and Northern Affairs.

My Commentary: Response from the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres

Don't tell me the above was not an honest mistake made by someone -- perhaps a graduate of one of our high schools whose brush with history involved more touchy-feely stuff than rigorous training in reading carefully. Trying to equate a simple, honest mistake on the part of a campaign worker with the Liberal slush fund troubles won't work.

Now that the Liberals are deep in the sponsorship/slush fund scandal, this sounds almost as though a Liberal were trying to foment something negative about Stephen Harper. Was it written by the fellow who trucked so many people from reserves to the voting booth last election and told them how to vote? I heard one ask "Who do I vote for?" and "I've never voted before; what do I do? Where do I go?" I was there and saw the whole thing. One even grinned and said "I may be back", presumably to vote again. But I suppose this is how Liberals get votes. Don't tell me I'm a racist; it won't wash -- not with me.


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