Bearing witness

I, for one, am bewildered by all the banter about cultural appropriation. What started as an editorial about indigenous writing has ballooned into a full-throated debate. So far, the collateral damage has claimed the jobs or caused demotions of three journalists. I will try to be sufficiently assiduous so I don’t have to tender my resignation as the head of my one-person household.

Lost in all of this talk is the only issue that should matter in today’s society: how are we doing at improving the lot of indigenous people? I think we would all agree that we’ve made little progress. I was about six years old when I was travelling in a car with my parents near Lake Couchiching, north of Toronto. Somehow, we got lost and found ourselves in the middle of the Rama Reserve. Even at such a young age I was aghast at the poverty of the people and the ramshackle nature of the housing.

I assume that particular reserve is today vastly improved because of the casino revenue. But for all the valiant attempts over the years by governments of all stripes little has been accomplished elsewhere. There are all too many reserves that likely look little better than Rama did that day to me.

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s excellent programs to improve aboriginal education and support entrepreneurship don’t receive the accolades they should. Meanwhile, the fuss about cultural appropriation keeps the focus elsewhere. It’s honest action that matters, not high-falutin’ argument.

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