Columnist Christie Blatchford has written extensively in The Globe and Mail about the native occupation in Caledonia, Ont. Her new book, Helpless, chronicles the events surrounding the occupation, and how the provincial government and law enforcement responded to the crisis. She writes in her introduction, "What this book is really about is the failure of government to govern and protect all its citizens equally."
She responded to readers' questions in an online discussion about Caledonia.
Christie won the 1999 National Newspaper Award for column-writing, and her book about Canadian soldiers, Fifteen Days, Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army, won the Governor-General's Award for non-fiction. Her new book will be in bookstores on Tuesday.
Globe and Mail: Hello. Christie Blatchford is now joining us to take your questions about Caledonia. I'd like to start today's discussion with a comment from a reader identified as Meduim size red: "I would like to hear how Stephen Harper can justify bringing Mr Fantino in as a candidate given what has happened and still continues to occur in Caledonia. I have always felt that the provincial Liberals and the OPP have abandoned the people of Caledonia, and now it appears that Stephen Harper has as well by welcoming Mr. Fantino into the Conservative fold."
Christie, what is your response to this reader's comment?
Christie Blatchford: I agree with you. Sadly, the Tories' overly simplistic views of law and order means Fantino is a fine fit.
Globe and Mail: We have received several comments that point a finger at Dalton McGuinty for his role in Caledonia. Would you care to comment on the role the Premier played?
Christie Blatchford: The Premier's role on Caledonia has been to stay as far under the radar as possible, as evidenced by the fact that during the first and worst months (years) of the occupation, he was nowhere to be seen.
Globe and Mail: Here's a question from Ben: Do you agree that had prov and fed govts respected aboriginal land rights and treaties, this issue would never have arisen?
Christie Blatchford: Ben, not sure you can say that about this case in particular -- Ottawa has never recognized this claim -- but insofar as the role that aboriginal anger probably played in the occupation, yes. And the pace of land claims is disgraceful.
Globe and Mail: Here's a question from Christine Gibson: I was just wondering if Christie actually interviewed any native inhabitants of Caledonia. I was also wondering how much time Christie actually spent in Caledonia.
Christie Blatchford: Hi Christine. Since I was telling the story of the breakdown of the rule of law -- which means it's about government and police failures -- I interviewed few from Six Nations. But a key few -- Chief Bill Montour among them.
Daniel Wilson: Based on the printed excerpt of your book - in which you use solely non-Aboriginal sources, present a thesis that the federal and provincial governments have failed non-Aboriginal residents over the past four years but ignore the decades during which the rule of law has been denied to First Nations, and demonstrate a lack of legal scholarship and historical knowledge by referring to the Six Nations land claim as both "tenuous" and brought "belatedly" - one might conclude that your work is one-sided and perhaps racist. How would you respond to this perception?
Christie Blatchford: First, I'd say read the book. One excerpt doesn't do it. But beyond that, the book's not about the claim. It's about the lawlessness and violence which police and government enabled. I don't purport to be writing a treatise on Six Nations, land claims or the Plank Road claim in particular. What I'm writing about I know something about -- the rule of law. Cheers.
Dave: Can you tell me why there is no analysis on colonialism and its ongoing effects in this country. Other nations are truely on the path to healing and reconciling the wrongs of the past while Canada continues to act out a British legacy of dominance, control, and vilification of any indigenous people who stand up for themselves. All of this is connected to Caledonia, a new housing development on an active land claim. This seems to be more of the same, indigenous people in the way of development so the rich interests, who have historically been in control, can continue to deepen their wealth.
Christie Blatchford: Hi Dave. No analysis if colonialism in my book. I quite agree. But I don't pretend it's not in the background; it is of course. But there are other people better able to speak to this than me. My book is about a narrow slice, a current event.