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A demonstrator holds a drum during the Idle No More protest at City Hall in Vancouver on Jan. 11, 2013. (BEN NELMS/REUTERS)
A demonstrator holds a drum during the Idle No More protest at City Hall in Vancouver on Jan. 11, 2013. (BEN NELMS/REUTERS)

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Jan. 17: Hardening attitudes toward aboriginals, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Hardening attitudes

An Ipsos Reid poll suggests there is a disconnect between the aboriginal protest and the Canadian public at large (Canadians’ Attitudes Hardening On Aboriginal Issues: New Poll – online, Jan. 16).

I would suggest that there is an even greater disconnect between the lifestyles of the grand chiefs, hereditary chiefs, regional chiefs, band chiefs and band managers and the quality of life experienced by far too many of the people they represent.

I wish the Idle No More movement every success, not only in addressing this disconnect, but in attempting to focus attention on Conservative legislation that has weakened environmental safeguards.

William Wiebe, Shawnigan Lake, B.C.


A rapidly growing population, poor sanitation, housing shortages (10 kids in a two-room cottage), ailing and sometimes abused children, no indoor plumbing, no electricity or easy access to safe drinking water, schools where children suffered physical and probably sexual abuse at the hands of clerics, while deprived of their ancestral language, no access to resources.

Attawapiskat? Davis Inlet and all the shanty towns of our aboriginals, Métis and Inuit? No. This is an author’s account of a village in Northern Ireland in the 1950s. Whatever the causes of the poverty, the resulting rage and resentment factored into angry young men and terrorists working together and fed The Troubles. Ireland is not free of that plague today. It may never fully resolve its issues and grievances.

Watch out, Canada.

Margaret van Dijk, Toronto


As an immigrant, I have found the disconnect between first nations and other Canadians puzzling. Canadians do not seem to know much about their history when it comes to the colonization of aboriginals. What they do know is immersed in stereotypes.

Growing up in Pakistan, my introduction to aboriginals was through Westerns, obviously the most egregious portrayal of a people. Coming to Winnipeg 37 years ago, I was exposed to the reality – aboriginals’ historical oppression, exclusion, cultural subjugation, destruction of family structure, residential schools, abject poverty on reserves.

I found many similarities between the Muslim experience under colonization, and that of aboriginals and Inuit. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from native elders and social activists who shared their stories and experiences. I believe if I had not had this relationship, I, too, like many other immigrants, would have fallen into the trap of misinformation and stereotyping of aboriginals.

The racist, often hateful online comments about the Idle No More movement are painful and embarrassing to me as a Canadian. Hate diminishes our humanity, ignoring history compounds injustice; indifference fosters resentment. This movement is for all Canadians, it is about protecting our environment from exploitation, pollution and greed. It is about standing up to neglect, political inaction, and social and racial arrogance.

This is a movement of the oppressed – mothers and youth and is thus blessed by the Divine. Will we ignore it at our own peril?

Shahina Siddiqui, president, Islamic Social Services Association Canada, Winnipeg


It should be unnecessary to point out that people have always uprooted themselves from their ancestral homelands in order to secure better lives for themselves and their children (How Idle No More Changes The View – Life & Arts, Jan. 16).

Yet there is a pervasive sentiment among many privileged, educated, middle-class Canadians that native people should exist in a context entirely outside the paths to security and self-betterment that have proven effective for everyone else. Unfortunately, so-called “progressives” have a habit of privileging ideals that confirm their “progressiveness” over approaches that are self-evidently beneficial. There is a kind of narcissism evident in such thinking that only serves to reinforce the problem.

Michael Harris, Toronto


300 million guns

Re Five Things To Watch As Barack Obama Prepares To Tackle Gun Control (Jan. 15): Given that Americans already own some 300-million guns, any gun control legislation at this stage is more like closing the asylum door after the inmates have bolted.

Craig Gordon, Fonthill, Ont.


Conflict in Mali

Didn’t Stephen Harper say no to any type of intervention in Mali? Now we’re sending logistic support and training (France Faces Prolonged Conflict In Mali – Jan. 16). What’s next? Our foreign policy appears to be whatever happens to be on Mr. Harper’s mind on any particular day. What a sorry state we are in.

David Bell, Toronto


Paid in full by Chrysler

You report that “The federal and Ontario governments are already into General Motors of Canada Ltd. and Chrysler Canada Inc. to the tune of $14-billion” (Canada Has Become A Bit Player In Automotive Subsidies – Report on Business, Jan. 14). On May 24, 2011, Chrysler repaid the Canadian-government loans it was given – in full and with interest – six years early. On July 21, 2011, Fiat purchased the remaining ownership interest (2.46 per cent) from the federal and provincial governments. This marks the date the Canadian government was completely out of ownership of Chrysler Group LLC.

Since then, we have worked tirelessly to win back public trust in our company. This has led to many successes, among them that the Ram 1500 has just been crowned the 2012 North American Truck/Utility of the Year, and we finished 2012 as the No. 2 best-selling auto manufacturer in Canada.

LouAnn Gosselin, Chrysler Canada


Nortel’s accounting

As a former CFO of two of Canada’s major companies, and audit chair over the past six years of five companies, I disagree that the Nortel verdict will encourage a return to accounting games. A permanent change has been effected by three events – the collapse of Arthur Anderson, which terrified the remaining big four audit firms and still does, Sarbanes Oxley and the Canadian equivalent, and the stock-option-backdating awareness and investigations.

The new guardians at the gates are the big four accounting firms working with boards and management who understand that the game has permanently changed (Nortel Judgment Won’t Discourage Accounting Games – Report on Business, Jan. 15).

Terry Nickerson, Mississauga


“Accounting manipulations … did not cross the line into criminal behaviour. … Nortel had a 20-year history of setting up inflated accounting reserves …” (Nortel Verdict: Not Guilty – Report on Business, Jan. 15).

What lessons are in this for the average citizen? How should this guide our ethics and actions? What manipulations are available to all of us in our search for million-dollar paydays?

Ted Syperek, Toronto

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