Letter to the Editor by William Hennessy – First Nations People Deserve Better – Ottawa Ontario – November 2, 2010

Our First Nations People Deserve Better

We need to treat our First Nations citizens better.  I have been reading the Standard Freeholder for quite some time and I am appalled with how many derogatory comments are made by online readers about First Nations people living in or near Cornwall.

Many of these hurtful, ignorant comments contend that Indigenous people should remain on their reserve because they are too drunk, violent and disruptive.  I think this is a ridiculous, racist, and inconsiderate treatment of a group of people who inhabited the land we now live on well before Canada was a country.

Simply analyzing the term “First Nation” implies that we, immigrants or descendants of British and French colonizers, are the “second nation.”  Let’s face it, how would you react if your children were taken from you, your land was stolen from you, and every aspect of your language and culture was (and still is) dictated by a government that was not willing to understand you?
Sir John A. MacDonald is revered as a founding father of Confederation, our first Prime Minister, and was recently named one of the Greatest Canadians, according to a popular CBC survey. What you may not know is that in the 1885 Dominion Franchise Act, MacDonald passed legislation that declared that “no Chinaman, Japanese or Indian shall have his name placed on the Register of Voters for any Electoral District, or be entitled to vote at any election.”

My point is not to sully MacDonald’s reputation but to emphasize that too often white privilege and power is taken for granted and this results in the (sometimes unconscious) racialization of other groups.  Racism was prevalent in Canadian society during the 1800’s and still is today.

As a teacher, I feel it is important to promote inclusivity and to challenge negative stereotypes, especially ones that perpetuate intolerance and racism.

William Hennessy,
Ottawa, ON

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)



  1. It’s called “survival of the fittest”.

  2. I’m sorry but all cultures and nationalities are racist. It’s only us liberal white guys who will admit that we prefer to deal with people from our own background. It’s easier to understand their motivation. It’s hard work to be truly multicultural.

  3. Reg,
    I agree that many cultures and nationalities are racist, including ours. Isn’t this a problem? Also, I disagree with you that white PEOPLE (not just men) “prefer to deal with people from our own background.” I would prefer not to be lumped in with your stateement. It IS hard work to be multicultural. Isn’t it worth working for?

  4. I’m not saying many, I’m saying all! All different cultures are more comfortable with their own. What I said was that it seems only liberal white guys are honest enough to admit it, which leads to your politically correct attitude and commentary.

    OK I’ll admit “guys” is a sexist term, but for the sake of brevity I omitted a politically correct sexless description of a non-entitled and targeted segment of the multicultural milieu that is Canada.

  5. You forgot the third nation, as many have become, they are known as one language only speakers.

    I believe the fault lays with the first nation themselves. They get something like 7 billion a year, have all this land and get tax free status. Post secondary education is cheap for them as well, who could not go far with all that?

  6. Excuse me??? but all what land???? Have you ever been to a reserve?? and 7 Billion?? From where and for what?? Tax free status?? Where thats a partial myth, when I go shopping I have to pay tax, If I present my status card, I get “oh sorry, we dont accept that.”…Post Secondary Education??? Dont you read the news?? Do you not know about the rally on Parliament Hill recently?? Natives walked for 300 miles to try to convince Parliament to help with Post Secondary education! You are just another example of the ignorance we face on a daily basis based on stereotypes that were made up and which people chose to believe by their own fault… So…Im sure there is a free library where you are…Read up on your history as a country and the right of 1st Nations People and how they are violated everyday…spend some time in our shoes, then come back and place an educated comment!

  7. Katrina Oakes makes an important point. Part of the fault is that over 900 land claims have been sitting in front of the courts for a decade. Another part of the problem is that a vast portion of the funds intended for providing reserves with clean water and other normal expectations is lost in funding offices, buildings and bureaucrats known as Native Affairs. It’s difficult to comprehend but there is a massive difference between Native Affairs and people on the reserve or holding status cards. And then you have to understand the residential school system as one long dark form of wrongful conviction. I don’t have an answer but the people who walked 300 miles to Parliament Hill probably did.

  8. Kaianohon, the 2006 census lists the First Nations have or control 15 million hectars and the Inuit have or control 45 million hectars, that seems like a lot of land for under 4% of the population.
    Perhaps the 7 billion dollars includes staff at the Ministry, I would have to look further, however recent news reports list several band leaders making hundreds of thousands each year, could that money be spent better? Absolutly!

    Most governments could spend money better, a recent example is Dalton McGuinty (on our behalf) spending up to 40 million to sponsor 74 phd students from around the world. Some people could use that to pay for heat and hydro…..but no !

    I have read a couple of books recently, 1759 by Laport and a couple on 1812-1814 by Berton. The efforts of your ancestors, and mine by the way, in forging this country is beyond my words. I have already read various accounts of the NWMP prior to RCMP name changes, and could not imagine that being repeated today.

    I do not understand though, how First Nations peoples, like the Algonquins for example, do not vote outside of the band? Should you not have a say provincially and federaly?

    This country really needs full discussions on everything, but people get defensive and blocks are put in the path.

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