Free Speech is Great but Ignorance Isn't

By Gary McHale - The Regional

June 29, 2011

I should clarify a few misunderstood facts that the public may have as a result of views expressed in one letter last week. The Author appears upset that I compared Caledonia to the Night of Broken Glass in Nazi Germany, that I quoted from Martin Luther King Jr., and that he couldn’t find anyone in his one day search who was affected by any injustice.

First, in my editorial I stated clearly that a few elderly Jewish people, who had read Christie Blatchford’s book, compared Caledonia to the Night of Broken Glass. The comparison was made by a former Canadian Ambassador to the USA who is in his eighties as he spoke to an international award winning author who is in his late seventies.

While my wife and I listened to these experienced gentlemen talk to each other about how Caledonia reminded them of the Brown Shirts and the failure of law enforcement to protect Jewish people, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to belittle them for daring to raise the comparison. Who was I to tell people, who hid from the Nazis, that they were wrong? It should be noted that this past Father's Day various Jewish groups joined us for the first time in Caledonia and took part in our Monument rally.

Personally, I don’t see the logic that just because there are worse injustices throughout human history that somehow we should overlook what has happened in Haldimand.

Second, a quick search of the internet reveals hundreds of examples of Native people’s testimony about how residential schools helped them and their families. Does this mean that no one was victimized? I am sure I could find thousands of Native people who have no personal stories about how residential schools had negative impact on them. Based on the Author's logic this should mean that those who were harmed must suddenly move on and forget about the injustice done to them.

Furthermore, the Author appears to choose not to speak to any of the victims. The Class Action Lawsuit has published the addresses of 420 homes covered by the lawsuit in the Regional News, the Spectator and the Globe and Mail. Each of these homes received a cheque from McGuinty in Sept. 2006 due to the failure of the OPP to maintain law and order. I guess we are to believe McGuinty did this out of the kindness of his heart. I doubt the Author could list out many examples in Canadian history where so many families received payments because the police allowed violence to continue for months.

I wonder why the Author didn’t visit any of these homes and speak directly to these families before deciding that it is simply CANACE's doctrine that two tier justice was and is practiced in Haldimand.

There have been many opportunities for the public to attend court proceedings to hear for themselves what these families experienced and also what OPP officers have testified to. I don’t recall ever seeing the Author at any of these proceedings. He could have heard directly from ex-Commissioner Gwen Boniface, ex-Commissioner Julian Fantino and Insp. Babbith about how the OPP allowed repeated criminal acts to occur without any intervention and in many cases without any OPP investigation afterwards.

In short, what the Author is really saying is that no one in his family was ever assaulted or hospitalized,  experienced any nightly intimidation or was threatened, was forced to show Native passports to drive to/from his home, had their children subjected to body searches, had their property set on fire or threatened with arson, were kidnapped or had a gun pointed at them. I guess we can assume it isn’t his father, son or any family member that has brain damage due to an attack.

While it may ease some people’s conscience to believe it is only CANACE’s doctrine that injustice occurred, it is far harder for these people to belittle Blatchford’s book or Karl Walsh, president of the OPPA, who was the first to proclaim the policing policies in Caledonia were two tier justice. Walsh has stated he will never forgive OPP brass for allowing so many officers and residents to be physically hurt by their refusal to follow standard policing policies.

Finally, I do quote Martin Luther King Jr. in connection to Caledonia.  I wonder whether the Author has ever read Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham jail. If he had he would be amazed at the similarities of words used. The police, government and local church leaders called him an outsider and interloper. However, the most striking point Dr. King Jr. makes is about the greatest obstacle to lasting peace. He stated, "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'... Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

What Dr. King discovered was that most people do not want to face the difficult issues in society. Instead, it is far easier to claim everything is okay and negotiations can solve all problems. This is true throughout human history and is the reason why Neville Chamberlain was proclaimed a hero as he announced “lasting peace in our times and now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds” just before WWII. However, history remembers him as an appeaser who "conceded to belligerent demands at the expense of justice".

The Author is certainly free to express his views because, unlike others, he won’t be jailed, assaulted, hospitalized, sued for millions, have family members deported, have Children's Aid threaten to take his children or have a government campaign started to defame him.

Meanwhile, some of us will continue to fight to ensure Equality and Justice for All.