Ref­er­ence to ‘set­tler com­mu­ni­ties’ ran­kles reader

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

Re: “The baby, bath­wa­ter and down­town Syd­ney,” let­ter to the editor, Cape Breton Post, April 27.)

The authors of this let­ter de­scribed them­selves “as a group of women who come to­gether reg­u­larly to dis­cuss is­sues we see as crit­i­cal to the sur­vival and trans­for­ma­tion of the CBRM.” They cer­tainly do not aim low. We are in­deed for­tu­nate in hav­ing yet an­other in­ter­est group out there con­cerned with our “sur­vival” and “trans­for­ma­tion, ever at the ready to pro­vide us with their im­pri­matur on projects they deem worth­while.

What is most re­veal­ing about this ar­ti­cle is its an­cil­lary com­men­tary con­cern­ing other mat­ters, prin­ci­pal among them its ref­er­ence to “set­tler com­mu­ni­ties.”

The phrase ‘set­tler com­mu­ni­ties” as op­posed to First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties is pe­jo­ra­tive. It is clearly deroga­tory, as if to im­ply that com­mu­ni­ties other than First Na­tions ones are some­how in­ter­lop­ers, usurpers and, of course, that old chestnut meant to den­i­grate west­ern val­ues, “oc­cu­piers.” It is this type non­sense that main­tains and pro­motes an at­mos­phere of griev­ance pol­i­tics.

I don’t think the peo­ple of Lake Ainslie, Port Morien, Frenchvale or any of the many other com­mu­ni­ties across Cape Breton con­sider them­selves mem­bers of ‘set­tler com­mu­ni­ties.” They and their an­ces­tors helped build this area. They fished, farmed, worked in fac­to­ries, raised fam­i­lies and did all of the other things that con­sti­tuted their right to be called cit­i­zens.

It may be con­ve­nient for mem­bers of a self-ap­pointed elit­ist group to at­tempt to ex­or­cise their sense of guilt by us­ing phrases such as this one but it does not make it true.

Last month we hon­oured the mem­o­ries of those who fought at Vimy Ridge. They did not go across that hilly ter­rain of death as mem­bers of “set­tler com­mu­ni­ties.” Cape Breton was their home, as much as it is the home of all cit­i­zens, be they ones who can trace their an­ces­try back cen­turies, those who came here last year or those who im­mi­grate here to­day. There is no need for such strat­i­fi­ca­tion, no re­quire­ment for such sub-cat­e­go­riza­tion or any­thing of the sort. All are equal.

The mis­takes of the past will not be reme­died by fix­at­ing our­selves with the same ap­proach and method­ol­ogy that brought about those ev­ery mis­takes. Ref­er­ence to “set­tler com­mu­ni­ties” is a facile type de­scrip­tion, ig­no­rant of his­tory and mo­ti­vated by ide­ol­ogy and mod­ern day politi­cal ob­jec­tives.

Next the ar­ti­cle speaks of “our need to be­gin to gen­uinely learn from and fol­low the lead of our First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties.” What do the authors mean by this state­ment? Clearly some of the First Na­tions have achieved re­mark­able suc­cess, Mem­ber­tou chief among them. It would be won­der­ful if the means to such suc­cess could be adopted or at least suc­cess­fully adapted else­where.

So, do tell. What is the method? What is the ap­proach? Does it in­volve a model of gov­er­nance or business s devel­op­ment that CBRM, for in­stance, can fol­low. Per­haps the authors can en­cour­age the First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties they speak of to share with oth­ers how to do it. In the process we will all ben­e­fit.

I sus­pect, how­ever, that their ref­er­ence, in this re­gard, is merely yet an­other plat­i­tude thrown out there as if to con­vey a sense of em­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing un­fa­mil­iar to us lack­ing their ap­par­ent eru­di­tion and so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

David De­laney Al­bert Bridge

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