Reference to ‘settler communities’ rankles reader
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