Letters July 7: John A. Macdonald statue; higher standard for schools

Hold schools to a higher standard

Re: “B.C.’s education system no hotbed of systemic racism,” comment, July 5.

Ian Cameron’s denial of embedded racism in B.C.’s school system does not make it so. In fact, it is evidence of a festering sore point for the system that he himself admits to spending copious energy to eradicate over a significant career in education.

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Systemic racism is not necessarily intentional, but rather the words help illuminate where we may fall short in Indigenous student numbers, Indigenous graduate numbers, Indigenous faculty, Indigenous administrators, Indigenous representation on boards with power and decision-making ability.

Addressing our systemic racism means that we come out of our schools having read Indigenous authors and having had an exposure to Canadian history that adequately represents the Indigenous experience both before European occupation and after colonization.

It means that we are familiar with alternative perspectives of the universe and our world that may in fact be useful for solving some of our most intransigent problems today, such as climate change, biodiversity, and in our correctional institutions.

Our school system must be held to a greater standard than just ceremonial obeisance. All of our students deserve more.

Christine Gilbertson
B.C. student and retired teacher

History censorship a perilous path

Re: “ ‘Presentism’ denies history’s ugly realities,” Geoff Johnson, July 5.

As Geoff Johnson points out in his column, attempting to refine history is a perilous path.

We can remove statues and change the names of streets and buildings, in an effort to hide the frailties and wrongful deeds of our ancestors. However, we cannot erase and rewrite history.

The human experience will never be pristine. It is neither inert, nor static. It moves with the winds of generational change.

Our history is a tapestry of both favourable and tragic events, but is historic censorship the answer to a more progressive society?

I think Geoff Johnson answers that question with a quote from Alex Haley: “Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you.”

David Mansell

Erect statues of those who fought injustices

Re: “ ‘Presentism’ denies history’s ugly realities,” Geoff Johnson, July 5.

In all my schooling, never once did I learn about the role our first prime minister played in establishing the residential school system.

I walked by his statue at Victoria City Hall frequently and nowhere was there any indication about his efforts to assimilate Indigenous people.

I am glad this statue is gone because I can appreciate the harm or stress it caused Indigenous people whenever they saw it. But I don’t want to forget this history either — far from it. I want to learn the whole story, not just the story that the colonizers told to justify their behaviour.

In every era, there are people who speak against the injustices they see. Dr. Peter Bryce was hired by Indian Affairs Department in Ottawa to report on the health conditions of the residential school system. The report was not release by government but was published by Bryce in 1922 titled: “The Story of a National Crime: Being a Record of the Health Conditions of the Indians of Canada from 1904 to 1921.”

While it is true that the Holocaust Memorials remind Germans of the horrors of Nazism, there are no statues in Germany of Hitler or any other leader associated with that reign of terror.

This proves my point: without statues, we can still learn our history.

Give me statues of Terry Fox, Dr. Peter Bryce, Viola Desmond, Rita Joe, or Chief Dan George — Canadians who tried in their own way to fight injustice or make a difference in their communities.

Susan Draper

Replace Macdonald statue with memorial

Re: “ ‘Presentism’ denies history’s ugly realities,” Geoff Johnson, July 5.

I appreciate Geoff Johnson’s columns in the Times Colonist. He often presents a thoughtful, experienced and nuanced view of educational matters. I think his argument that we shouldn’t be removing statues, however, requires further thought and discussion.

We must remember that many of the statues in question were placed by special-interest groups, with the intention of celebrating and furthering their interests and their versions of history. Johnson will know that this was, and remains, a primary motivation for the countless statues celebrating war, domination and political power.

For example, the John A. Macdonald statue removed from Victoria City hall was not commissioned by the City of Victoria, but was placed there by a special-interest group, The Sir John A. Macdonald Historical Society of Vancouver.

Comparing a statue of a flawed leader with a Holocaust memorial is not a fair comparison. Perhaps in place of John A., we need a memorial to the 2,800 Canadian children who died in residential schools?

By removing statues we are not denying reality.

We need to find better ways of communicating the reality of our complex history.

Terry Vatrt
Oak Bay

Congratulations to graduates of 2020

On the back page of Saturday’s Times Colonist was a full-page ad for the graduating students of a local high school. As I looked over the smiling faces of the graduates I saw something else, too: Canada’s future.

The generations before them have left our country, and our world in general, in quite a mess, much of it through our indifference to far too many issues, social and otherwise.

It is sad to think that these young people are the ones who will have to pick up the pieces, but I have no doubt that they will be able do it.

To all graduating students everywhere: congratulations on your accomplishments so far, and I believe that our country will in better hands in the future.

Richard Silver

Anti-Americanism a form of prejudice

Re: “ ‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: B.C. Premier,” July 2.

Jumping to conclusions isn’t the best COVID-19 exercise.

What if the licence plates from Texas and California actually belong to Canadians who reside in both countries and have done the 14-day quarantine?

This knee-jerk anti-Americanism is just another form of prejudice.

Roberta Allen
Oak Bay

Passengers seated too close on planes

After months of distancing, using sanitizer and avoiding stores, the most dangerous exposure situation was forced upon me yesterday … by flying from Vancouver to Victoria.

The de Havilland prop plane operated by a major airline was full with perhaps 50 people on board. After boarding we sat on the tarmac in Vancouver for 25 minutes, apparently messing about with the luggage.

Then the flight took another 30 minutes door to door. There were four people within one metre, and seven people within two metres of me for the whole time.

Each of those seven people were surrounded by another seven people in a series of overlapping exposure zones. I haven’t been that close to strangers for months.

Everyone had a mask but masks only reduce risk, they don’t eliminate it. Also, the passengers were coming from scattered starting points with a variety of COVID-19 situations.

I don’t think this arrangement is safe. There has to be a better way to manage passengers on planes to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

Craig Elder

Man was abusive and resisting arrest

The report in Saturday’s paper of the police pulling a man on the ground could have benefited from a less biased account by truthfully stating: “Abusive, screaming, handcuffed man, resisting arrest for throwing a garbage can into traffic, assaulting pedestrians, ended up on the ground, pulled by police until he co-operated to walk to the police vehicle.”

Motto: Don’t throw garbage cans, don’t assault people and if you are arrested, co-operate, don’t scream and resist.

What is missing in your version is whether the police gave him the chance to stand up and whether he refused.

Tony Keble

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