Letters July 8: Listen to the new governor general; retribution vs. reconciliation

Let’s hope politicians listen to Mary Simon

Mary Simon’s appointment as Governor General is a first-rate appointment, yes, and overdue.

However, one hopes this time that Simon behaves as the Queen’s representative should in current circumstances — actively and forcefully performing the role of monarchy to “advise, consent, and (perhaps, most importantly) warn.”

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She certainly has better qualifications than any of the politicians.

Of course, we will still be dependent on the politicians listening and understanding — a trait somewhat uncommon these days.

Roger Love
Saanich

Doing wrong things will not help anything

The atrocities that happened in the residential school system were things that many Canadians still have trouble accepting could have happened in this country; but they did, they were real, and they were flat-out wrong.

The attacks on statues and churches may be bringing a brief moment of revenge and satisfaction to the ­perpetrators, but destroying anyone else’s property, for any reason, is wrong.

In the world of mathematics, two negative numbers equal a positive number. But in the world of human ethics and respect for others, two wrongs will never make anything right.

Doing wrong things is not going to reconcile anything, and it is definitely not the way to go forward with building a ­better country of inclusion for all of us.

Richard Silver
Colwood

What if the roles were reversed?

I have finished reading the numerous ­letters to the editor, bemoaning the vandalism to the many statues in our city.

While I am definitely not in favour of vandalism of any sort, I must wonder if the situation was reversed and the white population of Victoria and surrounding areas was the minority, what the prevailing attitudes would be.

What if we were here first and had established a society over the centuries, completely in tune with nature, only to have it invaded by peoples we did not know or understand? What if it was us, who were subjected to diseases that ­decimated our peoples?

What if it was us, who were issued blankets laden with smallpox in an effort to wipe out the remaining pockets of the population?

What if, when that failed, a strange “religious” group came along and tried to assimilate us and wipe out our culture?

And what if, when that failed, the ruling invaders stole our children, forced them to learn a new language and culture? And when they did not, abused them in every hideously possible way and then denied any knowledge of the missing?

Perhaps we should walk a mile or 10 in their shoes and try to understand the terrible indignities (to put it mildly) that the Indigenous people of the area and all of Canada have suffered.

We might be whistling a different tune.

Jay Bowles
Fourth-generation white Victorian

An eye for an eye: Where does it lead?

Burning totem poles and churches, toppling statues and other crimes make me think of this saying, commonly attributed to Gandhi:

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Barry Jensen
Brentwood Bay

Apology is needed before we can heal

Re: “Not much leadership, plenty of ignorance, and a touch of anarchy,” letters, July 6.

I am surprised that there was no reflection on what triggered all that we have been witnessing — why there has been vandalism, violence, burning of churches and toppling of statues.

We all agree that burning of churches, torching totem poles or toppling statues is not the answer to the pain and trauma that Indigenous people are experiencing.

But what is more shocking is that not even a single letter-writer mentioned that these events might have been triggered by the lack of sensitivity of the Christian church to disclose information about the deaths of innocent indigenous children that the church had in their possession for years.

Neither there was any mention by any letter-writer about the persistent reluctance of the Vatican to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the genocide. Perhaps these are key aggravating ­factors that have given rise to vandalism and violence we are, rightly or wrongly, so upset about.

We can not change the past, but the power and control of the colonial ideology of “racial and religious superiority” that led to the torture, trauma and murder of Indigenous children still exists in our systems, structures and institutions in the form of Indigenous racism.

Hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women, poor living and housing conditions across reserves, and indignities toward Indigenous people in health care are some examples that come to mind.

For healing to begin and real reconciliation to start, Catholic leadership must apologize and take responsibility for this genocide; and government must address all forms of racism against Indigenous people.

Before we place blame or label any group or individual, we should read our colonial history: “If we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.”

Jeet Rana
Victoria

Are visitors wanted in Victoria?

I was deeply dismayed to see a mob tear down the statue of Capt. James Cook that has graced the Inner Harbour since 1976.

The captain was an Englishman who is revered by many, in part because he charted one-third of the globe and did so almost completely peacefully.

I was also distressed to see a mob attack the statue of Queen Victoria on the legislative grounds. These two statues are important representations to many Canadians of British heritage.

I hold Mayor Lisa Helps and her council accountable for helping to create an atmosphere of animosity toward those who believe that Canada is a good place to live.

The council’s recent action to withhold celebrations of Canada Day in Victoria added impetus to those who feel entitled to attempt the destruction of elements of our shared Canadian culture.

I spent my adolescence in Victoria, hold a fondness for the city, and have travelled to it a great many times. ­However, I am ashamed of what it has happened there.

Feeling most unwelcome, I need to consider if I want to travel to Victoria again and if I should alert my friends and associates who are loyal to Canada that Victoria no longer wants them as visitors.

Daniel Brown
Vancouver

Anarchy is not the way forward

As we attempt to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous peoples of Canada, all of us should recognize some hard truths.

As we have seen in recent days, Catholic and Anglican churches have burned, and statues that represent British colonialism have been vandalized, or toppled, in the wake of unmarked graves found near decommissioned residential school sites.

But what if things had played out ­differently? What if Capt. James Cook had never set foot on what is now known as Vancouver Island?

Well, for one thing, the Spanish were already on the largest island on the west coast of the Americas in the late 1700s. And if not the British or the Spanish, the Americans or the Russians would have eventually arrived in the waters of the Salish Sea, if the Dutch or the Portuguese had not gotten there first.

The truth is, a great naval power, with great weapons and a great treasury, was at some point going to sail to the Salish Sea, and then almost certainly made life very difficult for the peoples who were already there.

As it played out, the outcomes for these peoples have not been very good, but those outcomes could have easily been worse, depending on which flags had otherwise flown on the arriving ships in the late-1700s to mid-1800s period of time.

The bottom line is this: We can try to move forward together in an effort to achieve reconciliation, but mob-rules lawlessness is not a shining beacon for that path. Anarchy is not a way forward.

Trevor Amon
Victoria

Our name, our flag are both just fine

In his recent column discussing Canada’s name and flag, Trevor Hancock raised an interesting if provocative theme for debate about reconciliation.

I find his proposals surprising, however, when one considers how very appropriate both our country’s name and its flag are in the present context.

According to Jacques Cartier, the ­16th-century French explorer, the term ‘kanata’ meant village and he applied it, using easily pronounced European spelling, to what he understood to be a country made up of many villages. The name stuck.

It was an Iroquois word and Cartier, in accepting an Indigenous term, perhaps anticipated one day the need for some common ground as the basis for discussion of the country’s future. The spelling appears both in Cartier’s writings and on a map dating from 1565.

Canada’s maple leaf flag, adopted by Parliament in 1965 after much national debate, is a perfect reflection of the vital importance of the natural world in the lives of all its inhabitants.

This theme underpins so much of Indigenous life and art, it is difficult to suppose anyone might disagree.

There are many bases on which reconciliation might be built, but proposing alterations to two of our most important national symbols, already remarkably well chosen, seems more mischievous than constructive. But then, perhaps that was Hancock’s intention in the first place.

Tom Masters
Chemainus

No new flag, no new name, let’s move forward

No, we do not need another flag or name for Canada. Our current flag includes all of us. Furthermore, any alteration in sympathy for any reason should not be tolerated.

Yes, the Indian schools were disgusting and a tragedy brought on by religious zealots. We are all upset and ashamed. Time to move on and get over it.

We live in a new time and a new and wonderful age. Living in the past is not a way forward.

Eric Westlake
Sidney

Learn from history, do not wipe it out

Geoff Johnson recommends the revision of our schools’ history curriculum, among other things, and I agree wholeheartedly.

Our colonial history — the good, the bad, and the ugly — should be part of all students’ learning so that a true picture of our cultural evolution is presented.

We cannot learn from ignoring certain historical aspects of our past as a nation, in essence wiping out history, or from hiding our previously noted historical ­figures by removing statues.

Leave those statues there, and attach plaques explaining their support at the time for policies that have proved to be very harmful over time.

Learn from their errors in judgment; do not hide these errors from our sight. As Marcus Garvey stated: “A people ­without the knowledge of their past ­history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Mary F. Kennedy
Victoria

Let’s celebrate when all are free

I’m happy that a recent letter-writer is grateful to Canada for taking her in 1940, but Canada was not open to everyone.

In 1939, Canada rejected accepting the St. Louis, a ship carrying 907 Jewish refugees from Europe escaping the ­talons of Hitler. Prime Minister Mackenzie King said it was not Canada’s problem. An official declared, “The line mist be drawn somewhere” and the ship returned to Europe where many met their demise.

We know Canada’s history is not squeaky clean.

There are many instances of racism and injustices from the past including treatment of Indigenous people, Chinese, Blacks, East Indians, the list goes on.

In my own family, my father wanted nothing more than to serve his country in the Second World War. He advanced to a certain rank, and was then denied going any further unless he changed his name to something sounding “less Jewish.” In the end he decided against it, otherwise my name might have been Galbraith.

My mother remembers the difficulty of finding rental accommodations in Toronto during the war as a graduate student and recalled signs that said: “No Jews. No Dogs.”

She and her roommates went to court to fight a bylaw prohibiting renting to Jews, and lost the case.

Being white allows people a level of privilege they don’t always comprehend. It’s time to open doors, accept and appreciate Indigenous and other non-white cultures, and right the wrongs of so many years. We can celebrate Canada Day when we are all free.

Janna Ginsberg Bleviss
Oak Bay

Nothing gained when a church burns

While a final determination has yet to be made by local authorities, the burning of Morinville, Alta.’s touchstone, the St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church constructed in 1907, has all the hallmarks of a ­determined and purposeful attack on a community, its symbols and its meaning to its parishioners.

It is also an attack on religious freedom, expression and a most importantly, the right of a local community to gather to practise its faith in a peaceful and meaningful way.

By any definition this event is an act of hate, it is morally bankrupt and without place in any civil society.

While many would claim its razing is somehow justified by the historical actions of the Catholic Church, I’d ask that they consider that an attack on a place of worship is not an attack on the church, it is an attack on the people whose beliefs are protected under our Charter — the very people whose work in the Morinville and surrounding community should be admired for its selflessness, dedication and commitment to others.

For many this may be just another tragedy in a long list of terrible events that marked the slow ending to 2020 and 2021 — for me, it’s a terrible end to a journey my family helped to establish for over 100 years — my great-grandfather’s horse team pulled the bells of “l’eglise de Saint-Jean-Baptiste” into its bell tower — going back four generations, my family worshiped, celebrated and mourned in this exceptional place.

And now it’s gone. And there is nothing gained in its passing.

Mike Houle
North Saanich

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