Listen Up! Political correctness has gone too far ~ Opinion

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Political correctness has gone too far

My politically correct friends will have a heyday with this column because I have finally had enough of it. The tipping point came this week when the Toronto District School Board announced that they are removing the word “Chief” from the titles of senior management, “out of respect for Indigenous people”. It appears that long used titles such as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer or Chief of Staff should go the way of the Dodo bird because the word is disrespectful to First Nation Canadians. What a total bunch of nonsense!

This is the same school board by the way, that allows religious services for Muslim children to be held on school property but bans all other religious activities from their premises.

To make my week worse, I found myself finally having to agree with Donald Trump on something and that hurt! He said it’s time we started saying Merry Christmas again and I am with him on that. These days we’re wished a “Happy Holiday Season” or “Seasons Greetings”. Schools have ‘holiday parties’ but Christmas parties are taboo. That seems to be the politically correct thing to do.

But Christmas is a time when Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. It is essentially a Christian festival. Others are welcome to join in, but that is the purpose of Christmas. There would be no holiday without it. I have no problem wishing my Jewish friends Happy Hanukah or hoping my Muslim friends have a holy Ramadan. So why is it so difficult to recognize Christmas for what it is? Sometimes I think that political correctness only goes one way!

Since I seem to be on a rant, let me say that I also think we take political correctness too far when it comes to our history. I find myself asking when the time will come for us to stop paying for perceived mistakes of the past. I use the word ‘perceived’ advisedly, as standards we hold today as a society are often different than they were in previous generations.

In February of this year, an Ontario Court ruled that the Federal government was liable for harm done to at-risk, on-reserve, Indigenous children who were placed in non-Aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984. It is called the 60s Scoop. Although the Government argued that the 1960s were different times and that it acted with good intentions, in line with prevailing standards, the Court agreed with the plaintiffs, who argued they had suffered lasting harm by being alienated from their heritage. The decision was made by a single Judge and the Trudeau Government did not appeal this decision. Instead, it has apparently agreed to a settlement of about $750 million  plus legal fees, as well as a further $50 million for an Indigenous Healing Foundation in Ontario. The total package will come awfully close to a billion dollars!

I have real trouble agreeing with this. It may be politically correct to put the heritage of a child first, but to me the priority should be their health and safety. Appropriate standards for the well being of a child in Canada should be the same on a reservation as they are in the rest of the country. Sadly, I know from personal experience, that they are not. I am the father of an Indigenous daughter whose abandonment on a reservation, in my view, resulted in malnourishment that has caused life-long problems. It is important therefore to recognize that the children in the so called 60s Scoop, were found to be “at risk”. There was no apparent argument about that. To me, that trumps everything else.

Political correctness has gone too far. We cannot be all things to all people and we cannot be continually paying for the sins of our fathers. Changing the names of sports teams or ripping names off buildings or taking down statues accomplishes nothing. And no amount of money can truly compensate those who really suffered from ignorance or abuse over past generations.

Canada is not perfect and our history is not without its flaws, but we still rank as one of the most respected countries in the world. We are known for our diversity and our humanity and for believing in the equality of all Canadians regardless of their background. That is what we should celebrate and that is what we should promote. There is little to be gained by constantly looking backwards and paying the price for doing so.

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25 Comments

  1. I agree that removing this word Chief is over the top in this circumstance. The word “chief”is of Norman French origin and in this case, it is not being used to racially denigrate someone.

    That being said, Merry Christmas is said in public schools all over Ontario. I know, I’ve worked in them. Furthermore, religion of all sorts is accommodated in Ontario’s public schools not just Islam. Jehovah’s Witnesses, all kinds of Christian sects, Buddhism etc—all are accommodated in Ontario public schools. In fact, it is mandated by the Province in the curriculum by the Ministry. The catholic school system in Ontario certainly says “merry Christmas” too while promoting and conserving Catholicism.
    Education at the primary and secondary level is a provincial responsibility as defined by the constitution. First Nation Education on reserves is funded by the federal government as per the constitution.
    It is not “looking backwards” to redress issues with living First Nations people who were kidnapped and forcibly removed from their parents in the 60s during the 60s scoop. It is in living memory. Most importantly, the courts have mandated restitution because the Canadian government was in breach of its commitments made to the crown in many instances.
    It’s not politically correct to put a child’s heritage first : its basic humanity and simple respect for the child.

  2. WE ARE SPENDING MORE ON THE PAST THAN WE ARE ON THE FUTURE—YOU CAN’T CHANGE THE PAST

    THE MORE YOU GIVE THEM THE MORE THEY WANT—IT WILL NEVER END—THEY CAME TO USE OUT SCHOOL SYSTEM NOT TO CHANGE IT—THEY LEFT A MESS BEHIND THEM DON’T BRING IT HERE

  3. Once again the privileged are feeling oppressed about acknowledging and showing empathy to others who have not had the advantages and powers that white people have enjoyed throughout history. Your right that we cannot pay for our father’s sins. But we cannot ignore them. Symbols, names and statues matter when they represent a wrong. We are not excused. Be correct!

    • Agreed.

      “We are known for our diversity and our humanity and for believing in the equality of all Canadians regardless of their background.”

      If the writer truly practiced what he preaches he wouldn’t have written this ridiculous opinion at all.

  4. While I may have expressed it differently I am essentially in agreement that political correctness has gone too far. To me, it’s what we have learned from our previous experiences and what we will do in the future that matters most.

  5. Hugh, I respect your opinion and you have many points that are right on.. so how did Toronto ‘the good’ end up going off the deep end? This is just one of their many sins; another big one was voting in the Wynne Liberals. That should tell you a lot about why the TDSB decided to eliminate the word chief… this may be the time that the crazies are actually running the madhouse.

  6. You’re my hero, brilliant defense of white privilege. Perfect amount of indignation.
    You may have gone a little far though in defending a program that took 15,000 indigenous children from their homes and communities to put them in white homes. Perhaps providing them with proper education, health care and social services in their communities would have been a better approach. I am pretty sure our standing in the world in regards to treatment of indigenous people would be better served if we weren’t always getting caught stealing their children.
    Relax, it was mostly liberal governments in power during that little piece of cultural genocide.

    • I too was dismayed by your take on the 60s Scoop, Hugh. You presented it as a child welfare program, when in fact it was the last gasp of the dying residential school system, designed specifically to wipe out the language and culture of our Indigenous people. I can’t imagine that you condone that.

  7. Political correctness would have to say “we pay for the sins of our Fathers and Mothers. So as not to offend trees, we should remove the word Board from The​ T.D.S.B. !!!!!!!

  8. Larry Smith , Aurora on

    I believe that you echo the thoughts and feelings of the majority of Canadians — something our Governments in this country continually choose to ignore !
    Nevertheless — well said Hugh !
    How about a rant on tax reform ?

  9. Right on Hugh! I’d say we open up a “Go Fund Me” site and those who believe we owe the indigenous people can pay into it. As for me, count me out! It’s all a scam. Young Mr. Trudeau is trying to finish what his Dad started, – trying to bankrupt Our Canada!

  10. Well said Hugh.
    Some here have ignored the fact that you have painful first hand experience and knowledge of the complexities of this subject matter.
    Some of us who know this have much admiration for your past trials and cut you a lot of slack. In any case I am among those who think that this endless (and it will never end) grievance culture is unhealthy and that those of us who have never been involved are obviously in no way guilty singularly or collectively and as such should feel no guilt and not tolerate the enormous expenditure of resources in futile attempts to settle these issues.
    There is a growing industry which depends on encouraging the culture of victim hood and grievance among the indigenous population and which depends on maintaining this unrest for it’s / their own fat salaries. Like a tumor it grows. It is a pity that this country is going down this road as it will not solve anything. But then that is the whole point isn’t it?

  11. I agree with the initial comments regarding the Toronto School board, but would also agree with Ruby about the “60’s Scoop”. As I have said before and as I read comments, too often we want to use only one paint brush. More importantly for me, is the emphasis that is placed on “money”. Far too often the idea is that we can always pay our way out of situations ( 500 years ago Martin Luther protested against a very similar idea). No amount of money will ever undo what was done. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that we as a people should not be willing to continue it. There is no going back, money cannot buy us forgiveness and reconciliation, yet we cannot just wash away the past as if it didn’t happen. For me that means finding a way to work together. In my experience when two parties look at the same issue from different perspectives the end result is often “an us vs them” situation. If that is the case, the problem doesn’t really get solved.

  12. George W. Taylor on

    Political Correctness is now a social science in schools where the so described, “White Privilege” comments could nearly be described as a hate crime. Whether it is a Lego described Mississauga lesson, or Truth and Reconciliation mandated it comes out the same. You white privileged in this classroom should be ashamed of your parents, grandparents or great grandparents for what they did. The curriculum would include the WWII Japanese, Ukrainian and Italian internments, residential schools and the 94 recommendations, Jews aboard St Louis ship, East Asian Komagata Maru ship, Irish need not apply and the famine immigration, 60’s scooping Indian adoptions but not similar unwed mother adoptions, Chinese Head Tax, KKK parades, Orange Day parades, Berlin to Kitchener, British Home Children, Doukhobors, Acadians and Huguenots expelled, Africville created, Armenian, Rwanda and Kosovo genocides and Holocaust we could have done more, slavery, Governors Cornwallis and Simcoe, the list is extensive of less than admirable behavior of the time measured by today’s standard and our many “sorry” apologies. One cannot comment on this without getting a racist label.
    Besides the many apologies Canada seems to have a need for monuments. It seems if we even come close to an issue Canada sets up a monument and an apology while suggesting other statues come down.
    This parliamentary statement by PM Trudeau, “the younger” on fulfilling all of the 94 apologetic recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission he had forgotten his dad’s PM Trudeau’s, “the elder” statements to the contrary.
    Parliamentary exchange when opposition leader Mulroney asked Trudeau the elder to apologize to Japanese Canadians Trudeau shot back, “How many other historical wrongs would have to be righted.” Adding, “I do not think it is the purpose of a government to right the past. I cannot rewrite history.” Back to Trudeau the younger maybe did not read all 94 recommendations because recommendation numbers 80, 81, and 82 require a statutory holiday, a national monument in Ottawa and one in each provincial capital to honour survivors of residential schools. Not possible.
    This article in the Walrus magazine titled, “A Sorry State,” by author Mitch Miyagawa a descendant person from a family of interned Japanese Canadians, who divorced, remarried who comments that he may have received more apologizes than any person in the country, maybe the world between his parents and grandparents marrying-mixing, Chinese, Japanese and Aboriginal.
    Mississauga Lego Teacher https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/how-legos-helped-build-a-classroom-lesson-on-white-privilege/article36610854/?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theglobeandmail.com&cmpid=rss1&click=sf_globefb

  13. Within the context of this excellent debate around the nature, the legitimacy, and the apparent obsession for political correctness within a certain and somewhat dysfunctional educational jurisdiction, an interesting and an insightful comment by one of Canada’s most prominent and prolific historians over the last 50 years, Jack Granatstein (author of Who Killed Canadian History? [1998], who spearheaded the creation and was the initial CEO of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa; son of Jewish immigrants who fled the pogroms of eastern Europe early in the 20th century.):
    “We prattle about our sins, persuading schoolchildren that this society, if it has any past at all, has a history that is overwhelmingly one of oppression and shame. This serves no Canadian interest and no public purpose. It distorts history …. We don’t want a propaganda machine that only preaches our virtues, but neither do we want a catalogue of shame …. [where] Canadian children are made to wallow in the sins of the past …. The Canadian past is more balanced, more nuanced.”

    In my current role as an instructor of Canadian history/civics education within a Bachelor of Education program located within the GTA, this is a quotation I highlight again and again with my 22 teacher candidates as we “uncover” and “unpack” – for some, it’s their first experience – Canada’s past, which within the schools until recently has been presented from the sole perspective of the enlightened and civilizing European “colonizer.” The focus within the schools today is the presentation of our past from that of “diverse perspectives,” largely forgotten or marginalized “voices,” but still within our evolving national narrative.

    Of my current 22 teacher candidates – all residing from within the GTA – only three trace their ancestry back to the British Isles four or five generations ago. The other 19 have immigrated – or their parents have – from 17 countries stretched across the globe; and within that context, I have had the privilege to hear and interact with their stories of political upheavals, bloody civil wars, uncertainty, resilience, but I have also heard stories of compassion and opportunity here in Canada – and endless gratitude.

    • Very well said Mr. Lear. Once again, it is a matter of finding a workable balance between not enough freedom and too much freedom.

      • So true, and within this dynamic reality of an increasingly secular yet multi-faith/cultural society , public education – especially the social studies and Canadian history teachers within the system – has such a significant responsibility and plays such a pivotal role in presenting a balanced interpretation of our common past with its overarching national narrative – yes, ‘warts and all’ – while at the same time acknowledging new ‘voices,’ and ‘diverse perspectives,’ which until recently have been forgotten, ignored, or in some cases, suppressed.
        Such is the challenge we face in this world of political correctness that we appear to inhabit – no easy task!

  14. Irena Van Hoof on

    Agreed with the rant. Maybe the scoop was wrong. Should have left the children like we do now. They get to live their culture and commit suicide. No matter what we try it will be wrong. We can not fix others but we keep trying because we care but history shows that trying to help others will not be seen as helpful.

  15. Karen Wehrstein on

    Well, Hugh, and everyone who agrees with him on the 60s Scoop issue, you maybe need to remember why the kids ended up on those reservations in those conditions in the first place — so white people could steal their living space and thus destroy their way of life, in which they had been free and independent, with no need for government handouts. In all the righteous indignation in the comments here, I think I am the first one to mention this. Why? Make you feel too guilty? We should not forget our history, right?
    .
    To test which way they should have gone in the 60s, you can do the simple thought experiment of giving the parents their choice. 1) Send your child away to a white household; or 2) the same amount of money that would have been used to raise and educate the child in the white household is used to improve conditions on the reservation? Imagine yourself as one of those parents and that should give you a firm answer right there.
    .
    Some people here need a bit of “unlearning racism” education. Watch this if you can bear it: http://secretpath.ca/ .

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