No apologies

Dear editor,

You have invited me to respond to Kevin Stewart’s letter about Colonization Road.

Last week your newspaper ran a page of largely anonymous commentary on a sensitive issue, contrary to your own policy on letters and widely-accepted journalistic practice. The decision to do this served no apparent truth-seeking function, but instead aired and validated an undercurrent of ignorance and racism which has no legitimate place in a good faith discussion about reconciliation and inclusion in our community.

If the Times was interested in canvassing the perspective of those impacted, it should have started with Indigenous people who have been victims of colonial law and policy. Instead, you printed complaints, mostly from white people and senior citizens. Some appear to have been emboldened by the opportunity to take anonymous shots at a minority group and a councillor.


The reality is that most of the practical questions which were raised in the letters you printed have been answered. There is no cost to update government-issued identification. There is no need or cost to update land titles. Canada Post offers a free 12-month mail-forwarding service when municipalities change addresses. The cost to the town to change the signage is very small, and private citizens have offered to pay it.

We also know that municipalities face potential human rights claims if they continue to use official names which degrade people based on protected grounds, such as ancestry. And we know that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded, with evidence, that colonization is an inherently racist concept.

The residual opposition consists of little more than innuendo and ignorance about Indigenous people and their role in our community. One anonymous writer you gave space to actually referred to Indigenous people as “outsiders”, when the fact is that 25-30% of the town’s residents are Indigenous. That doesn’t even account for those who live elsewhere but work, shop, or attend school here.

I am committed to ensuring that any name change will be implemented in a way that eases the burden on residents, including seniors, but I will not shy away from this necessary change because of solvable, minor inconveniences. As an elected official, I take reconciliation seriously. It is a commitment to real change, not just a slogan.

Indigenous people are the youngest and fastest growing segment of our population, and a number of local businesses are also now owned by them. Ensuring our community reflects their identities and cultural and economic contributions to Fort Frances in a respectful manner helps to secure our aspirations for the future. The town’s strategic plan says as much, but it’s also the right thing to do.

Reconciliation requires the mayor and council to provide leadership to the community in this important discussion on our history and path forward. Each of us must exercise the judgment to separate disingenuous arguments and both latent and overt racism from the equation. The media should do the same with its platform.

I am going to continue to push our community to do more to be modern and inclusive. I am not apologizing for that.

Sincerely,
Douglas W. Judson

Editor’s Note: A similar flyer campaign has been distributed by the Fort Frances Times to Couchiching First Nation, and the local Region 1 office of the Metis Nation of Ontario, as the communities in closest proximity to Fort Frances. The results of this survey are currently being compiled. Members of area First Nations communities are welcome to participate; if you would like to receive a copy of the flyer, you can e-mail a request to mwalchuk@fortfrances.com.