The Cranbrook, B.C., branch printed 40 copies of their August newsletter before pulling the issue and replacing the joke with a “Publisher’s Comment” explaining why the text was removed in an updated version. The explanation did not include an apology.
The branch has also been ordered by superiors to stop publishing jokes and cartoons in its newsletter.
Shirley Green, 77, said she was outraged when she read the joke on page 5 of the newsletter and immediately contacted branch president Edith LeClair, 63, to express her dismay.
“When I phoned the president Edith LeClair, my voice was just shaking, I was so upset to think the legion could put have printed a joke that disrespected and dishonoured thousands of aboriginal soldiers and Metis and Inuit,” Green, who is of Metis and Ktunaxa heritage, told APTN.
“I don’t feel that I have gotten a proper response, I don’t think this has been handled properly and I do hope the branch of the Legion in Cranbrook gets some education on what constitutes racism.”
The joke involved two hunters, one from Alberta and one from Saskatchewan, who separately gun down an “Indian.”
LeClair said the matter had been dealt with “internally” and that the newsletter’s publisher simply printed a joke someone had sent him.
“Obviously people can’t take a joke,” said LeClair. “I am 63 years old and as far as I am concerned a joke is a joke.
Mike Landry, the publisher, wrote in the updated newsletter that he was not “racist, sexist or a bigot” and that the joke was pulled after a complaint from one reader.
“My great-grandmother on my mother’s side was an American Native Indian born in North Dakota. My grandparents on my dad’s side are French Canadian born in Quebec. His great-grandfather is of Irish decent and was Cajun,” wrote Landry.
“This makes me a bald, native, French, Irish Catholic, nudist Canadian with a warped sense of humour.”
Landry wrote that he would no longer publish content that offended readers.
CAUTION: SOME READERS MAY BE OFFENDED BY THE FOLLOWING CONTENT.
The joke begins with the two hunters in northern Saskatchewan when “an Indian runs across the field.”
The Saskatchewan hunter aims and shoots the aboriginal dead. The Alberta hunter expresses shock, but the Saskatchewan hunter tells him it’s legal in Saskatchewan.
Later, the Alberta hunter buys beer and puts it on the roof of his truck when “an Indian runs by, grabs the beer and runs away.” The Alberta hunter then pulls out a pistol and shoots the person dead.
He’s later arrested by an RCMP officer who tells him that it’s illegal to use “bait” when shooting “Indians” in Saskatchewan.
Inga Kruse, executive director of the Legion’s B.C. and Yukon Command, said the Cranbrook branch had been ordered to no longer publish jokes and cartoons in their newsletter which will now only carry legion content.
Kruse said the branch has also been told to implement a “peer review process” for all content published in the newsletter.
Kruse said letters of apology had also been sent to Green and her daughter Joyce Green, a University of Regina professor, in response to their letters of complaint.
“We consider the Cranbrook newsletter issue an error within the branch and have worked with them to quickly and thoroughly resolve it,” said Kruse, in an emailed statement.
“We are however taking further action to notify all of our branches that they need to exercise diligence in monitoring volunteers who work on publications for their branches.”
In a previous interview, however, Kruse said the matter was not worthy of media attention.
“I don’t think it’s big news. It was a mistake that somebody made,” she said. “There is going to be a lot of people hurt if that is considered news.”
Shirley Green said she had to raise the issue out of respect for all her indigenous family members who served in the Canadian Forces.
“This was something I felt I had to do even though I knew I would come in for criticism,” she said. “There are some things you just have to do. There is no choice, you either stand up and do the right thing or you have to live with it for the rest of your life.”
Green is currently planning on compiling a book to honour all First Nation, Metis and Inuit veterans.