POLITICS

Winnipeg newspaper column critical of First Nations leaders gets criticized

06/29/2015 11:38 EDT | Updated 06/29/2016 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - The publisher of a Winnipeg-based newspaper has apologized for his handling of a recent column that criticized First Nations chiefs for not addressing social issues on reserves.

Bernie Bellan of The Jewish Post and News says the column by Bill Marantz, a former provincial court judge, contained inflammatory language "which should not have been allowed to go in unedited."

Bellan posted the apology to the website of the weekly newspaper, noting the column had provoked "quite a negative feedback."

Chief Jim Bear of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation says he was "totally appalled" by Marantz's remarks.

In the column, Marantz suggested that aboriginal leaders "are too busy feathering their own headdresses" to worry about unemployment, poverty, illness, alcoholism and crime in their communities.

Bear says he wants Marantz to know that as a chief, he works more than full time.

In the opinion piece, Marantz also takes aim at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which he calls a waste of time.

"Any `Canadian' (Indian code for `paleface') who is unaware of the abuses of the Residential School System, at this stage of the game, just hasn't been paying attention for the last 50 years,” reads the opinion piece.

Marantz tells CTV Winnipeg he makes no apologies for his repeated use in the column of the term "Indian," which some consider outdated.

"It's not accurate, they're not Indians, it was a mistake when they first used it but everybody knows it now and everybody uses it,” says Marantz. “And there's a hundred First Nations and they have all kinds of different names and everything else."

Bellan wrote that he wanted to apologize to anyone who was offended by Marantz's column and says he invites anyone who is interested to write a response.

"I should note, though, that I have received a fair number of e-mails and calls and have read tweets from individuals who have identified themselves as natives and who have expressed agreement, either in whole or in part with the general tenor of what Bill Marantz had to say," says Bellan.

"That is not to say that I agree with Bill Marantz's piece myself. It's simply to indicate that opinions on sensitive subjects are varied. What I find particularly problematic is the notion that we should all be censoring ourselves and that certain subjects should not be talked about in their entirety."

The Jewish Post and News is partially funded by the federal government through the Canada Periodicals Fund. (CTV Winnipeg)