03/28/2013 12:11 EDT | Updated 03/29/2013 01:36 EDT

'Racist' Nanaimo Daily News Letter About First Nations Sparks Outrage (TWEETS)


The Nanaimo Daily News has apologized for printing a "racist" letter that stated First Nations have a history that is "notable only for underachievement."

Don Olsen's letter in the Vancouver Island newspaper on Wednesday mounts a pile of criticism on First Nations, saying they "never 'discovered' the wheel," that they never came up with a written language and that they "only 'figured out' a drum and a rattle for musical instruments."

The letter ends with: "Instead of finding their identity and source of pride in some folks who occupied the land 15,000 years ago. Let them stand or fall on their own account. Just like the rest of us have to do."

In a statement on Thursday, a newspaper official said the letter should never have run and apologized for causing readers distress.

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"While we would defend Mr. Olsen's right to hold and express his opinion, the sentiments expressed were entirely his own and in no way reflect the views of the newspaper," said Hugh Nicholson, division manager for the Vancouver Island Newspaper Group.

About 100 people including Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan protested in front of the newspaper's office on Thursday afternoon.

Protesters accused the paper of repeatedly publishing offensive letters against aboriginal people, reported CBC News.

"The comments published by the Nanaimo Daily News show deep misunderstanding and ignorance about First Nations peoples," said Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo in a statement. Atleo also called the letter a reminder of Canada's "dark colonial history."

Olsen's letter has since been removed from the newspaper's website, but it has drawn the ire of many on social media who accuse it of being a "racist" screed.

University of Victoria (UVic) professor Taiaiake Alfred asked on Twitter, "Why don't anti-Native hate speech perps like @NanaimoDaily face the legal consequences that Holocaust denyers do?"

Thrifty Foods has reportedly pulled its ads from the newspaper after the letter was printed, tweeted UVic academic and Huffington Post blogger Tobold Rollo.

Rollo also posted his own response on his website, inverting the letter's format and criticisms to apply to "civilized nations."

Critics of the letter started a Facebook group titled "Protest Racist Publications in the Nanaimo Daily News." The group had demanded that the paper issue a front-page "feature-sized" retraction and apology for what it called "irresponsible and hateful messages."

Here's the full text of Don Olsen's letter:

Educate First Nations to be modern citizens

It was only 12,000 years ago, or less and this should be considered, in all those years the so called First Nations:

- never "discovered" the wheel

- never had a written language

- never discovered astronomy

- had no science or scientific discoveries

- had no mathematics

- made no medical discoveries

- never had written music

- only "figured out" a drum and a rattle for musical instruments

- had no metallurgy

- had no sails for boats (only had canoes)

- created virtually no mechanical devices

- possessed almost nothing that required hard manual labour over a period of time, ie. building with or carving out of stone

- made almost no inventions

- are just in the last 200 years getting caught up to most of the rest of the world

- have a history that is notable only for underachievement. Are these people in trouble? Yes.

Do they need help? Yes.

Are they responsible enough to look after themselves and efficiently spend the billions the taxpayers give them? Certainly not.

The only way to fix this situation is to bring them into society as equals. They should be getting jobs and paying taxes like the rest of us because in reality, they are no more special than any of the other hundred or more cultures that call Canada home.

Turn off the taps. Do away with this "traditional use" and "cultural" nonsense. Educate their children to become modern citizens.

Instead of finding their identity and source of pride in some folks who occupied the land 15,000 years ago. Let them stand or fall on their own account.

Just like the rest of us have to do.

Don Olsen, Nanaimo