Editorials - April 28, 2022
An act of reconciliation
In a historic move last week, the Hudson’s Bay Company gifted the former home of its flagship Winnipeg store to the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) which represents 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota nations in southern Manitoba, comprised of more than 81,000 people. The building will become the SCO’s administrative seat and, after renovations, will provide 300 affordable housing units, a museum, an art gallery and businesses, including two restaurants.
The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is the oldest company in North America and its history is entwined with Canada’s Indigenous population, so it is fitting that it has found a way to move beyond words and provide true reconciliation with the transfer of ownership of such a large, historic and symbolic building. And by bringing together all levels of government to help with the redevelopment, the project has an opportunity to become an important part of Winnipeg’s economic revitalization, especially post-pandemic.
While apologies are necessary, they are only a first step on the path to reconciliation. More thought must be given to a future in which First Nations peoples are an integral part of Canada, valued for their cultural and economic contributions to our country. HBC has demonstrated that it can be done, thoughtfully and with dignity. – DS
Flies on the wall
At the risk of directly contradicting one of last week’s editorials regarding an open and transparent legal process for Pat King, recent news cycles have been awash with intimate details of a celebrity couple that feel as though they belong securely behind closed doors.
Johnny Depp has brought a defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard - both are lauded Hollywood stars - after she accused him of being abusive towards her in 2016 when their marriage ended. The real villain of the story changes depending on who you talk to, with the truth likely somewhere in the middle, but the daily headlines just seem like they do not belong in the public consciousness.
Every day it’s nasty text messages or intimate pictures or shocking accounts of a marriage imploding in spectacular fashion and it’s valid to question the interest to the public in the sharing of this “news”. Having said that, the general, media-consuming public has shown time after time that there is an insatiable appetite for this type of news with readers and audiences often unable to turn away from the horror.
Reading these stories has the feeling of putting a glass to the wall and listening to the couple in the next apartment. It just feels like it’s none of our business. And the ramifications of seeing both Depp and Heard being dragged through the streets could be far-reaching, regardless of the verdict. If such a public shaming process awaits those who blow the whistle on an abusive spouse, how many will tolerate domestic abuse and violence in order to avoid such a shaming?
In the social media era, the world seems disproportionately obsessed with celebrities, both the good and the bad. If people weren’t clicking, the media wouldn’t be reporting. It does feel like a line is being crossed and every time we read or watch, we play a part in crossing it. – SL
The freedom of choice
The standing rules of the Province of Ontario overruled the trustees of the Thames Valley District School Board last week when the board wanted to implement a mask mandate due to increasing COVID-19 case numbers and absenteeism. While the board voted in favour of the mandate, school staff overruled the board saying the provincial rules wouldn’t allow for a mask mandate, despite the fact that it’s happening in other jurisdictions, like the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.
It’s easy to see why the board’s trustees want to go back to masking. As of last week, the Thames Valley District School Board, according to reports, had 1,000 staff members out with COVID-19. According to the board’s website, it has approximately 8,000 staff members in total, meaning that one in eight teachers, principals or support staff members had COVID-19 at that particular time. On top of that, some schools had to move online not due to outbreaks, but due to teachers being absent.
The trustees directed staff to implement the mandate, however staff said they were bound, by provincial rules, to “provide a choice” on the masking issues, so forcing people to wear them wasn’t possible.
There are two major issues here and both of them have to do with autonomy: the trustees’ autonomy being denied by their own staff and the school board’s autonomy being denied by the province. First, there is a problem when any bureaucratic staff refuses to follow the rules of the elected officials who are, in effect, their superiors. Second, if the Thames Valley School Board staff are right in not allowing the mask mandate, then the province is taking away the autonomy of the board.
Regardless of our own stances, we have to respect the stances of others, and, unfortunately, our elected trustees are apparently not being given that respect by their school boards or the government. – JDS