[cid:image001.jpg@01CE2BCA.6946D140]Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, speaks during a news conference where four more groups announced they will boycott the B.C. Missing Women's Inquiry in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday Oct. 6, 2011. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Nanaimo Daily News apologizes for letter to editor concerning first nations
VANCOUVER - The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Mar. 28 2013, 2:43 PM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Mar. 28 2013, 3:08 PM EDT
The Nanaimo Daily News has apologized for "distress" caused by a letter to the editor this week that expressed controversial views about members of the first nations community.
An editorial clarification posted on the paper's website said the letter should not have run.
"While we would defend [Don 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 the statement by division manager Hugh Nicholson, posted Thursday.
"The letter should not have run. We apologize for any distress this may have caused our readers."
Mr. Olsen's letter, published March 27, caused outrage in the community and among first nations organizations.
Under the headline, "Educate First Nations to be modern citizens," the letter from the Nanaimo resident questions the accomplishments of the first nations' community. It acknowledges the need to help such communities but decries their traditions and culture.
The letter is signed Don Olsen, but the newspaper's statement refers to a Dan Olsen.
Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said his organization is reconsidering plans to hold a two-day meeting in Nanaimo in May, because the letter raises questions about the community's tolerance.
"Without question, it was a disgusting racist rant," he said of the letter. "Such an inflammatory letter should have been weeded out."
He was dismissive of the newspaper's apology, calling it "a little late in the day for that."
The letter also attracted the attention of the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, who said he hoped to join a protest march on the newspaper offices.
Chief Atleo told reporters in Vancouver, where he attended the release of a public health report criticizing Ottawa's new crime legislation, that the letter was outrageous and an example of "the deep disconnect, misunderstanding and ignorance about first nations people from coast to coast to coast".
He also expressed concern about the impact on native children in the area. "How do they perceive those sorts of reflections in a public commentary? I will be travelling there to stand with the citizens and their outrage and disappointment that there would be that kind of a published letter."
With a report from Rod Mickleburgh
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]