Monday, February 12, 2007

"For service in English, press 1 7"

I kid you not. (That's Bell Canada, by the way.) If I were writing a novel and I made that line up, my editor would say, "Come on, Nick, that's just not plausible."

As to why you have to press 1 7 for English, my best guess is as follows. Obviously for service in French, you must have to press 1 (after all, French is Canada's other official language). I'm guessing Inuktitut is 2, and if so, I applaud Bell Canada: it's about time Canada's First-Nations peoples got their proper respect. (You can probably see where I'm going with this: Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Arabic, Urdu, ... all the way up to 17.)

Enough cheap wisecracks ...

But at this point I think I'll skip the silly jokes and instead use the mention of proper respect for Canada's First-Nations peoples as an excuse to comment on what I think is perhaps Canada's greatest shame: the way native people here have been treated ever since the first contact by Europeans.

On any number of measures (perhaps the most appalling example being suicide rates, which are staggeringly high among native people), Canada's First-Nations peoples are in dire straits. I really don't know too much about all this, but what I do know is very disturbing. And I think it's time that we Canadians face up to our responsibilities.

I recognize that the problems are complex, and I certainly don't claim to know what's going to work. But I do suspect that non-aboriginal Canadians just haven't made this enough of a priority. Speaking for myself, I can say that I'm often far too busy pontificating about problems in other parts of the world (over which I generally have zero influence) to think about what I can do (and what privileges I may have to give up) to make a difference regarding the plight of Canada's First-Nations peoples. And if all this sounds just a bit precious—well, I think that's not really very important.

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Anonymous Peter Levesque said...


I agree here is a snippet of something I am writing now:

Youth suicide among Aboriginal peoples is estimated at approximately five to six times higher than non-Aboriginal youth in Canada, although in 1994, the Health Canada Task Force on Suicide stated that the suicide rate for Aboriginal people aged 15 to 24 was up to eight times higher than that of other Canadian youth. The severity of the problem is supported by data from other pan-Canadian and regional sources. It is also recognized as a problem in other countries with significant Aboriginal populations.

More than four centuries of colonization – being subjugated and stripped of their land, religion, culture, language, and autonomy – have taken a toll on the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and cultural health of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Despite gaps in data for certain segments of the Aboriginal population, such as those off reserve, most sources agree that the health and health determinants of this population is poor when compared to other Canadian populations. This history and its associated burdens should form part of any analysis of the health of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.


10:37 AM, February 16, 2007  
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