Jane Armstrong wrote an article for today?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s issue of The Globe and Mail reporting on Adrienne Clarkson?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s recent trip to Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, the most impoverished neighbourhood in all of Canada. It is an informative article for the most part, but one paragraph caught my attention.
Her foray into Vancouver’s skid row is not her first up-close brush with deeply entrenched social problems. In Toronto, she toured the downtown neighbourhood of Regent Park, and in Saskatoon, she visited an urban first nations reserve.
What I find interesting in this excerpt is the choice of words Ms. Armstrong uses to reference two apparently similar locations. On the one hand, she refers to a very specific neighbourhood in Toronto. On the other hand, she vaguely but generically makes reference to one of seven First Nations reserves in the Saskatoon area.
Why did this catch my attention?
Ms. Armstrong, in reference to Regent Park did not say, ?¢‚Ç¨?ìShe toured a neighbourhood in Toronto?¢‚Ç¨¬ù. Rather, she made reference to not only a specific area of the city (downtown) but a specific neighbourhood within that area (Regent Park).
When it comes to the First Nations reserve, Ms. Armstrong, for whatever reason, gives no similar treatment to the location. Rather she simply makes a passing reference that it was a First Nations reserve. This usage does two things.
First, it assumes the public perceives every First Nations reserve as being ?¢‚Ç¨?ìdeeply entrenched [with] social problems?¢‚Ç¨¬ù. At the very least, it assumes all seven of the Saskatoon reserves are ?¢‚Ç¨?ìdeeply entrenched [with] social problems?¢‚Ç¨¬ù.
Second, it perpetuates the above stereotype by allowing the reader to continue in his/her assumption that all reserves are ?¢‚Ç¨?ìdeeply entrenched [with] social problems?¢‚Ç¨¬ù.
I am not na?É¬Øve enough to think that no reserve has social problems. However, until reserves are given better attention and treatment similar to that given to off-reserve areas (such as Downtown Eastside and Regent Park), the problems present there will continue.
Ms. Armstrong?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s biased and prejudiced treatment of the situation is deplorable and does nothing to bring due attention to the plight of First Nations people in Canada.
I suppose I should give her credit for specifying a Saskatoon urban first nations reserve and not saying, “an Indian reserve somewhere in Canada”.