I am a former Kamloops resident now living in Victoria. I am pursuing my master’s degree in dispute resolution from UVIC, and one of my recent assignments was situating myself and my values within a conflict represented in the media.
Of course, I thought of the Kamloops Daily News site, which in my opinion has become almost a farce due to the seemingly unfettered remarks of certain “serial commentators.”
I chose to write about the recent controversy over the use of the Juniper Beach provincial park campsite by the Bonaparte band. Although I was not able to go into the depth I wish I could have in regards to the commentary due to word count constraints, I thought you might like to have a look.
For the record, although I support the right to free speech, I am often disappointed (and, in the case of the overtly racist rhetoric ariund Juniper Beach, disgusted) by the adversarial and often ignorant nature of responses from these serial commentators.
On the weekend of Sept. 21 to 23, Juniper Beach provincial park campground was closed for a First Nations ceremony organized to commemorate the repatriation of remains found at a nearby development. Notice was given more than a week in advance, both by park staff and on the B.C. Parks website, and free accommodation at nearby sites was offered to displaced campers.
However, several parties of campers, primarily seniors, protested the closure according to the “first-come, first-serve” standard of the campground and refused to vacate the site.
The conflict continued in the media and in particular on the Kamloops Daily News website, where many commentators expressed support for the campers’ actions and voiced rigid, discriminatory opinions on First Nations issues. However, I categorically believe it was within the right of the Bonaparte band to close the campsite for the ceremony.
I see the Juniper Beach conflict as a microcosm of a larger and long-standing issue, which unfortunately too often degenerates into an us-versus-them argument peppered with misinformation and intolerance.
I believe people are motivated by self-interest and influenced by the emphasis on individualism and competition in western culture. This is complicated by the assumption that Canadian society is based on equality, that each person has agency and equal opportunity to succeed and therefore should be treated equally in terms of rights.
This viewpoint is problematic because it denies the historic power imbalances I have explored in my undergraduate degree in history, in my current master’s program in dispute resolution, and in my experience working with First Nations.
Here, the online commentators ignore these subtleties and use the language of fairness as a justification for racist rhetoric. They perceive that First Nations are receiving something special by virtue of their ethnicity, and many speak to the idea that First Nations get preferential treatment and take from the Canadian people and government without giving back.
The commentators denigrate First Nations people as non-contributors to society, defined in western terms. They overlook the deep wounds caused by the colonizer’s systematic destruction of First Nations culture. Working closely with my First Nations colleagues, I witnessed the significance placed on community events such as the repatriation ceremony.
I am sure that many if not most of those involved in the Juniper Beach ceremony either attended the Kamloops residential school or were affected by its legacy.
I believe the people of Kamloops are still implicated in the injury of First Nations communities. If it helps to heal these wounds, the Bonaparte band must not be denied the right to use their traditional territory.