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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

Have your say: Reader responses

November 5, 2001 - Crystal's Story

Below are the responses of visitors to a story about Crystal, a teenaged Indian girl trying to hold onto her native heritage in the multicultural stew that is Toronto.

To contribute your thoughts, please go to the main have your say page.

Please tell Crystal that I stand in awe of her, her culture and her insurmountable courage. Tell her to hold her head high and be proud of who she is. I do NOT think she should have to support herself when she is making such a great effort to stay in school. There should be social programs providing all the support in the world for one who is trying so hard. Bless you Crystal - you come from a proud and beautiful people who will yet rise up and show the rest of us a thing or two. Take hold of that status you are entitled to and become whatever you wish. You already are a beautiful native woman !
N. McDonald
Hugs from Calgary, Alberta

In this latest instalment "Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds", Stackhouse attacks the urban populations as anti-family degenerates who discourage productive youth as much as those who "choose" to live in "native seclusion" on the reserves. Rampant stereotyping ("She might have turned out like her cousins there - one has dropped out of high school and another gave up on university after just three months - or the pregnant teens she has seen during return visits.") pervades the piece, that pits Crystal Stamms against society in an updated version of Beatrice Culleton's "In Search Of April Raintree". The smug superiority of other schoolchildren contrasts sharply against this downtrodden girl who struggles on her own against unanalyzed generic community problems (alcoholism, poverty), and a social care program that has been attacked for years for being ineffective. Once again, no representative voices are asked to speak on the piece to offer any insight into why such conditions exist or what's being done to help.
T.J. Snow

First I would like to commend John Stackhouse's effort. Great story, not patronizing, and very objective. When I say the story was not patronizing, it did not trivialize the reality of Crystal's situation. In addition it illustrated a need for more discussion among natives with non-natives. Canadians seem to become easily disinterested in native issues, until they hit the nightly news. We have a third world problem in our so-called first world country. Unacceptable, we must do better. Crystal is trying hard, so should we.
Newton Peres

I just want to say to Crystal, well done, you go girl and keep up the good work. Don't fall into the pit. Be an example for your people everywhere in Canada. You're on the right track.

What I really wanted to write about was the article in today's paper about Crystal Samms. I am a grade 12 student at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School. The first time I read the piece, I felt really insulted. I got the idea that St. FX was being portrayed as a sort of evil backdrop for a very sad story. As a proud member of that school community I felt like it was a personal blow. This distasteful image of the "new Canada" is one I am a part of. I felt this was a stereotype in itself; and stereotypes are what seemed to be attacked by much of the rest of the article. I felt the message being sent was that stereotypes of natives are different than stereotypes of the rest of the community in that they're actually wrong. I also felt insulted by the claim that "most students hang out with kids their own race or colour". I know I don't. My group of friends is extremely diverse and that's the way we like it. Then I realized what my problem was: I was taking everything much too personally. I realized that I myself had commented on the fact that so many people in our school keep to their own race or colour: a fact that I did not like very much. I'm not an expert. I don't know enough about the situation to give an extremely detailed review or analysis. But I do know that there are people in "the bigger white world" who are educated, who want to do something, and who admire people like Crystal for their stance. Maybe one day we'll get to the point where everyone "rules"; not the white or the black or the Asian or the Hispanic or the natives. But just everyone.

I think that it is typical of a lot of writers trying to penetrate the heart of the native culture by using catch phrases and words typical in the First nations culture. I had read only part of the story and began to question how crystal spoke "Hollywood stereotypes and shocking nightly news clips, like the ones last year that showed children sniffing gasoline in Sheshatshui" it seemed odd to me that a young person of that age would say that. I then think of how the article read to me like a story - fiction perhaps, regardless. The author knows nothing of the plight of the First Nations people, perhaps in his research his own prejudices and memories of Indian kids fueled his story with flecks of "pills, and sniffers, and drunks". I did not enjoy the story. It seemed surreal to me.
Darwin Gardypie

Stackhouse's research and writing deserves commendation, but the usual Great Canadian Silence prevails when he casually mentions that 'the local native population long ago moved to another site....' Yes, because Canada steadfastly refused to recognize their title to their land prized by the growing number of newcomers. The band of 250 Mississauga at the Credit River in the early 19th century successfully farmed to supply most of their own needs and had helped develop the mouth of the Credit River into a harbour. They co-owned a schooner to carry lumber from their own sawmill to Niagara and other points around Lake Ontario. But fearing expropriation, they were forced to take advantage of the generosity of their old enemies, the Iroquois at Six Nations, ON, and move southwest to where the New Credit Reserve is located today. Donald B. Smith documents this sad story in SACRED FEATHERS (U. of Toronto Press, 1984). See precisely p. 206 for the confirming documentation of the above details. Smith also refers to Crystal's ancestors, the Munsees or Lenni Lenapes, who are regarded by the Ojibway as specially privileged. p. 46f. In addition, Stackhouse implies that the land upon which St. Francis Xavier Secondary School stands was first plowed by British settlers, but it could well have been farmed first by the Mississauga.
Barry McGrory

Yes, I believe Native people should have the special status that we do-- after all, it's enshrined in Canada's constitution through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I find it interesting that it's in B.C. where many right leaning non-Native people argue that all Canadians should be on the same level playing field. That's where it's most legally obvious that our rights to our land and control over our own ways of governance were never signed away. More importantly to me, however, is that you pass this message onto Crystal. Please keep believing that you can be an educated, smart, beautiful Native woman. Growing up, I faced similar challenges, and so did many of my friends who are now successful and happy. Our families do heal, and we have the power to create stronger future ones. I enjoy my job as a national morning news anchor with the CBC, and I also enjoy exploring my culture with my fiance, and proudly passing on what we've learned to our children. You can do this too. I believe my strength comes from my community, its history, my family, my ancestors. Even in their weakest moments, they survived. So will we. You are an incredibly strong, resourceful, independently minded woman, and with faith and perservance you will do well.
Carla Robinson
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