Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The dictatorship of stereotypes

Everybody has heard of Attawapiskat. And for good reason. The tiny First Nation community in a remote corner of northern Ontario has become emblematic of dysfunctional native communities.

How many people have heard of Sagamok?

I've often written about Attawapiskat. I've never mentioned Sagamok, even though I've actually been there a few times but have never been to Attawapiskat.

Sagamok is just one of the many native communities in Canada that is never going to make the news because it's not newsworthy. There are many First Nations without scandals of mismanagement or epidemics of suicide or drug addiction or homelessness or child abuse.

A drive through the Sagamok First Nation reveals an ordinary community of tidy homes that will never be featured in the crisis oriented reporting that is the life-blood of the news business. In fact, the community looks more prosperous than some of the white communities in the area. On Sunday afternoon the locals were tending their gardens, sitting on porches, going boating.

Such ordinariness will never be newsworthy, while stories of addiction and dysfunction and failure inevitably are.

And so the stereotypes live on, while the success stories are ignored.

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