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Newspaper apologizes for racist letter

The publisher of the Nanaimo Daily News apologized to a group of protesters Thursday for printing a shockingly racist letter that characterized all First Nations people as unable to take care of themselves.

Hugh Nicholson stood before a crowd of dozens of insulted or otherwise outraged demonstrators who gathered outside the paper’s office at noon and admitted that running the letter was a mistake.

“The letter ran as part of a letters to the editor. It’s unfortunate. We apologize that the letter ran, it should not have ran,” Nicholson said over cries and yells.

No one at the paper was prepared to explain why the letter was published in the first place, though staff said the Nanaimo Daily News will be printing an apology on Friday.

Protesters accuse the paper of repeatedly and unapologetically giving a platform to offensive views of aboriginal people.

But the letter published Wednesday was seen as a new low; Chief Doug White of the Snuneymuxw First Nation described reading it as a “punch in the stomach” as a human being, and as the father of First Nations children.

The letter, written by Don Olsen, was printed under the headline, “Educate First Nations to be modern citizens.” It claimed indigenous people have a history only notable “for underachievement.”

Olsen said First Nations have “never had a written language,” “had no science or scientific discoveries” and only “figured out a drum and a rattle for musical instruments.”

He also wrote that First Nations aren’t responsible enough to look after themselves or “efficiently spend the billions the tax payers give them,” ending that Canada should “do away with this traditional use and cultural nonsense.”

The contentious letter has since been yanked from the publication’s website and replaced with a “clarification” that distanced Olsen’s views from the views of the paper.

“While we would defend Mr. Olsen’s right to hold and express his opinion, the sentiments expressed were entirely his own,” it reads.

The B.C. Press Council said it received more than 100 complaints about the letter by Thursday evening.



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