Waterloo protesters silence Blatchford

The University of Waterloo called off a speech by Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford last Friday night after a small group of protesters accusing Blatchford of racism occupied the stage.

Blatchford was there to talk about her book Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us. As readers of her Globe column will know, Blatchford has been vocal about the problems faced by residents of Caledonia, Ont., during the aboriginal land dispute there.

The protesters labelled the views she expresses in the book as racist. The Kitchener-Waterloo Record quoted one protester, Dan Kellar, as saying Blatchford’s book does not explore issues central to the aboriginal occupation, such as historic land claims and treaties. “You can’t take these things out of context,” Kellar is quoted as saying. “To ignore the history is a dangerous thing to do, especially when she is so well-regarded.”

The Record quoted Blatchford as saying her book was intended to look at the situation in Caledonia through “a very narrow prism” around the rule of law and lawlessness.

The Globe’s own review of the book, by Ryerson School of Journalism interim chair Suanne Kelman, says: “Do not look here for a balanced view of the conflict. Blatchford, nobody’s fool, proclaims at the outset that her book will not examine the validity of the native land claim, nor trace the sorry history of Canada’s relations with its First Nations.” But the review goes on to say the book “does a service to everyone” by documenting how government inaction in the face of the protest hurt Caledonia residents.

Tallula Marigold, who was identified as the protesters’ media representative, was quoted in the Wilfrid Laurier University student publication The Cord: “We don’t want people who are really, really racist teaching [the people we love]. And we don’t want that person to have a public forum because it makes it dangerous for others in the public forum.”

University of Waterloo officials said they chose not to proceed with the talk because it appeared Blatchford would not be able to speak, and, according to Michael Strickland, assistant director of media relations, “We also had no interest in providing a photo op of our security dragging three people off the stage.”