Letters to the Editor: May 2023

On the Bay, Ottawa’s transit fiasco, and remembered cowboys

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Reading “Trade Offs” (January/February), Don Gillmor’s investigation into the downfall of the Hudson’s Bay Company, I was disappointed by the lack of Indigenous perspectives. Like Gillmor, I have fond memories of the Bay. As a young boy growing up in Long Plain First Nation, I rode the bus to Winnipeg with my grandmother on special occasions to shop at the Bay. That iconic building was gifted to us last year by HBC, as part of the single largest act of corporate reconciliation in Canada. Canada’s founding history is marked by stolen lands, with First Nations locked out of the economic prosperity that flowed from our territories. In Manitoba, more than a million acres of land was to be transferred to First Nations through Treaty Land Entitlement. This quota has not been met, and Crown lands continue to be auctioned off today without First Nations input. That is why the HBC gift is so profound: it is a tangible shift in our relationship with each other. In the next few months, the transformation of the Bay building will begin. We are building hundreds of affordable housing units for families, post-secondary students, and First Nations elders, with a licensed daycare on site where children can learn to speak our languages. The next generation of First Nations youth is watching us. They need to see themselves reflected in our urban life, with safe, healthy, thriving spaces in every downtown across Canada.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels
Winnipeg, MB

train Wreck
In “Off the Rails” (March/April), Brett Popplewell investigates the derailment of Ottawa’s plans to build a world-class transit system. Ottawa’s failure is not unique. Here, in the general Toronto area, the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit line has entailed costly overruns, delays, and a lack of accountability. The project has exceeded the expected budget by $1 billion; extravagant uses of public money reverberate throughout the province.

Allan Baker
Scarborough, ON

Changing Tunes
In “Why Do Kids Hate Music Lessons?” (January/February), J. R. Patterson captures the conflicting interests between teachers, parents, and students when it comes to musical education. My family encountered this tension when my son’s former piano teacher leaned over, grabbed his hands, and told him he was never to play that way again. I wanted to give my children a foundation in music but felt they must choose their path in their own time. We found an instructor who didn’t prioritize perfection, and to this day, our children appreciate the joy and complexity of music.

Roderick Hillier
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

Save a Cowboy
With his poem “Woody Strode, Black Cowboy” (January/February), Bertrand Bickersteth aims to “reclaim a space of belonging for Blackness on the Prairies,” as he wrote in his contributor’s note, by reclaiming Strode as Canadian. But there’s no need to look to Strode, an American, when Canada has its very own John Ware. Ware’s life began as a slave in the United States, and once emancipated, he worked his way across the continent to become a successful cowboy and rancher in Alberta for over two decades. Ware’s extraordinary life, as depicted in the documentary John Ware Reclaimed, would make a worthy subject for poetic illumination of Blackness on the Prairies.

T. J. Telford
Kingston, Ontario

“The time has come,” The Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” Send us a letter or an email (letters@thewalrus.ca) or tag us on social media. Comments may be published in any medium and edited for length, clarity, and accuracy. Mail correspondence to: 411 Richmond St. E., Suite B15, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  M5A 3S5