Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Rosedale Club: A Symbol of Why Indigenous People Must Influence the Canadian Process

             Early Wednesday morning it was brought to my attention that an event was going to be held on April 18, 2013 – an event that would discuss Indigenous issues. Usually I would applaud such an event occurring, however, this ‘event’ turned out to be more of the same colonial mentality that has persisted in Canada since its inception, even prior to that in fact.

           It turns out that the Rosedale Club is a ‘club’ that brings ‘friends’ and others together to discuss Canadian issues and policy. One of the club's founders is none other then Zach Paikin, who writes a lot and ran, unsuccessfully, for the Liberal Party of Canada’s National Policy Chair in January 2012. This event was dubbed a Scotch and Cigars event where the men attending were expected to wear a jacket and tie or be deemed unfit to partake in the discussion. Additionally this event included speakers  – Former Premier (2002-2003), and former Ontario Minister of Finance, Ernie Eves & National Post Editor Jonathan Kay.

            As many of us, especially in ‘Indian Country,’ remember, Eves was in the Harris government, which botched the Ipperwash situation and led to the death of an unarmed Indigenous protester – Dudley George. Additionally, Jonathan Kay is known for his recent and rather one sided article “Native Dignity Will Come Only From Self-Sufficiency, Not Grand Gestures in Ottawa.” In other words, both speakers of this event come from a very one-sided and oblivious opinion.

            To make matters worse the event does not have an Indigenous speaker, or a speaker with an understanding of Indigenous history or issues, in attendance. The first question I had for such a ‘discussion’ group is why there were not varying viewpoints being represented. Reading the comments that were posted in the event’s facebook page, which has since disappeared, we quickly see concern and anger from Indigenous people about the event. Some expressed that it was another example of a bunch of ‘white guys’ sitting around making decisions.  Questions were asked for why Indigenous people were not included, especially since it dealt with them. One planned-attendee’s response was that this is a discussion about policy, not race and that she had spent the last five years travelling around the country and hearing from Indigenous people (albeit she admits not many). Another response was that it wasn’t a white peoples event, nor planned by white men. Although I agree that Zach and his buddies who formed the Rosedale Club are not of European descent specifically, there is still some issues that are noticeable (which I will get to in a bit).

            As some of my good friends, who happen to sit alongside me on the executive of the Indigenous wing of the LPC, learned about this via our VP Communications, we were struck with shock that someone of such education, access to literature, as well as people with an understanding of the topic area would be so oblivious. Many of us questioned the logic of the Rosedale Club. One of us actually got through by phone to Paikin. On the call he defended the right of the club to do such an event and that all were welcome to attend. Myself and another individual heavily criticized it on facebook, to which Paikin’s response was that we were welcome to attend. The problem with such action is it was done within 30 hours before the event. I am based in Winnipeg, another one of us is in Whitehorse, another near Saskatoon, and so on. In other words, those he had access to politically were left out of the loop until Indigenous people made it clear this was not ok – sounds a lot like this current government and many before it if you ask me. 

What Does This Mean?

            For some of you, you may wonder why this is a big deal. To me it is a shining example of just the problems Indigenous people and Canada face on Turtle Island. History has shown that for decades Non-Indigenous males have formed groups and policy to dictate to Indigenous people how best to progress, assimilate, or make themselves better – the best example of this would be the Constitution Negotiations in 1980-1982 and 1987-1990. Other examples riddle Canada's history and present day structure and mentality too. The problem, however, is that these were past generations. We are supposed to look at future generations as being more progressive, more educated, and more understanding. Yet, when it comes to Indigenous items it is far more slower – even when looking at teenagers and those who are in their early 20s. This is exactly what Paikin, his co-founders, and those attending, represent via this event.

            This is an event planned through a club that was formed by three privileged males who then invite a very one sided roster of individuals to speak on an issue that is more then just policy – a topic that includes legal rights, jurisdictional issues, culture, historical problems and Indigenous nationalism. Thus one must ask why such an event, being held in Toronto, would not extend an invite to Pam Palmater (An Indigenous Lawyer who teaches at Ryerson), Susan Hill (The Department Head of First Nations Studies at Western University), or Stan Beardy (The Regional Chief of Ontario). Why not extend an invite to non-Indigenous people like Carolyn Bennett (The LPC Aboriginal & Northern Affairs Critic) or Bob Rae (Former LPC Interim Leader) – or Indigenous people from the middle viewpoint: David Newhouse (Head of the Indigenous Studies Department at Trent University) or John Borrows (A well known Indigenous academic and lawyer in the field of Indigenous people). Unfortunately, traditional mindset prevailed and a group of people, headed by three privileged men, opted to have an event with its guest speakers being considered controversial on Indigenous items.

            To make it worse, if an individual who wanted to attend the event but would only wear traditional garb, or what is more commonly worn by those who practice their traditions, would they be denied? It is clear that this event has been reeking of a narrow minded understanding where it expects people to assimilate into what its founders believe is adequate – even when it relates to something that discusses more then policy.

            In conclusion, Zach Paikin, his buddies who helped form the Rosedale Club, and those who attended the event tonight, are not helping to make Canada a post-colonial state but are in fact continuing the perpetuation of dominance and ignorance when relating to Indigenous people. It is a shining example of why we as Indigenous people need to influence Canada’s political system. Influencing the political systems, provincially and federally can impact education curriculum, social policy, as well as reminding Canadians about what the Indigenous/Canadian relationship is truly to be: One of respect and understanding rather then one of perpetuating ignorance. This needs to be done before the youth of today and tomorrow continue along the tarnished path we are on today - the path of ignoring the Indigenous population when it relates to them and their belonging.

NOTE: I want to express that I am in favour of free speech. One-sided discussion in such a forum and on a group of people without them being able to counter is not free speech but rather limiting discussion and thought. Additionally I want to express that the Rosedale Club does not represent a political party or the mindset of the majority of a political party. I wish I could have included direct quotes from people in the page of the event to show the concern, and skepticism, that many Indigenous people expressed


  1. As one of the co-founders of the Rosedale club and the host of all the events, I am insulted by the assumptions that you made about me personally, and frustrated by the fact that you felt compelled to comment on an event that you did not attend, to which you are clearly ignorant of the efforts put into it.
    To begin with, the presence of guests of honour who hold a certain view of the world does not imply that the audience, or the organizers (including myself) hold similar views to them. Nor does the presence of those speakers imply that we are ignorant, hold colonialist view points, or seek to perpetuate them. Your insinuation that we do, is frankly insulting. You and many others who commented on the facebook wall, by mere virtue of the topic selected (as view points of the Rosedale club founders and attendees were not discussed on the facebook page itself) attributed wrongly, what are views are based on the decorum of the event, and additionally assumed that we were unwilling, and did not invite to have an indigenous speaker. While this was never planned to be a panel discussion, I did make an attempt to invite several indigenous speakers, including Pam Palmater, who politely declined to attend the event due to the presence of alcohol, and offered to attend such an event were it to be a panel discussion at a university event. As you may be aware, this was, and has always been, an event where we drink scotch, and not a panel discussion, as guests of honour are given very limited time, and we tend to debate in small groups at the event on a diversity of topics. You may also be aware that alcohol is a sensitive issue amongst many indigenous peoples, and getting a speaker is in effect quite difficult. Many of the indigenous speakers I contacted wanted us to pay them money, something I don’t have, and would not consider doing for a private house party.

  2. Another aspect of your critique that is patently wrong, is that we would have turned away those who sought to attend because of traditional garb. This is not the case at all, and a bizarre invention of someone on the facebook wall. We did in fact have an indigenous rap artist, who came and spoke at the event in clothing that he was comfortable with. Someone other than one of the organizers, fabricated a story that we were not going to allow Cameron (the indigenous speaker) to where what he wanted, and organized a protest in which my house was egged by anarchists. While this was never the case, and we were more than willing to allow Cameron to wear whatever he wanted, these fabricated assumptions that you, and people like who assumed some sort of elitist and intolerant culture at the party are perpetuating through facebook posts and articles like the one you wrote hear, resulted in me spending a good deal of time at my party cleaning eggs of my neighbors porch, and my own place. The purported reason for the protest, was in fact the clothing requirement, which we had told Cameron was being waived in his case. I happened to of met the protesters before they came to my house to clear up the misunderstanding, and they were quite happy to come join us at the party after. However due to their online postings, their friends still came bye to egg my house.

  3. I would strongly encourage you, and others who feel compelled to publically make baseless assumptions about certain groups to take the time to learn a bit more about what is going on, the actual views of the people involved, what they are actually doing, and involve yourself in a dialogue with them before trashing them on the internet, and inciting others to egg their houses or cause other property damage. As much as indigenous people’s hate the perpetuation of stereotypes associated with alcoholism, I hate the perpetuation of stereotypes associated with white colonialism and wealth associated to me by virtue of my skin colour (I am a highly indebted graduate student, although I will acknowledge that certain aspects of my life are made easier as a result of being “white”). I am insulted that you, and others on the event facebook page assumed these attributes without ever having spoken to me. If you actually believe in free dialogue, engage in it. Do not attribute stereotypes to people you do not know, do not insult people on assumptions you do not know to be true, and do not publically incite attacks on those whom you have had no contact with. By doing this, you are stifling debate on important issues. Why would I for example, ever host an event again where issues that are important to indigenous people will be discussed, if by virtue of holding that event, I will be called a white racist colonialist and risk having my house attacked by anarchists who are looking for an excuse to start a fight? I will note that those who were actually part of the protest were embarrassed by their friends, but they are still responsible for inciting them. Your presumptions, based on “white” stereotypes deters, people like me from engaging, or actually hearing other points of view, and hurts dialogue. Please make efforts in the future to check your own opinions for possible stereotypes in the future, but do continue to provide your opinion to public dialogue. Please attack issues, not forums, or people.
    Jacob Campbell

  4. Jacob, I gathered facts of it - if it is a private club then why welcome outsiders? If it is about policy, then why only have one viewpoint attributed - the whole situation is a problematic situation - you are welcome to be offended, just as I and many others were on how you and the others did this event. Whether you like it or not it perpetuates the stereotypical relationship that exists and does nothing to fix it. Additionally, my point was would they get booted.. not that they would. Furthermore, as I stated, my points came from the comments that showed up in the public facebook group that was made for this event, which has since disappeared. Additionally, my points still stand from the comments I heard from others who attended and I will not backtrack on it - your comments are hypocritical and I suggest you take the time to learn from people who actually know this subject matter rather then those who dont - its how one learns and makes better policy.. or in this case, as it is more then policy, learns to understand the reality and the true relationship that goes along with the Canadian/Indigenous situation. Perhaps if your Rosedale Club had thought of that prior the fallout from it would not have occurred.

  5. Furthermore, I would strongly encourage you to properly think about such an event on Indigenous items and do it properly next time, or keep it private and dont claim it is about learning and policies.

  6. Clearly you did not gather the facts of it. If you had, you would of known that Pam Palmter was invited and declined to come. You would of also known that the event was not on "indigenous items" but rather that one speaker at the event wanted to talk about them. If you think the idea that having someone come over and share their views is somehow perpetuating a sterotype, then how exactly outside if a university organized panel discussion, which seems to be what you are trying to compare this event to, is it appropriate to have dialogue? What you are implicitly suggesting is that people like yourself, who are "white and priveleged", should not be discussing the issue because it perpetuates a stereotype. Everyone was invited, for the exact purpose of sharing their views, so we could learn from them. The event is also more social in nature, where any issue could be discussed, many having nothing to do with indigenous affairs. I am in complete agreement with you that learning from other a very important part of develloping better policy and better informing one self of the world. Furthermore, you claim once again in your comments that we only attributed one view point to the issue. As the organizers, we never attributed ANY view point to the issue, the only thing we did was provide a forum for discussion. I wont argue that the decorum of the event was not that of regular house party, nor that of a university panel discussion, but it was only offensive to those who decided that they needed an excuse to be offended. As I said in the above as well, no one would have actually been turned away, and nor was anybody turned away. commentors on the board who were clearly gunning for an excuse to create a protest, (the protest organizer also happened to be a privaleged white dude like yourself) were making those comments looking for an excuse to cause trouble, which they did.

    Given the response to the event, we will not be holding another speaker to on indingenous affairs, because regardless of who we invite, it has become clear that their are people who want to protest regardless of who is coming, or what is actually said.

  7. For the safety of my guests I would also not consider holding another event where these issues are discussed, hence my comment on you stifling dialogue. You areindirectly encouraging this poor behavior, whether that is your intent or not.

  8. Jacob, I do not understand where anything in my points bring forth violence, vandalization, etc. If I have, please show the evidence of such things - as far as I know I never condoned such actions.

    Additionally, as I said - perhaps next time you will do such a situation properly and with proper consideration of varying sides of a conversation that relates to more then policy. However, if you choose not to or simply prefer not to do the discussion again then it is your choice... this entire mess still stands as an example of ignorant mentality and is very representative of the problems that exist between the Canadian state and the Indigenous nations. Thus, I guess I should thank you for showing that it is alive and well still today and that a lot of work still has to be done.

  9. Furthermore, my speaking out is in no way condoning force or vandalization (nor have I ever spoken in favour of such things). if anything it was a warning that your actions and the actions of the Rosedale Club would create the situation (recall I posted while it was going on)... as were the warning from people in the facebook group. The Rosedale Club chose not to heed the warnings. Time to grow up and be an adult and be prepared to be called on such actions when they are done in a very ignorant and one sided view.

    PS: Congrats on showing the colonialist view and proving my point by assuming one Individual is representative of the actions that all people from that group would take.. if you paid attention you would noticed I suggested people who could speak on this topic (Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike) who are moderates to very Indigenous centred on this topic.. since your club was so active in recruiting speakers from the non-Indigenous view.

  10. Well written post chad! Sorry commenting via my phone lol I will share and post on my social media accounts :)