A former judge from Manitoba who compared rights of status Indians to a gravy train in an opinion column for a Thunder Bay newspaper earlier this month says it was meant to be taken as satire.
And Brian Giesbrecht is surprised no one saw it that way.
“It was satire and… nobody picked up on the fact that I was dealing with trying to poke fun at the system we have in a satirical way. And I was very surprised nobody picked up on that,” Giesbrecht told APTN National News.
The response to his column in The Chronicle Journal was swift as the satire, Giesbrecht speaks of, apparently failed to reach readers.
People called the column racist and in a follow up opinion piece in the paper one commentator wrote that Giesbrecht “plays on one of the oldest racist stereotypes to make his point.”
In his 500-word piece, Giesbrecht said the “System that rewards Status Indians is spectacularly unfair.”
And continued by saying, “A person with Indian Status might never have to pay income tax and can pass this million dollar exemption on to their descendants.”
He added it was only going to get worse “as more people are added to the list of the entitles.”
Giesbrecht told APTN his column was supposed to be a play on Jonathan Swifts “A Modest Proposal” from 1729 that dealt with the plight with Irish people at the time.
“This was meant to be a play on that,” he said. “It was not meant to be talking about exactly who has benefits and who doesn’t. It was talking in a very general way. As I say, it was meant to be satire and it was meant to get people’s attention so they can think about these issues.”
He said most people, including Indigenous people, would probably agree with him that people’s entitlement to a particular government program should be based on need.
“Because if it is not then what it means is that people who are earning less money have to pay for people that are earning more money. And I think that principle is very important, that we have fairness in the system,” he said.
“I personally wish that the paper would have used my title which was ‘A Modest Proposal’ then it should have been very clear to people that what I was doing was writing satire.”
Giesbrecht is now a fellow at Frontier Centre for Public Policy, often considered a right-wing think tank.