In the mid-to-late 1970s, William Johnson at the Globe and Mail (later Montreal Gazette) was a must-read columnist for anyone (especially young journalists) wanting to know more about federal/provincial politics, the developing Canadian constitutional crisis, debates on patriation of the the BNA Act, and native affairs (as it was then called).

Back then, you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of national journalists showing the least bit of interest in native issues. Johnson was anything but a cheerleader for native peoples. But he understood the policies that confronted them, and explained them to his readers. He had a keen eye for those little flashes in huge events that reveal so much, such as this that he describes in today’s G&M:

A telling moment occurred at Tuesday’s all-candidates meeting when a Quebec chief, Gilbert Whiteduck, said: “We’re telling each other what we already know. We’re telling each other that we own the land. What we need is action. And I ask all of the candidates: Are you thinking about the poorest of the poor, of our men and our women and our children who are suffering? Is your message just wait and see, I have a vision for change, while they’re suffering now, tomorrow, the day after? When will we rise?”

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