Interesting conversations on Montreal radio this morning. It even became the “question-of-the-morning” on CBC Radio between the host and the regular gaggle of journalists who do sports, traffic and entertainment, business reports. They debate among themselves some issue that they think people will jump on, react to, send text messages, tweet, etc.  It’s a chance for journalists to shed any pretense of balance or objectivity and give vent to their opinions just like the rest of us. It’s interesting to see “reporters” to become rabid “fans,” and even cheerleaders for one cause or another. Back to the question though…

Should the Olympic torch be allowed to go through Kahnawake Mohawk Territory on Tuesday – without the usual phalanx of RCMP security?

The reason why the Mohawks didn’t want the RCMP traipsing through their Territory wasn’t explained – not at first. In fact, it wasn’t explained until about two hours later, right before the end of the program, after rush hour was just about over, after they had raised and discussed the question several times. Finally, I thought to myself, they’re going to interview someone from Kahnawake. Afterward, there was a sense in the interview that conveyed a how-dare-they, the freaking afront, what-gives-you-the-right tone? That bothered me.

I have no problem with that question-of-the-morning – if first someone had bothered to get some background on the issue. Y’know – that context thing. They apparently did not which is critical because everything about Indians is political – and about race. So even an apparently neutral question – if it involves Mohawks – is going to be loaded with racial baggage. It is also going to be an open invitation to uninformed, ignorant, and even racist comments. So programs should take a little time and effort to make sure such questions are framed by facts – and not become an open door to bigotry.

As the interview – finally – clarified, the underlying issue was NOT some insane or illogical demand by the Mohawk. There are a lot of Kahnawake:ronon (citizens of Kahnawake) who support the Olympics. Kahnawake boasts two former Olympians and has a long history in sports. The protests are NOT anti-sports or anti-Olympic movement.

The protests ARE against Canadian governments using the 2010 Olympics to prettify and justify the theft of Indigenous lands in B.C., to pretend that Indian-Canada relations are hunky-dory to the world, when they clearly are not.

There were some people in Kahnawake who wanted to prevent the torch from passing through their Territory. There were others who felt just as strongly that the torch should be carried by Mohawk runners as an expression of pride in their achievements in sports. The compromise was to demand that they would allow the torch to pass through their territory – but not with the usual RCMP security guard. In Indian country, the Mounties are not viewed through the same Disney-esque lenses that most Canadians seem to wear. The Mounties have a long and shameful history of enforcing the worst abuses of human rights in Canadian history. They are certainly near the top of the list of uniforms considered non-grata in Mohawk country.

So the Mohawks insist that their own Peacekeepers (they’re really Surete du Quebec officers but with Mohawk shoulder patches) replace the RCMP for the hour or so for the torch relay on Tuesday.

So that’s the context that CBC Radio missed this morning. Too bad because even the journalists on the panel seemed to ready to spout opinions based on… ignorance of the issues. That isn’t journalism. That’s something I expect from bloggers (myself included).