The Dryden Observer

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EDITORIAL: Debriefing the McDonald’s incident

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

It’s been long enough now for the outrage over the recent bullying/assault incident in a local fast food restaurant to subside and to gain some perspective on this sad, though ultimately instructive, ordeal.

These are teachable moments for us all in these changing times and it’s useful to reflect on what enduring significance this moment in time will have on our future.

There are forces outside our community who ran with this like a football on social media, the same forces who seized upon Police Chief Rob Davis’ Neighbourhood Watch statement on the eve of the Little Bands Hockey Tournament — making concerted attempts to frame these things as examples of Dryden’s systemic racism.

When it later turned out that neither party in the McDonalds incident were from Dryden, and in the latter case — that the Dryden Police Chief was himself Aboriginal — well, that must have been really disappointing for people who have been trying their button-pushing best to hang a ‘most racist town in Canada’ medal around Dryden’s neck.

I would certainly never deny that Dryden struggles with such problems. We do indeed, although the truth of it is a far more insidious and banal experience to be packaged into an effective Internet meme for mass consumption.

The Internet commentary that played out in the boxes below that abhorrent video was exactly as you’d expect — highly emotional, divisive and ridiculously speculative. If it achieved anything at all, aside from raising blood pressure and dividing people, it was to show the deep simmering anger and frustration that incidents like this creates in not just Aboriginal people, but anyone who’s ever felt the misguided wrath of an emotionally-disturbed bully.

Yet, interestingly, without social media this entire incident may have passed completely under the radar of the police and the public. Without it, the name of the suspect, the victim and the person who shot the video could not have been sourced.

Through the simple use of a smartphone we all became party to a bad memory a guest from Pikangikum would have otherwise carried around by himself. We all own a piece of it now and that’s a good thing in the long run.

Rife with emotional debate, misleading information and speculation, this scenario was a mess. However, in the final analysis social media did more good than it did harm and those who were plugged into it emerged on the other side more keenly aware of the perceptions and problems that still need to be addressed.

Like the entire Northwest, Dryden is in the midst of unprecedented social change and is playing host to the urbanization of Aboriginal people on a significant scale. Facing dire economic challenges the residents of this town walk blindly together down the same darkened outhouse path into the future, stepping on each other’s toes and tripping over the same roots.

In my experience, fumbling around in the dark is best done hand-in-hand, with plenty of communication and a sense of common purpose.

Chris Marchand


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