By Jorge Barrera
The Cranbrook, B.C., branch of the Royal Canadian Legion printed 40 copies of their August newsletter before pulling the issue and replacing the joke with a “Publisher’s Comment” explaining why the text was removed in an updated version. The explanation did not include an apology.
The branch has also been ordered by superiors to cease publishing jokes and cartoons in its newsletter.
Shirley Green, 77, said she was outraged when she read the joke on page 5 of the newsletter and immediately contacted branch president Edith LeClair, 63, to express her dismay.
“When I phoned the president Edith LeClair, my voice was just shaking, I was so upset to think the legion could put have printed a joke that disrespected and dishonoured thousands of Aboriginal soldiers and Metis and Inuit,” said Green, who is of Metis and Ktunaxa heritage. “I don’t feel that I have gotten a proper response, I don’t think this has been handled properly and I do hope the branch of the Legion in Cranbrook gets some education on what constitutes racism.”
LeClair, however, was defensive about the joke, which involved two hunters, one from Alberta and one from Saskatchewan, who separately gun down an “Indian.”
LeClair said the matter had been dealt with “internally” and that the newsletter’s publisher simply printed a joke someone had sent him.
“Obviously people can’t take a joke,” said LeClair. “I am 63 years-old and as far as I am concerned a joke is a joke.
Mike Landry, the publisher, wrote in the updated newsletter that he was not “racist, sexist or a bigot” and that the joke was pulled after a complaint from one reader.
“My great-grandmother on my mother’s side was an American Native Indian born in North Dakota. My grandparents on my dad’s side are French Canadian born in Quebec. His great-grandfather is of Irish decent and was Cajun,” wrote Landry. “This makes me a bald, native, French, Irish Catholic, nudist Canadian with a warped sense of humour.”
Landry wrote that he would no longer publish content that offended readers.
The joke begins with the two hunters in northern Saskatchewan when “an Indian runs across the field.”
The Saskatchewan hunter aims and shoots the “Indian” dead. The Alberta hunter expresses shock, but the Saskatchewan hunter tells him it’s legal in Saskatchewan.
Later, the Alberta hunter buys beer and puts it on the roof of his truck when “an Indian runs by, grabs the beer and runs away.” The Alberta hunter then pulls out a pistol and shoots the person dead.
He’s later arrested by an RCMP officer who tells him that it’s illegal to use “bait” when shooting “Indians” in Saskatchewan.
Inga Kruse, executive director of the Legion’s B.C. and Yukon Command, said the Cranbrook branch had been ordered to no longer publish jokes and cartoons in their newsletter which will now only carry legion content. Kruse said the branch has also been told to implement a “peer review process” for all content published in the newsletter.
Kruse said letters of apology had also been sent to Green and her daughter Joyce Green, a University of Regina professor, in response to their letters of complaint.
Fallout over racist "joke"
The fallout over this "joke" continued for several days.
Legion “sorry” over joke about murder of “Indians” published by BC branch
By Jorge Barrera
The Cranbrook, B.C., branch of the Legion printed 40 copies of its August newsletter containing the joke before pulling the issue following a complaint. The joke, about two hunters who separately shoot two “Indians” dead, was replaced with a publisher’s note that did not contain an apology.
Bob Butt, spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Legion, said the joke was “definitely inappropriate” and he hoped the branch would never do something like that again.
“We apologize to the Aboriginal peoples for this going out,” he said. “We are extremely sorry.”
Butt, however, said that Ottawa headquarters has little control over the activities of its multitude of branches scattered across the country.
“If a branch puts something out, we will find out about it after the fact,” said Butt. “And we will apologize on behalf of the legion. We can’t apologize on behalf of the branch.”
By James Miller
Gordon Moore said in a statement the organization is “appalled that an anti-aboriginal ‘joke’ was published in a newsletter.”
“I am aware of the remarks made in the ‘joke’ towards our aboriginals and do not deem this as acceptable behaviour for any branch of The Royal Canadian Legion,” he said.
By Jorge Barrera
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs released a letter Friday addressed to Bob Brady, president of the Royal Canadian Legion B.C. and Yukon Command. UBCIC President Stewart Phillip says in the letter that he was “astonished” by the reaction of regional command and the local Cranbrook, B.C., Legion branch which published the “blatantly racist” joke.
“I am astonished at the Royal Canadian Legion officials at the Legion and BC/Yukon Command levels were completely dismissive and cavalier in their response to initial complaints about the offensive racist joke in their publication,” wrote Phillip. “(Royal Canadian) Legion officials maintained that the so-called joke was simply a joke and not at all a newsworthy item.”
B.C. chiefs demanding a formal apology
The Legion's August newsletter featured two inappropriate jokes, said Inga Kruse, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion's BC/Yukon Command, on Thursday.
For more on racist "jokes," see NAJA Criticizes "Disrespectful" Warren Puns and Topeka Mayor Tells "Rain Dance" Joke.