Letter to editor sparks angry protest in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Letter to editor branded hateful and racist by First Nations and city leaders.

A letter to the editor published by the Nanaimo Daily News drew about 250 protestors to its McCullough Road offices Thursday.

The letter, published Wednesday and signed by Don Olsen of Nanaimo, was shared widely on social media, drawing First Nations and community members, including Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo, city councillors and Mayor John Ruttan, who turned out in front of Nanaimo Daily News offices to denounce the letter’s content and the newspaper’s decision to publish it.

The Nanaimo Daily News is owned by Glacier Media, a company not affiliated with the Nanaimo News Bulletin and Black Press.

Doug White III, Snuneymuxw First Nation chief, said the words were like a punch to the stomach.

“In our teachings words are powerful, thoughts are powerful, ideas are powerful; that there’s not much distance at all between an ugly idea and an ugly act and that the ugly acts in our history – that we want to keep in our history – have their foundation in the ugly ideas,” White said.

Protesters entered the offices and demanded Hugh Nicholson, publisher, and Mark MacDonald, managing editor, apologize to First Nations people.

“The letter that ran, to the editor, was an opinion of the gentleman that wrote the letter,” said Nicholson. “It was not the opinion of the newspaper or the owners or anyone that works here. The letter ran as part of the letters to the editor. It’s unfortunate. We apologize that the letter ran. It should not have ran.”

Nicholson said an apology would be printed in Friday’s edition of the Daily News.

“We think that’s a reasonable response and we hope that reasonable people will see that,” he said.