Native group-home proposal sparks racial tension in Ontario town (The Globe and Mail):
All Lori Flinders wanted was to build a group home for displaced native youth in the town of Alberton, Ont. What she encountered was a wave of local resistance that, to her, provided a lesson in reflexive racism.
The Alberton story takes place at a time when Canada is coming to grips with centuries of legislated bigotry through the federal residential-schools apology and the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And it suggests, on the local level at least, that the stain of racial conflict has not gone away.
Since September, 2008, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services had been exploring the property in Alberton, a paper-mill town of about 1,000 people. It seemed an ideal setting for a children’s group home: 166 acres of nature trails, horse stables, an indoor arena and much of the flora used in local aboriginal medicine.
But then a flyer turned up in local mailboxes warning residents if they did not attend a June 24, 2009 meeting, “You will have a NON-SECURE NATIVE DETENTION CENTRE/GROUP HOME IN YOUR COMMUNITY.” The flyer concluded, “PLEASE! HELP KEEP YOUR COMMUNITY SAFE.”
Aside from the flyer’s factual distortion – none of the children would be involved with the courts – the racial undertones worried at least one resident.
Dorothy Friesen, who moved to Alberton to retire from a career of charity work and activism in the Philippines and Chicago, thought it was the work of “a few whackos” and that “we’d go to this meeting and outnumber them.” When she arrived at the Alberton Municipal Office that night, however, she found more than 150 people had turned out to oppose the centre.