One of the biggest news stories in Manitoba this week was that of now former Conservative youth-wing president Braydon Mazurkiewich.
Last Friday, Mazurkiewich wrote a Twitter and Facebook post saying that a planned urban First Nations reserve on a former military base was designed for "hard-working men and women of the military, not free-loading Indians.''
Mazurkiewich resigned his post almost immediately and offered a somewhat veiled apology. Manitoba Tory leader Brian Pallister finally spoke out against the comments on Thursday, but rejected a call from aboriginal leaders to apologize on behalf of the party.
Certainly — I think most of us would agree — that Mazurkiewich's comments were racist and required penalty.
But how different are his comments from comments on media message boards, this week, with regard to stories about the 'Idle No More' campaign?
Here is a a sampling of some of the comments:
At the CTV News website, a reader named 'Enough of Them said: "Time the First Nations people got responsible and looked after themselves instead of expecting Canada to babysit them."
At the National Post website, reader 'rpjohnson' wrote this: "Let's call it as it is. Natives like being lazy, like collecting free cash and like being parasites on society. They trot out their little drum-banging ceremonies and prayers to the earth gods when the cameras are around so they look mystical and wise."
And here's one at Yahoo! Canada News written by 'bigie': "...the indians - drunks, molesters and welfare cheats."
I don't think it would be an overstatement to say at least one-third of the comments — at all media outlets — could be considered racist.
This is nothing new, of course.
In 2009, Manitoba aboriginal leaders argued that the CBC "provided a forum for hatred and racism on it’s web site."
In 2011, a letter writer to the Hamilton Spectator asked if racist comments would be tolerated if directed toward any other groups besides First Nations.
On Thursday, Macleans' David Newland took a witty and sarcastic look at the issue of 'intolerant' comments.
"There you have it. Canadians are a tolerant people, if you’ll just take the time to try to understand where they’re coming from," he wrote with tongue firmly inserted in cheek.
"We can all be grateful for the the Idle No More movement. It has provided the opportunity to see our collective tolerance demonstrated so plainly."
'Idle No More' seems to have morphed into something bigger than just a protest against Bill C-45.
Maybe it can also be about building tolerance and understanding.