Sask. Facebook group admin puts her foot down on racist posts and comments

·2 min read
Images from early harvests in Saskatchewan can be seen in this archival footage from CBC News.  (CBC Archives - image credit)
Images from early harvests in Saskatchewan can be seen in this archival footage from CBC News. (CBC Archives - image credit)

Jessica Salkeld started the Old Saskatchewan Facebook group two years ago, as a place where people can post pictures and talk about lesser known history in the province.

The group started out really small, but now has more than 82,000 members. With that many people, monitoring comments and posts has become somewhat of a second full-time job for Salkeld.

As the group grew, she began to notice a troubling trend.

"Any time that the post is in any way not centring whiteness, glamorizing what was happening at whatever point in time in history is being discussed — and it could be very subtle — and immediately there will be comment after comment of, 'Let's not discuss this, leave this off of here,'" she said.

"A lot of our members don't even understand that just by not speaking up and supporting our members that are posting and educating, they're taking part. Being silent is a choice."

She knew she had to do something. Late last month, she posted a message to the thousands of people in the group. It reads, in part: "What we have dealt with over the past week is disgusting. We are not here to enable your whitewashing of the province. Check your privilege and entitlement at the door. You are always free to leave."

Salkeld said it was a rough few days after posting the above statement.
Salkeld said it was a rough few days after posting the above statement. (Old Saskatchewan/Facebook)

The post prompted a lot of backlash in the immediate aftermath, she said. She had previously dealt with these types of issues privately or by hiding comments. But it got to a point where it had to be known publicly, she said.

Now that the dust has settled, she's noticed a change in the group.

"The members, half of the time before I can even get to it are jumping up and saying, 'That is not acceptable, that is not what we do here ... and really stepping up and helping me out,'" she said.

People who previously felt scared or silenced in the group now are telling her they feel comfortable coming forward and sharing their history with the group.

"It's moved in a direction that has been really powerful and I think healing for some of our members as well," she said.