Tag Archives: Fort Times

Dear Fort Times

Post by Sue Bland, Kate Hersberger, Marsha Cannon, Jill Whiting and Vera Saltzman

On June 27, 2022 the Fort Qu’Appelle  Times chose to publish an op-ed by Brian Geisbrecht called  “We have nothing to be ashamed of on Canada Day.” There has been a strong reaction to this op-ed  in the community surrounding the Fort, and numerous people sent letters to the publisher or the editor to protest their decision to publish this piece. Because some of us do not subscribe to or buy the Fort Times, here are a few of the letters that were written to the paper. If you have written a  letter and would like it to be included here, please be in touch with Sue Bland. You can read the op-ed here.  And because words have their limitations, Kate and Marsha have also shared some art. Kate’s is at the end, and Marsha’s is throughout. Vera’s photographs are throughout the post.

Letter #5 by Vera Saltzman

Re: Op-Ed by Brian Geisbrecht entitled “We have nothing to be ashamed of on Canada Day”

Dear Fort Qu’Appelle Times,
The question of whether or not to, or how to, celebrate Canada Day is one many of us are grappling with as we learn and unlearn our country’s history. The article you printed was not helpful, but instead hurtful to so many in the community you serve, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. It saddens me to hear stories of the negative impact this has had on reconciliation efforts where I live. So many are working quietly to build relationships and trust, but your decision, your loud clear voice, has turned back progress.
I want to live in a community and country I’m proud of. I’m not proud of our history.  I can’t change it. But I can learn about it, acknowledge the hurt caused and work to right the wrongs that are happening today – so I write this letter to add my voice to all the others who are so disappointed and angered by your actions. Printing this article was wrong.
Vera Saltzman

“Walking Together and Honouring our Children”, 2nd Annual Walkathon . July 1, 2022. Photo by Vera Saltzman.

Letter # 4 by Jill Whiting

Dear Fort Qu’Appelle Times,

I have decided to join the many who were disgusted by the article in last week’s paper!! Publishing this makes me question whether I will continue supporting your paper! You know this article will only communicate that our community is racist even though you have grabbed it from somewhere else [the author is from Winnipeg]!! You have a responsibility to communicate truths…where is the truth here? Yap, it’s an opinion piece but I think maybe you should read these before creating chaos and allowing this person to spread untruths!!

Hope with the many upset responses you will send out an apology to us all!


Jill Whiting

Art by Marsha Schuld Cannon

Letters #3 by Marsha Cannon

To the Editor:

Regarding the opinion piece: “We have nothing to be ashamed of on Canada Day”

I feel compelled to reach out and express my utter dismay and disgust that the Fort Times editorial staff allowed this garbage to be printed. Particularly in a town made up of a large percentage of Indigenous peoples.  Is this the opinion of the editorial staff? If so, I suggest you spend some time and energy speaking with the people in your community that have suffered for generations under unequal, unkind and racist policies.  This is not journalism or dialogue, this is hatred and dismissal by an individual who clearly does not care to learn.  I am appalled that you allowed this to be printed and that as Editor, you did not at the very least speak out against it or add a line that this is not the opinion of the Publisher.  These omissions become tacit agreement of these statements. Failure to call out prejudice is to add to it.

Shame on you.

Marsha Cannon


To the Publisher:

Regarding: opinion piece titled “We have no reason to be ashamed on Canada Day”

I am utterly disgusted and appalled to see such an opinion piece published in Saskatchewan – particularly in a town with a large population of Indigenous Peoples.  In 2022 there is no room for such blatant racist misinformation.  It is particularly egregious that the editor and publisher chose not to distance themselves from this by at least stating this is not the opinion of the publisher.  By not calling out the obvious bias and misinformation in this horrid piece, you become complicit in generations of uncalled for and unkind racism. I am not an Indigenous person and am horrified by reading this piece.  I can only imagine the effect on individuals who have be subject to such abuses and lies for generations.

I strongly urge you to apologize to the people of Ft. Qu’appelle and perhaps to reassure them that you will be more vigilant in the future when presented with such filth and drivel.

Shame on you.

Marsha Cannon

Art by Marsha Schuld Cannon

Letter #2 from Kate Hersberger


Your Fort Times publication included this article: “We have nothing to be ashamed of on Canada Day.” by Brian Geisbrecht. This should never have been accepted  or published. It is shamefully inaccurate, hateful and racist. An apology and a committment to no racist content as well as fact checking is in order here.

Saddened and disgusted,

Kate Hersberger

Scroll to end to view art and poem by Kate entitled “Orange Shirt Day.”

Chief Michael Starr and walkers at “Walking Together, Honouring our Children”, July1, 2022. Photo by Vera Saltzman.

 Letter #1  by Sue Bland

Re: Op-Ed by Brian Geisbrecht entitled “We have nothing to be ashamed of on Canada Day”

An opinion backed by incorrect information can do great harm. This op-ed perpetuates misinformation and untruths which are hurtful to many people in our community – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.

First, I want to address some of the inaccuracies. To begin, it’s important to note that the National Death Register has a lowball figure of 4,118 children who died while at residential school. This is a low estimate because only 20% of the pertinent records had been released by 2021.

Mr. Geisbrecht writes, “… the hysteria about the 215 graves is ill-founded because not a single body has been unearthed. Those graves turned out to be soil disturbances and nothing more.”

Geisbrecht’s statement that “no bodies have been unearthed” is misleading since he omits some facts. It is important to understand that ground penetrating radar can only detect anomalies. Until excavations or exhumations can take place, no bodies will be discovered or “unearthed.”

He also omits saying that in the majority of Residential School sites the excavation work has either not begun or has not been completed. Three of the five he references (Kamloops, Kuper Island, and Brantford) are still involved in ground penetrating radar searches and have not made decisions about whether to excavate or not. This is also the case for many searches taking place on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 soil in Saskatchewan. The author is correct that no bodies were found after excavations were done at the Charles Camsell Hospital and Shubenacadie sites.

Once the ground penetrating searches are complete, each First Nation concerned must make the incredibly difficult decision about whether to exhume the graves or not, so that a forensic investigation can take place. Imagine having to make such a decision.

Mr. Geisbrecht characterizes the response to last year’s news of 215 potential graves as “unfounded hysteria”. This is deeply disrespectful not only to elders who are residential school survivors, but also their families and loved ones. In the responses of my friends in their 60s, 70s and 80s, I observe very heavy hearts filled with a grief they will never “get over ”, a reminder of their own stolen childhoods, and of those children who never returned home. Survivors and their families deserve our utmost respect, our heartfelt compassion, and our acknowledgement of their lived experience during this emotional time.

In choosing to publish this op-ed, the Fort Times continues to privilege the view of the colonizer. A summary of the rest of Mr. Geisbrecht piece could read like this: Therefore, story over. Most of it was made up. Canada is not genocidal. Sure, we have warts, but who doesn’t? The author does concede that “widespread prejudice and discrimination – particularly against Indigenous people – was indeed part of our history” but then, unbelievably, writes, “But, that has passed.” Really? He wants us to turn the channel when our work of reconciliation has just begun.

I believe in the saying, “Truth before reconciliation.” For too long, non-Indigenous people have shaped the narrative of Canada’s history.  In recent years, through the survivor’s stories at the TRC and many other ways, the truth is finally beginning to emerge.

The children who attended residential schools, those who survived and those who did not, had no voice. It is essential that Canadians listen to these voices now. For me, listening to the first hand accounts of residential school survivors has been life changing.  As a non-Indigenous Canadian, I have a great deal more listening to do. I must continue to unlearn some of what I was taught. Learning the truth is not just a matter of the mind, it is also a matter of learning this in my heart. This is hard yet necessary work.

While the Times publisher notes that “opinions do not reflect those of the publication itself”, he is also quoted as saying, “It was an opinion of someone who we felt readers were entitled to see.” In addition, “Grasslands News said it hoped the article would spark conversation around reconciliation.” (CTV News, July 5, 2022)

How can you create positive conversation around reconciliation by publishing a one-sided view, backed by erroneous statements, written in an inflammatory way, by a person who knows nothing about our community?

The Fort Times chose to do harm within their community.  As a community newspaper, serving Fort Qu’Appelle and surrounding areas, they could have worked to build trust and shown empathy by sharing truthful stories. In Treaty 4 Territory there are many incredible Indigenous people with expertise, lived experience, wisdom and teachings that would benefit us all.

One Indigenous commentator asked, “Is this how all the non-Indigenous people in the Fort area think?” There is no denying that some do, but I am willing to bet that many of us stand with and beside Indigenous friends and neighbours. Many are grateful to live in Canada, feel pride in our country in some ways AND continue to reflect and learn the very difficult truths about our past and present record. Others are not willing to celebrate Canada Day at all. It’s complex.

In the CTV interview cited above, Summer Stonechild says it well, “I don’t discredit our non-Indigenous community for wanting to celebrate, but there [also] needs to be reflection on the truth behind what Canada is.”

I join Summer Stonechild and others in asking the Fort Times to apologize for their ill-considered choice in publishing this op-ed.

Sue Bland


Information about the progress at Kamloops, Kuper Island and Brantford are below.

[1] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/tk-eml%C3%BAps-kamloops-indian-residential-school-215-exhumations-1.6460796

[1] https://www.thestar.com/politics/2021/07/15/first-nation-still-investigating-former-residential-school-site-in-british-columbia.html

[1] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/mohawk-institute-search-money-1.6325480

Art by Marsha Schuld Cannon


Kate writes, “Sadly this piece was created in Sept 2013 as a response to news then about the children and families broken as a result of this part of Canada’s history. This piece was also reposted May 30 2021 after the news media outlets began reporting about the graves found in Kamloops. ” (the original post can be found here.)
Orange Shirt Day

At half mast today
for the children
and their families
who endured the war
waged on them.
Hold their spirit softly
and love them now.
The children
who could not choose
who were not fed
who could not speak
who were not safe



Letter to the Editor – Elegy for the Trees

Letter to the Editor of the Fort Qu’Appelle Times, December 2016

I am concerned about the practice of removing trees, “pushing bush”, and draining sloughs that is happening at an unprecedented rate on farmland in our area and beyond.

I walk our road almost daily. This gives me a chance to observe the wildflowers, the varieties of wild creatures including butterflies, dragonflies, bees, deer, coyote, fox, skunks, frogs, snakes and birds of all kind who make their life here. 

Last fall, a landowner bulldozed a group of trees that I have come to know very well. Not only do yellow lady slippers bloom in the shelter of these beautiful aspen, but many other creatures find refuge there as well. This was just one of a group of aspen bluffs and low lying sloughs in this area that was bulldozed. A year later, the piles of brush were set on fire and left to burn for a few days, then buried under the ground. Walking past now, it looks as if there never were trees there.

I called the landowner to share how sad and distressed I felt about the loss of these trees, as well as the scale of the destruction of similar places. He listened respectfully and thanked me for sharing my thoughts.  I invited him to come for a hike with me next spring to see how these wild places are brimming with natural life. I cannot tell another landowner what to do on his land, but I can share how I feel about it. Having a conversation with my neighbour may not change anything but at least he knows how I feel.

I know farmers who love the natural world and think hard about how their decisions affect the environment. I acknowledge that farmers sometimes do need to remove trees on their land. It is the  increased scale of “pushing bush” and draining marshy areas that disturbs me. Some will argue that before settlers arrived, the natural prairie did not have these aspen bluffs, although there were certainly many more sloughs and potholes than we see today. While that is true, in this radically altered landscape,  these small areas of bush and marsh not only provide refuge for a diversity of natural life but they add pockets of ecological richness that we desperately need.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Great Plains region lost more grasslands (including bluffs and marshes) to agriculture in 2014 that the Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation. When roots systems are removed, the water holding capacity of the land is reduced significantly, affecting us all during both drought and flood years.

I urge landowners to think carefully before altering or destroying the natural landscape. The loss of these areas impoverishes us all. I want to be able to show my grandchildren a clutch of yellow lady slippers. I want them to hear the now rare sound of a meadowlark singing. Each small wild place matters.

Sue Bland, Abernethy, Sask.

Listen to a western meadowlark sing!