A B.C. First Nations Chief is condemning the comparison of mask use and residential schools made by a business owner online.
Angie Roussin, who owns and operates a printing shop in Tofino and Ucluelet, made the post on Instagram on April 2. It reads “kindergarten kids are being asked to wear masks all day here” and goes on to say “all our schools have become residential schools.”
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations Chief Moses Martin was alerted to the post and says it angers him.
“They have no idea what they’re talking about,” he says.
Martin is a survivor himself of Canada’s notorious residential school system.
“I am a survivor. I know what happened to me as a student at a residential school,” he says.
“Being taken away from home, we were taken from our communities at seven years old and never been away from home, never been away from our parents and we were taken and a lot of children only come home one day a year,” he recalls.
The post has been shared across B.C., and hundreds of people have commented in response.
Roussin tells Glacier Media she doesn’t want to hurt people by the post and issued an apology.
“It’s really hard to be on the other side of the pandemic because I don’t have the same perspective everyone else has and it’s almost impossible to speak out right now about these things,” she says.
She regrets making the comparison.
“I regret saying it because it’s because people don’t understand what I am saying but the comparison I am trying to make for people is that the agenda that is much larger here has to do with the same people, the same government, the same Crown that has committed such absolutely horrific things in the past.”
Roussin adds she cares deeply about her community.
“It’s devastating. I have a lot of love for everybody and I have a hard time expressing myself because of my perspective, but I don’t want to hurt people,” she continues.
One Vancouver woman who saw the post says the apology is too late and feels it was insincere.
“Right away, as soon as I saw that... ugh, your hands started to shake,” says Kora Leith.
“When you're comparing it to this awful thing that has happened and people are still living through that trauma and still trying to get over that and the privilege that comes from that is disgusting.”
Leith points out the woman is operating her business on the traditional territory of the First Nation.
“Even if you look at some of her clothing designs, it’s very tribal. To say a comment like that, it's not OK," she says. "It was hard to read for sure, especially from a local business owner.”
Martin looks back on his time in the residential school system as traumatic.
“It’s something you don’t wish on anybody else and, those of us that survived the residential school, I can only pray for them,” he says.
“If it was only to wear a mask, well I would have gladly done that instead of the beatings we got.”