What would you do?

Peachtree Dental in Brantford has been getting lots of attention lately — although all the wrong kind. Some racist comments were overheard in their office by a patient and her family and instead of making a confrontation in the office, they took to social media to find justice.

And justice they did find. The story received 1000 shares on Facebook, and then a local TV news network picked up on the story. It’s good that the owner of Peachtree Dental, who identifies as a person of colour, took immediate action and fired the offending parties.

An overwhelming number of indigenous people have responded with stories of similar types of abuse at other medical institutions. They told stories that did not have a just and fair ending. Unless Canadians moved to North Korea, they might not ever know the terrifying experience of undergoing anesthesia and having a procedure done by someone who might possibly hate you.

The racist comments themselves were not that special, it was typical run of the mill ignorance. Our people have dealt with these attitudes for hundreds of years and always managed to find a way to keep our positive outlook.

But the most troubling part of this whole ordeal is that everyone who was in the dental office at the time just let it happen. And because there was a huge amount of complacency it gave confidence to a racist man in the waiting area to join in and say that people of Six Nations are all paint huffers and he even directly pointed at the native woman, the little child and the grandpa.

Kudos to the Onondaga Hill family who quietly and calmly endured this embarrassing verbal harassment and left with their dignity intact. Editorials are supposed to be an opinion piece on behalf of the entire news organization, but if I was in that waiting room my Mohawk side would have flared up and Hulkmania would have run wild.

Where were all of our “allies” in this moment? Why didn’t anyone step up and say that the conversation was unacceptable and unprofessional? Dr. Bobak Mehdi, the Peachtree Dental owner said that because the anesthesiologist was in a position of authority the rest of the dental staff felt threatened by his credentials and were too intimidated to correct him.

And this leads us to the root problem. Good and well-meaning Canadians don’t have the information to combat the widespread ignorance that even officials and health care providers are infected with. All someone needed to say to defuse this situation would be something like this: “Well, according to the government of Canada, they traded 10 million square kilometers in exchange for free healthcare, seems like they got a pretty rotten deal.”

And that’s not even our perspective. We say that we leased small tracts of land and the rest was stolen under the auspices of the Doctrine of Discovery. The much touted “Surrender” of 1841 was completely fraudulent according to our historians and academics – the Chiefs of that time immediately denounced the surrender only days after it was signed when they learned what the agreement actually said.

We are counting on regular Canadians to speak up when you hear others spewing racist rhetoric and misinformation. If we want reconciliation in this country it needs to start around the dinner table, at the local bar and even in dentist offices.

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