Is ‘assimilate’ offensive? Legal battle pits Star Trek fan against Indigenous activists | National Post

Both sides make valid arguments in sharing their perspectives.

But understand for Indigenous peoples the particular sensitivity regarding the word assimilate given Canada’s history.

For immigrants, of course, the long standing Canadian approach is based upon integration, not assimilation:

At issue is a legal battle that has just been launched that pits the right of a Star Trek fan to have it on his licence plate against Indigenous groups opposed to the word.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Nick Troller, a Winnipeg man whose licence plate — ASIMIL8 — was rescinded by the provincial government for being offensive to Indigenous people.

“It’s another case that pits the Charter freedom of expression against the new, phoney right not to be offended,” said JCCF President John Carpay, a former Alberta Wildrose party candidate.

Carpay said he can understand why the plate might offend someone, but the word still shouldn’t be censored.

“There’s a difference between words that are inherently offensive regardless of how you use them, such as vulgarities, obscenities, four-letter words, versus words like ‘war’ or ‘assimilate,’ which can have positive or negative connotations,” he said.

Troller said the licence plate is clearly a reference to the Borg, a fictional race from Star Trek that forcibly assimilates other cultures. The plate holder says, “WE ARE THE BORG” and “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”

“The word ‘assimilate’ is just a word — it is neither good nor bad. We assimilate nutrients into our bodies in order to live,” Troller said in his affidavit.

But Indigenous activists say Canadians should do more to understand why the word could be considered offensive.

Anishinaabe Nation member and University of Manitoba assistant professor Niigaan Sinclair called free speech a “bogus argument” and said that Indigenous people are having “a very understandable reaction.”

“If Indigenous peoples feel triggered by a licence plate or a sports logo, or the name of a historical figure on a building, Canadians would be best served to listen to why Indigenous peoples are triggered, and show some care and sensitivity when they express themselves,” he said.

“You can’t just say whatever you want to say without any worries of consequence or responsibility.”

Source: Is ‘assimilate’ offensive? Legal battle pits Star Trek fan against Indigenous activists | National Post

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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