rough notes

The Campaign against the intolerance of Halifax columnist Peter Duffy

with 6 comments

Update July 5, 2007 – a website, Peter Duffy Said What!?, has been constructed to demonstrate Mr. Duffy’s impropriety in his own words. The contribution he wrote will be critiqued on the website in the coming days. Readers are encouraged to visit PDSW for updates.

Peter Duffy is a regular columnist for The Halifax Chronicle Herald, the largest newspaper in Nova Scotia. Known for maintaining a “voice of the people” and “salt of the earth” persona, Mr. Duffy is afforded wide latitude by the paper’s editorial board to write on any subject matter that strikes a chord with his own person. Sometimes Mr. Duffy will make contributions about the benign and banal, such as updates on the television programme “Coronation Street”, or confessionals on speeding and traffic tickets, but at other times he willingly writes on subjects which can be perceived as intolerant, or even racist.

On July 1st, 2007, Canada Day, the Herald published a column by Mr. Duffy in which he explicitly criticisized the Canadian Assembly of First Nations‘ Day of Action as a “clamour” for power, money, land, financial redress, “all this, and more. On and on, with no end in sight, and that’s the whole point”. Mr. Duffy, who opens by asking his readers, “What on earth do the aboriginal people want from the rest of us?”, turns the continued plight of Canada’s First Nations into an us-and-them, white-versus-other argument that White Canada “can’t go on like this” and must find a “better, fairer, more reasonable way” to essentialy make this problem go away and stop ruining his long weekends. Mr. Duffy’s comments show an extreme lack of taste and poor judgement, if not signs of ignorance breaching toward racism.

Mr. Duffy’s article is without merit, or tact. He suggests that Friday’s Day of Action was with “menacing overtones of violence that left a bad taste in the mouths of many people”, when in fact the national protest was almost completely without incident. If it were not for First Nations organizers in eastern Ontario who broke off from AFN requests and began to blockade Highway 401, the Day of Action would otherwise have fulfilled its goal of being a peaceful day of protest and information. No shots were fired. No violence ensued. No menacing overtones of violence occurred on Friday. The Day of Action was a protest made by peaceful means to showcase the ridiculous third-world living conditions of a first-world nation’s first peoples.

Perhaps Mr. Duffy was annoyed that one particular band began to construct a tent city on Parliament Hill to protest their living conditions on a reserve three hours away by car. This, on the eve of a Canada Day long weekend celebration, may be an affront to those who want to embrace the splendour and success of our nation. The Barriere First Nation’s peaceful tent city, which was taken down before it was even completed because government officials met with band leaders and resolved to help them with their living conditions, was a visible, non-violent symbol of our national shame, our national disgrace. While Mr. Duffy can spend the long weekend venting about AFN demands for financial redress or the independence to manage their own affairs (only after Ottawa has mismanaged the job for 140 years), Canada’s first nations will spend the weekend living in squalor.

Mr. Duffy has shown a mark of intolerance that is difficult for most to reach. The long-time columnist is not outwardly racist or prejudiced, but has certainly betrayed the fact that he feels confronted when a disadvantaged minority demands equality. Mr. Duffy is voicing his own opinion when he writes that “Taxpayers are already appalled at the river of money dissappearing into reserves . . . with little or nothing to show for it”. Mr. Duffy does not speak for the “Taxpayers” in this instance, but himself. The subject of his column, we must remember, is not the “Taxpayers” of Canada (and certainly not the nation’s citizenry), nor is it the third-world conditions of our first nations. The subject of Mr. Duffy’s column is Mr. Duffy himself. Mr. Duffy is appalled by the situation, and contemptuous of it.

Mr Duffy’s intolerance must be met with education and awareness. Readers are invited to visit the group, Campaign against Peter Duffy’s intolerance. Please voice your displeasure with Mr. Duffy by contacting him directly at Alternatively, contact the Newspaper itself, at Finally, The Herald’s Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Bob Howse, can be reached directly at

Please voice your disapproval of Mr. Duffy’s conduct in a manner befitting The Herald’s own business principles of “reputation, integrity, and independence”(2). Let us remind Mr. Duffy of the mission statement of his employer, a newspaper which “stands for Nova Scotia’s progress and development and is dedicated to the service of the people that no good cause shall lack a champion and that wrong shall not thrive unopposed”(3).

(1) Duffy, Peter. “Dear natives: Let’s find a better way”. The Halifax Chronicle Herald. 1 July 2007.
(2) The Halifax Chronicle Herald. “Mission Statement”. The Halifax Chronicle Herald.
(3) The Halifax Chronicle Herald. “Mission Statement”. The Halifax Chronicle Herald.

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6 Responses

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  1. Please check out the facebook site the Uneducation of Peter duffy & natives

    Kendelle Blois

    July 3, 2007 at 10:06 am

  2. Hear, hear. I knew someone must be out there, saying it better than I could. Thanks for writing this.

    I found this post by Googling “Peter Duffy” and “racist” to see what people are saying about this latest column, so I don’t know if you are in NS or have a history of reading his column. You certainly display an understanding of his general approach and style. I was wondering if you read his column about gays last year? It was disguised as an expression of tolerance, but it’s mostly about how uncomfortable it made him to interact with a gay man.

    The Herald has consistently been irresponsible in what they publish that comes from him. If you’re familiar with his ouevre, you know what I’m talking about. It’s not cool.


    July 5, 2007 at 1:13 pm

  3. The Chronicle Herald has been consistently silent on this issue; many letters to the editor have been written (see the FB link provided by Krista, above, at, but none have been published.

    I wrote a letter to the editor (that is, one directly to Bob Howse) for a clarification on the newspaper’s policies vis à vis its Mission Statement in this matter. Mr. Howse was away for the long weekend, and it was bounced back to me with a link to an assistant ed. That person was away as well, so I finally forwarded it on to a third person; it was in fact a fourth, different person who responded.

    In the response, this person (a prominent columnist/editor) noted that the Newspaper had in fact provided a contrary opinion to Mr. Duffy in its editorial of June 29th. Granted, they did publish this editorial to makr their own opinion on the Day of Action, but the paper did not do anything regarding Mr. Duffy’s inflammatory words to a distinct national people on Canada’s national holiday.

    Indeed, it was highly inappropriate of Peter Duffy to write this column, and equally inappropriate of The Herald to publish it. While columnists **are** afforded a level of editorial independence over and above the regular reporter, the Herald’s Editorial Board – regardless of the fact that several of them were away on the long weekend – had a duty to its readers, and frankly, to its historically cherished dignity, to hold back the column, at least until another prominent columnist could offer a response of the same magnitude in the same issue.


    July 6, 2007 at 11:56 am

  4. Get a fucking life people! Duffy is allowed to write whatever he wishes! You folks read and interpret his writings the way you see fit so you can exploit them for your own cause.


    August 5, 2007 at 5:06 pm

  5. Darrin,

    At issue is not Peter Duffy’s allowance “to write whatever he wishes” (which is incorrect to begin with – even he must report to an editorial board and use a certain level of discretion. i.e. he could never be blatantly racist in a column, as the Herald would simply refuse to publish it) but his continued demonstration of intolerance against visible minority groups.

    We are all entitled to read whatever we like, and interpret them as we see fit. A simple google search of “Peter Duffy Natives”, for instance, will should that many people agreed that he was out of line in writing what he did on Canada Day, 2007. I respect the fact that you disagree with my opinion, and the opinion of others, and politely ask that you do the same.


    August 9, 2007 at 9:44 pm

  6. Freedom of speech, anyone?

    If his column makes you uncomfortable.. don’t read it.
    It’s thaaaat simple.


    October 21, 2007 at 6:09 am

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