Local singer Inez Jasper was unceremoniously taken off the air recently from a college radio station in Wyoming.
Since returning home to Chilliwack, the unfortunate experience has underlined for her some of the key political differences between Canada and the U.S.
The Juno-nominated aboriginal artist and community nurse was invited by the Windriver Unity Council last month to perform a concert and lead a workshop at a youth conference in Riverton, Wyoming.
Inez was on the air with aboriginal comedian Drew Lacapa, chatting to a local deejay about everything from gun laws, to “Indian solidarity” in Canada on National Aboriginal Day.
“I wasn’t even trying to be radical,” recalled the singer, who goes by the stage name Inez. “It was pretty chill.”
At one point they all took a little break and Inez headed to the ladies’ room. When she returned, she was told bluntly the interview was over. The radio station director had called into the DJ booth and put the official kibosh on the whole discussion.
“I said, ‘You’re joking!’ but everyone looked quite solemn and said they weren’t,” said Jasper. “I said, ‘Yeah, right.’”
Shocked by the full-on censorship, initially she felt quite defeated by the whole experience.
“We were very put out at first,” she remembered.
Now she’s chocking it up to the subtle differences between the melting pot nature of the U.S. versus the cultural mosaic that Canada prides itself on being.
She had mentioned how amazing the APTN channel and the National Aboriginal Day phenomenon had been for her musical career.
“It provided me with the opportunity to travel and perform and to celebrate Aboriginal Day. APTN has televised these big show and it’s really helped to spread my music,” she said. “The really cool thing is that elders call it ‘Indian Solidarity Day.’ That’s what I talked about.”
She remembers Lacapa mentioning it would be nice if there was a similar day relevant to the Mexican people of the Southwest, or if they could come up to Canada to see National Aboriginal Day.
Inez also touched on the always-tricky topic of gun laws, and the ability of U.S. citizens to carry a concealed weapon.
“I said to me that sounds crazy, coming from Canada, and how that was different from what I’m used to,” she recalled.
That’s all it took. And now, in the wake of what happened, she now realizes that the “very conservative” values of the state must have come into play. Someone must have felt threatened by what was said on the radio show.
“I was trying to reflect on how we could express our differences. I wasn’t trying to push my ideas on anyone.”
She was struck by how in Canada, there still exists the perception of a forum for free speech.
“Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree,” she said. “I have thought long and hard about this. I thought I was being careful. I’m not a radical person, and I guess we have to respect people’s readiness for change.”
But if she was invited back to Riverton, she would go in a heartbeat.
“If we all agreed on everything, what a boring life we’d be leading.”
In the end, she’s putting a positive spin on things.
“I’ve come to the conclusion this was really a good lesson on how we need to create more space for discussion and ideas that may be different or foreign to us, and to talk about how to move forward when we disagree.”