This quotation comes from Richard Wagamese’s story about Saul Indian Horse. Saul, as someone who’s read the story might recall, is a talented hockey player who eventually ends up playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ minor league hockey team, the Toronto Marlboros. The quote occurs in chapter 38 in connection with the Marlboros. Yet the quote’s significance seems to transcend hockey.
Saul’s quote could be examined within the larger theme of abuse. Throughout the novel, Saul and other Indigenous people endure constant mistreatment. Think about the horrifying assaults that Saul describes at St. Jerome’s. Now, consider the irrelevance of the respective heinousness of specific people like Sister Ignacia.
Without the general racism of Canada’s policies and laws, Sister Ignacia wouldn’t be possible in the first place. In order for Sister Ignacia to have a platform to disseminate her racist views and in order for the school officials to get away with physically and sexually assaulting the children, there must be some kind of preexisting framework that allows these barbarities to unfold with impunity.
Saul’s quote arguably lends credence to the idea that a lot—or a fair amount—of the abominable behavior that occurs in society is not due to personal animosity or individual hate. Rather, much of the inhumanity in Saul’s world and the world in general is because people don’t care. The teachers and the nuns don’t care about the students. The hockey players don’t care about Saul’s constant marginalization. They’re not imposing on him a specific, individual viciousness or meanness. What they are doing is uncritically conveying the heinous norms of a Canadian society that fundamentally doesn’t care about the feelings or welfare of Saul and the members of his community.