The appalling discovery of the bodies of 215 Indigenous children hidden in unmarked graves at the site of the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is irrefutable evidence of a crime against humanity.
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Band confirmed Thursday that ground-penetrating radar had detected the remains of the children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church.
Many of us settler Canadians have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that for generations the policy of the Government of Canada toward our country’s first citizens was culturally genocidal in intent and sometimes literally genocidal in practice.
But we are here now and whether we like it or not we are going to be asked to face our national reality and do something about it. We can’t continue to deny that which is no longer deniable.
We need waste no more time on schoolboy arguments about the definition of genocide or nice legal distinctions about what constitutes murder in the Criminal Code.
Upright, honourable people don’t hide evidence of one death in an unmarked, never mentioned grave, let alone 215 of them. This is axiomatic. The prima facie evidence of the crime is in the ground in Kamloops. How hard is it to believe now that more secret graves will soon be found elsewhere?
As for the details and intent of the crime, if it marches like genocide, and talks like genocide, it is genocide.
The intent of the Dominion Government for the Residential School system is part of the historical record. “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with his parents who are savages … he is simply a savage who can read and write,” John A. Macdonald, our first prime minister, told the House of Commons in 1883 when he introduced the Residential School program.
This can’t be spun to mean something else, even if for generations the reality was not often acknowledged in polite society, which by definition was settler society, or taught in schools.
Several major Christian denominations, the police, and the armed forces have all been active co-conspirators.
“We instil in them a pronounced distaste for the native life so that they will be humiliated when reminded of their origin,” said Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, after whom a high school in Calgary, an LRT station in Edmonton, and a street and neighbourhood in St. Albert are all named.
Educators were tacit enablers. To be schooled in Canada for most of the past century meant never hearing a word about the residential school system. It wasn’t a little secret, but it was an ugly one.
Settler residents of communities where Residential Schools existed may not have known the details, but they knew something unsavoury was going on in the sinister buildings on the edges of their towns. There was a reason they spoke of these places in hushed tones, and hurried past.
We need to acknowledge all of this.
Now is the time.
Sophomoric tweets and an official silence in Alberta
It is particularly troubling at this tragic and revelatory moment in our national history that a social media stream used by one of the so-called “experts” hired by the Alberta Government to draft its deeply flawed primary school social studies curriculum immediately began publishing offensive tweets disparaging the evidence of the Kamloops tragedy as meaningless.
The Twitter account is nominally that of the Dorchester Review, the vanity publication established by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s favourite PhD and curriculum advisor, Christian Champion. Whether or not Dr. Champion wrote these sophomorically offensive tweets himself has not been confirmed. That would certainly be a worthwhile question for media to ask the reclusive historian.
There is no question the Dorchester Review account’s dismissal Friday of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as “cash and payola,” and its effort to shrug off the deaths as the result of “tuberculosis or some other disease,” reflects views published by Dr. Champion in the past.
It is troubling too, that Mr. Kenney employs and looks up to people like Dr. Champion and the premier’s former speech writer, Paul Bunner, who wrote “the bogus genocide story of the Canadian Aboriginal residential schools system is an insult to all of us. … ”
So is the fact, pointed out by my friend Mimi Williams yesterday on social media, that Mr. Kenney himself was moved to a public fit of near apoplexy at the thought a crowd four provinces away had pulled down a statue of prime minister Macdonald, the architect of the Residential Schools policy, but “the discovery of the remains of over 200 children in the next province generated absolute silence.”
When the statue lost its head in Montreal in August 2020, Mr. Kenney offered the fallen effigy a safe home in Alberta. Yesterday evening, hours after Ms. Williams’ remark, he published a glib tweet.
So it’s time for some meaningful official acknowledgement of what all this means in Alberta too. A good place to start would be to put that curriculum on the shelf until the job of consultation with Alberta’s First Nations is done properly. If nothing is forthcoming from our government, the inference is obvious.
Holy crap, years ago when i was in rehab (I am a recovering alcoholic) I met a Indigenous woman who claimed that a few 100 Indigenous kids had disappeared off of her reserve in Kamloops sometime around the 30’s. She believed they had been abducted to be used by the royal family for all sorts of conspiracy mumbo-jumbo so I lumped her in with the rest of the recovering meth addicts with crazy conspiracy theories. But to find out that the root of her story is true feels quite disturbing. This makes me think I need to reexamine my attitude when presented with these kinds of claims. Perhaps the truth has been staring me in the face on many occasions and my arrogance has helped mask the truth.
That school was built during the regime of MacDonald. He was at the least a co-conspirator in mass murder. The sooner we erase his iconography from our society the better.
I have no doubt that if there were surveys of the grounds of the many residential schools, there would be similar discoveries. As was found in the orphanages in Ireland, the UK, Quebec, and a host of other locations, it was the church-run institutions that permitted these crimes to occur.
There should be a massive, fully-funded (unlimited) investigation to every single one of these case, with full judicial powers, to examine and assign responsibility to those responsible. The Catholic Church (as well as other responsible denominations) must be convicted and pay fully for what is, in fact, mass-murder.
But that’s the reason why every single inquiry into the crimes committed against FNs peoples have never been fully investigated — the scope of the responsibility would reach into every part of society.
To not call this genocide is a crime in itself and must be severely and forever punished.
Is there a statute of limitations for “accessory after the fact”?
Look! Over there. Xinjiang! Myanmar!
I wish Quebec would send the statue to Kenney, so he will have to spend taxpayers money on a pedestal, welding job and grand ceremony.
Another opportunity for the Crying & Angry Midget to gaslight to his base.
John A. MacDonald built the first pipeline for Alberta’s oil — you heard it here first.
215 children, children who had brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles and a community that expecting them back were buried in unmarked and unexplained graves. These 215 children were treated as being – what? Inconvenient, expendable, not human, not Christian, not white…
We simply must do better.
How amazing that for decades we played the game of being a democratic nation with the rule of law and human rights and pointed the finger to everyone else especially to the African Colonizers. Well we never really did much different we were lucky that they were way less in numbers. On Saturday the CBC had an interview with a man from Namibia complaining about the German colonizers and we were so sorry for them. The same happens in other interviews where we try to show our moral superiority. Well what a bunch of crap. We did the same darn things or worse and not too long ago. The last Residential School closed in 1997. We should all grow up and stop being so darn hypocrites.
We should be a bit careful here in apportioning blame. From the very beginning of the conquest of Canada persecution of the native population was a top priority – of virtually everyone. “Nevertheless, by 1829, with the death of Shanawdithit, the Beothuk people, the indigenous people of Newfoundland were officially declared extinct after suffering epidemics, starvation, loss of access to food sources, and displacement by English and French fishermen and traders” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide_of_indigenous_peoples#Canada
Anyone remember Louis Riel and how he was treated? How about those of us over the past 50 years or so that have known about the conditions on some reservations, and still voted in politicians that did nothing. Why is there still a Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada?
Our society as a whole bears a portion of the responsibility for allowing, by turning a blind eye or agreeing, this to happen. The churches were certainly the agents implementing the program, but I feel confident they had lots of support from the average Jane/Joe.
This might seem like a nitpick, but Canada was not a “conquest,” and use of that term may unintentionally give it a legitimacy that it does not deserve. In fact, since 1763, it has been illegal, by British and then Canadian law, to take sovereignty of indigenous lands using any means except treaties negotiated by the Crown. It has been the law of the land from 1763 until the present day. The phrase “unceded land” can be fairly translated as “stolen land that we don’t want to call stolen because then we would have to answer to our own laws for stealing it then pillaging the natural resources on it and that might actually bankrupt some or all of our governments.”
I definitely agree that the Church has been allowed to flout their responsibility. I would support revoking their tax exempt status and giving their tax revenues to the indigenous groups they harmed for a period of time matching the time they evaded responsibility for their atrocities.
By using the above context, Erin the Toole could try to pull a misguided and totally tone-deaf effort to grab votes.
“Take Canada back…from the peoples it was stolen from in the first place, and return it to those stole it.”
Now is the time to take the ground-penetrating radar to the grounds of former tuberculosis sanatoriums across the country, which were places that often housed the same population.
Sad to say, but this is just the beginning. Never again!
Religion. Again. Catholics. Again !
From the Parks Canada website page entitled Resident School System, updated in September 2020, i e not yesterday.
“During the years that the system was in place, children were forcibly removed from their homes and, at school, were often subjected to harsh discipline, malnutrition and starvation, poor healthcare, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, and the deliberate suppression of their cultures and languages. Thousands of children died while attending residential schools, and the burial sites of many remain unknown.”
Burial sites of many remain unknown. Well, now some have been discovered, but the names are unknown, because they held no significance in their tormentors’ eyes.
Catholic Church, Anglican Church and Presbyerian churches had formal agreements with the Feds to run residential schools. It’s all there on the website.
Considering the Catholic-run Mount Cashel orphanage sexual outrage on children by priests in Newfoundland, let alone what others did to choirboys in regular chuches as in the Antigonish area of Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada, and the official quote above mentioning sexual abuse in residential schools, the most disturbing thoughts about why 215 un-named children’s remains were hidden and buried in Kamloops haunts me. Please god it wasn’t due to sexually deviant murderers pretending to be Christian educators literally covering up their crimes. The thought is too much to bear even beyond the knowledge children died from harsh treatment, their names not even recorded and their bodies tossed away like garbage. In a so-called civilized society, no less.
As an immigrant kid from England who went into Grade 9 in 1959, I can assure you First Nations were never officially mentioned once in High School or university other than in passing. I’d have remembered. Never heard a word from anyone about federal residential schools, nor the provincial one for black kids outside Halifax. It all started coming out only about 25 years ago.
The implications of this latest revelation are so deep it’s going to take me a while to assimilate. Meanwhile I spit on first-take apologists like “educator” Christian, as if, Champion and kenney’s love of Sir John, Eh. Curs trying to rewrite elementary school history to make it even more of a fairy tale we do not need.
First step, do an official ground penetrating radar survey on every single residential school grounds site immediately. We need to know the full extent of the crimes. Then the settler citizenry need to acknowledge that so far as I’m aware, every single complaint formally made by First Nations against Canada have proven to be true. Quit making up bullshit excuses that they’re not. Then we’d better figure out what the hell we’re going to do about it once and for all.
The bodies also have to be exhumed to determine, to the extent possible, the causes of death. This is just too sinister to assume most of the children died from tuberculosis, especially with so many anecdotes of disappearances.
How First Nations and Metis people in Canada were treated was appalling. Indigenous peoples from different countries of the world, from Africa, America, Australia, Canada, and other places, were treated very badly. It is not something we can sweep under the carpet. It is heartbreaking to hear what went on in these residential schools. Canada certainly doesn’t have a spotless past. Trying to deny what happened, won’t make it go away. There are people who try and make other excuses as to what happened, and that’s also very sad.
The sad truth is that indigenous people were not “first citizens” of Canada. Even when an Aboriginal nation signed a treaty (most of these were made in bad-faith on the Crown’s part), its own people were not granted most rights of Canadian citizenship—like voting or equal treatment before the law: they had no say about policies which affected them, and were judged and punished by law courts in which they could not hire counsel to defend themselves or prosecute injustices inflicted on them by public and private agencies, and individuals of ill will. Canadian governments (provincial, federal and Territorial), a number of churches (not “the church,” as Charlie Angus tweeted), and business moguls conspired to shove indigenous people out of the way of “progress,” deny them any benefit from resource development in their traditional territories, preclude them from petitioning government or jurisprudence, and generally reduce the burden of their welfare upon the public purse once their prior self-sufficiency had been forcibly disabled. Under the guise of education—that is, forced proselytizing and re-educating—the churches cooperated with the general—and “cultural” —genocide. Their primary facilities were the “Indian” residential schools.
Governments did a lot to keep white Canadians from knowing much about these horrid concentration schools. For me, as an Upper Canada kid, that was by way of school curricula: we only learned about the Iroquois genocide of “Huron” people and their priest, Father Brébeuf who was tortured to death in 1634—presumably to characterize all indigenous people as irredeemably ‘savage.’ In fact, the Iroquois were encouraged and armed by English fur traders on the New England coast to eliminate competition from the French-allied Hurons. We also learned about the great Chief Tecumseh who died fighting American invaders in the War of 1812, in what is now southwestern Ontario—presumably for ‘patriotic’ balance. We never heard of residential schools at our school. The first I heard was from my old man who came back from a documentary shoot at a remote Northern Ontario reserve —the context was something like this: “you think your school is tough? I hear you complain one more time and I’ll send you up to an Indian residential school—then you’ll know what tough is…” My dad was in the war and saw some really disturbing stuff, but that visit up north rattled him like I never saw before.
Ask any migrant from Eastern Canada who comes West: first thing you notice is how many Aboriginal people there are compared to back home. In my home town, one of my boyhood friends —the brainy kid with the coke-bottle glasses who helped me with my homework, whose businessman dad had a yacht in Lake Ontario and one of the first swimming pools in our little town—was Aboriginal. The area was settled by whites 250 years ago. We just never made that distinction.
It was different out West. I travelled back and forth quite a bit and noticed how white people definitely did make a distinction between themselves and Aboriginals—who are usually compared in a negative way. Of course the West hasn’t been settled by whites for near so long and, especially in BC with its verdant and varied terrain and isolated valleys, there is much more indigenous cultural diversity, as well as population density. I noticed a long time ago that the further west of Lake Superior one went, the more strained the relationship between whites and Aboriginals. I believe it’s a similar gradient even today, forty years later.
Not sure if it’s because Easterners know better or know nought, but many times I’ve heard Western rednecks rationalize the plight of Aboriginal peoples. Accordingly, their land was taken away as a “right of conquest” and the rights they should have had from the beginning are denied because of some alleged character flaw that’s supposed to make them undeserving. I’ve even heard it would be against the fundamental tenets of equality if Aboriginals were to receive compensation for the many injustices they’ve suffered at the hands of white society and governments—that’s like saying the perpetrators should get equal compensation too.
But there was no “conquest,” the rights Aboriginals should have had all along were denied for generations, and compensation they therefore deserve won’t be coming from individuals’ pocketbooks but from the Crown and the natural wealth of our nation. Denying any of this is akin to denying climate-change, Covid, and the 13 billion year-old Cosmos. Or missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Or the generational harm that residential schools did.
It was no war or tricky legalities or water under the bridge. Nothing so manly or brainy or philosophical as that. It was an attack on helpless children, the most cowardly thing that can be done, in order to cow already abused, impoverished and demoralized people. Shame!
It’s not often someone confides what their experience was in residential school, but when it happens a white guy like me feels ashamed. It really rocks me when he or she assures they’re not blaming me personally. I cannot fathom such forgiveness for such unspeakable crimes. One time, as a few of us sat around a kitchen table on a Saturday night, I witness something I’ll never forget: an older indigenous lady was there in a wheel chair; one can hardly imagine how hard life had been for her. She was a survivor of residential school and every day was a struggle. Anybody thinks the stoic mein Aboriginals are said to possess reveals a cold, uncaring heart shoulda been there. At some point she began to cry very softly and we asked why: she’d been having difficulty with her government disability status and eventually sobbed that it just made her want to hate white people—which, I think is understandable. But she went on to say she tries to be a good Christian —and that made her ashamed to hate anybody. She was among friends and we consoled her. But I was astounded. After all she’d been through she was deeply ashamed she might become a hater.
I know two brothers from Tuk. They and their siblings were rounded up when their father was away hunting, and then sent to different residential schools. The brother who told me about it was the one I knew least, but he said that if I wanted to know why his older brother was the way he is, it was because he went to a Catholic residential school, whereas the younger brother went to an Anglican residential school. It was the priests, he said. The two schools were within sight of each other—about half a mile apart, but the boys didn’t see each other for four years. They weren’t allowed home for Christmas because the authorities said they’d starve living off the land, even though their people had lived there for several hundred years.
As the writer Thomas King said in “The Truth About Stories,” You might not have heard these stories before, but “do with it what you will…just don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.”
It would be remiss to not mention that provincial governments are also to blame for many of the injustices Aboriginal nations have endured. But the truth is, one of BC’s first Crown ministers, Joseph Trutch —one of the most racist politicians in Canadian history—was principal author of the doctrine that the sovereign claims of BC First Nations had been extinguished by BC’s confederation to Canada in 1871—which is not what the Constitution 1982 says, nor what its predecessor BNA Act 1867 says, nor what its predecessor the Royal Proclamation of 1763 says; all are contained in the present Constitution. BC’s neglect of its obligation to treat with FNs shows how Ottawa was so worried the Colony might join the USA instead it was willing to overlook many corruptions of law in order to successfully induce BC to confederate with Canada.
Finally, in the 90s, the SCoC overturned a lower BC court decision which tried to uphold the longtime unconstitutional policy and BC FNs began asserting their rights long denied them because politicians like Trutch had neglected to make treaties west of the Rockies—which means each FN is effectively co-sovereign with the Crown on their respective traditional territories until treaties are settled. This has been called an “Indian veto” on resource development, but it is, naturally, the febrile rhetoric of bigoted citizens who don’t want fairness and justice for all. The fact is: ignoring FNs’ sovereign claims is illegal and has been ever since Canada existed. It still is.
Armed with this and other favourable SCoC decisions, BC FNs were instrumental in stopping the Northern Gateway pipeline from crossing their treatyless claims. When PM Harper retaliated by way of smearing the Attawapiskat nation in Northern Ontario, his social media shills went on a race-baiting rampage replete with the usual denials of Aboriginal rights, notional mangling of the rule of law, and huge revisions of Canadian history. Much the same was heard more recently when The Wet’suwet’en nation blocked pipeline construction in BC. Some of the most hateful racist social media clatter I’ve seen appears to come from shills for conservative parties. The Idle-No-More movement in 2012 forced Harper to back off and, when it looked like the Wet’suwet’en protest was about to foment a similar nationwide protest, Crown governments were forced to the negotiating table. But, as reported here, the race-baiting and wholesale revisionism is as alive as it is unwell—dismissive comments about the Kamloops Residential School are just more of what we’ve seen: bigotry and white supremacism.
Today is a day of condolence with our indigenous compatriots. Tomorrow is another day on the long road to fairness and justice in our country. It is our great shame that we still haven’t reconciled indigenous nations with out federation. Pray that one day we can look back and admit we used to be like that.
Excellent summation Scotty. Let’s bring it up to date: today Press Progress is reporting on the RCMP covering up protests by removing journalists at the Fairy Creek area on Vancouver Island where white loggers are stealing trees from first nations land. You can page down on their report and watch a video of a native woman being assaulted by RCMP officers.
There are a lot of schools that will be needing new names soon. But what if they are named after saints?
Excellent post, Dave. It’s a sad coincidence that this discovery has emerged just as America publicly comes to terms with the long-suppressed Tulsa race massacre.
The word “genocide” is tossed around a lot these days, often IMHO without adequate justification; not every atrocity or instance of man’s inhumanity to man is a genocide. But, when you look at the emerging evidence around the Indian Residential School system, what other label can you put on it? Sure, there were no cattle cars, no gas chambers or Zyklon-B, no ovens… but the genocidal intent was no different than that of the Third Reich’s Final Solution. It was simply less efficient in its organization.
But what’s truly appalling about this is the complicity of the churches, especially — but not exclusively — the Roman Catholic Church. Why, then, do churches still enjoy a privileged place in our society? Would we permit an SS veterans’ organization to enjoy tax-free status & hire its acolytes to serve members of the military or go into our health care system? Of course not. And yet we allow chaplains in the service & in policing, & “pastoral care” employees in AHS. We even have an RC-Church-run parallel hospital system alongside AHS.
I agree. If they’re not on one murderous crusade, they’re on another.
Some church-run, government-supervised and subsidized long-term care homes deny residents the right to die with dignity under
state-sanctioned MAID on their premises.
It seems that they had no such qualms when it came to children in their care at residential schools. Why? The children had no say in the matter. Their deaths were not documented. They were needless, premature and without dignity. What made their deaths permissible, when elderly or terminally-ill adults having certain death are not permitted to end their lives with medical assistance?
DC, Thank you for focusing on this important issue. It should also be noted that in Canada it is a criminal offence (s 182 of the Criminal Code) to neglect, “without lawful excuse, to perform any duty . . . with reference to the burial of a dead human body or human remains”.
In 1993 the Supreme Court of Canada (R. v. Mills,  4 S.C.R. 277) applied that law to a gravedigger who damaged coffins when refilling graves, finding that the evidence supported the trial judge’s conclusion that the gravedigger’s conduct constituted indignities to human remains.
Section 182 of the Criminal Code follows. As this is an indictable offence there is no stature of limitations.
182 Every person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction who
(a) neglects, without lawful excuse, to perform any duty that is imposed on him by law or that he undertakes with reference to the burial of a dead human body or human remains, or
(b) improperly or indecently interferes with or offers any indignity to a dead human body or human remains, whether buried or not.
The government of Canada put the native people on reserves to keep them away from settlers. Then the government wrote treaties that the natives could not read and required them to sign the treaties or mark with an X in place of a signature. That has been followed by over a century of non compliance by the government with its commitments.
All this was in the belief that the native Canadians would soon die from white man’s diseases, but while some died many survived and our government to this day still won’t honour their commitments under the treaties.
Now we find that residential schools were another part of cultural genocide. These graves prove that murder was an integral part of the plan.
My bet is on further stalling by our government and no real reconciliation taking place.
And here we find our9 government criticising China about its treatment of Uguir muslems. The better to deflect attention from its own crimes. Have we no shame?
It is all still going on now! Maybe not the unmarked graves of stolen children, but in the over-arching criminal Indian Act that has not been abolished, that must be abolished – now. Enough settler privilege masked in the lies like the UCP wants us to continue in their cirriculum. Enough of the white settler lies we like to believe about our superior “cultures” and all that comes with them. The future actually belongs to those who can learn from Indigenous elders about how to live well in a world with so much less than what we of settler society claim as the only viable future.
Having read the thoughtful and reasonable commentary here is greatly encouraging to me. My experience in Edmonton has lead me to fully expect any group of 4 Albertans to contain one adult who will shrug and say, “they shouldn’t have lost the war,” or “it was for their own good,” or various other offensive absurdities.
I grew up in an almost-entirely white town on unceded land in BC. Every year in elementary school we studied the local indigenous people. We learned about their art, their songs, their regalia, how they subsisted, etc. We did not learn about residential schools. We did not learn about unceded land. We did not learn about Indian Hospitals. I then went to a half-indigenous high school and could not figure out why so many of the natives acted as though they had a grudge against me until years later. I started learning about these things when I was 25. I fell in love with a white-passing Metis girl and she clued me in over several very unpleasant and contentious conversations. It was not an easy process for either of us, and in hindsight I am very grateful for the patience and understanding she showed.
Years later I was talking to my father, who also grew up on unceded land and has had many indigenous friends since he was a child. When asked, he shrugged in a bewildered fashion and says, “nobody said anything, even my friends who were going to them.” I suppose the people attending those schools must have just assumed that everyone knew what was happening to them. I suppose that, just as people in unions have learned not to expect help from Police, people on reserves must have learned not to expect help from white people. Yesterday he and his brother and myself were sitting around a fire, and my dad and uncle started talking about these two German guys who went to their logging camp in the 70s. I guess those German guys were of an age where they were adults in Nazi Germany. My uncle was saying how much guilt he feels because he pretty aggressively and publicly confronted them about the Holocaust – “You expect me to believe you didn’t know? How could you not know this was taking place? What’s wrong with you?” Then 20 years later he found out about Canada’s past. Now he really wishes he could apologize to those guys.
Neil: Your uncle owes no apology to those Germans or Poles for that matter. The death camps were highly popular among the gentiles, especially the religious. That secular Denmark saved 98% of its Jewish population while Poland and Germany exterminated almost all of theirs is a fact. The Christians all knew and did nothing.
Now that we Canadians know about the extermination and theft of first nations’ property we have no excuse. But it goes on anyway, at this moment, on Vancouver Island and elsewhere. Don’t forget what happened to Don Hill, the CBC reporter who publicized the “highway of tears.” Trotting out a few apples enabled by the vile Indian Act does not lend any legitimacy to what is happening with pipelines, logging, and other developments. Like the Germans back then, we know, but do nothing.
It is good that this information is finally coming out in the mainstream. I hope this knowledge helps us Canadians going forward. And good for you with this site, giving readers a place to write about this. But the big question is, how do we move forward?
The residential school system was started around 1828, in Upper Canada, with the establishing of the Mohawk Institute Residential School. We have found some unmarked graves of children in that area, but not any mass graves, not as yet. Anyways, the residential schools, set up by Canadians, predates MacDonald’s influence (he was about 13 years old at the time). Toppling his statue is a symbolic gesture, but he was a popular prime minister enacting popular legislation and carrying out an already well-established and popular policy. He was not some evil madman acting in secret, and these murders cannot honestly be on put his head alone, (if you will pardon the symbolism again).
The kind of mentality that allowed, forgave, encouraged child murder, they are still with us today. Our popular governments are still denying some Canadian communities clean drinking water because of the race of the people in those communities. Our Federal government spent billions on a pipeline to buy votes in Alberta (a really poor investment), billions for COVID compensation for lost wages, spent billions going to war in Afghanistan, but can’t find a few million for (indigenous) people to live healthy in northern Ontario. Trudeau’s Liberals freely admits it’s our obligation – but not our priority. If we kick out the Liberals and put in the Conservatives, the admission of obligation goes away, but nothing else changes. NDP? Maybe they would do something, but they are and always have been a minority party federally, with never enough votes to form the government.
That’s us, that’s our system. Same kind of mentality, now in the 21st century. So, aside from symbolism, how do we move forward?
One ongoing disgrace is the federal government’s continuing battle in the courts to overturn repeated rulings by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that found that Canada has been discriminating against Indigenous children in need of child welfare & social services care, by providing a lower level of service & care than non-Indigenous children get from the provinces. This case dates back to the previous government, so it can’t be about politics.
My suspicion is that the bureaucracy is simply intransigent, & nobody in government has called senior bureaucrats on the carpet to read them the riot act: “either you have a letter to the courts, withdrawing our legal challenges to the CHRT rulings, on my desk for signature by close of business tomorrow — or your letter of resignation will be there in its place”.
Let’s remember that in fighting this case over Indigenous children, we — the people of Canada — are the clients, & the Government of Canada is acting on our behalf; Justice Department lawyers are acting for us (not that we ever asked them to … ). If we, as the clients, through our Government, direct them to step off & yield to the CHRT ruling, they are ethically bound to take that direction.
Thank you for publishing this.
Thank you also for alluding to genocide and to genocidal behaviors. Few abuses of language match the vile and racist platitude ‘ethnic cleansing’. This term has come to be used to both minimize the horrors of genocide, and to infer that the objects of genocide should be removed from humanity as their ethnicity and faith systems by being different to those of the majority are tainted and unclean.
Wanna make a difference? Let’s put our money where our mouths are.
Hey Feds! Raise the GST my 2 or 3% and spend it on housing and fresh water supplies for the reserves.
Then pay for all Indigenous students’ post-secondary. Then tax the churches and send the money to the bands to do with what they will.
Hey provinces and municipalities! Return all the unceded prooerties (compensating the current ‘owners’ a fair value … minus the profits they’ve made for 150 odd years). Tear down every colonialist’s statue. Remove their names from every building and street.
Place an Elder on every government committee. Fill all the open senate seats with Elders and Indigenous leaders. Replace all the governors general too.
Let’s actually do something – with money and with real stakes in our governance.
Great article. Much of this information has been documented starting in the early 90s. Here is a message I sent to my contacts.
“I have sent out info in the past info on ‘the other TRC’ organized by Kevin Annett and organizations he worked with. Kevin has been steadfast in his research of genocide in Canada even in the face of an all out smear campaign. The link is a very good summary of his struggles with video and more links. You can find his books on amazon. I found his most important work, Murder by Decree’ (2016) on amazon.com. What does that suggest? I see that amazon.ca does now have it. His other books are worth the read also.
I was a traffic flag person today outside of a elementary school here on my island.
Our community is white.
I looked across all day seeing and hearing happy children and wondered what if ….
What if it was happening at those residential schools -to just one white child in that all white playground…?
I cried at breakfast when I saw this article, and all day I was thinking about the opportunities I’ve had,
thinking this while white people in 80,000-100,000 cars where wizzing around me, going to and from
their waterfront homes with docks out front for their boats.
I sang John Lennons song, “Imagine” quite a few times.
I kept thinking about all those beautiful young faces on those children from the picture above,
and thought about the life that was beaten out of them.
Although I was a member of a upper middle class family (I really don’t like that term…),
I enrolled myself at a native high school beginning in grade nine in 1972.
previously I was enrolled by my father at the Vancouver College catholic school for boys,
because they didn’t know how to motivate me to learn. I quit school that day, because the SOB priest
who beat me was enjoying it. By the way I’m not Catholic.
I was beat up that day for having a copy of the Georgia Straight in my personal carry bag. Concealed.
Imagine being punished because you believed it was right to read what you want right?
So I quit after that morning home room event and I enrolled in the native high school back on the North Shore.
It was the best time of my life growing together with kids who didn’t suffer from entitlement.
Who were proud to be of a people and clan. Who really knew every one of their relatives !!!
I was an equal, no one was anyone special, I learned allot about just being myself there.
And grateful for it.
Because now I have that wonderful memory etched in my mind, I have a compass to steer by.
No its Genocide alright.
This day was just like that day 49 years ago,
it felt like I was seeing the faces of those that I knew.
Now I see them as brothers and sisters,
I feel the pain of allot of people.
Live an honest life to yourself, its not about god, its about being honest with yourself.
Theres more to this story, I’ve never written any of this down.
It felt good to cry.
I am weeping with you. Maybe it will help me unload the bag of sand I am carrying inside my chest right now. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this beautiful letter. I read your letter to my daughter and husband just now, sitting at our dining room table, in our comfortable home, in our comfortable neighbourhood, and I feel like I am going to explode. I am still trying to process that I was a child in the 60’s – during the 60’s scoop. I will never be able to reconcile the fact that, as I played in the school playground, my Indigenous brothers and sisters were being beaten, sometimes to death, for speaking their mother tongue. I never liked school or any of my teachers, but there was no Indigenous high school that I could have transferred to. How fortunate you were to have had that opportunity. Please keep writing your story. It is important.
The CBE has removed Langevin’s name from one of its schools. Now do Sir John A. Macdonald School.
Sorry, not sorry from the CCSD:
“The CCSD said in a release that as Catholics, they are deeply sorry for the residential school movement and will seriously look into renaming Bishop Grandin High School — but not without getting feedback from parents, staff, students, bishops and Indigenous elders.
“It is easy to be distracted on other issues like changing names of schools, but we are staying strong in devoting this week to prayer for the loss of the Indigenous children,” said chief superintdenent Bryan Szumlas in an email to parents on Tuesday.”
In the light of churches being burnt, not worried about being charged with hate speech?
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