[Watching, waiting and worried in Canada]
Beginning in the 1870’s, the Government of Canada partnered with Anglican, Catholic, United, and Presbyterians churches to establish and operate boarding and residential schools for Aboriginal (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) children. The stated intent of these Residential Schools was the assimilation of Aboriginal people. The underlying intent was race-based genocide intended to obliterate indigenous culture in Canada.
According to the “report” (the final report of the Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission), over 150,000 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families. These young children were assembled into 132 federally sanctioned Residential schools throughout Canada. Still with us are about 80,000 survivors. The impact on their young lives has, in no small way left a legacy of alcoholism, substance abuse and dysfunctional family units. Simply put: children who were deprived of nurturing family experience tend to grow into parents that lack basic parenting skills.
I have stated many times that I have large problems with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) while holding great respect for the 6500 or so survivor witnesses who revisited traumatic experiences of their young lives. My inherent distrust is twofold.
Finding the Truth
The Commission’s mandate was also two-fold. It was mandated to garner the truth by way of witness testimony. Upon reading the interim and final reports, I am left to conclude that the TRC failed miserably. The TRC did not have a mandate to also include the huge number of provincially run Residential Schools. Stories reveal that there were likely ten such (provincially mandated) Residential School for each of the 132 federally mandated schools.
It is “gut retching” to read the witness statements contained in the Interim and Final TRC reports. Testimonies of physical and sexual abuse are a common occurrence in witness testimony. And then there is a litany denigrating personal abuses that these same victims revisited. It is shocking to read of incidents wherein nuns forced “inmates” to eat their own vomit when “inmates” could not hold down often rancid meals. Other incidents where very young kids were forced to wear soiled underclothing on their heads or bed sheets instead of clothing as punishment for bed-wetting.
Collectively, those physical, sexual and (such) mental abuses were wide spread. HOWEVER: please bear in mind that the TRC reports only described incidents that occurred in federally mandated Residential Schools. Therein is the first failure of the TRC. We must begin with the understanding that human rights span all parts of Canada and are expected to assure the rights of each person no matter where the location or what province they reside in. For some perverse reason, the provinces are permitted to opt out of the public spot light on this part of their own sordid past.
The second part of the TRC mandate was to be one of healing. As badly as the TRC failed to collect the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” by way of leaving provincial institutions out of its study, reconciliation is frustrated by way of complicity. Horrendous criminal activity has taken place. However, the focus has been diverted (again) from equal protection in law for the victims. Not one single criminal charge has been laid. Not one single perpetrator has received public scorn.
There are parallel comparisons that are very much relevant. At the end of the Second World War, there was apathy among German citizens towards the holocaust that that had manifested itself in dozens of Concentration Camps. The inmates of those concentration camps in Europe, as were the inmates of Residential Schools in Canada; the victims of racial genocide.
By comparison, it is known fact that German citizen sensitivity was enhanced by way of forced visits to the Concentration Camps. The public apathy here in Canada is not (in the least) helpful in healing the wounds of the Residential Schools.
Many of us have lost family members who died during their time in the Residential Schools. I shall not focus only on my won kin, but know for a fact that my family story is not too unique. Imagine my dumb-founded shock when I was told by a Member of Provincial Legislature (a Liberal) that I should simply, “get over it”.
If only the inmates of the over 1,500 Residential Schools were provided the same protection and immunity from harm as is being provided to the clergy (nuns, priests, ministers and lay employees) that perpetrated heinous human crime while running the Residential Schools.
The various churches read the “game” well. As early as 1986 (United Church of Canada), the perpetrators began deflecting from their own guilt and shame by way of penance. Apologies are good things. Apologies without contrition however are hollow actions. Penance in and of itself would not work in any criminal case heard before any judge anywhere. “I’m sorry” is not a substitute for justice.
It is proof positive (to me and many others) that attempting to obtain a Papal apology is weak attempt to mask guilt. Bring these felons to court and do NOT attempt to inflict a superficial cure to wide spread criminal acts. I care little whether the Pope says, “sorry”.
If the goal is to create healing, contrition Canada does not heal by sweeping these crimes against humanity under the carpet. Those “apologies” included: Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (Roman Catholic) (1991); Anglican Church (1993); Presbyterian Church (1994); Government of Canada (2008) and Roman Catholic Church in Canada (2009). I say thank you (miigwetch) for the various donations made by the churches after the cat got out of the bag. No amount of money donated to numerous “coffee get-togethers” should deflect attention away from criminals. It is not that easy.
The individual grants of compensation similarly should not be presumed to be “healing” . The average victim has received about $20,000 by way of Common Experience Payment (maybe less in many cases). Included in the” litany “of abuses there is a matter of forced “slave” labor. In a large number of cases, Aboriginal children (predominantly boys) were leant out to local farmers. In exchange, the farmer would donate to the local church.
Compensation is NOT healing. The definition of the word “compensation” means reimbursement or payment for services. No amount of compensation should take the place of justice. Further, there is no way to calculate the financial costs of dysfunctional family units in subsequent generations. Part of any form of healing MUST see to it that affirmative action takes place to halt the downward economic spiral that exists today. In no small way, full and equal spending for health care, housing and education has a great deal of catching up to do. Perhaps some of the funding for immigrant settlement would be better spent in repairing harm that has taken place. That is compensation and that type of compensation will go a long way towards “Reconciliation”.
- Force a similar full scale investigation into various provincially mandated Residential Schools
- Order the Attorney General of Canada to pursue criminal charges against those who are accused
- A public disclosure or naming or those individuals involved including such individuals who are deceased.
- In the areas of health care, housing and education see to it that these key areas be brought up to general standards post-haste.
- Immediately put an end to the continued force removal of “Aboriginal “children as is being perpetrated by various children’s aid societies.
- Immediately order a full scale investigation into the cases of over 2,000 missing Aboriginal women.
- Create a fast-tracked Aboriginal prisoner rehabilitation program inside Federal and Provincial prisons. It is high time that we stop punishing these people who are genuine victims of adaptation of abusive behaviors learned from residential schools or broken families.
Copyright Thunderbird Rising 2015
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