July 25, 2013

End experiments, honor apology

For Canada and First Nations, it’s time to end the experiments

By Shawn AtleoRecent reports about the Canadian government’s experiments on hungry, impoverished First Nations children in residential schools have sent a shock wave through the country.

My reaction was deeply personal. My father attended one of the schools where these experiments took place. My family and countless others were treated like lab rats, some even being deprived of necessary nutrition and health care so researchers could establish a “baseline” to measure the effects of food and diet.

First Nations, while condemning the government’s callous disregard for the welfare of children, were perhaps the only ones not completely surprised. The experiments are part of a long, sad pattern of federal policy that stretches through residential schools, forced relocations and the ultimate social experiment, the Indian Act, which overnight tried to displace ways of life that had been in place for generations. All of these experiments are abject failures.

It’s time to end the experiments. Canada must start working with us to honour the promises our ancestors made in treaties and other agreements, to give life to our rights as recognized by Canadian courts and relinquish the chokehold of colonial control over our communities.
Honour the Apology: Fasting for My Father, a Residential School Survivor

By Wab KinewThis may sound funny, but history is not confined to the past. Just over a week ago I was at my childhood home on the reserve when I heard the news that my father and uncles Fred, Tootoons and John were likely part of one of these "nutritional experiments" you have probably read about, and one with clearly adverse side-effects at that. I felt as though a little piece of history reached out and punched me in the gut.

I struggle to understand what my uncle Fred Kelly must feel like. He is the surviving member of that group of brothers who were at St. Mary's Residential School. As he told an online audience on Monday night "to regurgitate the stories is to relive the horrors, the traumas and the indignities of Residential Schools."

Yet I know the hurt from these recent revelations is not limited to the Indigenous community. I know many Canadians from other walks of life who have been upset by the news and are contemplating what it says about this country's history. For me, the more important question is "what will our response say about what Canada is today?"

Some friends and I have put out a call to Canadians to shed some of this negativity by uniting across cultural and religious lines. We are calling our gatherings (to be held today at noon) "Honour The Apology," in reference to Prime Minister Harper's 2008 apology to Residential School survivors. The idea is that we can each honour the apology on an individual level by commemorating or praying for the survivors.
Comment:  For more on boarding schools, see Native American Boarding School Project and Canadian Natives Denounce Kevin Annett.

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