June 13, 2008

150,000 kidnapped children

Here's why the success of individual Indian students at residential schools doesn't matter. The Canadian government attacked Indian tribes and cultures as a whole and seriously weakened them.

Our fault, not yoursPrevious ministers and officials have given lip service to the role government played in the history of residential schools, but have steadfastly refused to apologize unconditionally and shoulder the blame for policies that helped plunge aboriginal people into the dismal social and economic conditions that prevail in Canada today. Beginning in the late 1900s, native children aged six to 16 were forcibly isolated from their parents and communities, in a systematic campaign to smother native culture, to wipe out their language so as to remake them in the image of the rest of Canada.

As early as the turn of the century, the government recognized industrial schools were an abject failure, but then passed subsequent amendments to the Indian Act to fill different iterations of boarding schools with successive generations of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children. Mr. Harper acknowledged the difficult, indisputable facts: The children were deprived of the necessary nurturing of their parents and communities, the food and housing was inadequate to the job. Many died of disease in the church-run schools and thousands were abused sexually, physically and emotionally. The crushing effect that residential schools had on aboriginal culture, language and traditions gave rise to generations of parents unable to appropriately nurture their own children, Mr. Harper acknowledged. Noting that reconciliation has been sadly delayed by the refusal of governments to apologize, Mr. Harper asked for the forgiveness of aboriginal people.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, in an act of impressive contrition, noted his party was in power for 70 years of the 20th century, the bulk of the years when 150,000 aboriginal children were taken to the 132 schools far from home. As families, communities and children suffered, governments clung to denial and when that was impossible, they ignored their responsibility or adopted a silence, he said.
Comment:  As Adam Beach noted, even if Indians and their parents didn't go to these schools, they're still victims of the government's policies. Talking about some Indians' successes as if they outweigh the catastrophic effects overall is foolish and misguided.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article and comment, Rob; and I appreciate the excerpt from the Winnipeg Free Press, particularly for the words of Stephane Dion. I hadn't realised that the Liberal Party had been in power for most of the 20th century, and this does have some importance for me.

It's not that I'd vote for any of the main parties, for they're all too silent about the many present crimes of the government: towards the First Nations or Aboriginal Canadians; with respect to participating in totally criminal wars of aggression; the clobbering of the principles of what a real democracy and real justice require, nationally as well as internationally; and more.

Federally, I only know of the Canadian Action Party presenting a very good set of policies and much honesty; while provincially, and living in Quebec, I only know of Quebec Solidaire for political party. Some people fear QS's inclusion of a policy for a referendum on separation or independence, but QS is not fanatical about this like the FLQ and other Quebec sovereignists historically have been. QS is not considering sovereignty based on culture, race, religion, language, etcetera; only being very opposed to the many continuing crimes of the federal government, and it's refusal to recognize provincial rights and dignity; and this specifically includes the crime of using Canadian Armed Forces members of Quebec for the criminal wars the federal government chooses to partner in, against the UNSC's refusal to authorize these wars. Of course there's also the case of the crime against Haiti; and, past, Kosovo.

So the referendum is understandable in terms of reasons, but likely would not pass and the party offers many excellent policies; many enough like CAP. QS would want CAF members of Quebec to be more like National Guard and only allowed to participate in foreign war when the federal government is right, or minimally legally participating. Sounds like a great reason to me, but sovereignty could be very risky; it could be potentially harmful and would make the province all the more vulnerable as prey.

But it's the only provincial, perhaps even Canadian, party of which the leadership greatly spoke out against the Israeli or U.S.-Israeli war of aggression on Hizbollah and Lebanon in 2006, f.e.; and a party willing to firmly take such public stands that are more than justified will gain my attention.

Very much like your closing comment for this article says; human rights and dignity of [everyone] must be respected. It would not hurt to include a real "touch" of not emotional, but true and quite rational love for our neighbours, too. Respect combined with such authentic love of neighbour; heh, we can't beat that!

Mike Corbeil
Hatley Township, Quebec, Ca