Action needed on TRC recommendations
Re: Canada Day and residential schools
I am a proud Canadian, but my pride is not the foolish one-dimensional kind that remembers only “rah-rah” moments. In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) delivered its Calls to Action that included the need to find missing children and burial information. The only aspect of today’s news stories that is surprising is that so few steps have been taken in the past six years to address those recommendations. There will be more discoveries and Canadians deserve to mourn and remember the many, probably in the thousands, children in unmarked graves.
Remember that in the 19th century bringing “civilization” to aboriginals was part of the British upper-class version of the “white man’s burden”. That attitude included, as examples, Cowichan having some of the first polo, tennis and cricket clubs in Canada. It also resulted in residential schools in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand in an attempt to force aboriginals to learn to read, write, and become farmers, tradesmen and domestic workers to fit in with the empire-centric settler population.
For residential schools the idea was to strengthen Canada’s place in the Empire. While many of the men and women who became members of religious orders did so out of a love for their religion and a desire to help aboriginals, the reality was that out of ignorance, crass administration, isolation and lack of understanding of human motivation, they became part of the gargantuan monster system that took in children and attempted to force them into becoming something, somebodies, they were not.
Ignorance and crowded conditions in the residential schools led to many dying of tuberculosis, chicken pox, measles and other childhood diseases that we avoid today. Limited budgets resulted in “nutritional experiments” — really tests of how few calories children could be fed and be still able to function — undoubtedly killed more. Harsh and sadistic discipline and sexual and physical abuse killed many or drove them to suicide. Their disappearance could be entered into the registers as “ran away” and bodies buried in the night.
We in Canada, along with those in Australia and New Zealand should recognize and reflect, apologize and feel shame that aboriginal residential schools turned out to be such horrible disasters causing problems that will exist for generations.
The hope and intention I have is that I live in a country where we can see and admit our mistakes, sincerely apologize and choose to work together to make amends and find ways to “make it right” and make this a better place for all our citizens. Most importantly we need to take action on the TRC recommendations and not leave them on the shelf.