Did you pay much attention to the news about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report over Christmas? Most of us were busy with family and churchy stuff, so we may have missed the outcome of years of soul-searching, painful listening, and hard work to prepare a report about the cultural genocide of First Nations peoples in this country. That may sound like a harsh term, but how else do we describe the systematic removal of children from their homes through the Residential School system, and the attempts to eradicate cultural identity, including language?
The final report of the commission was issued December 15th and begins this way:
created for the purpose of separating Aboriginal children from their families,
in order to minimize and weaken family ties and cultural linkages, and to indoctrinate
children into a new culture—the culture of the legally dominant Euro-Christian
Canadian society, led by Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. The
schools were in existence for well over 100 years, and many successive generations of
children from the same communities and families endured the experience of them.
That experience was hidden for most of Canada’s history, until Survivors of the system
were finally able to find the strength, courage, and support to bring their experiences
to light in several thousand court cases that ultimately led to the largest class-action
lawsuit in Canada’s history.
A dark aspect of this school system was the complicity of several Christians denominations, including the United Church of Canada. There were teachers and others in the system who were kind, compassionate, and exhibited Christ's love. So often, though, there was abuse which was demonic and destructive.
The United Church continues to be involved in the work of reconciliation, but we are far from done. We will see whether the bold statements by the federal Liberals will result in actual improvements for aboriginal peoples across the country. I am dismayed by the pervasive angry racism directed toward aboriginals, to the extent that the CBC shut down comments on First Nations stories. We also know that more aboriginal children are currently in care than were in residential schools at any given time during their sordid history. There have been a number of stories recently about the suicides of Native teens who left reserves for schooling. Of course there is also the issue of missing aboriginal women.
If you want to learn more, including taking a look at the final report, follow these links: