Friday, March 10, 2017

Residential Schools, Forgotten?

Image result for truth and reconciliation commission

We continue to hear disturbing stories out of the Canadian senate, and one which baffled and angered many was the defence Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak offered for the residential school system for Aboriginal children on Tuesday. Beyak lamented that the "good deeds" accomplished by "well-intentioned" religious teachers have been overshadowed by negative reports documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is a portion of what she said:

"I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part."

The reality is that there were kind and devoted teachers and administrators in the Residential Schools. Some of them were United Church members who continued to have meaningful relationships with former students for years after they left the schools. Some of the former First Nations students have spoken with affection about these people through the years. But Beyak is tone-deaf to the larger grim reality of Residential Schools, which is a national shame.
Image result

Her embarrassing speech was made all the worse in that Murray Sinclair, who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in the Red Chamber and had to listen to her. While he was gracious in response, he was also shocked by her perspective. It appears that Beyak was defending the imposed Christianization of Native children, for which our United Church has apologized.

Were there some decent slave owners in the American South? Perhaps. Did some guards in Nazi prison camps act with compassion? Maybe. Yet we would never attempt to downplay the horrors of slavery or the Holocaust. If this sounds like a comparative overreach, remember that as many as 6,000 Aboriginal children died while in Residential Schools.

Image result for truth and reconciliation commission

It's sad that someone serving in the Senate who has received every opportunity to become educated about Residential Schools could rise to speak, ignore the issue at hand (the over-representation of Aboriginal women in prisons), and be so offensive. Remind me again why we still have the Senate?


No comments: