Sunday, June 15, 2008

Canada's Great Shame

Between 1922 - 1969 hundreds of native children were forcibly taken from their families and sent to church run government supported residential schools where the main objective was to "take the Indian out of the child". Along with the trauma of separation came further victimization at the hands of sick care takers who often beat and sexually abused these children. Some of them never made it home. Some of them, never having been in a family, didn't know how to raise their own children. Some turned to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain of years of abuse and neglect. When I read the stories of how these children were forced to live I remember a long ago visit to the residential school near where I grew up.
Sechelt had a native residential school and some of the children attended the same high school I did. I made friends with a girl named Ruth and one Saturday day I got my mother to let me visit her at the school. I can still remember being appalled by how my friend had to live. She showed me where she slept. It was a small metal bunk in a room filled with bunks. Each of these bunks had only enough room between them for a child to stand and that is all. She showed me where she and the other children washed. It was a huge room with row after row of sinks and a large communal shower. No privacy was afforded any of these children. If robbing their dignity and their families were not enough these children were often inadequately fed and clothed. I have never forgotten this place and the sadness I felt knowing that my friend went to bed every night with out any one to comfort her or treat her special.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Harper apologized on behalf of the citizens of Canada and the government for robbing these children of their families, their culture, their dignity, their religion and in some cases their lives. It is about time we accepted responsibility for what we have done.
I hope that this helps with the healing that must take place for these people and the generations that have been effected by it, but I wonder .... is it too little too late? I often wonder what happened to my friend Ruth. I hope she found her way home to her family and found a way to heal from what we as a society did to her. I hope she found the love and caring that was rightfully hers, but denied her by ignorant government rule and greedy hypocritical religious leaders.

"The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us."

Black Elk

3 comments:

  1. A couple of years ago, Tigger and I visited Canada. We went to Edmonton to see my sister. While we were there we spent some hours in the Royal Alberta Museum which is a wonderful place with all kinds of exhibits, special exhibitions and tableaux of various kinds.

    There was a section all about the "First Nation", with tableaux showing scenes from indigenous life and so on. There were also a few discreet mentions of the treatment of these people by the white authorities. One can only think that a sort of collective insanity sometimes overtakes people in power.

    While what was done in Canada was bad enough, it is far from unique in the history of European colonization of the world. That doesn't excuse it, of course, and in fact in some ways makes it worse because it demonstrates an obtuse refusal to learn from past mistakes.

    We cannot undo the past and unfortunately, its legacy remains with us. Those in government today may be suitably apologetic but the damage has been done - how can they ever repair it? Its effects are still visible and will be for a long time, probably for ever.

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  2. Thanks for the insight Silvertiger. Next time come to BC and I will show you around.

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  3. Thanks. BC was recommended to us but whenever we are going to get there, I don't know. There is so much world crowding our to-do list!

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