By Jonah Kondro
I always like getting stuff in the mail. Lately anything I receive is usually from Amazon’s website. The package is either an old blues CD or a new book. The other day I had a parcel waiting for me at the post office: The volume one summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada arrived.
It was as recent as within the last year I first heard of the residential schools that existed in Canada. I felt a great deal of cognitive dissonance when I learned what occurred to the aboriginal children kept and (for lack of a better term) incarcerated at these schools. I didn’t like hearing Canadians were responsible for attempting cultural genocide.
In 2008 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada was formed. Justice Murray Sinclair, the first aboriginal judge in Manitoba and Chair of the TRC, spoke at Red Deer College’s Perspective Speaker Series on March 30, 2016. I attended.
Part of Justice Sinclair’s presentation included a series of small video interviews with intergenerational survivors and direct survivors of the residential school systems that were in Canada. I had to dry my eyes a few times. I was hearing that Canadians were responsible for the beatings and raping of children within Canada.
Justice Sinclair’s presentation brought light to the fact that residential schools have a fresh history in the true north, strong and free. While white kids during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were happily singing O’ Canada in the school halls, aboriginal children were taken (sometimes) forcibly from his or her families and placed in residential schools. While the white kids were learning literature and world history, aboriginal children were abused and indoctrinated in attempts to “take the Indian out of the Indian”. These residential schools weren’t something that existed and happened in a faraway place and a faraway time. The psychological, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that occurred to children (not adults, but children) is very real and is very current. The tears of the survivors are still flowing.
The oppression of indigenous populations in Canada is built right into Canada’s foundations. Sir John A. Macdonald is infamously known for saying, “when the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write.” The guy that said this about human beings appears on our purple ten dollar bill.
There is a lot I don’t know about the abrasive history in Canada. But what I do know now is that it happened. How do Canadians repair this? I don’t know. That is why I had a book arrive in my mail box. I’m going to do my best to learn, educate myself, and understand how situations like this, that darken Canada’s history, happened and what can be done to repair the damages inflicted upon human beings.
My veil of ignorance is slowly being lifted.