English Articles

Kamloops, SHHHH…
we need an adult in the room

TORONTO – Just to be clear, I come from a culture that values children, indulges them and is ruthlessly merciless towards anyone who would visit harm or abuse on them. Our religion and legal system are built on the inclusion, education and formation of their identity. We expect that everyone to whom we entrust their care do their duty.

Those 215 children from the Kamloops Residential School deserved the same. Yes, the school closed in 1969, permanently, 52 years ago. Yes, two things seem indisputable: one, there appears to be a burial ground on site; two, former students who testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and identify themselves generally as “survivors”.

A pretty picture does not emerge from the retelling. The “Final” Report of the TRC comes perilously close to overplaying its retelling and often comes across as a political statement lashing out at anyone and everyone for a deplorable societal condition no one in their right mind would suggest is characteristic of our Canadian values.

I promised myself to read the entire document – and did. It is not an easy task.

For example, the 94 “action items” in the first 15 pages of a 20-page Call to Action Document were followed by four blank pages, suggesting a chapter that is not closed nor that it will be any time soon.

The report itself has so many repetitive references to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Papal bulls, colonizers that one cannot help but infer that European settlers were/are the instruments of a genocidal policy by imperialist English and French powers.

To the extent that such implications may indeed have had some element of truth, no amount of money – “rent” – will undo that damage; non aboriginal Canadians are about to load themselves on a boat and leave. Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations have, with respect, not been entirely negative.

Whether for education or for general expenditures, on a per capita basis, the funds allocated for Indigenous peoples consistently exceeds those allocated for non-indigenous in federal budgets with which I have some personal familiarity.

I refuse to begrudge them the discrepancy.

I do have reservations about claims or suggestions that those who belong to a religious group – Catholics – are somehow responsible for the sufferings and (worse) deaths of children who attended residential schools from the 1880s to the 1960s. These were schools established, licensed and funded by the federal government of Canada.

I would like to see the data it has on file before I rush to judgement about who must shoulder the blame.

So far, former Pope Benedict, former Prime Minister Harper, previous members of Councils of Bishops and leaders of Protestant Churches indirectly or directly involved in the administration of those schools have all apologized.

Approximately 150,000 children according to the TRC attended those schools. Unfortunately, 4,100 died there, as per the TRC’s conservative estimate.

As a human being I feel emotionally and duty bound to express by condolences to any of their surviving family members. For the sake of our culture, I demand a release of federal records indicating the causes of those deaths before I extend an apology for being in any way responsible , even by association.

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