Conflict & Justice

Canadian government apologizes

Compensation is for harms inflicted on innocent children, for abuses that were inflicted on innocent children. People in any society deserve to be compensated for those kinds of harms. Canada is a country that has come to terms with its at times ugly past. (Could you describe your experiences at these two residential schools starting when you were 8 years old?) First of all, let me say the industrial schools which preceded the residential schools were modeled after schools in the US, the most famous being one in Pennsylvania where Jim Thorpe went to school. Our government commissioned a study of the industrial schools and came back with a plan to assimilate our people into Canadian society which they did by training us to be farm workers, domestic workers and the like. (So these schools were intended to help with assimilation the assumption being if you could not learn these skills you could not make it in Canada.) It was to deal away with our ethnicity. We were reminded that we were savage, name callings, beatings and sexual abuse. In my school, just about every boy was abused sexually by the priests and brothers. (Can an apology or compensation be enough?) The First Nations People are the most impoverished segment of Canadian society and an apology isn't going to do away with that. There are 27,000 First Nations Children in state care. But an apology will go a long way in building the self-esteem which we lack and it will help do away with our shame, and also the fear that Canada is trying to do away with our heritage.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

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