Feds and Catholic Church must lead the way
By Ian Cobb
On May 27 the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation reported the remains of 215 children had been found on the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School following ground penetrating radar work.
The discovery confirmed what many people have known for decades. Thousands of First Nations children were forced from their homes in a blatant and disgusting attempt to achieve cultural genocide by the Canadian government and Catholic Church for about a 100-year period, officially ending in – this should make you want to puke – 1996.
And thousands of those children perished while in the ‘care’ of so-called father Ottawa and the mother church.
It is believed at least 4,100 Indigenous children died at residential schools dating back to the 1870s, with some believing as many as 6,000 children died. At school. Under the care of the federal government and the church, which leaped into the residential school game with the zeal of a thousand mission establishing Jesuits.
Reports state the children, attending school, died from mistreatment or neglect, while others from disease or ‘accident.’
Anyone who has ever conversed with an open and sharing survivor of the residential schools can tell you tales of horror that stemmed from each of the 139 schools that were set up across Canada.
Yet, the entire matter has always been Canada’s dirty secret and politicians, up until Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an official apology in 2008, before the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. That opened the discussion again, forcing more people from outside Canada’s Indigenous communities to start coming to terms that Canada isn’t the sweet, friendly, aw shucks nation most of the rest of the world seems to think we are; and most especially as how we see ourselves in the global picture.
Canada comes from Mother Britain and France, two empirical sots with malignant narcissism. Britain remains the most war-like nation in modern history (sorry Uncle Sam, you’re 17 behind Britain’s 110).
Britain fought most of those wars to maintain its vast empire, which included Canada. In all cases, the indigenous peoples in the Commonwealth were treated with absolute and complete disdain by most of the King’s representatives and that filtered down to the settlers.
Estimates of the death toll in India range from hundreds of thousands to 10 million to 35 million.
Given that fact, is it is stunner that leadership in Canada 100 plus years ago was wildly racist and disturbingly dangerous and arrogant?
Yet, our education system has sorely lacked inclusion of the facts of our past and current treatment of our First Nations brothers and sisters.
All Canadians must learn the truth and come to terms with our sometimes sordid past; the residential school program perhaps the worst of lot.
Canada’s federal government continues to provide plenty of lip service to First Nations. See also: the First Nations water crisis in Canada that stems back decades.
There has been a plethora of earnest words since last Thursday and I hope they lead to actions, such as funding to begin ground penetrating radar work at all the known residential school sites, including our region’s own shame – at St. Eugene.
Those children, who would be esteemed elders now, and their families and communities, deserve that from this generation of Canadians.
While it appears there might finally be hope that our senior levels of government will begin to do the right thing as opposed to just saying the right thing, the Roman Catholic Church must also step forward and take its responsibility.
In 2018, Pope Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Catholic Church, rejected an appeal for apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, though one has been offered by the local Arch Diocese.
Never mind the historical facts of the Catholic Church inspiring wars and attempted genocides the globe-over by forcing their ways on Indigenous peoples, sample this quote from one of Canada’s architects of the Residential School Program.
“We instil in them a pronounced distaste for the native life so that they will be humiliated when reminded of their origin. When they graduate from our institutions, the children have lost everything native except their blood,” stated Bishop Vital Grandin, who passed away in 1902 and was declared venerable by the Catholic Church in 1966.
A man who believed, as did many, many people back then, that beating the First Nations out of First Nations people was doing God’s work, was posthumously praised by the church as having achieved sanctity but not fully beatified or canonized.
I grew up in Winnipeg and rejoiced in the early 1980s when Bishop Grandin Boulevard was opened, alleviating many traffic problems back then. Never gave a second thought to the name of the road. Bishop Grandin adorns the sides of many schools and facilities across the west; praise lavished for being a hateful cur in hindsight.
A reckoning will surely come in many of those locations and Winnipeg is already discussing changing the name of the boulevard.
It is chilling to think that just 100 years ago the powers that be thought it was right to tear First Nations families apart and turn apparently countless blind eyes to the terrible abuse and deaths of school aged children in their own facilities.
The 215 souls who met their ends in Kamloops, who have laid in unmarked graves these many decades, are now hopefully going to be able to go home and be at rest.
They are also now the undeniable symbol of the time for government, and church, to move from the butt-covering lip service stage to actual reconciliation with the First Nations.
It would go a long way if the church opened its fat coffers to help fund the ground searches, along with the federal government.
And a simple apology from the head of the church that inflicted so much suffering on First Nations people plainly seems like a no-brainer. Such an apology from on high is needed to begin changing mindsets and behaviours.