I borrowed this book from the library and did not finish it all. I wanted to know a little more about the aboriginal situation in Canada. It is very detailed, well written it seems by lawyers for lawyers and, very convincing.
The elevator speech. For 100 years or more, the government of Canada had an assimilation policy or law (Indian Act) that impelled native children to be sent to boarding school where they were forced to learn English/French, be evangelized with Christianity, to eat western foods or wear clothes they were unaccustomed to nor allowed to leave and go home when they wanted to. In addition there is detailed proof of physical, sexual and psychological abuse of these children. Countless thousands died of disease and were unceremoniously buried in unknown grave sites all across the country.
This “Malthusian” solution did not work and that is why we now have the many social, economic, cultural, legal, health, racial and spiritual tradition problems that we hear about everyday in aboriginal communities, cities and towns across Canada. Most non-aboriginal Canadians have inadequate knowledge of this history and consequently tend to blame the victim for the situation.
In 94 Calls to Action, the TRC calls for continued apologies, education, funding, respect and support for aboriginal culture, language, spiritual traditions, justice as well as adoption of the U.N Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a legal framework for reconciliation.
The Catholic Church (60%) along with the United, Anglican and Presbyterian churches operated the bulk of these residential schools where all this took place. Hence they are directly involved in the financial settlements, reconciliation, apologies and rebuilding of relationships and trust for a brighter future for our aboriginal populations.
Regarding the Catholic Church involvement, the Canadian Conference of Bishops (CCCB) and the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) as well as individual religious communities e.g., Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have issued formal written apologies as well as contributed millions of dollars and work in-kind as part of the Settlement Agreement. However one of the outstanding problems is that no one speaks for the Catholic Church in Canada as do the national leaders of the other mainline Christian churches involved.
This is why the TRC calls for the Pope to make a formal apology for the residential school sins in Canada as was done for the abuse of children in Ireland some years back. As well the Vatican’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius (no one’s land policy) policy which were used by sovereign countries to claim ownership of aboriginal territories upon discovery, is seen as weak. They claim this theology was repudiated years ago by Papal Bull so the fact that countries continued to use it as justification of colonial actions is not their responsibility (I think).
I am left staggered by the mess we got ourselves into and the complete about-face it now requires to alleviate the wrongdoing. Meanwhile we are bombarded with nightly news e.g. suicide crises and crime that reinforces the casual viewer’s view that the first nations people are their own worst enemies.
One thing I am not clear on: A clear vision of what success looks like to the aboriginal populations e.g., a return to native ways of life, justice and spirituality, respect, understating and appreciation of their many contributions to Canada, opportunity to choose integration or cultural freedom with health, education and financial support? All of these?
In the moment, I am thankful for this increased understanding of Canada’s history and how we are trying to change and make amends for the wrongs we committed to our aboriginal friends.
One response to “Truth and Reconciliation”
Update: A petition has been launched to urge the CCCB and all Catholic entities to live up to their moral obligation to continue fundraising for aboriginal community reconciliation healing programs. Please consider signing it here: