’60s Scoop tells us we re­main far away from rec­on­cil­i­a­tion

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - OPINION - MUR­RAY MANDRYK Mur­ray Mandryk is the po­lit­i­cal columnist for the Regina Leader-Post. mmandryk@post­media.com

We are a prov­ince that doesn’t rec­on­cile eas­ily — at least, when it comes to First Na­tions and Metis is­sues.

A few of you may re­call the con­tro­versy 30 years ago over the po­ten­tial nam­ing of Regina’s Lew­van Drive af­ter Louis Riel. A cen­tury af­ter be­ing hanged in the Queen City in 1885, peo­ple could not get past their school his­tory lessons that taught gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion the Metis leader was a traitor. In 2001, High­way 11 was re­named the Louis Riel Trail, but lo­cally, few of us call it that.

Sim­i­larly, it wasn’t un­til sto­ries of sex­ual abuse at the hands of for­mer Gor­don Res­i­den­tial School prin­ci­pal Wil­liam Starr sur­faced a quar­ter-cen­tury ago that we fi­nally be­gan to un­der­stand some­thing was very wrong with the con­cept of rip­ping lit­tle kids from their moms and dads. But then — and even now — we strug­gled with the no­tion that de­priv­ing chil­dren of their fam­ily and cul­ture is di­rectly tied to addictions and in­ter­gen­er­a­tional strug­gles with par­ent­ing skills.

That we can’t even seem to make ba­sic over­tures to rec­og­nize this — like re­mov­ing the name of res­i­den­tial school ar­chi­tect Ni­cholas Flood Davin from Davin School — says much about how un­ready we are to rec­on­cile.

It’s not that Saskatchewan is an un­kind place. There’s an ar­gu­ment to be made that there is less racism here than other places we’ve heard so much about.

Most of us here saw through the thin veil of neo-Nazism in Char­lottesville this sum­mer. A sur­pris­ing num­ber of us were sym­pa­thetic (or at least un­der­stand) what Roughrid­ers quar­ter­back Kevin Glenn was try­ing to tell us about racism in the U.S. to­ward African Amer­i­cans when he de­scribed why play­ers here linked arms in sol­i­dar­ity with NFL play­ers.

Yes, there is — and al­ways has been — racism to­ward new­com­ers in Saskatchewan. Some in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity will tes­tify that it still ex­ists. Yet even in pre­dom­i­nately white and el­derly ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, we em­brace our pro­vin­cial motto, mul­tis e gen­tibus vires. Hard-work­ing new­com­ers from the Philip­pines and else­where in the world are wel­comed.

But when it comes to long­stand­ing ten­sions between white and First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties, the problems con­tinue, and — if last sum­mer’s killing of Colten Boushie and the fall­out from it are any in­di­ca­tion — may be wors­en­ing.

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion here re­mains far away be­cause we strug­gle might­ily with our own un­com­fort­able his­tory.

Sadly, this even ap­plies to the his­tor­i­cal events in which we once thought we were do­ing good. And no is­sue em­bod­ies this more than the so-called ’60s Scoop.

Dur­ing the 1960s, First Na­tions and Metis chil­dren were re­moved from their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties and placed in foster home pro­grams or put up for adop­tion — some­times as far away as the U.S. and Western Europe. This was even govern­ment pol­icy in Saskatchewan, where the so­cial ser­vices depart­ment had the Adopt In­dian Metis (AIM) pro­gram.

Last week, the fed­eral govern­ment set­tled on a max­i­mum $750-mil­lion pay­out of between $25,000 and $50,000 per claimant for what may be an es­ti­mated 20,000 ’60s Scoop vic­tims — a fan­tas­tic sum, but one that amounts to just a cou­ple dol­lars a day for many who have likely spent a life­time of suf­fer­ing be­cause of the poli­cies of the govern­ment of the day.

How­ever, what many of the vic­tims sim­ply want is more ba­sic than cash. They want and de­serve to get an apol­ogy.

Ex­pect to hear that long over­due apol­ogy from Premier Brad Wall dur­ing the fall sit­ting. It’s a good step.

To his credit, Wall has over­seen the im­ple­men­ta­tion of 22 of the 34 rec­om­men­da­tions from the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion aimed at the prov­inces, in­clud­ing teach­ing First Na­tions and Metis his­tory in schools through manda­tory treaty ed­u­ca­tion, and im­ple­ment­ing a joint task force to im­prove ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment out­comes for First Na­tions peo­ple.

But notwith­stand­ing the po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ment about whether Wall has done enough or even whether First Na­tions lead­er­ship has opted to be po­lit­i­cal rather than co-op­er­a­tive, the his­tory here is big­ger than any sin­gle Saskatchewan premier or ad­min­is­tra­tion.

As a prov­ince, we have far to go.

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