Fix­ing abo­rig­i­nal wealth gap urged

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - NEWS CANADA I WORLD - By Camille Bains

VAN­COU­VER — The daugh­ter of Amer­i­can civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. says eco­nomic in­jus­tice must be ad­dressed as part of the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process with Canada’s First Na­tions peo­ple.

Rev. Ber­nice King said a his­tory of pain and abuse can’t be erased with an apol­ogy, and money for pro­grams won’t undo the suf­fer­ing that can take gen­er­a­tions to over­come.

“We still suf­fer in Amer­ica, as an AfricanAmer­i­can com­mu­nity,” she told re­porters on Satur­day, re­fer­ring to the lin­ger­ing ef­fects of slav­ery and op­pres­sion.

King, 50, said her ma­ter­nal great- grand­mother was part- Chero­kee and there is In­dian an­ces­try on her fa­ther’s side as well.

On Sun­day, the Bap­tist min­is­ter is to de­liver the key­note ad­dress at the start of a walk for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion re­lated to Canada’s res­i­den­tial school sys­tem.

A week­long gath­er­ing of the national Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion in­cludes a record­ing of sto­ries from for­mer stu­dents and their fam­i­lies.

King was in­tro­duced Satur­day by Karen Joseph, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Canada, who said her ap­pear­ance at the event is es­pe­cially mean­ing­ful this year, dur­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of the March on Wash­ing­ton and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

King said she spent some time on Satur­day with Joseph and her fa­ther, Chief Robert Joseph of the Gwawa­neuk First Na­tion on Van­cou­ver Is­land, to learn about the hor­rific im­pact of the In­dian res­i­den­tial school sys­tem on First Na­tions peo­ple.

“I’m a lit­tle numb right now,” King said, adding she felt help­less hear­ing about the atroc­i­ties suf­fered by young chil­dren who were forcibly re­moved from their homes and sent to govern­ment- funded, church- run schools, where many en­dured phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse.

“The man­ner in which peo­ple, hu­man be­ings, have been treated, it’s in­ex­cus­able,” King said.

How­ever, she said so­ci­ety as a whole must take re­spon­si­bil­ity for past wrongs and take steps to en­vi­sion a dif­fer­ent fu­ture.

“The re­al­ity is that al­though you have a his­tor­i­cal con­text you also have cur­rent poli­cies and be­hav­iour and at­ti­tudes that kind of re­in­force the pain.”

King said rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of past wrongs will bring heal­ing, but em­pow­er­ing peo­ple with eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties is the key to their well­be­ing.

“My fa­ther, if you study his life’s work, was in the midst of ad­dress­ing eco­nomic in­jus­tice. In fact, he saw eco­nomic in­jus­tice as in­sep­a­ra­ble twins and so he spent the last three years of his life re­ally rais­ing the is­sue and talked about it dur­ing the poor peo­ple’s cam­paign that he was cru­sad­ing for when he was as­sas­si­nated in Mem­phis.”

“So go­ing for­ward, there have to be op­por­tu­ni­ties made to truly em­power First Na­tions peo­ple. That’s the same strug­gle we face, a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent from theirs, in Amer­ica.”

King said she has a tough time grap­pling with the suf­fer­ing of peo­ple that con­tin­ues all over the world.

“We’ve cre­ated, as my fa­ther said, this won­der­ful house, this won­der­ful neigh­bour­hood, but we have not found a way to cre­ate a brother and sis­ter­hood. And if we don’t, we’re go­ing to per­ish to­gether as fools.”

The Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion events in Van­cou­ver are part of the sixth of seven national gath­er­ings to in­form Cana­di­ans about the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem through tes­ti­monies from for­mer stu­dents and their fam­i­lies.

— The Cana­dian Press

Rev. Ber­nice King

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