Star’s view: Senate stink hits new heights,
Re Canada must rebuild trust, make amends, Editorial June 3 Prime Minister Stephen Harper has no intention of implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendation that Canada sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. His rationale is that it is unnecessary because Canada is “one of the few countries in the world where aboriginal treaty rights are fully recognized in (the) Constitution.”
Many countries in the world have written constitutions filled with all sorts of wonderful ideas, but this has not prevented some from engaging in unspeakable atrocities just the same.
Harper’s government made unprecedented cuts at Library and Archives Canada, making it harder for indigenous peoples to gather information needed to assert their constitutional rights, and more challenging for the TRC to complete its work.
It has dismissed calls for a royal commission on missing indigenous women, which the TRC has also recommended. And it has disregarded the tarsands contamination of indigenous peoples’ traditional food sources.
Canada has a written Constitution that entrenches rights. Tragically, under Harper these “aspirations” have been thwarted time and again. Karen Murray, associate professor, political science, York University
“I am . . . concerned that the conversation will stop, that this will be brushed off and swept under the rug; forgotten, like many of those who did not survive in the residential school system; and even those who did.” GISELLE DEL ROSARIO TORONTO
Terrible things were done to native children and the very nature of native family and culture by Canada’s residential schools, but not by most of the non-native people now living in Canada. Most of us weren’t even alive or living here then.
On the one hand, understanding and accepting that that harm was done is important to how all of us make sense of the plight of native people in Canada now. But feeling sorry for natives and seeing them as victims may not be the best way to move forward for any of us. Some wrongs can’t be undone, some perpetrators are beyond the reach of earthly justice.
So, what now? Policies built on recompense can work, but policies and processes that depend on guilt and pity are insulting and self-destructive.
This country as we know it wouldn’t even exist if it hadn’t been for the generosity, skills and knowledge of native Canadians. Our European predecessors here would have starved, frozen or been subjugated by foreign troops if the natives living here then hadn’t stepped up and joined with them. It’s that inclusion that we would do well to focus on now.
If it’s not too late, if our native culture hasn’t been damaged too much, we all could really use a hand from the people we depended on when Europeans first came to Canada. They don’t need our pity; we need their forgiveness and their help. Jim Maloy, Barrie, Ont.
This is the land where demanding and granting apologies and reparations for historical wrongs committed long ago has become politically de rigueur, and our self-flagellating exercise of applying today’s moral and social standards to historical circumstances has turned into a politically driven new version of “historical revisionism.” Enough already! With incendiary headlines splashed across the media, the overly reaching report by the TRC launches Canada and Canadians on yet another collective guilt trip of 94 ways of atoning for having perpetrated “cultural genocide” on its aboriginal people.
On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a full apology on behalf of all Canadians for the “sad chapter” of abuse suffered by aboriginal children in residential schools.
Notwithstanding real concerns expressed in the TRC report, we can’t go forward by looking in the rear view mirror, and actually impeding, not advancing, aboriginal success. Edward W. Bopp, Tsawwassen, B.C.
What pierced me the most was hearing several survivors say that they grew up not knowing love. Imagine a child growing up in that environment. Seven generations of indigenous peoples experienced this. Clearly, there is something not right about a culture that forcibly tried to absorb another, and torture and molest its children.
All Canadians must participate in the reconciliation process. Our ancestors are responsible for the schools and legacy, and we are all responsible for the racism that continues to this day.
As descendants, we are called upon to make amends and unlearn the racist lessons we were taught. We must also familiarize ourselves with the TRC’s recommendations to restore right relations and call on our MPs to adopt them. Cheryl McNamara, Toronto While the term “cultural genocide” seems excessive and might be more accurately characterized as the wanton disregard of human rights in a past that can never be repaired, it does not belittle its gravity one bit. Claude McDonald, Kitchener, Ont.
South Africa had its own TRC following the end of apartheid. It was seen as successful as the victims of violence were allowed to confront the perpetrators through a process of restorative justice. The TRC was also accompanied by the dismantling of institutions and policies that oppressed indigenous Africans and other non-whites in the country.
This is not the case here in Canada where few of our politicians are talking about scrapping the Indian Act or returning lands taken from indigenous peoples. As noted by NDP MP and residential school survivor Romeo Saganash, “it is not possible to conceive of reconciliation in the absence of justice.” Dr. Faisal Moola, Toronto
While there have been a good number of articles about the recent release of findings of the TRC, as someone who moved here from a country that suffered hundreds of years of colonialism I am astounded it’s not the headline everywhere. I am even more concerned that the conversation will stop, that this will be brushed off and swept under the rug; forgotten, like many of those who did not survive in the residential school system; and even those who did. Giselle Del Rosario, Toronto
I hope as Canadians we have in our hearts what it takes to refrain from judging ourselves and others for what paths we have taken in order to survive, and forgive ourselves and others so that we can all begin a hopeful and praiseworthy new life together in light of the truth that has been shared. Barbara (Guillet Ronson) McNichol, Cartier, Ont.
Congratulations and thanks to all who worked on the TRC. Now it is up to all Canadians to put in practice and internalize the recommendations and demand that our governments adopt them if we still expect to be known as a peaceful, accepting and generous nation. Judy Cathcart, Flesherton, Ont.
If the perpetrators of injustices toward Aboriginal Peoples are still alive, why aren’t they prosecuted and their organizations ordered to pay restitution to the victims? It’s called justice. Diane Sullivan, Toronto On June 2, I listened to the report of the TRC: In listening to various people give their experiences, as a 71-year-old man, I am not ashamed to say that I cried more than when I left my mother as a 13-year-old on April 2, 1958, to emigrate to Canada. R. Tony Morra, Mississauga
The headline, “The truth at last,” was disturbing, as was the subhead: “. . . (the report) promises to finally lay bare the horrors . . .” Both intimate that up to now all the events described by those who attended residential schools were untrue.
We have not listened. And worse, not only have our governments been silent but were among the perpetrators of these atrocities. Yet aboriginal education facilities continue to receive a fraction of the funds spent on non-aboriginal schools.
This has gone on for a century and must be changed. Barb Wancha, Fort Erie, Ont.
Our government has decided that the space at the core of our democracy, nestled between the Supreme Court of Canada and the Parliament Buildings, should be graced by a monument to the 100 million victims of communism. The advantage of this proposal is that it can double as a monument to our national smugness and misplaced sense of moral superiority.
It might better reflect our Canadian values — and our shared responsibility for their violation — if this precious space were dedicated to a National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, an institution recommended by the TRC.
While a monument to the victims of communism carries no moral imperative on us as Canadians to do anything, the same cannot be said for a forceful and constant reminder of our ongoing national and personal obligations to people who, in the name of Canada, have been deprived of their history, culture and identity.
Only by building a shared future together, based on mutual respect, will there truly be reconciliation. It is long past time that we started on such an endeavour. Harvey Thomson, Fergus, Ont.
Perhaps our prime minister should consider erecting a monument to the victims of colonialism next to the monument for the victims of communism. We could even extend it to victims of industrialization or maybe of global warming.
The Harper government will spend money on mixing concrete but will not fund an investigative task force into the disappearance of aboriginal women along the highway of tears and elsewhere that is happening today. Shame. Leslie Goresky, Van Anda, B.C.
All of western English-speaking society was, at the time, convinced that indigenous populations were vastly inferior and needed to be brought up to our marvellous standards. There was no consideration given to the rich cultural heritage that native populations had anywhere around the globe.
It is all too easy to assume that this was a “residential school” problem but these schools reflected the attitudes of mainstream western society. Sexual abuse was all too common and the perpetrators can only be regarded as evil.
But many of the people who worked and taught in residential schools were not abusers but were convinced that they were doing God’s work to help save “the poor benighted heathen.”
I started my teaching career in 1955. Along with chalk, paper supplies and curriculum guidelines, I was given an 18-inch long leather strap because society was convinced that corporal punishment was a valid teaching tool.
The abuse was not just confined to residential schools. Tom Sullivan, Toronto