Revised August 30, 2017
Canadians must work to heal a major historical point of contention for Canada and the Indigenous, and that point does not focus on “apologies and acknowledgements of territories.”
Canada’s government already knows what needs to be done. It has received why and how details for decades, most recently from the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), the 2011 Canadian Auditor General’s Report, the 2015 Truth & Reconciliation Report (TRC), and perhaps most unexpectedly, from Germany.
Canada’s apologies—for forcing Indigenous children to attend Residential schools, only one step of genocidal policies in the Indian Act; for sexual & physical abuses and death; for medical and nutritional experimentation; for starvation and medical sterilizations; for the missing and murdered; and other horrors —have become almost glib.
They’re cheap makeup to cover the scars of racist policies past and the continuing eruptions today. They’re feel-good measures that gloss over the lack of amendments leading to genuine restorative healing. In some cases, official apologies have been done literally to death.
“These things take time,” we’re told; an egregious, time-wasting cop-out. The amount of money and assistance announced to the country as given to the reserves is often exaggerated greatly. Indigenous kids continue to die by Canadian policy.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on earnest promises to the Indigenous that included ratification of the United Nation’s policy rights for Indigenous peoples. Not only has he not lived up to that pledge, but he is actually suing to retain the ability to discriminate against Indigenous children, even as they die from lack of resources afforded to all Canadian children. For Canadians, these rights are called services, but for the Indigenous, they’re regularly viewed and stated as “handouts”.
Why this belief is so widely held and accepted as truth is not because Canada ‘provides the Indigenous handouts whenever possible’ – aka charity. That view is the original 1876 talking point of the Canadian government and its partner-in-crime, the media. Despite well-known travesties, the pair have left out other important historical nuggets such as the laws that made it illegal for the Indigenous to operate any kind of business; laws that were in place for well over a century.
Too few know the real Canadian foundation. So, the focus has to turn Canadians back to acknowledging their history and their much defined hand in creating the situation that has lasted for 150 years and counting.
It’s commonly said the German genocide of Europe’s Jewish population must be “never forgotten.” And yet, Canadians will routinely tell the Indigenous to “stop living in the past.”
But the past isn’t over. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) isn’t over. The Canadian Government’s effort to manage Indigenous lives, lands and take resources isn’t over. Your “past” continues to be Indigenous present.
“What’s the answer?” – is a huge yet simple question. Aside from the answers already provided by commissions, Germany—which took a page from Canada’s Indian Act to create its own terror camps— returned with a blueprint to decency that Canada should take to heart.
Canadians must listen to what the Indigenous have been saying for nearly two centuries, and stop believing another popular myth that the Indigenous don’t know what they want. While there may be myriad ideas, the fundamental demand has remained true: genuine equal standing in their homelands with equal access to all services, already paid for in perpetuity with their resources and land.
The “nice Canada” face the world sees is false. Although Canada is populated with many lovely people, most live in ignorance while continuing to benefit richly from the livelihoods taken from the Indigenous, who are left on their own to overcome the horrors they’ve suffered.
Canadians must clearly and fearlessly look at their history, and teach it, fully and honestly.
Germany didn’t create monuments to their monsters, but rather to the people who suffered under those monsters and those who stood to help the suffering. They teach their history unabashedly from kindergarten to university, and they make immigrants to their country learn those same lessons. Germany made financial reparations to its victims, and does not hide its shame.
In the process, they have grown a greater sense of understanding and humanity across their country and have flourished to become a respected, successful world leader today.
Canada cannot and will not move into a new future of genuine honour and peace until it has truly examined and amended its dark past. Just ask Germany.