“I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill”.
-Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs, Canada
That statement meets the criteria for committing genocide. Creating Indian Residential Schools was one step in that overall effort begun with the Indian Act of 1876. The Indian Act is still in force today.
Canada is in the early stages of learning about its dark history, including Residential Schools, often noted as ‘Canada’s 100+ year old dirty secret’. One of the efforts to reveal and heal from horrific secrets is the newly annual Orange Shirt Day.
Orange Shirt Day, held on September 30, is an Every Child Matters awareness campaign created in respect of and to honor all children taken from Indigenous families and forced to attend Residential Schools in Canada and the U.S. between 1879 and 1996. The children suffered the terror of being taken from their families without any understanding of what was happening, to enduring devastating abuses and death.
In my family, we had five children enter a Residential School in Northern Alberta, Grouard. Three of them never came home. I don’t know what my great-grandmother was ever told of the details of their deaths, it was never anything ever talked about; standard behavior for nearly all these families. Very little to nothing around those schools was ever discussed.
What I do know is, the consequences of the trauma of that pain, along with the ensuing efforts to move my family into locations more convenient for government plans, took its toll on my family. They call it ‘inter-generational trauma’ now. All the brokenness that came out of those years and all the efforts to recover from them included too many years of addiction issues, homelessness, and the continuing loss of children to the foster care system. My family was included in that too.
As one of those many, I’d like others to know there are places for help now. Places that understand us and speak our languages – maybe not our nation’s language, but how we see things. I found mine with the Indian Residential Survivor’s Society (http://irsss.ca/). Contact them, if you need help or you want to help someone. They know the wounds to our hearts and they understand.
For everyone else, I’d ask, please be willing to listen… take the time to ‘hear’. The history of those schools and the consequences, was fully examined by the 2015 Truth & Reconciliation Commission. It provided 94 calls to action to enact true restorative healing for our families and yours.
It would move Canada along in a far more productive and genuine way if we all took up those calls to action together. Not all can be performed by an individual, but many can. After that, collectively, we can demand the full implementation in all the required areas.
I hope you’ll join us in adding truth to Canada’s world reputation and in creating a reality based in genuine honour for all our children and their future. Every one of them matter, every single one.
My son scoping out the tremendous support in his school, 9/29/2017