Sunday, March 30, 2014

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

   The last Truth and Reconciliation session is being held in Edmonton , Alberta this week.

    Canada has a long history of an  Indian Residential School system. There were many very negative practices that went on in this system. The government set up a system that let churches set up residential schools. The government was happy with this system as they didn't want to organize it themselves. Churches received some government grants.

    First, the Indian children for the most part were taken away from their parents without permission. Worse than that many of the children were taken from their families by force...force of law. Families were split and isolated. Some kids didn't get back to their parents for years. They would be taken back to where they were picked up and the parents had moved on. Children missed their parents terribly and parents missed their kids.

   When the children were away they did not use their own language and did not learn their culture. Stress? You better believe it.

    Second, the education system was designed to strip the Indians of their language and culture. Students were not allowed to use their own language. They didn't know English so it was traumatizing as little communication could take place.. They were told that their traditions were evil. 

    Third, churches ran the residential schools. The government more or less farmed out the education system. They were very happy to have the churches  take on educational  responsibility. What was in it for the churches? Souls! The churches wanted members.

     Fourth , physical and sexual abuse was rampant in these institutions. Kids were horribly scarred from these experiences.

    As a result of the Residential school system, a culture and several generations of Indians were horribly scarred and has resulted in major social problems today.

    To be fair there were schools that were better than average and there were some kids who received a good education and were proud of it.

   Now Prime minister Steven Harper, made an apology on behalf of the government for the wrongs of the Indian Residential School system and then set up the truth and reconciliation commission. The idea was that people would tell their stories and a healing process would begin.

    Much good has come of the truth and reconciliation commission , but their is a glaring omission. The Canadian government has thousands of documents related to Indian Residential schools. The government would not release the documents. So 50% of the truth has not been  told. This is sad and the commission will be only partly successful. It's sad that our government made a apology that has been weakened because they would not release documents and tell their part of the truth.

    It was important that we get these things right and we didn't. So, much more work will have to be done.

    I taught in a government residential school. I was in the residence many times. I will never forget going into a room where 80 little boys were sleeping on cots. It was dreadful to think that these kids were on their own and far from home and family.

    I am somewhat happy for the good that has come out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but far more disappointed for what it didn't do.