Thursday, June 18, 2015

Truth and Reconciliation Commision

      The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) gave its report to the Canadian government last week.

       What's the Truth and Reconciliation Commission you say? Well, it is a commission that was to discover the facts about the sad education system our government ran for aboriginal people
in Canada.

      More than 100 years ago an education system was established for first nations people. The government gave a pittance for funding and farmed the work out to churches. The system took aboriginal kids away from their families and put them  in residences. The goal of this system was to take their language and culture away from the kids so that they would become good little white kids! They took much more than that away from the first nations people. Kids did not grow up in a family and as a result did not get the family experience and became ostracised from their relatives. There were many very cruel teachers and residential supervisors who destroyed these kids forever. Physical and sexual abuse was common.

     So the TRC was set up to find out as much information as possible and then hopefully set about trying to right the wrongs of the system. Thousands of people told their stories. 

     I was a teacher who spent five years teaching  Inuit and first nation's children. For three years a very large residential facility was  with the school. The churches ran the residences and the government ran the school.

    I went north as a young teacher looking for adventure and bigger money. I was given in service about what I was supposed to do. Yes , we  were to teach English. Yes, we were to discourage kids from speaking their own language. Yes , we were to encourage kids to join another culture and leave theirs behind. I did what I was told and didn't question the administration. 

    It wasn't until years later when I was talking to a pilot who picked the kids up in their settlements and brought them into the residence that I realized the horrors that took place. He told about kids being taken from their parents and how awful it was for both. 

     Now the teaching experience was excellent and my contact with aboriginal people changed my life forever. 

    One year I taught in a temporary classroom between the school and residence. Many days when I left the classroom the little boys were playing around my portable. I received cheerful greetings that  I will never forget. They always called me Mr McKline. I observed their play. They would play dog team. I'm sure I had as much fun watching them as they had playing. Sometimes I went to the residence. Several times I went in the dormitories after the kids were in bed. I'll never forget the sight 40 little boys in one room on cots. There was some light left on for the supervisors. Most kids were asleep but there was always somebody who was awake. There was much moaning and groaning.

     I've thought many times of how these six year old boys were a thousand miles away from home and how horrible it was for them, their parents and their community.

    Now back to the TRC. Our government almost completely ignored the report. The next step is to right the wrong. It won't happen unless the government participates. 

    I'm one of the pessimistic people on this topic. I think the government will throw some beads and trinkets at the situation and leave it to continue causing damage and heartache to the aboriginal people of Canada.