Tag Archives: Residential Schools

Paul Martin accuses residential schools of ‘cultural genocide’

‘Call a spade a spade,’ former prime minister says

Residential schools engaged in “cultural genocide,” former prime minister Paul Martin said Friday at the hearings of the federal Truth And Reconciliation Commission, adding that aboriginal Canadians must now be offered the best educational system.

“Let us understand that what happened at the residential schools was the use of education for cultural genocide, and that the fact of the matter is — yes it was. Call a spade a spade,” Martin said to cheers from the audience at the Montreal hearings.

“And what that really means is that we’ve got to offer aboriginal Canadians, without any shadow of a doubt, the best education system that is possible to have.”

The residential school system existed from the 1870s until the 1990s and saw about 150,000 native youth taken from their families and sent to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of “civilizing” First Nations.

Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide or died fleeing their schools. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.

In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the Canadian government as well as churches that ran the schools. The $1.9-billion settlement of that suit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the creation of the commission.

But the government has clashed with the commission and recently had to be ordered by an Ontario court to find and turn over documents from Library and Archives Canada.

“Every document is relevant,” Martin said. “We have hid this for 50 years. It’s existed for 150. Surely to God, Canadians are entitled … aboriginal Canadians and non-aboriginal Canadians, to know the truth. And so let the documents be released.”

Romeo Saganash has also testified of this time in residential schools

After the panel, Saganash took to the main stage at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel and officially gave his statement to the TRC about his time at the La Tuque residential school in the late 1970s.

He tearfully spoke about his brother Johnny who died under mysterious circumstances when he was just 6 years old. Johnny was buried in an unmarked grave near the residential school in Moose Factory, Ont. There was no explanation given to his parents, no death certificate, no physical record that the little Cree boy had ever existed under the care of the federal government.

It took 40 years for the Saganash family to find Johnny’s grave and they did so not with the help of authorities but rather through the work of Saganash’s journalist sister Emma. When his mother finally saw footage of the burial site, Saganash said she wept like he had never seen her weep before.

The NDP MP has also struggled with the legacy of pain from his stolen childhood. The struggle caused Saganash to seek treatment for his alcoholism last December after he was kicked off an Air Canada flight for being heavily intoxicated.

But Saganash spent little time focusing on the past, choosing rather to divert the attention to the private members bill he tabled before the House of Commons in January. The bill would force the federal government to ensure all its laws are consistent with the UN’s declaration of indigenous rights — a document the Cree politician helped draft before being elected to public office.

He concluded his emotional address on a hopeful note, quoting a passage from a speech South African leader Nelson Mandela gave after his 27-year stint as a political prisoner.

“It was during those long and lonely years that the hunger for freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people — white and black. I knew, as I knew anything, that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. For all have been robbed of their humanity.

Homeless Edmontonians speak about impact of residential schools

This video is heartbreaking.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada paid a visit to the Boyle Street Community Services in Edmonton on Saturday.

As Nicole Weisberg reports, the commission has been gathering stories about the impact of residential schools on Aboriginal Peoples across Canada — but this is the first time it has visited Edmonton’s inner city.

No Truth or Reconcilliation for Aging Residential School Survivors

Sad article by Linda Diebel in today’s Toronto Star

At parliamentary committee hearings in early 2009 — before the current commission was established — NDP MP Jean Crowder, from B.C., listened to the official Indian Affairs ministry count that 97,000 survivors claimed compensation, with 72,000 approved (average payment, $20,500), but that 20,000 had been found ineligible, and had the right to appeal.

Crowder raised the issue of survivors who were rejected “for seemingly minor reasons . . . We’ve had some people say that they couldn’t remember the name of the teacher who abused them when they were six years old, and that was the reason their claim as rejected. They’re now in their late 60s and 70s. It’s not unreasonable, I think, that they could not remember . . . .”

She demanded to know what research was being done to help these people. An official said it was very thorough but that she had to remember, “with all due respect, the people who go to these hearings are very often, as I’ve mentioned already, in a fragile mental state.”

“Well,” retorted Crowder, “they’re traumatized, and then they’re traumatized all over again.”

Unfortunate parallels with history haunt. Between 1927 and 1951, Canada enforced legislation under the Indian Act making it illegal for aboriginal people to hire lawyers to represent them in any activity related to land claims.

Under the settlement appeals process, survivors can hire lawyers, but it’s designed so that anything over 15 per cent going to the lawyer is sent for adjudication. Sounds good on the surface, according to a lawyer busy with aboriginal cases, because most work can be done for 15 percent.

He describes one case in Quebec, however, in which he spent huge amounts of time and got a particularly good settlement. He charged 30 per cent. He does a lot of pro bono work already, and with expenses, can’t afford to offer it to appeals. His client supported him and he’s waiting for a decision. But the official who questioned him taunted: “Looks like you gave him Cadillac service.”

So, he asks, are Indians entitled to only second-class service?

Make sure you read the entire article.