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Remains found at Kamloops residential school 'not an isolated incident,' Indigenous experts and leaders warn

Halifax Tar

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Is part of the problem not the reservation system we have now ? My understanding, and its very minimal, is that our indigenous only get the social and monetary benefits owed to them if they live on a reservation ? Why not simply remove that barrier and then encourage them join our fold at their own pace and design, while allowing them to keep their financial and social benefits. ?

I am not sure throwing more money at this will fix anything, but I would be in favor of a one time, take or leave it, final dump of cash, don't ask for anymore again kind of deal.
 

Remius

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Ok. I will try. Tubercolosis was the leading cause of death, across many strata. Smallpox was endemic and killed 1 in 5 that it infected.

So, based on the fact that about 180+ died of endemic diseases per 1000, in that time period, that would suggest that the school over the course of the worst of it, would have seen about @2400 deaths. That didn't happen.

Not even sure what math you are using. Even the Bryce report from that time indicated higher cases of TB than the average population. And that residential schools were seeing higher numbers that normal due to the conditions.

That particular school was closed in 1978. I was alive at that point. This isn’t some far off statistic. And what about the the nutrition experiments conducted on students in the 40s and 50s? Too far back to be bad?

This was a government sanctioned atrocity. If you think native Canadians should thank the government for residential schools you need to educate yourself a bit better about what this was.
 

The Bread Guy

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... the schools and the Catholic church, at that time, were not considering the eradication of native populations. Rather, they were focused on mass proselytization.
There may be debate about the definition of "eradication of native populations," but that said, while Big Church (and not just Catholic - more here & here) got a chance to sell their approach in the residential schools, when the Minister in 1932 said things like this, one can't help but understand why some might see it as more than just helping Big Church expand the flock ...
.... (Duncan Campbell) Scott firmly supported the assimilationist policies of the Canadian government and advocated a policy of tribal termination, under which the indigenous peoples of Canada were to lose legal recognition and the protections and guarantees of their treaties with the government. The objective of these policies, he told a committee of the House of Commons in 1920, was “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.” ...
Also, this from a PM & government not known for handing out too many apologies, using 2008 cultural norms ....
... Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, “to kill the Indian in the child” ...
The solution? I'll leave to greater minds than mine, given how tangled the ball of string involved is.
 

daftandbarmy

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There may be debate about the definition of "eradication of native populations," but that said, while Big Church (and not just Catholic - more here & here) got a chance to sell their approach in the residential schools, when the Minister in 1932 said things like this, one can't help but understand why some might see it as more than just helping Big Church expand the flock ...

Also, this from a PM & government not known for handing out too many apologies, using 2008 cultural norms ....

The solution? I'll leave to greater minds than mine, given how tangled the ball of string involved is.

Nicely said. Here's another, pretty good, overview IMHO. Bolded italics mine:

Indigenous Peoples and Government Policy in Canada​


Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools that were established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. They functioned generally from 1880 to 1996. (Grollier Hall, which closed in 1997, was not a state-run residential school in that year.) The schools disrupted lives and communities, causing long-term problems among Indigenous peoples. (See also Inuit Experiences at Residential School and Métis Experiences at Residential School.)

In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRRSA). Among other functions, the TRC did research about residential schools and issued a final report. The TRC cites residential schools (as well as the Sixties Scoop) as part of Canada’s legislative “cultural genocide” against Indigenous peoples. (See also Genocide and Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

 

Infanteer

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The linkage is simple. Genocide is not simply defined by mass murder (cases like the Holocaust for which we are familiar with), but by attempting to deny the existence of a group of people. The definition of genocide also cites assimilationist policies as means to genocide, such as "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part" (checked that box with reserves) and "Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group" (checked that box with residential schools) . Therefore, by definition assimilation is a form of genocide.

What bothers me is that this whole thing is like a US mass shooting event. Everybody will send out prayers, agree that what happened is terrible, and nothing will get done to fix things in the future. All the tweets and apologies for historical wrongs will do nothing to change the fact that the conditions facing many indigenous Canadians, right here and now, is dreadful. A government of the day should not hesitate to renovate the god-awful "Indian Act", and to broach a Constitutional Convention if required. Everything should be on the table.

Finally, I find the language of "settler/colonizer" to be unhelpful, and I note that some people seem inclined to declare themselves as "settlers." This only exacerbates, in my view, the us vs them distinction. We're all in this boat together, nobody is leaving, and its going to take efforts from all Canadians to sort this out, regardless of whether you or your ancestors happened to come to North America 25,000 years ago, 250 years ago, 25 years ago, or 25 months ago.
 

Brad Sallows

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That particular school was closed in 1978.

As a day school. Residential ceased in 1969. Keep in mind that most of the worst abuses and neglect most likely occurred in the earliest years of operation.
 

Remius

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As a day school. Residential ceased in 1969. Keep in mind that most of the worst abuses and neglect most likely occurred in the earliest years of operation.
The 40s and 50s with nutrition experiments wasn’t that far back. Neither was the 60s scoop. The fact is we have people alive today suffering the effects of their time in these institutions.
 

Brad Sallows

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Is part of the problem not the reservation system we have now ?

Yes. It's a lottery. Bands sitting on valuable natural resources, high-value land, or adjacent to any good-sized cities have opportunities. Bands sitting in small communities in the vast sparsely populated regions of Canada have nothing. Fellow feeling doesn't extend far enough for the various associations to form any kind of equalization schemes.

One-time payment schemes are risky. Some will put the money to good use. Others will not. Then what? Ignore people living in poverty with sub-standard water and other services?

I doubt any solution which does not end with exactly one class of citizenship for all Canadians, enjoying the same rights and privileges wherever they choose to reside and work.
 

lenaitch

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The history of one society/culture conquering, assimilating, subjugating or otherwise treating badly the 'others' that they encounter is not particularly a Canadian problem; it has gone on long before the Romans. Part of the reason for the extent of the social conflict was, for want of a better term, the clash of cultures at different points on the social scale (I hesitate to include the term 'evolutionary'). At the beginning of European contact, it was the age of sail and gunpower meeting largely hunter-gatherer societies, many nomadic. By the time colonization got underway, it was the Industrial Revolution while the indigenous societies were still at the hunter-gatherer stage.

Before colonization, not all was sweetness and light in the Americas. War between societies, genocidal intents and slavery were not uncommon.

There may be a general unhappiness with the Indian Act and the 'reserve system', but I am not aware of any consensus on a better version, on either side. I am most familiar with Northwestern Ontario, where there are approximately 30 remote (fly-in/ice road) FNTs with a total population in the area of 10,000 (my number may be off). Most are under 1000 people (some very under), a few are in the low couple of thousand. That is their traditional territory, but in terms of clustering in fixed houses with electricity, an air strip, store, etc.; i.e. 'living Western', there is no economy to support that, and no potential for one, and no desire to turn back the hunter-gatherer clock. Their only hope for any income beyond government handouts is resource extraction income, and they need to remain proximate to their territory for that. Without an economic base to live like now do, social problems abound. The residual effects of the residential school system, probably made them worse, but they would still exist regardless.

A large number of years ago, there were very informal discussions about coalescing many of these into a small number of larger communities, even very distant from 'Western towns', where there could be a road connection, decent infrastructure, hospital, high school, etc. plus a critical mass for some kind of economic base, would be more achievable. There was no appetite for that, on either side.

The current system is very costly. Simply putting in a water system in a remote community that may only have a few hundred people is a multi-million dollar, multi-year venture. We could give each and every man, woman and child a million dollars, but the social problems would still exist.
 

Colin Parkinson

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And the last residential schools closed in the 1990s. They even knew that in the early 1900s that this was bad, the fact that went late into the 20th century is unbelievable. We have survivors that disagree about how acceptable this was.

Stop minimizing this and making excuses. That would be a good start.
It's not minimising, it's understanding the context of the day. Not so long before this school opened the First Nation were actively practising slavery and it was colonists that put a stop to that. The introduction of alcohol into the fur trade by the NWC also destroyed much of the social fabric of the bands.
 

LittleBlackDevil

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What bothers me is that this whole thing is like a US mass shooting event. Everybody will send out prayers, agree that what happened is terrible, and nothing will get done to fix things in the future. All the tweets and apologies for historical wrongs will do nothing to change the fact that the conditions facing many indigenous Canadians, right here and now, is dreadful. A government of the day should not hesitate to renovate the god-awful "Indian Act", and to broach a Constitutional Convention if required. Everything should be on the table.

I agree that tweets and apologies for historical wrongs, or the Prime Minister collectively blaming Canada doesn't change anything. In my view, the first step in terms of concrete action that should be taken is what would happen any time a bunch of bodies are found ... there should be a thorough investigation, those responsible should be determined, and there should be criminal prosecutions.

You mentioned the Holocaust, they are still prosecuting people involved in that today 70 years later. These residential schools were closed more recently, surely perpetrators could be found and brought to justice.

This would just be a start of course. Agree with you that the so-called Indian Act needs to be scrapped or massively overhauled and a Constitutional Convention with indigenous people at the table would make sense.

Finally, I find the language of "settler/colonizer" to be unhelpful, and I note that some people seem inclined to declare themselves as "settlers." This only exacerbates, in my view, the us vs them distinction. We're all in this boat together, nobody is leaving, and its going to take efforts from all Canadians to sort this out, regardless of whether you or your ancestors happened to come to North America 25,000 years ago, 250 years ago, 25 years ago, or 25 months ago.

Again, agreed. I hate the "us vs. them" and "tribalism" that this language engenders. I get that white people want to self-flagellate and therefore label themselves with the term "settler" but it helps nothing and potentially causes more harm for the reasons you've cited. In my view the way forward is the "we're all in the boat together" approach you've advocated. Build bridges rather than burn them more.
 

Infanteer

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Before colonization, not all was sweetness and light in the Americas. War between societies, genocidal intents and slavery were not uncommon.

Yes. I've even seen the awkward case somewhere in Ontario where a land acknowledgement was made to an indigenous group who had displaced another group from that land. Who do you acknowledge there?

On the other hand, in this case, we have a specific entity, the Government of Canada, that still exists and can still be held to account for actions. That is what makes this different than trying to go back and point the finger at Ghengis Khan or the Roman Senate.

There may be a general unhappiness with the Indian Act and the 'reserve system', but I am not aware of any consensus on a better version, on either side.

And that's the million dollar question. What next? What is a realistic course of action? We aren't turning back the clocks here, and it must be accepted that the solution isn't going to look like any past. This is where some shared vision is required.
 

quadrapiper

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Yes. I've even seen the awkward case somewhere in Ontario where a land acknowledgement was made to an indigenous group who had displaced another group from that land. Who do you acknowledge there?

On the other hand, in this case, we have a specific entity, the Government of Canada, that still exists and can still be held to account for actions. That is what makes this different than trying to go back and point the finger at Ghengis Khan or the Roman Senate.



And that's the million dollar question. What next? What is a realistic course of action? We aren't turning back the clocks here, and it must be accepted that the solution isn't going to look like any past. This is where some shared vision is required.
Could see an extension of the reserve governments into surrounding Crown land as a good first move, with a "figure it out between yourselves" approach to boundaries between Indigenous jurisdictions. Look at it as analogous to the Canadian Rangers, but for land management.

On a more blue-sky front: turn the infrastructure, authorities, and headaches of the Indigenous part of "...and Northern Affairs" over to e.g. the Assembly, including a Cabinet seat. Figure out a healthy budget, startup funding to deal with things like the drinking water problem, and a balance between providing trained civil service types out of the common pool and opportunities for Indigenous people in "their" chunk of the national government.
 

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I am all for renovating the Indian Act. Remember, however, that PM Harper offered and was torn apart for doing so by the AFN. So, there are layers and competing interests, even within 600 odd First Nations, who all have different ideas about what reconciliation looks like.

I, too, find the “settler/colonizer” language spectacularly unhelpful. It places everyone, by virtue of their skin colour, into a box that they can never escape from and sets up an “us/them” narrative that does not further reconciliation. I was born in Canada and had no choice in the matter- just like everyone else that was born in Canada, be it in the year 2000, 1900, 1800, or 1000AD.

I find no other alternative than to turn over vast amounts of tax dollars to First Nations, no strings attached, for about a generation. Kill Indigenious Service Canada as a Dept and let local First Nations spend how they want. Build houses, buy more land or businesses, build schools, etc- up to the First Nations to decide. Will there be mistakes, errors and outright theft along the way? You bet. However, don’t think for a second the young people on First Nations land won’t, very quickly, begin to hold their own leadership to account.
 

FJAG

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... Will there be mistakes, errors and outright theft along the way? You bet. However, don’t think for a second the young people on First Nations land won’t, very quickly, begin to hold their own leadership to account.
This seems to be my day for being contrary for some reason.

Sorry to disagree with the last piece. I think you have to look no further than the CAF to see the model. Does the CAF membership hold its leaders to account for the massive bureaucracy it has become and the misspent funds. No! Universally it blame the government for not ponying up 2% of the GDP.

I've worked with First Nations, most of which are small entities, and like any small community, are rife with conflicting interests and mismanagement. Often in such communities the majority of members are affiliated with one particular family group and if you belong to the family in power your circumstances for jobs and housing may be significantly better than your neighbour who doesn't belong.

There will always be a need for oversight and and transparency. IMHO the transparency needs to be in the form open and audited books (which many FNs stubbornly refuse to provide to both the government or their membership). There is, however, room to create an overarching oversight bureaucracy that is fundamentally operated by FN members so that individual FNs are accountable to a national FN organization. That may be problematic under existing treaties but if possible might go a long way to taking some of the friction with the government away.

Unfortunately, I think from the Canadian government's point of view its more convenient to keep the FNs mostly divided and controlled by an Ottawa based bureaucracy that the government is comfortable with.

🍻
 

SeaKingTacco

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This seems to be my day for being contrary for some reason.

Sorry to disagree with the last piece. I think you have to look no further than the CAF to see the model. Does the CAF membership hold its leaders to account for the massive bureaucracy it has become and the misspent funds. No! Universally it blame the government for not ponying up 2% of the GDP.

I've worked with First Nations, most of which are small entities, and like any small community, are rife with conflicting interests and mismanagement. Often in such communities the majority of members are affiliated with one particular family group and if you belong to the family in power your circumstances for jobs and housing may be significantly better than your neighbour who doesn't belong.

There will always be a need for oversight and and transparency. IMHO the transparency needs to be in the form open and audited books (which many FNs stubbornly refuse to provide to both the government or their membership). There is, however, room to create an overarching oversight bureaucracy that is fundamentally operated by FN members so that individual FNs are accountable to a national FN organization. That may be problematic under existing treaties but if possible might go a long way to taking some of the friction with the government away.

Unfortunately, I think from the Canadian government's point of view its more convenient to keep the FNs mostly divided and controlled by an Ottawa based bureaucracy that the government is comfortable with.

🍻
Oh, I am well aware of the family/clan politics/corruption/lack of transparency within a significant number First Nations. The thing is: they can always point the finger and “blame whitey”. Most times, they are at least partially right.

I am saying this- give them the financial resources and let them figure it out. Right now, no non-native can give any criticism or suggestion to improve FN life without it being taken the wrong way.
 

Colin Parkinson

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Having been involved in FN-government consultation for 20 years, I would say that things on most of the BC Reserves are steadily getting better. I personally get the feeling that the Coastal FN culture was more technology and culturally adaptive than the Prairie/Canadian interior Bands and that plays out in how they engage with the rest of the world. You will find some that want to cling onto the victim mentality, but others purely want acknowledgement and then move onto the future opportunities.
 

OldSolduer

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I see the results of the residential school system daily. FASD, cognitive dysfunction, mental retardation, physical issues that actually makes you wonder how they actually can survive.
 
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