(This article was first published in The VOICE newspaper on June 7, 2008 – 13 years ago.)
BY RATTAN MALL
THIS [week], the Province newspaper published yet another stupid, racist letter … by a white woman from Langley, on the government’s apology for Native residential schools.
About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were torn away from their communities and forced to attend residential schools where they faced sexual, physical and all other kinds of abuse mainly at the hands of white Christian priests.
The writer of the letter was apparently so bereft of any sense of morality or logic that she wrote that “there was no malice intended” and “it was a different time and mindset.”
No malice intended!
You come to someone else’s country, take their children away, literally rape them, force them to forget about their culture and language, treat them worse than dogs, murder quite a few of them, and then you have the gall to say ‘NO MALICE!’
“A different time and mindset”!
So, raping kids, among other horribly devilish acts, was okay then?
What an idiot!
I am a Christian and I know tons about the Bible and my religion’s history – and it was NEVER okay to rape kids.
(And what about the continuing scandals of gay Christian, mainly Catholic, priests sexually abusing children and the churches still trying to cover up their crimes – something that has been exposed so extensively by mainstream and other media including The VOICE?!)
Senseless people like the writer of that letter should read the Bible in which Jesus warned his followers not to mistreat children:
“See to it that you men do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
This is a very well known verse in the Bible.
But in a way it’s good this letter was published because it clearly shows what I have been pointing out consistently in The VOICE over the past decade: White racism is alive and kicking! You still come across that coded word “immigrants” for non-white guys in letters filled with hatred to the Vancouver Sun and the Province.
However, the good news is that more and more white Canadians are getting over their prejudices, especially the younger generation, and facing up to the MULTICULTURAL REALITIES.
Indeed, they have NO choice but to change.
On the other hand, ALL PRAISE GOES TO PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER for having the guts and the morality to offer an apology to the Natives.
The Natives are the ORIGINAL inhabitants of this wonderful land – they, more than any other group, deserve apologies and compensations.
Unfortunately, the Liberals FAILED to apologize to the Natives when they were in power for so long before Harper.
This apology is something that Indo-Canadians and other visible minorities must take very seriously for it shows respect for the original inhabitants of this country while admitting the horrendous treatment they received.
We must never tolerate any form of racism – neither should we be racist ourselves.
Here are excerpts from Harper’s HONEST and COURAGEOUS statement in the House on Wednesday:
Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools. The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history.
In the 1870’s, the federal government, partly in order to meet its obligation to educate aboriginal children, began to play a role in the development and administration of these schools.
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.”
Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.
Most schools were operated as “joint ventures” with Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian or United churches.
The government of Canada built an educational system in which very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes, often taken far from their communities.
Many were inadequately fed, clothed and housed.
All were deprived of the care and nurturing of their parents, grandparents and communities.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools.
Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential schools and others never returned home.
The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language.
While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools, these stories are far overshadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and communities.
The legacy of Indian residential schools has contributed to social problems that continue to exist in many communities today. It has taken extraordinary courage for the thousands of survivors that have come forward to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered.
It is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strength of their cultures.
Regrettably, many former students are not with us today and died never having received a full apology from the government of Canada.
The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation.
Therefore, on behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian residential schools system.
To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this.
We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this.
We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow, and we apologize for having done this.
We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you.
Not only did you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became parents, you were powerless to protect your own children from suffering the same experience, and for this we are sorry.
The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long.
The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country.
There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever again prevail.
You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.
The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly.
We are sorry.
In moving towards healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of Indian residential schools, implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement agreement began on September 19, 2007.
Years of work by survivors, communities, and aboriginal organizations culminated in an agreement that gives us a new beginning and an opportunity to move forward together in partnership.
A cornerstone of the settlement agreement is the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
This commission presents a unique opportunity to educate all Canadians on the Indian residential schools system.
It will be a positive step in forging a new relationship between aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, a relationship based on the knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada for all of us.
AUSTRALIA APOLOGIZED FIRST
The Australian government apologized to its Aborigines last February and The VOICE carried the story under the heading: “Decent Australian Prime Minister Apologizes to Aborigines.”
I wrote about the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd of the Labour Party, inviting Aborigines to give a traditional welcome at the official opening of the parliamentary session. That was considered to be a symbolic recognition that Australia’s capital was built on land once owned by Aborigines and was forcibly taken away without compensation by European settlers.
According to media reports, Aborigines number about 450,000 among Australia’s population of 21 million and are most likely to be jailed, unemployed and illiterate. They are the poorest in Australia and their life expectancy is 17 years shorter than other Australians. From 1910 until the 1970s, about 100,000 children were forcibly taken from their parents by passing laws that tried to justify this despicable policy by claiming that that they were actually trying to save the children because the Aborigines were dying out.
Australians have been slow in shedding their racism, but the majority finally decided that an apology was the proper and right step to take.
Rudd delivered a historic apology in parliament to the aboriginal people for injustices committed over two centuries of white settlement.