The recent discovery of mass graves at various residential schools across the country has shocked many; however, to the Indigenous people who survived these horrific institutions, it comes as no surprise.
It made me realize how little we knew about our own country’s history. I grew up in the French Catholic school system, was taught about colonization and settlement from textbooks, how the church and religious figures played an integral role in the foundation of Canada, became an altar server at mass, do what Jesus would do, etc. … but in fact, Jesus would never have been so cruel as the church and Canadian government were to our First Nations.
It’s time for our federal government to step up and act instead of making more false promises. Start by declaring a national day of mourning for all the innocent children who were forcibly taken from their families and never returned home.
Secondly, the Trudeau government should declare that all survivors of residential schools be immediately compensated fairly for their suffering and stop fighting them in court. We, as a country, pay millions to help countries all over the world but can’t even take care of our own first people by providing clean water and decent housing.
To the detractors who complain about them being a drain on the Canadian taxpayer: remember, Indigenous people were here for thousands of years and flourishing before European colonization changed everything. Everything was taken from them: their land, language, culture, children, women, etc. Perhaps we should no longer question why they’re still suffering today.
Thirdly, the people who are still alive who worked in these places should be located and fully prosecuted, regardless of age, just as the leaders of the Nazi regime were after the Second World War. What happened here were crimes against humanity, an attempted genocide hidden under the guise of education and religion.
Sadly, this attempt to eliminate their beautiful culture resulted in the inter-generational trauma we are left with today. It’s an uncomfortable process, learning the true history of Canada; however, to move forward we must acknowledge the errors made in the past and rectify them.
Canada is still a relatively young country; therefore, we have a lot to learn and to move forward, we must reconcile with the people who suffered immensely from the process of colonization.
Finally, the Catholic Church needs to formally apologize as they forcibly imposed their system on Indigenous people with the collaboration of the federal government. Moving forward, the Pope should publicly apologize, the Church should release all public records with regards to the lost children, the names of people who ran these prisons, and offer financial restitution to all survivors.
Only then can the true healing process begin, and truth and reconciliation become reality.