These Days It's Hard to Be a Proud Canadian
Today is Canada Day and I can’t say that I feel like a proud Canadian. I am so ashamed of the behaviour of our government in facilitating the cultural and physical genocide of our indigenous people.
Since Canada's inception (and even before), government officials mandated the forced integration of indigenous tribes through a variety of methods. All of these methods deprived our indigenous people of basic human rights. They were given no choice as their children were routinely taken from their homes to either be educated in a residential school or adopted by middle-class white families.
The practice of scooping indigenous children off the streets of reservations to be adopted into white families went on from 1951-1991. Nobody outside of the indigenous communities really cared. It was considered the squalor they lived in was the result of parental neglect. The problem had much less to do with neglect than it had to do with the way the Canadian government forced them to live.
Before Canada was even a country, and up until 1996, the government and the Catholic Church (Some Anglican and United churches, too), pulled children as young as three years of age, out the homes of their indigenous parents and sent them off to live in residential schools. It is estimated that about 150, 000 indigenous children attended these schools. Over the years, thousands of children went missing and were never heard from again. Most parents never found out where their children went, but they heard the accounts of those who returned to the reservations. They heard stories of abuse, neglect and murder at the hands of the nuns and priests who ran the schools.
Initially, the deaths of indigenous children at residential schools had to be recorded and submitted to the government, but that practice ended in 1920, because there were just too many to keep track of. The government kept that a secret and the schools continued with their abhorrent practices, burying children on their grounds in unmarked graves.
The whole reason reservations exist is because the government wanted to be able to use the land the natives occupied without interference. They displaced the indigenous tribes, telling them they should adopt a more agricultural lifestyle, and put them in areas with poor soil and few resources for them to benefit from. To this day, many reservations don’t even have access to clean drinking water! This is a first world country, so think about that statement for a minute.
Make no mistake about it, the reserves are a form of apartheid and were a large part of the plan to eliminate the people they considered to be most problematic to their vision of a white ruled country with Christian based European values. Reservations also served as a convenient way to keep the reality of indigenous life far removed from our own. We don’t know or care about what is never in our faces.
Public messaging has always been that the natives are a screwed-up bunch of people. They are typically viewed as uncivilized people with no appreciation for the finer things in life, no ambition, no vision and low intelligence. It is widely believed that their alcohol and addiction problems are in their DNA, but this is just another way we have been manipulated into believing they get what they deserve and that the rest of Canada has nothing to do with their problems. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that supports the belief that the biology of our natives makes them more susceptible to addiction than their white counterparts.
So, what causes this problem? Why are our indigenous communities so plagued by addiction and social problems like abuse and crime? The answer should be obvious, but to many it isn’t.
Think about it for a minute. When generations of children are removed from their families by force, traumatized by abuse, and raised without loving family interaction, how do you expect them to turn out? When you are treated as though you are vermin, beaten, molested, starved and voiceless, how will you raise your own family? What tools will you have to work with? For well over 100 years, this has been the indigenous experience. Generation after generation living with all human dignity stripped from them. These people never really had a chance. They have to find a way to thrive but they’ve got little to work with because our great Canadian government in tandem with the Catholic Church, systematically scraped away all of their physical, spiritual and emotional resources.
Yes, I am ashamed. This is the country that encourages immigrants to maintain their cultural identity and celebrates the festivals of all sorts of cultures. For decades, our political leaders have been attending the religious and cultural celebrations of new Canadians, all while wiping out indigenous cultures and covering up atrocities against our indigenous people. This is disgraceful and inexcusable behaviour.
I cannot celebrate being Canadian, knowing what I now know.
It’s interesting that this documentary on YouTube is presented by Al Jezeera. Have a look.
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