Editorial — 15 March 2017

Editorial

By Chris Marchand

I’ve debated this week over whether to wade into the issue of our local Senator Lynn Beyak’s cringe-worthy comments to the senate about Residential Schools, particularly in light of the fact that some of the problem has to do with non-Aboriginal people speaking out of turn — which I probably am.

I’ve heard the extended version of her comments and I’m sorry to say it’s nothing I wouldn’t expect to hear from any older white person around here. Her comments are quite indicative of a generation that grew up much closer to this, who still see the many shades of gray in an issue that has grown black and white in the modern media landscape.

We’ve spent the past decade or more re-assessing this part of our history through the perspective of those who experienced it first hand, examining its terrible legacy and its effects on the generations who have followed.

In the complex mental gymnastics Beyak must have performed to arrive at a place where she believed she could stand up in front of the Senate and say her piece, I wonder how it is she came to miss the larger point.

Underlying the acts of these, as Beyak puts it ‘kindly and well-intentioned people’ who envisioned, built and operated Canada’s Indian Residential School system was the idea fundamental to colonial thought — that the traditional culture of Canada’s Indigenous people was without value and therefore should be eradicated and their populations assimilated.

If our intentions, kind or otherwise, are based in such a foul and arrogant philosophy as this, it certainly doesn’t make what we’ve done any less damaging.

In my opinion, this point hangs like an axe over discussion of any aspect of Canada’s Residential Schools, superceding any attempt to rationalize or justify what happened as well-meaning.

It is the same kind of hindsight that keeps us from regarding members of Hitler’s SS as loving fathers and devoted countrymen, which surely some of them were. Yet they were men possessed of ideas that we know to be monstrous and our culture has made monsters of them.

Is that fair? Maybe? Maybe not? What is the more important narrative to preserve in our history?

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MichaelChristianson

(3) Readers Comments

  1. I am an older person, who has always been totally appalled by the colonialism era aspect of residential school program. No amount of words can salve over the rupture breaking apart the basic unit of family and institutionalizing children away from their guardians. Thank you,Michael Christianson. You have made a fair and just comparison between The Third Reich with Canadian (and U.S.) Government Policy of forcing anglicization upon a segment of human presence with a grace but another kind (so it seemed). And this comparison, hopefully is received by any readers in Dryden as a fair shot. Let us be real, using truth as the touch stone and move out of any need to make excuses. We must grow up and not fantasize any more. There is no way of justifying the terror put upon children nor the agony imposed on their mothers, fathers and community — not one word.

  2. I am an older person, who has always been totally appalled by the colonialism era aspect of residential school program. No amount of words can salve over the rupture breaking apart the basic unit of family and institutionalizing children away from their guardians. Thank you,Michael Christianson. You have made a fair and just comparison between Canadian (and U.S.) Government Policy of forcing anglicization to the white supremacist (but) caring family man amongst Hitler’s army. And this hopefully is by any readers in Dryden a fair shot. Let us be real, using truth as the touch stone and move out of any need to make excuses. We must grow up and not fantasize any more. There is no way of justifying the terror put upon children nor the agony imposed on their mothers, fathers and community — not one word.

  3. What a bunch of malarkey! Telling Canadians that many, arguably the great percentage, of those who served in residential schools were akin to concentration guards shows just how blinkered and indoctrinated some people have become after 30 years or more of residential school bashing. Yes, dreadful, horrible things happened in those schools, but that is not the complete story, as Senator Murray Sinclair, Tomson Highway and Richard Wagamese have publicly said.

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