Over the past few weeks, Canadians from all backgrounds have been horrified by the discovery of the remains of 1323 children in unmarked graves outside of former residential “schools.” These children were taken forcibly from their parents and communities by the Canadian government as part of a genocidal plan to wipe out Indigenous communities, their culture, traditions, languages, identity and society.
These so-called schools were mainly run by the Church which intentionally staffed them with violent child abusers, pedophiles and murderers who were protected by the Canadian government, the police and all of whom were well aware of the abuses they were perpetuating.
Throughout my involvement with the Green Party as well as the environmental and social justice movements, I have had the chance to sit down with survivors of these “schools” and to hear their stories first hand- an experience every settler Canadian should have. They told me about traumatic violence. One woman recounted that they fractured her skull. Others told me about sexual abuse, having their friends suddenly disappear, being kidnapped by the Canadian government while their parents were threatened with prison if they attempted to resist by refusing to hand over their children. The trauma endured by the residential schools is multi-generational. The children of residential school survivors have been left with parents who were raised without parents of their own, and for whom parenting was done by violent, genocidal, state-backed child abusers who could literally kill them at any moment without consequences. Many children never returned home and these unmarked graves are only the tip of the iceberg of death that mainstream Canadian society must now come to terms with.
What took place in these “schools” is not taught in our modern day school curriculum. The history books we give to our children tell a fictional story about the “discovery” of this land by Europeans as if it were not stolen and violently conquered from the Indigenous population. The idea of collective responsibility for this genocide is so far away from what our children are learning about, that it sickens me. The vast majority of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Report, the Viens Commission and the Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women have still not been implemented. All this while our progressive-talking Prime Minister has yet to even provide Indigenous communities with life’s most basic element; clean drinking water. He talks about reconciliation while upholding systemic racism towards indigenous people, stealing their land, withholding their drinking water and fighting them in the courts.
While some Canadians are aware of the ongoing genocide that is taking place in this country, the masses have been confused by misleading history textbooks, biased media coverage, racial stereotypes and false promises of reconciliation made by our governments. Without better education and understanding of these issues, it will be impossible to end these genocidal practices. The same system that stole these children is acting on us today- keeping Canadians in the dark about what happened and what continues to take place. We have all been manipulated into believing the great Canadian myth. That this land was discovered by Europeans and that our actions towards Indigenous people were not and are not genocidal.
While headlines about unmarked graves have led some people to inform themselves about these issues, much more needs to be done. We need to give land back. We need to lift all Indigenous people out of poverty. We need to implement the recommendations of the multiple reports that have been produced in partnership with Indigenous communities. We need a national strategy to inform the Canadian public about the genocide and the ongoing reality of systemic racism today. Cancelling Canada Day is a good first step, but we will need to go far beyond that in order to reverse this pattern of ongoing abuse. We will need to make this an everyday priority. We need to grieve with Indigenous communities while taking action to put an end to this brutal regime.