Sunday, October 17

Residential schools: have we learned?

“The present is the pupil of the past” according to an old German proverb. Canada must learn from its past in dealing with First Nations, victims of systemic discrimination and injustice. Have we learned from our mistakes? Does the Joyce Echaquan affair remind us that the more things change, the more the same and that systemic racism against Aboriginals is still present? Thursday September 30 will be the first National Day of Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation. Remembering might be the solution.

Some 150,000 Amerindian, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly recruited until the 1990s in these residential schools across the country, where they were cut off from their families, their language and their culture.

Many of them have been subjected to ill-treatment or sexual abuse, and more than 4000 have died there, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada which had concluded to a true “cultural genocide” of the. part of Canada.

The implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, is one of the largest class action settlements in Canadian history. The Settlement Agreement provided, among other things, for the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to facilitate reconciliation between former residential school students, their families, their communities and all Canadians.

In the summer of 2021, the pain of the past worsened for the indigenous communities with the discovery by ground penetrating radar of hundreds of indigenous graves and mass graves on various sites of indigenous residential schools.

What to say about this situation? Is it in the past and we have learned from our mistakes? Yet in the middle of summer 2021, almost at the same time as the discovery of the graves of the Native residential schools, the Coroner’s public inquiry into the Joyce Echaquan affair teaches us the horrors concerning the death of this Native woman. Unworthy behavior that would amount to a systemic racism towards the natives. How does it still exist, even after all the horrors of the past brought to light ??!

So I hope now that will change for good and that we can live in harmony in order to avoid such atrocities. The past must educate us for the future and not to forget so that it doesn’t ever happen again could be a big part of the solution. As with world wars, forgetting, which amounts to losing the teaching of the past, is the danger that awaits us.

This is why the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation towards the natives on September 30 is very important. It is now a national and official commemorative day. She is now here to remind us not to make the same mistakes. Reconciliation is possible, but we must be vigilant 365 days a year and there is still work to be done.

A message from Jean-Claude Therrien-Pinette, chief of staff to the head of Uashat-Mani-utenam, on his facebook page sums up this desire for reconciliation and living together in harmony:

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