Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 3, 2015
Canada’s residential schools cultural genocide, Truth and Reconciliation commission says
The residential schools that removed aboriginal children from their homes, subjecting many of them to substandard education, malnutrition, abuse, illness and even death was a key part of a government-led policy that amounted to cultural genocide, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concludes.
“These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will,” says the 381-page summary of its final report released Tuesday in Ottawa.
“The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources,” says the report.
The heart-wrenching and damning report is the culmination of a six-year examination of the history and legacy of residential schools — largely operated by churches and funded by the Canadian government — that saw 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children come through their doors for more than a century.
The exercise has been “a difficult, inspiring and very painful journey for all of us,” said Justice Murray Sinclair, Canada’s first aboriginal justice and the commission’s chairman.
“The residential school experience is clearly one of the darkest most troubling chapters in our collective history,” Sinclair told a packed news conference Tuesday in Ottawa.
“In the period from Confederation until the decision to close residential schools was taken in this country in 1969, Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide.”
Through the testimony of residential school survivors, former staff, church and government officials and archival documents, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission pieced together a horrifying history that, despite its ripple effects, has been repeatedly dismissed or ignored.
It also describes how the legacy of residential schools continues, not only through the direct effect that generations of institutionalization and abuse has had on survivors and their families, but how it is manifested in racism, systemic discrimination and poverty, as well as dying indigenous languages. (Source: Toronto Star)