14 Mar 2011

Edmonton mural celebrates Catholic bishop's role in the horrific abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools

Edmonton Journal - Canada February 12, 2011

Mural at LRT station offensive, rider says

The late Bishop Grandin's links to residential schools, colonialism don't merit celebration


I have a secret to admit: I love the LRT. I know some people hate it, complaining endlessly about how, in bigger cities, the subways never come late, but I personally love the feeling of crossing over the North Saskatchewan River in the LRT and seeing our beautiful city from the river valley. Recently, however, I had to get off at Grandin/Government Centre station to run an errand, and my love affair with the LRT hit a major road bump.

Having just left a class recounting the impacts of the residential schooling system on aboriginal people in Alberta, I was horrified at seeing the mural in Grandin station. Called the Bishop Vital Grandin Mural, the artwork is a celebration of residential schooling and aboriginal displacement and a historical narrative of colonialism and conversion.

Bishop Grandin was an early Catholic pioneer who arrived in Canada in 1854. He was, indeed, a seminal figure in Alberta history, but one of his most significant "contributions" was as an overseer of numerous residential schools.

To quote from a study by the University of Toronto, during the later part of the 19th century, Grandin became convinced that "attempts to civilize and evangelize native adults would have negligible results" and it would be more prudent instead to "wean children from their native lifestyle." Thus, it was because of Grandin's work that schools such as St. Joseph's at Dunbow near Calgary were set up. Today, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, working to alleviate the pain and suffering caused by the residential school system, recognizes many of Grandin's "civilizing projects," such as St. Joseph's, as residential schools, where Blackfoot children were taken away from their families and forced into an abusive system.

In a bizarre twist, though, the mural at Grandin/ Government Centre, far from decrying that history, seems to revel in it. On the accompanying plaque, which includes the signature of the City of Edmonton, it claims Grandin was a pioneer, upon whose arrival "the West was a vast wilderness." That would make sense, if the aboriginal people who had been living in Alberta for centuries before Grandin arrived were just a part of a background "wilderness" of assorted animals; indeed, according to the mural, the aboriginal people had no civilization of their own and had to thus be civilized.

In the mural, Grandin looks ahead, staring bravely into the future. Beside him, a woman wearing a crucifix holds an aboriginal baby, apparently carrying the infant away from its family. In the background, we see what is presumably the family, faceless, being escorted by another missionary to train stations.

Some might say I am misinterpreting the painting. That is possible. But here are the cold, undeniable facts: Grandin helped operate residential schools. In the painting, Grandin's female associate holds an aboriginal child, separated from family. The mural is supposed to be a celebration of this history. The mural is placed in an incredibly important place; the station is the centre for those going back and forth from the Alberta legislature. In a sense, this is a view that is seen as legitimate by the Government of Alberta and by the city. Am I the only one who feels nauseated by this?

The residential school system might be dead, but the Grandin mural continues to sing its praises in the heart of Edmonton.

Mustafa Farooq is a third-year political science honours student at the University of Alberta.

This article was found at:

Edmonton Journal  -  Canada  February 17, 2011

Grandin deserves a mural


Re: "Mural at LRT station offensive, rider says; The late Bishop Grandin's links to residential schools, colonialism don't merit celebration," by Mustafa Farooq, Ideas, Feb. 12.

Mustafa Farooq is nauseated by the Grandin mural at the LRT station? Thankfully, times have changed, but it is only very recently that rightful recognition has been given to the indigenous peoples of the world, even by our federal government.

Bishop Vital Grandin was part of a civilization that considered its way of life as best of all, an unfortunate characteristic of humanity. At the time, this colonial view was wholeheartedly supported by the Canadian government.

Remember how Chief Sitting Bull was treated? In fact, it was because of federal policies that the use of indigenous languages was discouraged in schools, policies Grandin had to submit to as well. In fact, scholars have shown that Grandin's proposed method of educating the native peoples of the Canadian northwest was categorically rejected by the federal government and that he had to base his schools on the federal model.

It was through individuals such as Grandin and other religious communities that health care, social assistance and education were brought to this part of the world, when there was no social safety net other than charity.

Who do you think cared for the sick of St. Albert during the 1870 smallpox epidemic, when, out of a population of 700, 300 died?

The oblates and the Grey Nuns helped nurse the sick and bury the dead. Grandin was there, helping and often weeping at the bedside of the dying. He had come through Fort Carleton when smallpox had struck and spent some time there caring for the sick. He returned to St. Albert to help and, upon learning that smallpox was devastating the Métis hunters and their families on the Prairies, he joined them there too, comforting, helping and doing what he could.

Granted, perhaps the mural should be reinterpreted, but it is much too easy to pin the blame for the residential schools on one individual.

Juliette Champagne, PhD, history, Edmonton

This article was found at:

Edmonton Journal  -  Canada   February 21, 2011

We don't need reminders


Re: "Grandin deserves a mural," by Juliette Champagne, Letters, Feb. 17 and "Mural at LRT station offensive, rider says; The late Bishop Grandin's links to residential schools, colonialism don't merit celebration," by Mustafa Farooq, Ideas, Feb. 12.

Juliette Champagne ends her glowing letter with the words, " . much too easy to put the blame for the residential schools on one individual."

As a survivor of a residential school run by oblates, I am concerned about this mural, because it focuses on an individual and therefore misrepresents Canadian/native history.

Regardless of good works, Grandin was part of a system that perpetrated horrendous damage and suffering to native people. Whatever might have changed in Champagne's view, nothing can ever erase the cultural loss and psychological, physical and sexual abuse that occurred in these schools, precisely because the intergenerational effects still exist in native communities. This kind of history does not change, nor can it be forgotten, but neither should we be continually confronted by stereotypical images of our colonial past.

Maybe Grandin deserves to be honoured by his supporters, but do we have to have a mural in a public place, such as an LRT station? Mustafa Farooq provides evidence that images are all powerful and I appreciate his insight in this matter.

Elizabeth Lightning , PHD , Education , Edmonton

This article was found at: 

Edmonton Journal  -  Canada   March 1, 2011

Grandin mural about living in harmony: artist

by Sylvie Nadeau, artist, author and copyright owner of the Grandin mural

RE: "Mural at LRT station offensive, rider says; The late Bishop Grandin's links to residential schools, colonialism don't merit celebration," by Mustafa Farooq, Ideas Feb. 12, and "Grandin deserves a mural," by Juliette Champagne, Letters, Feb. 17.

"I was horrified at seeing the mural in Grandin Station," said Mustafa Farooq.

In answer to that, never in my wildest dreams have I thought a spiritual journey and love-based masterpiece would find itself the object of controversy and even horrify someone.

A big thank you to Juliette Champagne, PhD history, for adjusting everyone's glasses (including mine), and giving us a clearer and more global picture of this phase of our history.

This mural was commissioned by the French Association of Alberta and created in 1989 to be offered as a gift to the City of Edmonton.

The mural was to express the journey of Bishop Grandin, his impact on our history, his relationship with our indigenous people, the contribution of the Grey Nuns, the treaties, the advent of the train and its impact on church and school locations and so on.

The late Bishop Grandin does deserve respect; so do the Grey Nuns and so does every indigenous person depicted in this mural.

This mural is about love, compassion, learning to live and build in harmony together, through mistakes if we must, a future that respects us all.

This painting is not about a woman with a crucifix, taking away a child from its parents. It's about the love, the caring and compassion for the smaller of us, protecting and helping to be part of that.

This is the spirit in which I painted this Grey Nun and the child she is holding. The child is at peace and content.

Look at every person in this painting: they have respect and self-respect.

There is more wisdom in the old wise man (indigenous person) looking into the scene, over the treaties than words can say. Only the future will tell us the results.

There is self-respect and respect of one's destiny in the indigenous woman standing by the boat in the same panel as the elderly, both looking at the train, the fort and the church there.

Look at the love in each stone that built the Grandin School, the cathedral, the church; like each step of our history, I discovered something beautiful in mankind's creation and its spirit at every stroke of the brushes, for just being more present and finally paying attention.

You might say we have paid the price to be where we are today, to be standing side by side.

As the last three panels say: we must build in harmony a present leading to a better future, not for, but with, our children, and this should be done block by block.

I speak, not to criticize, but to express the spirit in which I painted it, and what it symbolizes.

This article was found at:

Edmonton Journal  -  Canada   March 8, 2011

Rose-coloured view lost on abuse victims

by Donita Large , residential schools adviser, Sherwood Park

Re: "Grandin mural about living in harmony: artist," by Sylvie Nadeau, Letters, March 1.

Artist Sylvie Nadeau, in describing residential schools, says, "This painting is not about a woman with a crucifix, taking away a child from its parents. It's about the love, the caring and compassion for the smaller of us, protecting and helping to be part of that. This is the spirit in which I painted this Grey Nun and the child she is holding. The child is at peace and content."

As a First Nations educator and a residential schools adviser, I have heard residential school victims consistently recount their experience of being forcibly taken away from their parents.

Being ripped from your birth family will hardly leave a child with peace and contentment in the arms of a Grey Nun.

Were there nice Grey Nuns? I am sure there were, but many Grey Nuns are also named as abusers in thousands of current residential school claims through the Indian Residential Schools Independent Assessment Process -nuns who were not parents, but guards who ruled and abused by using religion as a weapon of guilt and fear.

I don't think these indigenous children, who are now adults, would look at this mural and hold Nadeau's sentiments.

Juliette Champagne (Letters, Feb. 17) says it is "much too easy to pin the blame for the residential schools on one individual."

This is correct and I do not think anyone is saying Bishop Grandin is solely responsible.

He was, however, a part of a system that was specifically designed to eradicate the Indian in the child through legislated domination.

He was a bishop, which meant he had power and authority in this era and would have been privy to the atrocities occurring in the schools.

Perhaps Ottawa can commission an artist to create a mural that puts a positive spin on internment camps in Canada, as a lesson of building harmony through mistakes as well.

According to Nadeau, all you need to do is paint each person showing respect and self-respect even if the act itself was given an apology by the federal government, as it was wrong.

Bishop Grandin has no doubt contributed to Edmonton's and Alberta's history. If the mural had been created with the intention of honouring the victims of residential schools and the impact on the people, then there could be some respect in that choice.

But to create an image of residential schools through rose-coloured glasses perpetuates ignorance of a dark and painful past for many victims.

So it appears Mustafa Farooq's (Ideas, Feb. 12) disgust was warranted. The Grandin mural does continue to sing the praises of residential schools in the heart of Edmonton.

A mural honouring Grandin for railroads seems reasonable, but not residential schools.

This article was found at:


Jesuits pay record settlement for decades of psychological abuse and rape of over 450 Native American children

Nuns among worst perpetrators of horrific violence and sex abuse in Jesuit-run schools and missions on Indian reservations

Canadian Indian residential school hearings identify thousands of abusers including some students who were also abused

Survivors of Indian residential schools need to tell their stories to restore self-worth after trauma of abuse

A brief history of Canadian residential schools designed to indoctrinate and assimilate aboriginal children

Canadian Truth Commission investigates fate of thousands of aboriginal children who died in mysterious circumstances

Canadian residential school Truth Commission begins to address over a century of child abuse, thousands of children still missing

‘Apology? What apology?' Church’s attempt at reconciliation not enough, says counsellor

Church-run Canadian residential schools denied human rights to all aboriginal children in their custody

'This Is How They Tortured Me' [book review]

Mothers of a Native Hell

Red Cross emergency mission to Indian reservation exposes Canadian apartheid

Fugitive priest hiding in Belgium and Lourdes, France sent back to Canadian territory Nunavut to face sex abuse charges

Canadian priest convicted of pedophilia, wanted by Interpol for 15 years, surrenders in Belgium but authorities let him go

Pope expresses 'sorrow' for abuse at residential schools - but doesn't apologize

When will church learn lessons about abuse scandals?


Canadian Indian residential schools designed to assimilate natives traumatized individuals and generations


  1. Amazing Blog and mindset that produced it. Woliwon Brother (thank you) for speaking your heart with an educated mind.
    Maliseet First Nation.

  2. Parliament window to mark residential schools

    CBC News October 27, 2011

    A painful chapter of Canada's history will soon be on display over the door MPs use to enter the House of Commons every day.

    Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan announced Thursday the legacy of Canada's Indian residential schools program will be permanently etched on Parliament Hill in stained glass.

    An aboriginal artist will be commissioned to design a new centre panel for the window over the members' entrance to the House of Commons foyer in Centre Block.

    "The art work will honour the First Nation, Inuit and Méis children who attended Indian residential schools and the families and the communities who were impacted by its legacy," Duncan said, looking straight at the external window where the art will be installed.

    A panel of art experts will choose an artist to design the window. The panel has not yet been convened, and Duncan couldn't estimate a total cost, but the minister said the government planned to have the art installed in 2012.

    "We’re not making this a long term project. We want to get it done," Duncan said.

    'Gesture of reconciliation'
    The minister said the window is intended to "encourage all Parliamentarians and visitors for generations to come to learn about the history of the Indian residential schools and Canada’s reconciliation efforts."

    Duncan said he's consulted with aboriginal leaders about the window as an "important gesture of reconciliation" and "they get it."

    On June 11, 2008 the federal government made an official apology for the residential school program in the House of Commons. It was the highlight of a series of commemorations and reconciliation efforts that continue through the work of the federally-funded Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Duncan said Thursday that "the history of residential schools tells of an education policy gone wrong."


  3. Residential school abuse claims surpass federal estimates

    by GLORIA GALLOWAY, The Globe and Mail July 23 2012

    The number of people coming forward to say they were seriously abused at Canada’s Indian residential schools greatly outstrips early federal estimates and will boost the cost of settlements by more than $2-billion, federal officials say.

    It is a situation that suggests the problems at the government-funded, church-run institutions that operated for most of the previous century were far more pervasive than originally believed.

    With the Sept. 19 deadline for applications for compensation approaching, federal officials said Monday they expect the number of former students alleging serious sexual, physical or emotional abuse at schools to reach 30,000. That is 17,500 more than anticipated when the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was signed in 2006.

    And, with average settlements of $117,613 also higher than estimated, the final costs could easily top $3.5-billion – far more than the $960-million originally budgeted. Combined with the money that is being offered under the Common Experience Program – which pays the former students according to the number of years they spent at the schools – the total compensation awarded to former residential school students could approach $5.4-billion.

    Akivah Starkman, executive director for the Independent Assessment Process Secretariat, told reporters that the original estimates were based on the experiences of other countries in similar situations.

    Since they were calculated, said Mr. Starkman, eight more schools have been added to the list of eligible institutions and an intensive outreach campaign has created broad awareness among survivors of the potential entitlements. In addition, he said, “I think it appears, based on the numbers, that the incidents of abuse may have been more widespread than what was initially anticipated.”

    Chief Robert Joseph, executive director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, says the authorities completely underestimated the harm that was done.

    “Because the residential school situation is historic and ongoing, they had no idea just how pervasive the abuse was. And in some ways that’s a form of denial,” Mr. Joseph said. “I think they tried to weigh the balance of good that might have come out of residential schools against the bad that did happen. And I think they were hopeful that things were better than they really were, and they weren’t.”

    With the deadline looming, Mr. Joseph said he is not surprised to see a spike in the number of people applying for compensation. The survivors were all little children when the abuses occurred, he said. Many “were uncertain about the process and how open and receptive and fair it might be considering these abuses happened so long ago and we sometimes doubted ourselves about the times and dates and incidents,” Mr. Joseph said.

    But, even if some question whether the amount awarded is reasonable, Mr. Joseph said he believes the the adjudicators have been sensitive to the aboriginal experience and have been as fair as possible in assessing the stories of survivors.


  4. Ottawa taken to court over release of residential-schools documents

    by GLORIA GALLOWAY OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail December 03 2012

    The commission examining the treatment of aboriginal children at Canada’s residential schools is taking the federal government to court for refusing to release millions of documents that were supposed to form a permanent and public record of the abuses committed.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – established in 2008 as part of the settlement between former students, the Canadian government, the churches that ran the schools, and others – has asked an Ontario Superior Court judge to decide whether Canada is obligated to hand over the material. Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008 for the forced assimilation of more than 150,000 first nations, Inuit and Métis children at the schools. However, Ottawa’s failure to produce the documents threatens to undermine the aboriginal community’s faith in the government, says the Assembly of First Nations.

    The commission has been provided with almost a million documents over the past 12 months, all of them held by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. But it contends that millions, and possibly tens of millions, are being withheld. In addition to what may still be with Aboriginal Affairs, some are in the possession of other departments, some are stored within Library and Archives Canada, and some are church records obtained by the government.

    For instance, the commission has received no documents from the RCMP. Parents complained to police at the time their children were in the residential school system that their children were being abused or had even disappeared. Survivors believe there may be documents in the possession of the national force that would help them determine what happened to those complaints.

    The government cannot get away with releasing a million documents when millions more remain undisclosed, said Julian Falconer, the commission’s lawyer. “Put simply, a half loaf in the form of one million documents isn’t going to do it,” he said. “What is at stake here is control over history.”

    The commission said in an interim report last February that it had hit a wall in its attempts to pry the documents out of Ottawa’s hands. In an application for legal intervention, it says the stonewalling continues and the government has provided only a subset of an existing database of known material. “The commission is taking this step very reluctantly and with a sense that it has been left with no alternative,” Justice Murray Sinclair, the commission’s chairman, said in a statement.

    The commission’s application will be heard by Justice Stephen Goudge on Dec. 20 and 21 in Toronto. Judge Goudge is being asked to decide whether the commission’s term should be extended as a result of the delay in the production of the documents.

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  5. Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, said the government remains committed to bringing closure to the legacy of residential schoolsand it will continue to honour the settlement. “We are working with 22 other government departments and with the TRC to ensure all relevant Indian Residential Schools related documents are made available to the TRC,” Mr. MacDonald said in an e-mail. “Canada aims to disclose all of its remaining documents relevant to the TRC’s mandate by June 30, 2013.”

    But the commission argues that Ottawa has “erected a myriad of obstacles” to avoid fulfilling its obligations.

    According to court documents filed by the commission, the government has taken issue with the commission’s interpretation of “relevant,” has not agreed to compile all of the documents housed in the Library and Archives in a organized manner, has withheld documents obtained from the churches, and has failed to produce documents produced by other departments.

    The commission argues that the government should not be allowed to rely on privacy considerations or cabinet confidence to keep the documents from being released. And it wants the government to bear what could end up being the very large cost of copying reams of original material that has been gathered over the decades.

    Ken Rubin, an expert in accessing government documentswho has been working on this issue for a number of weeks, said the government is still arguing over what is and is not a relevant record. “Get on with it fellows,” said Mr. Rubin, “this is not a matter that you are going to play petty politics with. This is national reconciliation and history that’s at stake.”


  6. Uncomfortable truths: Dr. Marie Wilson on the history of residential schools in Canada

    BY JONATHAN SAS, rabble.ca DECEMBER 6, 2012

    "The indigenous capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation is almost beyond belief."

    Few Canadians can speak with a genuine understanding of that capacity. Dr. Marie Wilson, who sits on Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), is one of them.

    Commissioner Marie Wilson communicated this powerful message while in Montreal last week to deliver the annual Jeanne Sauvé Address. There she spoke to the incredible leadership being shown by survivors of Canada's Indian Residential Schools as thousands have courageously come forward to tell the country their stories.

    Established in 2008, the TRC is in year three of a five-year mandate scheduled to end in the spring of 2014.

    The commission's task is daunting: to record the experiences of children and anyone else who was impacted by the residential schools; to tell Canadians the truth about those experiences and the lasting impacts they have had; and finally, to guide a process of reconciliation "between and within Aboriginal families, communities, churches, governments, and Canadians."

    It's an ambitious and vitally important mission, one being made that much more difficult by the actions of the current Federal government. This past Monday, the Canadian Press reported that the TRC reluctantly decided to take the Feds to court over their refusal to release millions of documents the TRC believes are integral to fulfilling its mandate.

    Commissioner Wilson, however, never once mentioned the troubling lack of co-operation on the part of government in Montreal.

    Instead, her remarks communicated the "enormity" of the trauma wrought by the residential schools on Aboriginal Canadians and outlined how imperative the deeper engagement of non-Aboriginal Canadians remains if meaningful reconciliation is to be achieved.

    Truth and trauma

    Between the 1870s and 1996, over 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were taken from their families and put in some 130 government-funded, church-run schools across the country.

    The intent of the Residential Schools was to assimilate and to christianize. According to official government records and correspondence, "the fastest and most effective way to do that was to get at the families through the children."

    The Canadian government wished to 'kill the Indian in the child' so that within a generation there would be no more Indians in this country, and no more 'Indian problem.'

    "Try to imagine if these were your children," commissioner Wilson challenged the audience. "They are four, five, maybe six or seven years old, and a Priest, or an Indian Agent, or an RCMP officer comes to take that little one away from you to a place where you could not see them; where they were routinely punished if they tried to speak the language you taught them; where they could not be close to you, or comforted by their brothers or sisters; where food was foreign, punishment was swift and abuses, in many places, rampant."

    Just as difficult to imagine is that entire communities were emptied of children. As one of the survivors told the TRC of this phenomenon: when the children were taken, "even the dogs cried."

    Those same little children are among those Commissioner Wilson now recognizes and honours as this country's unsung leaders. Leaders because in spite of the severity of the trauma they endured, they had the determination to speak up in the 1980s and 1990s, while the last of the schools were still operating, to take legal steps to address the harms they’d experienced.

    Their courageous acts are what led to the largest out of court class action settlement in Canadian history in the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement; the settlement that established the TRC as a requirement.

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  7. Now, through the TRC's hearings and national events, a picture of just how severe and long-term the impacts of the residential school system are is emerging.

    High rates of addiction and mental health issues are commonplace in Aboriginal communities, the epidemic of suicide in many regions Commissioner Wilson described as “an urgent and national crisis.”

    She has little doubt these issues are related directly to "the continuing trauma of [having] separated children from parents." These traumas reverberate through generations. The effects of having been raised outside of the home, without loving parents and often under brutal conditions, have left deep and lasting impacts on the parenting capacity of many survivors.
    "I have had many, many survivors come forward and say each in their own words: the thing I have greatest regrets about is the way in which I raised my own children."

    Reconciliation: The real two solitudes

    In light of the enormity of the wrongs suffered by Aboriginal individuals, families and communities as a result of the residential schools, it's a wonder what's driving the desire for reconciliation?

    For many survivors, Commissioner Wilson said, it's their willingness to finally forgive themselves, their desire not "to carry other people’s garbage any longer."

    "They were told when they were little that they were bad, they were dirty, they were savage. As little children they took those messages literally and grew up thinking they were true."

    Listening to others share similar stories at commission hearings can help in the acknowledgement that this wasn’t their fault; that they were children, and the blame for the shame, anger, and other devastation lies with the adults who were then responsible.

    Speaking at the hearings, Commissioner Wilson said, can offer tremendous release for some survivors; especially for those that have been carrying around their story, and often their shame, as a secret for 50 or 60 years.

    "Some of the survivors will sit with their wife or husband right beside them and say: 'I have never told anyone this before, even my spouse!'"

    While the TRC continues to record the stories, meticulously stockpiling these truths and providing space for the sharing of experiences within Aboriginal families and communities, ensuring that non-Aboriginal communities hear the truth and take part in the reconciliation process remains a real challenge.

    "We must be honest about the real two solitudes in this country, that between Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens, and commit to doing tangible things to close the divide in awareness, understanding and relationships."

    Non-Aboriginal Canadians, Commissioner Wilson said, need to do something in response to the real harms and needs that survivors are coming forward to describe. They need to know that Canada cares, that Canadians are listening to them.

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  8. At least right now, that means non-Aboriginal Canadians, along with representatives of elected leadership and representatives of the media, need to show up to bear witness at the TRCs hearings, and to attend and cover the national events.

    It seems a small request in light of the immense injustices suffered.

    "We can no longer afford to be strangers to each other in this country that we now share. We could actually come to know each other not just as labels or hyphenated Canadians but rather as neighbors and as friends, as people that we care about."

    The alternative to opening up a genuine space for dialogue is the risk of repeating the betrayal and aggravating relations.

    Uncomfortable history, uncertain future

    For Commissioner Wilson, the residential schools are a sustained ribbon of story line in Canadian history. To date, they remain part of a “sustained ribbon of ignorance." It is a defining part of how Canada has come to where it is today, with hugely disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal peoples on the streets, in the prisons, in the emergency wards, and, troublingly, in the child welfare system.

    The fact remains that for many, if not most, non-Aboriginal Canadians, the legacy of the Residential Schools simply isn't on the radar. In turn, this (perceived) lack of interest means there are few if any media outlets that dedicate reporting staff with any consistency or attentiveness to Aboriginal issues, let alone to the important work of the TRC.

    "At some point we have to ask ourselves: How is it that we as a country devoted so much air time to the TRC say in South Africa but [which have] dedicated so little to our own on a sustained national basis."

    Commissioner Wilson said Canadians need to own the residential school system as Canadian history, not Aboriginal history. In an effort to do just that, the TRC has challenged Ministries of Education in provinces across the country to make the teaching of residential schools mandatory in the curriculum.

    That it remains absent from the curriculum of every province illustrates just how far there is to go in the quest to raise awareness, partnership building aside.

    But there have been some promising breakthroughs. The governments of Nunavut and the North West Territories have already taken up the curriculum challenge. No high school student in the North will graduates ignorant to the legacy of residential schools.

    Importantly, these governments worked directly with survivors, many of them able to capture their experiences in Indigenous language, to include their stories as part of the new curriculum.

    There is a limited window of opportunity, Commissioner Wilson pointed out, for the other provinces to do the same, to consult survivors within their own borders when making curriculum.
    "Most Canadians who do learn about the schools share a sense of outrage at what happened, are upset at not being told about it and have a genuine desire to help set things right."

    Institutionalizing the teaching of this fuller, if more brutal Canadian history, in our classrooms would at least be a start.

    "This is not comfortable subject matter," Commissioner Wilson said.
    "You have to get uncomfortable to get honest about all of this."

    To find out more about the TRC's work, visit their website at: www.trc.ca

    Hearings will begin in Quebec in January and the next national event will take place in Montreal on Wednesday April 24, 2013.

    Jonathan Sas is a 2012/2013 Sauvé Scholar . He is the former editor of The Mark News and holds an MA in political science from the University of British Columbia.


  9. Ottawa balked at high cost of releasing residential school records

    by GLORIA GALLOWAY OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail December 19, 2012

    It was meant to be a permanent and public record of a sad chapter in Canadian history.

    But it has evolved into a court battle between the government and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over who is responsible for collecting millions of documents about the country’s aboriginal residential schools.

    The government had intended the documents to be the basis of a resource centre at the University of Manitoba, where survivors and their families could find out what happened behind the walls of the church-run schools.

    Federal departments knew they were required to produce the material, but a senior bureaucrat has indicated they procrastinated for years, then dumped the burden on the commission when costs mounted and time ran short.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established in 2008 as part of the $1.9-billion settlement between former students, the Canadian government, the churches, and others, to record the experience of the schools.

    It says it has neither the time nor the resources to search for the documents. It is taking the government to court for refusing to release the material that could shine light on the abuse of first nations, Inuit and Métis children during the schools’ 130-year history.

    Testimony in the case begins in Toronto on Thursday. In related proceedings, David Russell, the Aboriginal Affairs Department’s director of national research and analysis, painted a picture of departmental stonewalling and unwillingness to do the time-consuming work of the document retrieval.

    With a budget of $60-million spread over five years, the commission’s mandate runs out in July, 2014. It is required to establish the resource centre and, at the outset, the government agreed to hand over all relevant documents.

    Aboriginal Affairs has provided almost a million records and has promised to produce another 270,000 by next June.

    But, on Nov. 27, under prehearing cross-examination by commission lawyer Julian Falconer, Mr. Russell agreed two to five million documents are outstanding. And when asked if the number was closer to five million, Mr. Russell said “I don’t have any reason to doubt it.”

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  10. Although the government has indicated a willingness to turn over the documents that Aboriginal Affairs generated, many more were created by 23 other departments including Citizenship and Immigration and National Defence. Minutes of a May, 2010, interdepartmental meeting of senior bureaucrats who were managing the production of the records say the RCMP alone had found 60,000 documents related to the residential schools.

    The minutes of that meeting, which took place four years after the settlement agreement was signed, also state that Library and Archives Canada told those in attendance that it is the responsibility of the departments to collect the documents wherever they are.

    Mr. Russell told Mr. Falconer that some departments were reluctant to find and identify the records because they lacked expertise in how to conduct the search and because of the time and expense. The costs have been estimated at more than $100-million.

    In September, 2011, government officials called TRC to say the commission’s researchers – and not the departments – would be responsible for searching the archives and retrieving the documents.

    Mr. Russell agreed under questioning that the commission was in no better position to find the papers than departmental staff. “That wasn’t part of the discussion,” he said.

    The commission has neither the funds nor the manpower to do the job that the government has refused to do, Mr. Falconer said on Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Globe and Mail. “In fact, the evidence shows that Canada recognized the magnitude of the task and shifted it over to the TRC when it became clear what kind of funding investment they would have to make.”

    About 150,000 aboriginal children attended the schools. Many were forced from their homes as part of a program of assimilation. Physical and sexual abuse was rampant, and mortality rates were as high as 50 per cent at some of the institutions.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008 on behalf of the federal government for the residential-schools experience, but the Assembly of First Nations says the refusal to release the documents threatens to undermine that gesture.

    “In my view, what this is really all about is a hot potato over history,” Mr. Falconer said. “Canada did not start moving, clearly from the evidence, until 2010. And when it became clear to Canada that it couldn’t meet its obligations, it simply changed the ground rules of its obligations.”


  11. Residential school survivors will decide fate of testimony documents

    Survivors will decide whether to destroy or preserve records after 15-year retention period expires

    CBC News August 07, 2014

    A court has ruled that the individual testimonies of 40,000 Indian residential school survivors will be destroyed after 15 years, unless a survivor chooses to preserve their story in a national archive.

    Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul M. Perell released the decision Thursday saying that during the 15-year retention period, survivors can choose to have some of their documents spared from destruction. These documents would be redacted to protect the privacy of others and then transferred to the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

    "This will be a huge relief to the thousands of claimants who have appeared at our hearings fully expecting that their accounts of the abuse they suffered at Indian Residential Schools would not be made public without their consent," said chief adjudicator Dan Shapiro in a written statement.

    Shapiro had argued that the promises of confidentiality made to survivors who provided testimony as part of the compensation process should be kept.

    The testimony covered claims of sexual abuse, physical abuse and other wrongful acts suffered during former students' time at residential schools, according to the ruling.

    Some survivors said that had they known their stories of their time at residential schools would ever be made public, they would not have revealed their past in the first place.

    Meanwhile, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission argued its National Research Centre was the safest and most respectful place for the records.

    During the 15-year retention period, a program will be in place to contact survivors and advise them of their choice to either have the documents destroyed or preserved.


    Related Stories

    Read Justice Perell's decision

    Fate of documents detailing abuse at residential schools undecided

    Residential school survivors fear testimony could be made public

    Indian residential school claimants stalled by document search

    Lawyer resigns over accusations he treated residential school clients 'like cattle'

  12. Garnet Angeconeb, residential school survivor, ends hunger strike

    Residential school survivor and Lac Seul First Nation negotiate end to protest over law firm

    By Jody Porter, CBC News September 15, 2014

    A tentative agreement was reached early Monday evening to end a hunger strike by a residential school survivor from Lac Seul First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, according to a source close to the negotiations.

    Garnet Angeconeb was in the fifth day of his hunger strike, protesting his First Nation's use of the Kenora law firm Keshen and Major. The firm is being investigated for its dealings with survivors.

    "What I see is vulnerable people being taken advantage of to the point where some of them, not all of them, but some of them are helpless and not being listened to wherever they try to take their concerns," Angeconeb told CBC News on Sunday.

    At least four survivors have reported various concerns to the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat. The "information suggests the Keshen firm may have denied some IAP [Independent Assessment Process] claimants the full amounts of compensation for abuse suffered at Indian Residential Schools...," according to the Secretariat's website.

    A joint news release from Lac Seul and Angeconeb was expected to be issued later Monday night.

    'Never again'

    On Sunday, Angeconeb said his hunger strike was a show of solidarity with the survivors who sought justice for their abuse through the law firm and feel they were "re-victimized" in the process.

    "Really what this is about is to lend support to these people as they seek justice one more time," Angeconeb said. "Here we are as survivors thinking 'I thought we said never again' and here [they] are being hurt by someone else's actions."

    A news release from Lac Seul First Nation, dated Sept. 12, said the community has suspended ties with one of the partners in the firm, Doug Keshen, but not Will Major.

    "By suspending the services of Douglas Keshen, but not the entire firm, we are trying to find the right balance that serves the best interest of the entire membership," Chief Clifford Bull said in the release.

    But the chief said ending the relationship with Major would jeopardize an ongoing court case.

    "It's been my belief that you can't have one foot in the door, and the other out," Angeconeb said. "The First Nation really has to support the survivors as they pursue their own struggles, before supporting lawyers who've worked with the First Nation."

    Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, helped mediate the dispute.

    Angeconeb is a diabetic who also has a muscular degenerative disease, so going without food and medications created significant risks.


  13. PTSD epidemic in aboriginal communities

    Residential school survivors among the many with common symptoms linked to the disorder


    Gerald Kiesman was a young First Nations man whose life was stable until a former National Hockey League player publicly confessed to abuse he had suffered as a child.

    Sheldon Kennedy’s revelations in the mid-1990s about being sexually abused by his hockey coach triggered memories for Kiesman, now 49, about the abuse he’d suffered himself when he was nine years old.

    The effect on his life was dramatic. He developed post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered flashbacks and anxiety.

    “It totally changed my way of living, it impacted my education, employment, sports and recreation activities,” he said.

    It also put him squarely among the large number of First Nations and residential school survivors battling the same affliction, at rates far higher than the widely publicized PTSD rates in the Canadian military.

    A report in the Journal of Aboriginal Health in 2009 noted that a 2003 study on B.C. residential school survivors put PTSD rates as high as 64 per cent. Some believe these rates are far higher in some First Nation communities.

    Michael Pond, an author, social worker and psychologist who has worked with First Nations communities for more than 40 years, estimates PTSD rates could be as high as 90 to 95 per cent. “It’s rampant, it’s epidemic, I believe.”

    By contrast, various studies have shown the prevalence of PTSD in the Canadian military is anywhere from two to 10 per cent.

    Kiesman’s first reaction to his flashbacks and anxiety was to head to his local health centre in Prince Rupert. The doctor’s only remedy was a prescription for antidepressants, which Kiesman later tore up.

    He had other ideas about how to release the negative energy inside him: His first outlet was writing and art.

    “I did journal writing and I did a lot of native art, and I’d never done native art before,” said Kiesman, whose mother’s ancestry is Haida from Old Massett Village.

    Turning his attention to researching and educating himself about PTSD, he moved to Victoria to take a professional counselling course, and later founded Restoring Balance Consulting, which provides workshops and training for First Nations communities dealing with trauma.

    Kiesman said that after coming to terms with his experiences, he’s now able to “focus on the future and moving ahead.” He said the workshops he’s done all across Western Canada have helped raise awareness about PTSD both in himself and in the communities he’s visited.

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  14. But he remains concerned about the lack of understanding of PTSD in First Nations communities, specifically the lack of education and resources available on the disorder.

    “When we go into a lot of First Nations health centres there’s posters on diabetes, cancer, HIV, AIDS, safe sex, quitting smoking — those are a lot of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder — but we see very little information and awareness about what post-traumatic stress is and what it’s causing to the people,” said Kiesman.

    “A lot of these people are suffering intergenerational effects of the residential schools.”Both Pond and Sandra Olson, who works with the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society, condemn the lack of sustained help for First Nations communities with high rates of PTSD.

    “Usually they parachute in these professional experts for a weekend or whatever, they do these fancy workshops, you pay them a ton of money and then they fly out,” said Pond.

    Olson said these flying visits sometimes do more harm than good, as they open old wounds without offering any real closure. “People would come in, from outside the community, they would do a couple of feel-good workshops, they’d make everyone start to feel good and then all of a sudden they’d leave, and some of the workshops really opened up some of these really bad memories.”

    Daria Shewchuk, a Metro Vancouver psychologist who has worked in First Nations communities, said one of the greatest causes of PTSD in them is “generations of residential school experiences.”

    Shewchuk said she saw first-hand the effects of residential schools while working on a reserve in northern Canada in the late 1970s and early ’80s at the start of her career.

    “These little kids would come in, they didn’t speak English, they were separated from their brothers and sisters. … The kids were kidnapped on the trap lines at the age of five by government officials and forced to go to school,” Shewchuk said. “I was horrified, I could not believe this was happening in Canada.”

    Richard Jock, vice-president of policy, planning and strategic services for the of the new B.C. First Nations Health Authority, said the organization is taking a number of measures to help First Nations groups struggling with PTSD and mental health issues. These include working more closely with regional authorities and trying to improve emergency reaction times for those in mental distress.

    “In every region, mental health has emerged as the No. 1 priority,” he said.The authority, the first provincewide health authority of its kind in Canada, in 2013 assumed the programs, services and responsibilities formerly handled by Health Canada’s First Nations Inuit Health Branch — Pacific Region.

    Tyler Hooper is a recipient of the Langara College School of Journalism’s Read/Mercer Fellowship, given annually to four deserving students to produce a piece of journalism that will add to the dialogue on an issue of public concern. The award is named in honour of Province columnist Jeani Read and her playwright husband Michael Mercer, both of whom believed in helping young journalists begin their careers.


  15. Truth is hard but residential school reconciliation harder: Murray Sinclair

    CBC News October 31, 2014

    Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, says reconciliation for survivors of residential school abuse starts in today's school system.

    That way, all Canadians can understand what it was like for those who lived through it, he told a standing-room-only crowd at the University of Manitoba on Thursday.

    “Aboriginal people have been oppressed in many ways that people just don’t understand and appreciate, including being traumatized by their experience in residential schools through physical, sexual abuse," he said, delivering the 2014 Knight Distinguished Visitor lecture.

    "Getting people to understand that will allow us to appreciate the significance of putting changes into our curriculum so that there's a more balanced approach to the teaching of Canadian history and about aboriginal people.”

    Sinclair was delivering the 2014 Knight Distinguished Visitor Lecture, titled: If you thought the truth was hard, reconciliation will be harder.

    Government-funded, church-run residential schools for aboriginal people in Canada date back to the 1870s. More than 130 residential schools were located across the country and the last closed in 1996.

    They were set up to eliminate parental involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of aboriginal children.

    During this era, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were placed in these schools often against their parents' wishes. Many were forbidden to speak their language and practice their own culture. While there is an estimated 80,000 former students living today, the ongoing impact of residential schools has been felt throughout generations and has contributed to social problems that continue to exist.

    On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a formal apology in the House of Commons to former students, their families, and communities for Canada's role in the operation of the residential schools.

    The TRC was created soon after with a a mandate to learn and inform all Canadians about what happened in the schools.

    The commission will document the truth of what happened by relying on records held by those who operated and funded the schools, testimony from officials of the institutions that operated the schools, and experiences reported by survivors, their families, communities and anyone personally affected by the residential school experience and its subsequent impacts.

    The TRC final report is due out in June 2015.


  16. Aboriginal children express pain differently: IWK research

    By Julia Wong Video Journalist Global News November 10, 2014

    WATCH: Researchers at the IWK are looking into the different ways Aboriginal children describe and express pain. They hope their findings help healthcare professionals better treat and assess Aboriginal patients. Julia Wong explains.

    HALIFAX – New research out of the IWK Health Centre aims to help Aboriginal children better express their pain and assist healthcare workers in better assessing and treating them.

    Dr. Margot Latimer, an associate professor at the Faculty of Healthcare Professionals at Dalhousie University and faculty member of the IWK’s Centre for Pediatric Pain Research, is the co-lead of the Aboriginal Children’s Hurt and Healing Initiative (ACHH). The project is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

    Latimer and her team completed a project on the Eskasoni reserve interviewing children from Grade one to 12, their parents, health professionals and elders.

    “We learned a consistent theme,” she said. “Children are stoic with their pain and they hold it in. There seemed to be some relationships with the residential school experiences of their grandparents.”

    “They wouldn’t express themselves. They wouldn’t show it on their face. They wouldn’t cry so it’s desirable to be brave and tough out your pain.”

    But she said that impacted how the Aboriginal community interacted with the healthcare system.

    “We learned they feel frustrated at times. When they do seek treatment for their pain and hurt conditions, that they don’t feel satisfied with that. They don’t feel they’ve been able to convey their level of pain.”

    “We heard if they were hurt, there was a process of keeping it in, maybe keeping it to themselves and trying to deal with it themselves. It wasn’t condoned to talk about their hurt or their pain.”

    The findings are something Alan Syliboy is familiar with.

    The Mikmaq artist recalls going to the IWK as a child and finding the environment very intimidating.

    “For a Native child that has never been away from the community, it’s a very foreign environment. It was very difficult,” he said.

    “You sort of retreat and you’re not open.”

    Syliboy grew up to become an artist and now uses his paintings to express his feelings and emotions, such as pain.

    He is partnering with ACHH to reach out to Aboriginal youth and asking them to paint their pain. He describes his involvement with ACHH as a way to help bridge the gap between the Aboriginal and medical communities.

    “I can help Native children express themselves easier,” he said.”And on the other side, the medical profession can also be plugged in and be able to benefit as well.”

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  17. Latimer said she heard many stories of frustrated parents taking their children, who were in pain but were stoic, to the emergency department.

    “We teach health professionals to assessed pain based on [children's] facial expressions, their cry, their ability to describe their pain. But if you grow up in a household where pain isn’t discussed, where it’s desirable that you suppress your pain, that’s the way you’re going to be.”

    “So from a health professional perspective, if you’re looking in a room and you want to know who’s in the most pain and if a child is not expressing it, then that’s not a trigger for you to do anything about it. You’re going to take the child who’s crying first.”

    Latimer said Aboriginal community members felt they were being discriminated against in the healthcare system. She hopes her research helps better train doctors and nurses in triaging and assessing Aboriginal patients.

    Dr. Allen Finley, the director of the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research, said pain in children, ranging from acute pain from sickness to pain from needles and surgery, is already under-recognized and can often lead to short-term and long-term consequences.

    He adds Aboriginal communities are under-served and overlooked by the healthcare system, which can further complicate the situation.

    “We know that if you don’t treat acute pain well, you probably set up barriers to getting healthcare in the future. People are reluctant to come back to health professionals and hospitals if they have been hurt before,” Finley said.

    Kara Paul, a co-collaborator on the project and the head of the Aboriginal Health Sciences Initiative at Dalhousie University, said the discrepancy between how Aboriginal patients express pain and how the general public expresses pain needs to be addressed.

    “If their pain is not being picked up on or recognized, they’re not being fully assessed properly. That affects their lives,” she said.

    “Pain can be very debilitating. From our research, we found half of our students miss school due to pain. What happens is, when you focus on pain, it’s very difficult to learn other things.”

    She said better education about Aboriginal children’s pain experiences will help them in the long-term.

    “If we can recognize their pain early on and they’re not living with chronic pain, that can only enhance their school experience and their life experience all around.”

    Latimer said she is now expanding her research to include Aboriginal communities in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

    She hopes to one day expand it across the country to look for patterns and trends.

    A website for ACHH will launch later this week.


  18. Labrador residential school lawsuit postponed

    Warning: Some language in this story may be offensive

    CBC News Posted: Nov 18, 2014

    As the residential school class action lawsuit against Ottawa gets postponed in St. John's, one survivor says the Labrador school that was supposed to educate her turned into her prison.

    Former students of residential schools in Labrador were at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, expecting the trial against the federal government to go ahead, but the lawyers representing Newfoundland and Labrador, Moravian Mission and The Grenfell Association were not ready to proceed.

    Justice Robert Stack is set to decide on a new trial date on Monday. It will likely proceed in late 2015.

    Nora Ford was five years old when she first attended the residential schools in North West River and Cartwright, where she went for 10 years, and says her mother thought she turned her daughter over to be educated and get a chance at a better life — but that's not what happened.

    "There are no words. I can't describe how it felt — it was just as if I died," she said. "I wanted to run away from the time I got there."

    Ford said there was abundant name-calling that eventually changed the way she saw herself and her heritage.

    "When someone is calling you a dirty S'kimo, or blackie, or huskimoo or [N-word], the words that they used to describe us or make fun of us, it destroyed us. Literally destroyed the Inuit culture within you," said Ford.

    "By 13, I was very ashamed of what I was. I rejected my Inuit ancestry, I denied everything. I didn't even want to be seen with my mother in public, that's what it did to me."

    Ford said she was a prisoner at the place meant to be her school, and was even forced to eat porridge she had thrown up into her bowl.

    Waiting for apology

    In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology and a compensation package for survivors of Canada's residential school system. However, lawyers for the federal government said it wasn't responsible for schools in St. Anthony, Cartwright, North West River, Makkovik and Nain.

    People in this province launched a class-action lawsuit to get an apology and compensation package.

    Ford said she was "insulted" that people from Labrador were excluded from the apology.

    "I said this isn't even for us. Labrador people are invited here. I said, you know what this this is. I'm a token Inuk here," she said.

    "I want an apology, and I want to be validated because all these things that we have gone through, all the punishment and cruelty that was inflicted on us and that was allowed to be done to us at the hands of people who were supposed to take care of us and nurture us."

    Justice Stack will release his decision on Nov. 24 on a new date for the trial to begin.


  19. NOTE FROM PERRY BULWER: the following excerpt from a New Republic magazine article shed further light on the issues discussed in the article posted above at: 13 November 2014 16:13 "Aboriginal children express pain differently: IWK research". That research found a consistent theme: “Children are stoic with their pain and they hold it in. There seemed to be some relationships with the residential school experiences of their grandparents.”


    The Science of Suffering

    Kids are inheriting their parents' trauma. Can science stop it?

    By Judith Shulevitz, New Republic November 16, 2014

    Lowell, Massachusetts, a former mill town of the red-brick-and-waterfall variety 25 miles north of Boston, has proportionally more Cambodians and Cambodian-Americans than nearly any other city in the country: as many as 30,000, out of a population of slightly more than 100,000. These are largely refugees and the families of refugees from the Khmer Rouge, the Maoist extremists who, from 1975 to 1979, destroyed Cambodia’s economy; shot, tortured, or starved to death nearly two million of its people; and forced millions more into a slave network of unimaginably harsh labor camps. Lowell’s Cambodian neighborhood is lined with dilapidated rowhouses and stores that sell liquor behind bullet-proof glass, although the town’s leaders are trying to rebrand it as a tourist destination: “Little Cambodia.”

    At Arbour Counseling Services, a clinic on a run-down corner of central Lowell, 95 percent of the Cambodians who come in for help are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. (In Cambodia itself, an estimated 14.2 percent of people who were at least three years old during the Pol Pot period have the disorder.) Their suffering is palpable. When I visited Arbour, I met a distraught woman in her forties whom I’ll call Sandy. She was seven when she was forced into the jungle and 14 when she came to the United States, during which time she lived in a children’s camp, nearly starved to death, watched as her father was executed, and was struck in the ear by a soldier’s gun. She interspersed her high-pitched, almost rehearsed-sounding recitation of horrors past with complaints about the present. She couldn’t concentrate, sleep at night, or stop ruminating on the past. She “thinks too much,” a phrase that is common when Cambodians talk about PTSD. After she tried to kill herself while pregnant, her mother took Sandy’s two daughters and raised them herself. But they have not turned out well, in Sandy’s opinion. They are hostile and difficult, she says. They fight their grandmother and each other, so bitterly that the police have been called. They both finished college and one is a pharmacist and the other a clerk in an electronics store. But, she says, they speak to her only to curse her. (The daughters declined to talk to me.)

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  20. On the whole, the children of Cambodian survivors have not enjoyed the upward mobility of children of immigrants from other Asian countries. More than 40 percent of all Cambodian-Americans lack a high school diploma. Only slightly more than 10 percent have a bachelor’s degree. The story of Tom Sun, a soft-spoken, pop-star-dapper thirtysomething (he doesn’t know his exact age) is emblematic, except, perhaps, in how well he’s doing now. His mother was pregnant with him during the Khmer Rouge years. His father died before the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and drove the Khmer Rouge back into the jungle. When he was very young, he, his mother, and a little brother made their way from a Thai refugee camp to the United States and eventually settled in Lowell. The two boys and two other brothers, born after they arrived in the United States, were left to raise themselves. Illiterate and shattered, their mother gambled, cried, and yelled at her sons. “My mother, she’s loud,” Sun told me. “She’s got a very mean tone. I still hear it in my head.” His stepfather, a mechanic, also a survivor and also illiterate, beat them until welts striped their bodies. By the time Sun should have entered seventh grade, he had joined the Tiny Rascals, perhaps the largest Asian American street gang in the United States. “It was comforting,” he says. “We weren’t into drugs or alcohol.” They were into being a substitute family. They were also into guns. Sun was involved in a shooting that led to a stint in prison, which led to a GED, some college credits, and some serious reflection on his future. He left the gang in his mid-twenties. His brothers were not so lucky. Two of them are serving life sentences for murder.

    The children of the traumatized have always carried their parents’ suffering under their skin. “For years it lay in an iron box buried so deep inside me that I was never sure just what it was,” is how Helen Epstein, the American daughter of survivors of Auschwitz and Theresienstadt, began her book Children of the Holocaust, which launched something of a children-of-survivors movement when it came out in 1979. “I knew I carried slippery, combustible things more secret than sex and more dangerous than any shadow or ghost.” But how did she come by these things? By what means do the experiences of one generation insinuate themselves into the next?

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  21. Traditionally psychiatrists have cited family dynamics to explain the vicarious traumatization of the second generation. Children may absorb parents’ psychic burdens as much by osmosis as from stories. They infer unspeakable abuse and losses from parental anxiety or harshness of tone or clinginess—parents whose own families have been destroyed may be unwilling to let their children grow up and leave them. Parents may tell children that their problems amount to nothing compared with what they went through, which has a certain truth to it, but is crushing nonetheless. “Transgenerational transmission is when an older person unconsciously externalizes his traumatized self onto a developing child’s personality,” in the words of psychiatrist and psychohistorian Vamik Volkan. “A child then becomes a reservoir for the unwanted, troublesome parts of an older generation.” This, for decades, was the classic psychoanalytic formulation of the child-of-survivors syndrome.

    But researchers are increasingly painting a picture of a psychopathology so fundamental, so, well, biological, that efforts to talk it away can seem like trying to shoot guns into a continent, in Joseph Conrad’s unforgettable image from Heart of Darkness. By far the most remarkable recent finding about this transmogrification of the body is that some proportion of it can be reproduced in the next generation. The children of survivors—a surprising number of them, anyway—may be born less able to metabolize stress. They may be born more susceptible to PTSD, a vulnerability expressed in their molecules, neurons, cells, and genes.

    After a century of brutalization and slaughter of millions, the corporeal dimension of trauma gives a startling twist to the maxim that history repeats itself. Yael Danieli, the author of an influential reference work on the multigenerational dimensions of trauma, refers to the physical transmission of the horrors of the past as “embodied history.” Of course, biological legacy doesn’t predetermine the personality or health of any one child. To say that would be to grossly oversimplify the socioeconomic and geographic and irreducibly personal forces that shape a life. At the same time, it would be hard to overstate the political import of these new findings. People who have been subject to repeated, centuries-long violence, such as African Americans and Native Americans, may by now have disadvantage baked into their very molecules. The sociologist Robert Merton spoke of the “Matthew Effect,” named after verse 25:29 of the Book of Matthew: “For unto every one that hath shall be given ... but from him that hath not shall be taken.” Billie Holiday put it even better: “Them that’s got shall have; them that’s not shall lose.”

    But daunting as this research is to contemplate, it is also exciting. It could help solve one of the enduring mysteries of human inheritance: Why do some falter and others thrive? Why do some children reap the whirlwind, while other children don’t? If the intergenerational transmission of trauma can help scientists understand the mechanics of risk and resilience, they may be able to offer hope not just for individuals but also for entire communities as they struggle to cast off the shadow of the past.

    continue reading the full article at:



    Indigenous Corporate Training, November 14, 2014

    There has been some discussion in the media recently about residential school people having post traumatic stress disorder, sometimes referred to as the residential school syndrome. The term was coined by Dr. Charles Brasfield, a psychiatrist in British Columbia, to describe the symptoms presented by some Aboriginal people who attended residential schools. While the symptoms are similar to post traumatic stress disorder, the cause is very different.

    Between the 1870s and 1996, approximately 150,000 children attended 142 residential schools. The schools were federally administered but managed by Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and United churches. The intent of the schools was to assimilate, integrate, and educate Aboriginal children into the colonizer society. Children as young as four were forcibly removed from their families and communities, were forbidden to speak their language, dress in their own clothes, or practice their culture, and were punished if they did so. The children were forced to do manual labour, were poorly fed and in some situations, food was withheld for malnutrition experiments. Parents who tried to shield and hide their children were punished, sometimes imprisoned. Children were allowed to return home for holidays but always with a warning of what would befall the parents if the children were not returned.

    Despite being in “school” many children received a substandard education. They were supposed to be instructed in math, science and English but frequently were out of the classroom for chores or punishment; also, according to a Department of Indian Affairs (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development), over 40% of the teaching staff did not have professional training as teachers.

    When those children, after years of being forced to behave, speak and think like European Canadians, did return to their family and community as young adults they frequently did not fit in. Their connection with their culture was either damaged or lost altogether, same with their language, their connection with the land, with oral traditions. Because they had not experienced parental love or nurturing, they in turn did not know how to love or nurture their own children. Because they had suffered abuse and trauma many learned to abuse others in order to survive.

    When approximately 150,000 children experience trauma, physical and emotional abuse, shame, neglect, feelings of abandonment (neither they nor their parents understood why the children were being taken), marginalization (from their community and society) and racism and all of that is unresolved, those experiences and emotions are internalized. Those internalized emotions manifest as depression, anxiety, addiction, suicidal inclinations, rage, and mental illnesses - this is residential school syndrome.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission spent four years travelling across the country gathering statements from survivors on the effects of their experiences in residential schools. In June 2015, a report detailing those effects will be released.

    This can be a very difficult topic to discuss and it makes many non-Aboriginal people uncomfortable when challenged with statements about residential schools. In my workshops I discuss residential schools and appropriate responses. Contact us to learn more about our workshops - we can customize them to fit your particular needs.

    Here are 23 things to not say or do:


  23. Vanishing Voices

    Home for millennia to the majority of Canada’s Native tongues, BC has recently been designated an endangered language hotspot.

    By Lori Thicke, MFA’86, UBC TREK Magazine December 2014

    “It’s lonely when you’re one of the last speakers,” says Michele Johnson, PhD’14. “You’ve got no one left to talk to.” At the age of 46, Johnson has found her life’s work – her chawt – in saving the nsyilxcən language from dying out with the last few elders who speak it natively.

    Johnson is a language activist, a language teacher and a passionate advocate for indigenous languages. One of UBC Okanagan’s first two Aboriginal PhD graduates, she learned the language of her father’s nation through the remaining elders. Now she is trying to create enough new speakers to bring it back from the brink of extinction.

    After two years of intensive study, Johnson is an intermediate speaker of nsyilxcən – also known as Okanagan, or Interior Salish – and sufficiently proficient to teach a community class of adults – plus, as she puts it, “one extremely persistent 13‑year‑old.”

    With fewer than 100 native speakers of nsyilxcən left, this work couldn’t be timelier. But nsyilxcən isn’t the only language at risk. All Aboriginal languages across Canada are considered endangered.

    First Nations, First Languages
    Before the arrival of the European settlers, North America was home to hundreds of indigenous tongues. Even though many have now disappeared due to colonization, there are still more living languages in Canada and the United States than in Europe. The Ethnologue – a catalogue of the world’s languages – counts 313 Native languages north of the Mexican border versus 280 for all of Europe.

    In 2011, the national census reported more than 60 Aboriginal languages in Canada. Over half of them are found in just one province; British Columbia’s coasts and valleys have been home, for millennia, to the majority of Canada’s Native tongues.

    BC’s pocket of linguistic richness has attracted the attention of National Geographic, which, along with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, recently designated the province as one of the most endangered language hotspots on the planet, threat level: severe.

    The “hotspot” designation refers not only to the sheer number of languages at risk, many of which were traditionally spoken in a single valley, but also to the unusual linguistic diversity. BC’s indigenous languages come from seven distinct language families, with two isolates (languages possessing no known relatives), compared with just three language families in Europe (with Basque as the sole language isolate).

    For people like Michele Johnson, this diversity of languages, almost unparalleled in the world, is a heritage worth preserving.

    Kill the Language to Kill the Culture
    First Nations communities lost everyday use of their languages over the course of the last century, when generations of children as young as five were taken from their families and confined in residential schools whose main purpose was to assimilate them by cutting them off from their culture and their language. Punishments for children who were caught speaking their own language, even if they knew no other, included beatings, shaming, food deprivation and needles shoved in their tongues.

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  24. In the book Stolen from our Embrace, former Musqueam Nation chief George Guerin recalls that “Sister Marie Baptiste had a supply of sticks as long and thick as pool cues. When she heard me speak my language, she’d lift up her hands and bring the stick down on me. I’ve still got bumps and scars on my hands. I have to wear special gloves because the cold weather really hurts my hands.”

    According to Patricia Shaw, founding chair of the UBC First Nations Languages Program and a professor in the Department of Anthropology, “the residential schools very frequently would not only refuse to let the kids speak their languages to each other – and they came in monolingual – but they also spoke of the languages as being primitive, as the language of the devil, so the children internalized those beliefs. Now they are beginning to see that these languages are rich and a unique cultural heritage. But that psychological trauma of having had their personal and cultural identities so devalued has had a huge impact.”

    This failed policy of residential schools, the subject of a recent exhibition at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, all but wiped out the indigenous languages. The scars can still be seen today in Canada’s Native communities, which suffer disproportionately from poverty, marginalization, violence, addiction, malnutrition and suicide. A 2013 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Save the Children Canada found that half of status First Nations children live in poverty. In a 2011 fact sheet, the Assembly of First Nations concluded that “a First Nation youth is more likely to end up in jail than to graduate high school” and that “suicide rates among First Nation youth are five to seven times higher than other young non‑Aboriginal Canadians.”

    In 2007, researchers Michael Chandler and Darcy Hallett from UBC and Christopher Lalonde from UVic found a correlation between Aboriginal language knowledge and youth suicide. In communities where fewer than 50 per cent of the elders retained some knowledge of their language, they found that young people were six times more likely to take their own lives.

    Youth suicide is a powerful indicator of extreme community distress, and the researchers found language health was the strongest of six key indicators of community health. The youth suicide rate “effectively dropped to zero in those few communities in which at least half the band members reported a conversational knowledge of their own ‘Native’ language.”

    Musqueam elder and UBC adjunct professor Larry Grant is not surprised by this finding. “The importance of language is that it grounds the youth, and the ones without language don’t have something to ground them,” he says.

    Like Johnson with nsyilxcən, Grant is engaged in his own battle to preserve his language after the last native speaker of the Musqueam dialect of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Halkomelem) died in 2002. “The major challenge,” he says, echoing Johnson on the loneliness of the last speakers, “is that we don’t have speakers, and the ones that are trying to speak don’t have anyone to speak to.”

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  25. Grant who was born and raised in the Musqueam territory, co‑teaches with Shaw at UBC, but originally joined the First Nations Languages Program in 1998 as a student after retiring from a 40‑year career as a tradesman. On completing his second year, he was offered a contract to teach.

    Gerry Lawson also sees a strong community imperative for revitalizing Aboriginal languages. A member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, Lawson is the coordinator for the Oral History and Language Lab at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology. Working on a project called Indigitization, funded by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC, Lawson has assembled a toolkit to digitize First Nations oral history and language to preserve them for future generations.

    “Facilitating cultural and language revitalization is really facilitating community health,” says Lawson. “I grew up in a fairly unhealthy environment in the ’70s. [With revitalization] I’ve seen the health of those communities become stronger and stronger. Language is directly related to culture. Who you are can only be expressed properly in your own language.”

    Linguistic Diversity, Biodiversity

    Languages are not only important for community identity. They also reflect the unique connection between people and their environment. There may not be 21 words for snow in Inuit, as the apocryphal story goes, but there are certainly 11 words for rain in Squamish, including raining continuously (lhelhmxw), raining hard (timitsut), be pouring rain (yixwementsut) and not be raining so hard (chay).

    According to linguist K. David Harrison, co‑founder, along with Greg Anderson, of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, the areas of highest linguistic diversity (defined as the greatest number of languages per square kilometre) also tend to be areas with the highest biodiversity. Languages in danger can be a clear sign of an environment in distress.

    Indigenous languages contain ancient knowledge about the natural environment that could help protect biodiversity. “In languages there are invested millennia of environmentally contextualized knowledge systems that the indigenous peoples who speak those languages have acquired,” says Shaw. Ancient languages don’t just encode names but also complex information, as in the way “poison ivy” is both a name and a description.

    A local example of ancient knowledge surpassing modern scientific knowledge can be seen in the classification of salmon. In the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language of the Musqueam, cutthroat trout and steelhead trout are not classified in the trout genus but as salmon. It took a while, but modern science has caught up. According to Shaw, “not until the 1980s did Western genetic scientists working with fish species discover that these two species of so‑called trout are actually salmon.”

    But when languages become extinct, the knowledge they contain disappears as well – knowledge that could well help us protect biodiversity, maybe even find a life‑saving new drug.

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  26. Hope for the Future
    Today, efforts are gaining speed to save BC’s First Nations languages while there is still time. Across the province, teachers and language activists like Johnson, Shaw and Grant are paving the way for motivated learners to bring their languages back.

    “The interest is beginning to grow,” says Grant. “Right now a lot of things are happening around the value of indigenous knowledge, cultural activities, spirituality and, most important of all, self‑identity.” He pauses. “I love seeing the light go on with young people, the ah‑ha moment: ‘This is who I am.’”

    Novel approaches are being taken by some language activists, usually second‑language speakers themselves. Khelsilem (formerly known as Dustin Rivers), for example, is working to revitalize his own language, which has just eight native speakers left. He is planning to spend a year in a language house with three other “twentysomethings,” who will speak only sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) to each other. He is also the founder of squamishlanguage.com. By creating fluent speakers among 18‑ to 30‑year‑olds, Khelsilem’s goal is parents who will raise their families speaking Squamish so “our children’s first language (will be) the same as our great‑grandparents’.”

    According to Bill Poser, adjunct professor of linguistics at UBC, there is still hope for bringing the First Nations languages back from near death. It happened with Hebrew. “Hebrew ceased to be the language of daily communication for the great majority of Jews around 300 BC,” says Poser. “Hebrew survived as a language that people could read, but for the most part it was not a language that people spoke.” Then, in the late 19th century, “a few people decided they were going to use Hebrew at home. Newspapers were published in Hebrew, people started speaking Hebrew with their children, and today Hebrew has come back as the language of daily life in Israel.”

    Saving BC’s dying Native languages is a way to help restore communities to health by returning what was, in a very real sense, stolen. It is also a political choice. Says Shaw: “Language is political. It’s political whether we use English or French. Some communities that have held onto the language use it as their secret language; the Nisga’a were known for using the language to talk among themselves while in treaty negotiations to strategize on their own.”

    Grant agrees. “Language is very political. If you examine whenever indigenous language is used at a rally or a political event, look at what the response is. It can be visceral.”

    Political they may be, but most of all the languages are an irreplaceable heritage. “Who else speaks these languages in the entire world?” asks Shaw. “They are complex systems with rich spiritual traditions – a unique legacy. No one else in the world speaks Haida natively other than those who live in Haida Gwaii. It’s very special.”

    Find out more about UBC’s First Nations Language Program: fnlg.arts.ubc.ca.


  27. Sixties Scoop case moves forward as class action lawsuit

    CBC News December 03, 2014

    The Ontario Superior Court has dismissed an appeal by the Canadian government to strike a landmark case on the deprivation of cultural identity — also known as the “Sixties Scoop" of First Nations children.

    The case can now proceed as a class action lawsuit.

    “For the first time in Western law, a court has recognized our First Nations’ connection to our culture as a whole, and not as specific Aboriginal land, fishing or hunting interests, and that our peoples’ connection to our culture is an interest that cannot be disputed,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic.

    Between 1965 and 1985 an estimated 16,000 Aboriginal children in Ontario, including members of NAN First Nations, were removed from their homes and placed in other — mostly non-native — communities, NAN said in a press release issued Wednesday.

    “An entire generation lost its Aboriginal identity and culture through what is known as the “Sixties Scoop,” the release stated.

    “This is the first time a court in the Western world has given this importance to cultural identity and granted permission for a legal case to proceed where a people were robbed of their cultural identity.”

    Marcia Brown Martel — now Chief of Beaverhouse First Nation — and Robert Commanda launched a lawsuit in February 2009 against the Attorney General of Canada under the Class Proceedings Act.

    Prior to Tuesday’s decision, two judges had ruled in favour of the class action proceeding, allowing Chief Brown to be a representative plaintiff for Sixties Scoop survivors in Ontario.

    “It has been a difficult path to litigation for these courageous plaintiffs and we will continue to support their efforts to hold the federal government accountable for transgressions that have permanently scarred countless First Nations,” Kakegamic said.

    “It has taken a long time, but it is a beginning.”

    So far there has been no comment from the federal government on the ruling.

    The ruling follows.

    See document at:


  28. A lost tribe

    Child welfare system accused of repeating residential school history

    by Adrian Humphreys | National Post December 15, 2014

    Elders from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in north-western Ontario remember the bus that drove around their reserve picking up children and shuttling them to a waiting plane for a 345 kilometre flight north to Sandy Lake, a remote community with no outside road link, except for ice roads built on frozen lakes and rivers during the winter.

    “When the planes landed at the dock, families there were told they could come down and pick out a kid,” said Theresa Stevens, executive director of Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services, the current child protection provider for Wabaseemoong.

    Such mass apprehension of children from troubled Wabaseemoong, including those flights in the 1970s, have been draining the reserve of its youth for decades, until, in 1990, the community had had enough.

    A band council resolution was passed: the Children’s Aid Society was forbidden from entering the reserve.

    “They stood at the reserve line on tractors with shotguns saying ‘You aren’t coming into our community and taking any more of our children,’ ” said Ms. Stevens.

    The situation was desperate: a third of the reserve’s kids were in foster care; the dip in school-age children made teachers redundant.

    “From that day forward they’ve assumed more and more control over their children,” said Ms. Stevens.

    In that community near the Ontario-Manitoba border, known in English as Whitedog, standoffs and feuds preceded a new sense of stability. Ms. Steven’s agency has been handling child welfare since 2001, and doing it with the province’s approval since 2006.

    “We went from having almost 300 children in care to where we are down to just slightly over 100 for that community. And that is huge,” she said.

    A Wabaseemoong elder, Eli Carpenter, poignantly told her the difference it has made. One day he was struck by the uplifting sound of children playing; so many kids had been taken it had been years since he had heard that.

    “That’s when we finally started to know we were making inroads and changing the tide of what had happened,” said Ms. Stevens.

    Wabaseemoong is not yet a place to be pointed to as a universal model of success in tackling the problems of aboriginal child welfare, but it stands as a marker of hope and a portrait of the hard journey native child welfare reform takes.

    Today, after the public apologies and restitution over the government’s residential school system, disproportionately high rates of aboriginal child apprehensions continue across Canada.

    “There are more First Nation children in care today than during the height of residential schools,” said Shawn Atleo, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “We cannot lose another generation to the mistakes of the past. First Nations are the youngest and fastest growing segment of the population. We are the future. This is about Canada’s future.”

    Goyce Kakegamic, a residential school survivor who is now deputy grand chief for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation — covering two-thirds of Ontario in an arc from Quebec to Manitoba — said it is the missing children of today, not just of the past, sapping vitality from native communities.

    “So many of our children have been taken away they are like a lost tribe,” Mr. Kakegamic said.

    While all child welfare systems in Canada face challenges, the added complexities of aboriginal child welfare bring a seemingly unbearable quandary.

    About 15% of kids in care in Canada are aboriginal, despite natives comprising only 3% of the population; children on reserves are close to eight times more likely than other children to be taken into care.

    continued below

  29. These statistics alone suggest a problem worthy of attention, but they are coupled with studies saying a majority of native child apprehensions are not over allegations of abuse but, rather, concerns of neglect — with serious questions of what role culture and poverty plays in defining neglect.

    “The child protection system for aboriginal children and youth is broken,” said John Beaucage, who was the first Aboriginal Advisor to Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services.

    “We see the same type of things repeating: aboriginal children taken away from their community, taken away from their culture and usually … these children find themselves, as adults, trying to figure out who they are, where they belong and are somewhat lost.

    “We, as a country, have been repeating the same mistakes over and over again.”

    Among those mistakes: not doing enough to tackle root causes that lead to legitimate child apprehension; not finding ways of keeping more native children out of state care by ending unnecessary apprehensions; and finding a balance between meeting demands for aboriginal cultural integrity while maintaining critical standards of care.

    “If we keep on doing the same old stupid things, we’re not going to see it stop,” said Mr. Beaucage. “We’re going to see it continue to rise without real benefit and without real change.”


    In 1955, the federal Indian Act was changed to allow provincial laws to apply on native reserves and the provinces then went into the business of providing aboriginal child welfare services, although funded by Ottawa.

    “We had social workers untrained in the experience of First Nations people; they’d walk onto these reserves, see all this poverty and devastation and children from the residential school system — who are now parents — in a lot of trauma and, instead of seeing that for what it was, they removed the kids all over again,” said Cindy Blackstock, the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and an associate professor at the University of Alberta.

    The federal policy ushered in what is referred to now as the “60s Scoop,” when an estimated 20,000 native children were taken for foster care and adoption, primarily into non-aboriginal families in Canada, United States and Europe.

    In 1973, the Siksika First Nation, east of Calgary, became the first band to kick provincial child protection workers off their territory and start their own agency. Manitoba bands soon followed.

    There are now 108 aboriginal agencies in Canada mandated to handle child welfare services; at least one in every province except Prince Edward Island and with none in the northern territories.

    More are on the horizon. In Ontario, for instance, the seven mandated aboriginal children’s aid societies will almost double if six “pre-mandated” agencies gain full authority; two are on the verge of full mandate status.

    Meanwhile, the demands to recognize native culture in child welfare are becoming codified.

    In Ontario, the Child and Family Services Act was amended in 2006, requiring child protection workers to ask whether a child has Indian status so that it can be taken into account in care decisions.

    In Manitoba, where 80% of children in care are aboriginal, the Authorities Act now states that values, customs and traditional communities must be respected in cases involving aboriginal people.

    And last year in Nunavut, where the population is mostly Inuit, the Child and Family Services Act was revised to allow interpretation according to Inuit societal values.

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  30. Along the way, the federal government has tinkered with funding in a patchwork approach with provinces: Ontario struck the Indian Welfare Agreement in 1965, allowing the province to bill Ottawa for services it provided for First Nations, although at about 93-cents on the dollar. A funding directive covered the rest of Canada from 1991 until 2007 when Ottawa unveiled an Enhanced Funding formula that brought new money to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

    All child protection agencies across Canada start their cases based on a range of suspected maltreatment, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Increasingly, children are apprehended without evidence of actual maltreatment but, rather, for concern over neglect, substance abuse, lifestyle or living conditions.

    That can hit native families particularly hard.

    “It is quite heartbreaking,” said Katherine Hensel, a lawyer who has represented First Nations and aboriginal organizations across Canada.

    “First Nation families are still experiencing the wrongful taking of their children on spurious grounds. There is still widespread, unnecessary and unwarranted removal of children.

    “Many, many loving and perfectly good aboriginal homes don’t meet a province’s standard of requirements for being foster homes. There are different cultural norms on how children should be raised,” said Ms. Hensel.

    Practices by many aboriginal people — such as parent-child co-sleeping, shared housing and multi-generational responsibility for childrearing — are often seen in social work as signs of dysfunction.

    “If we deem a home to be a good home and a safe place for a child — but it might not meet all the provincial standards — we try to be as flexible and creative as we can,” said Ms. Stevens, from Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services.

    While such flexibility and creativity may solve short-term problems, Ms. Blackstock wants long-term solutions. Her organization, along with the Assembly of First Nations, filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2007 with the aim of prying more money from Ottawa. The complaint says the government discriminates against aboriginal children living on reserves by providing less funding than is available for non-native children.

    Ottawa funds child welfare for on-reserve First Nations while the provinces fund child welfare for non-native children. The gap between the two funding models is estimated to be 22%, the hearing heard.

    Ottawa fought to quash the case but the tribunal pressed ahead, holding 72 hearing days in Ottawa ending in October. A decision is expected by the spring.

    Answers may come from other directions, too.

    Mr. Kakegamic was born in Keewaywin First Nation in Northern Ontario and has experienced a spectrum of native life, raised on the land in a traditional lifestyle by his extended family and also placed in a residential school. He is university educated and now responsible for social services for member bands across northern Ontario — most remote, fly-in only reserves with poor infrastructure.

    “We don’t need someone with a PhD to come and tell us what the problems are. We know what the problems are. Because they end up in child care, they end up in drugs and alcohol,” he said; feelings of “futurelessness” lead to high youth suicide rates. “It wounded us to our core and sometimes it is hard to move forward when you are wounded.

    “But the answers do not all come from Ottawa.

    “We need to look at ourselves. We can do more as a community. We can do more as parents… it’s not only more money and more resources.”

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  31. He wants to strengthen and expand aboriginal child welfare agencies in his territory and push more resources into prevention and early intervention.

    “We have the skill, we have the capacity, we have the experience — now give us the way to help our own people.”


    Moving toward aboriginal jurisdiction over child welfare is not a quick fix.

    Last year, a joint Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald investigation found that, proportionately, more children died in the care of an on-reserve Delegated First Nations Agency than in Alberta’s Children and Family Services Agency.

    The continuing problems of aboriginals in the child welfare system also became a focus in Manitoba with the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair, a 5-year-old native girl who died in 2005 after abuse in her mother’s home on Fisher River reserve, north of Winnipeg, three months after returning to her mother’s care.

    Even after the intense public attention of the inquiry, gaps in native child welfare still invite tragedy, including 15-year-old Tina Fontaine of Sagkeeng First Nation who was in the care of a Child and Family Services agency in Winnipeg and, within a month, her body found sexually abused and wrapped in plastic in the city’s Red River.

    Galvanized by another tragedy, the government has announced another round of changes.

    Ms. Stevens, from Anishinaabe Abinoojii, said aboriginal agencies have two concurrent goals: “We have a mandate that is both from the government but also from our First Nations. We’re not just in the business of child welfare, we are also in the business of rebuilding our nation by rebuilding our families.”

    A year ago, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, released a scathing report on the province’s aboriginal child welfare, calling it a “colossal failure of public policy.” She said the province spent at least $66 million on “talking” about problems “without a single child being actually served.”

    Moving toward new aboriginal agencies is part of the adjustment agencies need to make, said Mary Ballantyne, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, where the boardroom is decorated by a quotation from Sitting Bull, the Indian chief who led the native resistance at Little Big Horn.

    “More and more, there is recognition that we need to find unique solutions in unique community circumstances.

    “But we also need to make sure that the kids are OK. Aboriginal parents don’t want their kids in appalling conditions anymore than anybody else wants their kids in appalling conditions.”

    Nico Trocmé, director of the McGill Centre for Research on Children and Families in Montreal, said he supports First Nations control over child welfare services—“with one enormous caveat: Simply dumping those services on First Nations communities and not providing the funding and resources needed is not going to change much of anything.”

    “It is not going to be a quick and dirty solution,” said Mr. Beaucage, the former Ontario aboriginal advisor. “A lot of governments, they want a solution before the next election. You have to gauge your success by a different timeframe.

    “The solution is not measured in months or years but maybe in ten years, or tens of years.”

    see links, photos and videos at:


  32. Stephen Harpers comments on missing, murdered aboriginal women show 'lack of respect'

    Prime minister says national inquiry not high on government's radar

    By Tanya Kappo, Opinion, CBC News December 19, 2014

    In a span of a week, the Conservative government confirmed their feelings of indifference, disregard and utter lack of respect for indigenous people.

    It seems that their contempt is solely aimed at First Nation men, First Nation women, and First Nation girls.

    This is the very attitude that underlies the government legislation and (non) actions that have resulted in tragic consequences suffered by First Nation people for generations.

    The Indian Act. The Indian Residential School. Child Welfare. Theft of land. Theft of children. Theft of identity. Theft of existence. Genocide by legislation.

    This, coupled with deeply entrenched stereotypes, bears life and death consequences of violence, self violence, community violence, societal violence, and systemic violence.

    And it's the indigenous women and girls who suffer the brunt of this – going missing and being murdered in epidemic proportions in neighbourhoods, streets and highways in every part of this country.

    This very heavy, dark and painful truth is a reality that affects every single person who calls Canada home.

    Yet, in the very words of the prime minister: "… it isn't really high on our radar, to be honest."

    And when he weakly tried to defend the efforts of his government, the Harper distinctly removed himself completely from the equation.

    "Our ministers will continue to dialogue with those who are concerned about this," he said.

    There are many who are concerned about this. Many who have lent their voices to call on the Conservative government for a national inquiry. Towns, cities, police forces, schools, unions, artists, musicians and families of those who've lost their mother, sister, daughter, auntie or grandma.

    More than 1,200 human lives inexplicably gone, stolen. Children left motherless. Mothers left daughterless. And grandmas and aunties, gone.

    Not just an issue on reserves

    The prime minister continually says his government is making new laws, taking action and wants to ensure everyone is afforded the same protections.

    Yet there is no evidence whatsoever that these new laws (applicable only to First Nations on reserve) have made any difference in the face of this crisis.

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  33. The Conservative government seems to be committed to making Canadians believe the violence is attributed only to First Nation men, on reserves. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt recently made a comment in this regard, but in doing so, put his finger squarely on the problem.

    "Obviously, there's a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves," he said. "So you know, if the guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that is how they are treated."

    It would seem that it's the Conservative government's attitude he is describing, not the attitude of First Nations men on reserves.

    Lack of respect? Absolutely.

    If someone grows up believing that others don't have rights, then they treat them as if they don't have rights? Yes, yes indeed.

    The Conservative government does not believe First Nation people have rights, and make their profound lack of respect painfully clear.

    Harper assault a travesty, not a 'situation'

    Recently, Rinelle Harper, who survived a brutal assault, challenged everyone to push for a national inquiry. And to that, Valcourt, gave a response that made me sick to my stomach.

    "Listen, Rinelle, I have a lot of sympathy for your situation. And I guess that victims … have different views and we respect them," he said.
    Rinelle is 16 years old. She is still a child. A child who survived a brutal physical and sexual assault meant to kill her and the aboriginal affairs minister refers to the assault as her "situation."

    It should never be OK to refer to such a brutal act as a situation, let alone one that was inflicted on a child.

    To allow the federal government to continue this approach is to accept the same results – more missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

    I do not believe that this is what Canadians want.

    A national inquiry must be part of the action taken. Together.

    Indigenous people will always take responsibility for what belongs to them, including fault when appropriate and will always work towards solutions for the benefit of all.

    It's time Canadians demand their government do the same.


  34. Brandon experiments exposed

    Residential school kids ESP test subjects in ’40s

    By: Alexandra Paul Winnipeg Free Press January 12, 2015

    Children at the Brandon Indian Residential School were test subjects of extra-sensory-perception experiments during the Second World War, states a science journal recovered from a university archive.

    The article, ESP Tests with American Indian Children published in the Journal of Parapsychology, is believed to be the first hard evidence science experiments were conducted on residential school children in Manitoba.

    It was published in 1943 by a scientist named A.A. Foster, and its existence adds to a growing body of knowledge to show science experiments were regularly conducted in the 1940s and 1950s on children at residential schools, with the permission of federal officials.

    Canada's expert on such studies, McMaster University post-doctoral research fellow Ian Mosby, said by phone from Hamilton he's reviewed the article.
    Maeengan Linklater, the Winnipegger who stumbled across a reference to the study in a footnote and got a copy, forwarded it to him, Mosby said Sunday.

    It's significant because it shows how vulnerable Indian residential school children were to administrators, teachers and scientists, Mosby said.

    "When it came to science experiments, these students had no choice whether it involved experiments on ESP or nutrition," he said. "It makes you ask the question what experiments were done in these schools? What were the conditions that made it possible for scientists to walk in and do these experiments? The children were wards of the state," Mosby said.

    Mosby exposed alarming evidence of experiments in his 2013 research findings. News reports described them as noting children at Indian residential schools were deliberately starved in the 1940s and 1950s in the name of science.

    Their exposure outraged Canadians and indigenous experts and later played a role in a decision by Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to go to court to extract tons of federal residential school records held by the federal government.

    Among those discoveries were that milk rations were halved for years at schools across the country, and essential vitamins were withheld. At the Cecilia Jeffrey school in Kenora, students were subject to test trials of TB vaccine as well as a series of experimental antibiotics for ear infections: Some students subsequently lost their hearing, according to one news report, Mosby said.

    "They had no control over most of the aspects of their lives and their parents had no choice (either). They were forced to assume school administrators were acting in the best interest of their children, which we well know they weren't," Mosby said.

    All of that was profoundly disturbing; what happened in Brandon is simply bizarre, Mosby said.

    Fifty students at the Brandon school -- approximately one-third of the student body -- were selected for a slate of ESP experiments in the winter of 1940-41.

    continued below

  35. They included boys and girls ranging from the ages of six to 20. Younger students were given candy, older ones took part out of "curiosity, interest or as a personal favour" to the matron of the school, who conducted tests for the scientist who published the study.

    Students were led through a total of 250 trials involving playing cards, the results of which purported to indicate the presence of ESP. "It may be said that at least one group of American Indian children have given scores in ESP card tests that are ascribable only to the ability known as extra-sensory perception," the study concluded.

    It went on to boast, "The fact that the subjects are of the American Indian race is of special interest, since this is the first report of ESP tests given to members of that racial group."

    Mosby and Linklater said that finding is disturbing for many reasons, not the least of which are the racial assumptions prevalent in that era.

    "I'm not an expert on ESP, but it seems to me the study was reaching to make some kind of connection between (indigenous) spirituality and ESP.

    "That there could be some sort of proclivity to ESP is really problematic," Mosby said.

    The best that can be said is the Brandon study didn't set out to hurt anyone.

    "It's definitely not nearly as disturbing as the other studies. There was no real harm to the students, and it wasn't premised on causing harm but like those other studies, it highlights the vulnerability of residential school students to the whims of administrators and teachers,'' Mosby said.

    "The main thing that occurred to me when it came to ESP experiments was how bizarre it was, even for that time (period)," Mosby said.

    Little is known about the study's author. The accompanying standard abstract merely described Foster as a former staff member at Duke University at the parapsychology lab. He'd moved on to Toronto for work related to the Second World War when this study was conducted.

    The Winnipegger who found the study said it raises troubling questions for him on personal and professional levels.

    Both his parents attended residential schools. "I see the effects today with all the social challenges indigenous people face," said Linklater, a longtime volunteer on community service boards in the city.

    He stumbled across a reference to the study in a 1997 copy of Manitoba Mysteries by fellow guild writer and UFO researcher Chris Rutkowski.

    A librarian found a copy archived at the University of Regina and Linklater got it last week.

    "In my opinion, it dehumanized the students and it spoke to the control that the administrators had over the students (that) they could offer them up to a research study. The language of the article provides insight into their attitudes, in which we were monocultured and lived in primitive conditions."

    The study casually described the Brandon students in language that would be condemned today:

    "The western Canadian plains Indian leads a much more primitive life than the Indians of the United States... hunting, fishing and trapping. Many of the children had (known) the most primitive life (and) had never seen trains or motor cars."



    By Debora Steel, Ha-Shilth-Sa January 15, 2015

    Port Alberni —
    Students from école Alberni Elementary School visited in front of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council Jan. 14 to view the Alberni Indian Residential School Commemoration Pole in honour of late Arthur Thompson. The pole was carved by Gordon Dick.

    Reg Sam, NTC’s Pathways/ Student Success Supervisor, shared the history of the AIRS site and talked about the commemoration pole.

    The late Art Thompson, a world-renowned artist in his own right, was a student at AIRS and was among the first to bring worldwide attention to the legacy of mistreatment of students who attended the school.

    The pole sits in place of a holly tree that was removed from the site because it triggered negative memories of the school.

    Sam explained the nature of a residential school. That the students went to school there and lived there, not going home. He kept the discussion quite general, he told Ha-Shilth-Sa, in keeping with the age of the students, describing what the animal carvings represented and the Nuu-chah-nulth legends about transformation, as it is demonstrated on the pole.

    The two Grade 4 Alberni Elementary classes were accompanied by Nuu-chah-nulth Education Workers Deb Masso and Jean Thomas and were met onsite by the president of the tribal council, Deb Foxcroft, who welcomed them.

    The students have just kicked off a unit on Nuu-chah-nulth-aht and they took a trip to the Tseshaht Nation, which welcomed the group and opened the longhouse, which is in the same building complex as the tribal council building.

    They started the visit learning a bit about the mural which adorns the side of Maht Mahs gym, located beside the longhouse.

    The theme of the mural, selected by elder Bertha Gus, is “A Place Where First Nations Pull Together.” Artists were Sterling Watts of the Tseshaht First Nation and Walter Collins and Brad Piatka of Port Alberni.

    The mural represents one of the Tseshaht villages on a beach in the Broken Group.

    Maht Mahs is used as a gathering place where people pull together, including during cultural events like potlatches and Nuu-chah-nulth meetings.

    The scene depicts 15 canoes in the water waiting for permission to come ashore. The canoes represent the Makah, Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht, Uchucklesaht, Toquaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht, Kyuquot/Cheklesaht, Ehattesaht/Chinehkint , Nuchatlaht, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Hupacasath, Hesquiaht and Ucluelet Nations. Tseshaht's canoes are already on the beach.

    “We then went to see the totem pole,” said Masso, and Sam came outside to explain the significance of the pole. There was also a brief lesson about the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council offices.

    The next stop was the other memorial piece on residential schools within the complex done by Connie Watts.

    The sculpture called “Strength From Within” serves as a reminder of the horrors that occurred at AIRS, honors all who didn’t return to their families, and pays tribute to the resiliency of those who survived their time there.

    See our story here: http://www.hashilthsa.com/news/2014-10-02/art-installation-ensures-peopl...

    Students will be doing additional lessons on the residential school system, Nuu-chah-nulth people, as well as the importance of the cedar tree, including its use in the longhouse, canoes, bentwood boxes, and the uses of cedar bark.


  37. Aboriginal diabetes epidemic linked to loss of mother tongue: Study

    QMI AGENCY Toronto Sun JANUARY 23, 2015

    A University of Alberta researcher has found the diabetes epidemic among First Nations is linked to the declining knowledge of their indigenous languages.

    Senior author Richard Oster said prior to the 1950s diabetes was unheard of in Canadian aboriginal populations, but it has since exploded to rates two to five times higher than in the general population.

    "What we found is that those communities that have more people speaking and knowing their language, and who are presumably more connected to their culture, have significantly less diabetes," Oster said. "In fact, some of those communities had diabetes rates that were lower than the general public rate."

    The researchers analyzed diabetes rates on 31 First Nations communities in Alberta and compared them to the indigenous language rates.

    The average diabetes rates in the communities was 9.5% — the lowest was 1.2% and the highest 18.3%. The percentage of residents who spoke their aboriginal mother tongue varied from 10.5% to 92.8%.

    Researchers compared the diabetes rate with other factors, such as median household income, unemployment, and high school completion, and found only the knowledge of traditional language was a significant predictor of the disease.

    Rick Lightning, a First Nations leader in Maskwacis, Alta., diabetes sufferer and co-author of the study, said the findings are a wake-up call.

    He said diabetes began in First Nations around the time residential schools were created and was the result of trauma and a loss of culture.

    Oster says aboriginal languages need to be protected.

    "Try picturing yourself in those shoes. You live in poverty, you are discriminated against every day and your life is in chaos. Then think about residential schools and the impact they have had and continue to have on families. Eating healthy is just not really up there on the list of priorities. It's difficult to do," Oster said.

    "Our study provides proof of something (First Nations people) have known for thousands of years — that health and culture are inseparable."

    The study was published in the International Journal for Equity in Health.


  38. Residential Schools History Book Launched in Toronto

    Two Row Times February 04, 2015

    Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors, is a book documenting and honouring the history of the survivors and former students who attended residential schools. Designed for the young adult reader as well as the general reader, this accessible, 112-page history offers first-person perspectives of the residential school system in Canada, as it shares the memories of more than 70 survivors from across Canada, as well as 125 archival and contemporary images (65 black & white photographs, 51 colour photographs).

    This essential volume, written by award-winning author Larry Loyie (Cree), a survivor of St. Bernard Mission residential school in Grouard, AB, and co-authored by Constance Brissenden and Wayne K. Spear (Mohawk), reflects the ongoing commitment of this team to express the truths about residential school experiences and to honour the survivors whose voices are shared in this book.

    “We wanted to write a readable history that shared many views of the schools,” said Larry Loyie. “The biggest challenge was how to handle the material so that it could be read by all ages.

    Residential school histories are usually written for adults. The book explains the schools for all readers no matter what their age or background.”

    Along with the voices, readers will be engaged with the evocative, archival photographs provided by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) with the assistance of curator Krista McCracken.

    “Residential Schools reflects exceptional research and production quality,” said Jonathan Dewar, the Director of the SRSC. “Above all, it is a residential school history from an Aboriginal perspective, inspired by the personal experience of a Survivor dedicated to sharing this history with the world.”

    The book begins with the moving introduction by Larry Loyie, and continues through seven chapters that explore the purpose of this school system; cultures and traditions; leaving home; life at school the half-day system; the dark side of the schools; friendship and laughter coping with a new life; changing world–the healing begins; and an afterword. A detailed, full colour map showing residential school locations across Canada, timeline with key dates, glossary, and a helpful index (including names of survivors and schools) make this vital resource a must-have for schools, libraries, and the general reader.

    Author Larry Loyie wants this book to “show Canadians the strength and courage of the children who went to the schools. All former students share a kinship that is hard to explain to the world. I’ve tried to share it through the words and images in the book. I hope I’ve achieved this.”

    Co-published by Indigenous Education Press and Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, this publication was officially launched during the Ontario Library Association’s Superconference (OLA) in Toronto on January 29th and 30th, 2015. This new publication was released through official distributor GoodMinds.com during the event.

    Jeff Burnham, president of GoodMinds called the launch successful in two ways. First, the book took over 20 years in the research phase and 3 years to write, and commemorates 73 years since Larry Loyie first attended St Bernard Mission residential school in Grouard, Alberta. Second, this publication celebrates the official debut of Indigenous Education Press. Burnham explains this new entity is not-for-profit and will fill the gap in the First Nations education market. All future releases will be distributed by the GoodMinds.com website.


  39. Vatican may be asked to repeal Papal Bulls of Discovery on 'heathen' aboriginals

    Many argue proclamations legitimized the treatment of Aboriginal Peoples as "less than human."

    By Chinta Puxley, The Canadian Press February 10, 2015

    Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is weighing whether to ask the Vatican to repeal the Papal Bulls of Discovery that granted 15th-century explorers the right to conquer the New World and the "heathen" aboriginals who called it home.

    Chair Murray Sinclair says the commission examining the impact of Canada's Indian residential schools is looking carefully at the 1455 and 1493 Catholic edicts as part of its final report.

    Many argue the proclamations legitimized the treatment of aboriginal people as "less than human." Crown sovereignty in Canada can be traced back to those papal bulls, and neither Canada nor the United States has repudiated them, Sinclair said.

    "The movement to repudiation is very strong and is moving ahead," Sinclair told CBC News. "If we as the commission are going to join that movement or endorse it … we have to come to a conclusion that it's necessary for reconciliation to establish a proper relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people."

    A growing chorus in Canada is calling on the Vatican to help begin a new relationship, with aboriginal people on equal footing.

    The discovery bulls and others in the same vein gave Catholic explorers "full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind," and outlined their "duty to lead the peoples dwelling in those islands and countries to embrace the Christian religion."

    If aboriginal people refused, the Vatican granted its envoys the authority to enslave and kill. If the commission recommends the bulls be rescinded, Sinclair said, it has to weigh the legal implications, which could strike at the core of Crown sovereignty over land.

    "What would be the basis for rationalizing Crown sovereignty if the Doctrine of Discovery is no longer available?" Sinclair said.

    "We have to consider that question and perhaps give some direction about how that relationship can be re-established in a proper way … on a nation-to-nation level."

    A special rapporteur appointed by the United Nations in 2009 found the bulls lie "at the root of the violations of Indigenous Peoples' human rights."

    The edicts have resulted in the "mass appropriation of the lands, territories, and resources of Indigenous Peoples," the UN found. They also form the legal basis of many modern-day land claim disputes, it said.

    Keith Matthew, former chief of Simpcw First Nation in British Columbia, has been quietly building support in Canada for their repeal. He recently got the support of the Assembly of First Nations, which passed a resolution at its December meeting endorsing the revocation of the bulls.

    It's about hitting the "reset button on our relationship," Matthew said.

    "The papal bulls put us in a position no better than animals," he said. "We know better today. We're just as civilized and human as anyone else in this world. It's really about righting a historic wrong.

    "I'm no animal. I'm a person, a human being."

    Hayden King, director of the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, said simply calling for the edicts to be repealed isn't enough for reconciliation. He said it would be more significant if the government recognized its sovereignty was based on a "fairy tale" that aboriginal people are not human, and further recognized aboriginal title to land.

    "Unless there was corresponding action, it would seem kind of hollow," King said.



    How do you tell the story of aboriginal women in Canada today? You can do it with horror stories and grim statistics: 1,200 missing and murdered; 54% more likely to suffer assault, abuse, threats of violence. You can do it with politics: national outrage, political roundtables, calls for a formal inquiry.

    Or you can reach out to the people most directly affected and give them the tools to tell their stories. This unique project put cameras in the hands of 12 aboriginal girls from Maples Collegiate in Winnipeg and taught them how to document the reality of their lives. We took the conversation to the frontlines.
    Here’s what the girls had to say. We all need to listen.

    A partnership between National Post, Centennial College and Maples Collegiate
    Cameras generously donated by Henry’s.
    Text by Sarah Boesveld. Portraits by Tyler Anderson.

    View the photos and videos at http://news.nationalpost.com/silent-no-more/

    WINNIPEG — “Do you worry for your safety — whether you may end up like Tina or Rinelle?”

    A group of teenage girls — most of them strangers to one another — all raise their hands.

    “Do you trust the police?”

    Each girl shakes her head “No.”

    “How many of you have had loved ones disappear or get killed?”

    They shoot quick glances at one another. Then, slowly, arms are raised: One, then two, finally about three-quarters of the room, signal to the others that they know this kind of pain.

    At least half say someone in their family has been sexually abused. Some talk about what their own mothers endured. Every single girl says her grandparents suffered abuse at residential schools.

    There are 12 girls in this classroom, all aboriginal students at Winnipeg’s Maples Collegiate Institute. They range from 15 to 19 — about the same age as Tina Fontaine, whose body was found wrapped in plastic in the Red River last summer, and Rinelle Harper, who survived a brutal assault and was left for dead on the banks of the adjoining Assiniboine River.

    The group gathered at the end of a year of mounting outrage over murdered and missing indigenous women — an RCMP report last May logged 1,181 of them — and calls for a national inquiry. On the day the girls met up, Rinelle Harper added her voice to the cause at a speech before the Assembly of First Nations’ Special Chiefs Assembly in Winnipeg.

    The issue remains in the spotlight: This weekend, there will be marches in cities across Canada to pay tribute to murdered aboriginal women. Later this month, federal, provincial and indigenous leaders, including ministers responsible for the Status of Aboriginal Affairs and the Status of Women, as well as victims’ families, will meet in Ottawa for a roundtable on the crisis (there is no current plan for a government inquiry).

    But what’s too often missing from these discussions is what it’s like for young aboriginal women to just go on, day-to-day, in the shadow of the headlines. What it’s like to face grim statistics about your future: 54% of girls like you will be sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a gun or a knife; you are four times more likely to be victims of a homicide.

    The girls at Maples are chosen for a four-day workshop — a partnership between the National Post and the School of Communications, Media & Design at Toronto’s Centennial College — to help them share their point of view. They are selected because teachers at the school think they’ll get something out of a crash course on basic photojournalism and storytelling techniques. A few are joined at the hip, but otherwise the girls are chosen at random.

    continued below

  41. All of them could in some ways be considered “lucky.” They aren’t on the streets. They aren’t without hope, or choices. Their grades range from just passing to the 90s, but they all plan to go on to college or university or to pursue a trade. They play hockey and guitar, volunteer and work part-time jobs. They are regular teenagers, who complain about how long it takes to get ready in the morning — “the worst part about being a girl,” one of them says — and find solace in the lyrics of their favourite songs.

    The girls live in a neighbourhood called Maples. It borders the rough north end of Winnipeg, but is an up-and-coming suburb where the average family income is $45,000 (higher than the city’s median income) and the streets are lined with modest bungalows and low-rise apartment buildings. While aboriginal students make up just 15% of the student body at Maples – one of the biggest, most diverse schools in the city, with 1,625 kids – the school strongly supports indigenous culture. The week they participate in the workshop, a new wing of the school is blessed with a traditional pipe ceremony.

    Despite their relative advantages, however, most of these girls have been touched by tragedy: They talk about a cousin murdered in her own home; a friend discovered dead on a snowmobile trail — brutalized so badly locals thought she was attacked by dogs; relatives who’ve gone downtown to meet somebody and never returned; parents who succumbed to drug addiction.

    Some of the girls also say they have been bounced from home to home, or displaced from reserves they’re not sure they’ll ever return to.

    They are surprisingly open about how all of this makes them feel. They talk about their struggles with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and abusive partners. They also express that typical teenage feeling of not quite fitting in — a feeling amplified by identity and circumstance.

    They are also keenly aware of the subtle and not-so-subtle racism aboriginals face – particularly in Winnipeg. The week of their workshop, a teacher at Kelvin High School, across town, wrote a Facebook post about aboriginals that made headlines: “They have contributed NOTHING to the development of Canada. Just standing with their hand out. Get to work, tear the treaties and shut the FK up already. Why am I on the hook for their cultural support?” (The teacher was later put on unpaid leave.)

    It’s probably just a community or a group of people that’s targeting aboriginals. It’s not so much a coincidence. I think it’s a plan

    The girls experience reverse-racism as well. Despite deep roots on reserves – many of them were born there and still visit close family members, others have left only for the opportunity to finish high school in Winnipeg – the girls say they are often criticized for living away from their traditional land. They are bullied, and called “whitewashed.”

    And yet they have deep pride in their traditions. They don’t despair about their futures – if anything, they have grand dreams and ambitions, both for themselves and the wider aboriginal community.

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  42. These girls are certainly not victims.

    But they are afraid. The biggest threat, they believe, lurks outside of their communities, on the streets of Winnipeg. The girls say aboriginal women are being “targeted” by strangers. They share warnings posted on Facebook, for example, about a black van that’s been driving around “kidnapping girls/women for sex, then dumping their bodies.”

    “It’s probably just a community or a group of people that’s targeting aboriginals,” one girl says. “It’s not so much a coincidence. I think it’s a plan.”

    The reality is more complicated: The RCMP report on murdered and missing aboriginal women released last May showed how close the majority of victims are to perpetrators; 40% of aboriginal women die at the hands of spouses or boyfriends, 23% are killed by family.

    The week after the girls’ workshop, the Winnipeg Police Service said the black van warning was a “hoax.”

    We must all stand together to condemn these senseless acts of violence, particularly by our own people. We must stop hurting one another, we must end the pattern

    So is there actually targeting going on, or is this violence primarily within aboriginal communities? How much of how the girls see their world is influenced by social media, by one another? It’s tough to parse, when even First Nations leaders and politicians are still grappling with the forces behind the violence and racism experienced by so many.

    Cameron Alexis, Alberta’s AFN Regional Chief, acknowledges the challenges within the aboriginal community. In December, he issued a statement saying, “We must all stand together to condemn these senseless acts of violence, particularly by our own people. We must stop hurting one another, we must end the pattern.”

    But in a recent interview, he says that he also believes there is “targeting” going on. “It appears to me [that aboriginal women] are vulnerable because of the colour of their skin.”

    That’s why a national inquiry is critical, he adds — only scrutiny of each of the 1,181 documented cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women will help us understand what is going on and how to stop it.

    The girls in the workshop don’t usually share their fear or frustration with loved ones, let alone other girls their age, or teachers, or the press. It’s painful.

    It appears to me [that aboriginal women] are vulnerable because of the colour of their skin
    For most of them, expressing all this started with this workshop, an experience they describe as both difficult and empowering.

    After the first day of talking, Indigenous Peoples teacher Reuben Boulette lights sage in a smudge bowl, an opalescent half shell.

    “This has been pretty heavy,” he says, as he passes the bowl around.

    Each girl takes a turn waving the sage’s medicinal smoke inward, towards their hearts and over the top of their heads, the “purification” ritual meant to banish bad thoughts and recalibrate the mind.

    One girl says, “No one has ever asked us about this before.”

    It’s clear by the end of the workshop that the girls have forged a bond. And that they’re being heard in a new way.

    “It’s kind of a harsh realization that we don’t talk about these things,” says another teacher, Ryan Cook. “The more we talk about them, the easier it’s going to get.”

    Sarah Boesveld, with files from Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Samira Mohyeddin and Jennifer Lee

    View the photos and videos at


  43. Haunting Vancouver Island Residential School Demolition Ceremony Set

    By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press February 15, 2015

    VICTORIA - A crumbling, omnipresent red brick building has been a haunting presence for thousands of British Columbia aboriginal people who say they faced physical and sexual abuse at the site.

    Many of those who attended see the planned demolition of St. Michael's Indian Residential School as the removal of a cancer that has been eroding the remote Vancouver Island community of Alert Bay.

    St. Michael's, operated by the Anglican Church from 1930 to 1975, has been the focus of heart-wrenching community debate for decades. Residents and survivors have tried to decide whether to leave the ominous empty hulk of a building as an example of past wrongs, or knock it down and remove it from sight and, hopefully, memory.

    The first church-run residential school in the Alert Bay area dates back to 1882.

    A massive survivor ceremony hosted by the Namgis First Nation is scheduled for Wednesday on the school grounds to celebrate the demolition of St. Michael's.

    First Nations leaders, Anglican church representatives, political officials and survivors and their families will attend the day-long ceremony. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould will also attend, as will Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt.

    St. Michael's survivor Robert Joseph said he was six years old when he arrived at the residential school from nearby Kingcome Inlet on the Lower Mainland. He left when he was 19 years old.

    He said he still remembers the day he stepped out of the school for good in 1958.

    "I walked out the front door and I stood at the top of those front steps and I looked out and the shock hit me," Joseph said. "I had absolutely no idea what I would do with the rest of my life: no sense of purpose, no sense of value. I had learned nothing in this institution and I was a broken boy."

    Joseph said he suffered physical and sexual abuse at St. Michael's. It started upon his arrival as a young boy.

    "I went through that," he said. "There were far too many children who went through that. As much as I'm optimistic today, it's still not a good memory."

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  44. Joseph said he told his story to the reconciliation commission that held residential school hearings across Canada. He said he received a compensation payment from the government but didn't want to discuss the amount.

    "Money is never the real question," he said. "It's never enough. But it's the idea that somebody acknowledged that these harms happened."

    Today, Joseph acts as a Reconciliation Canada Ambassador to help heal the wounds of the past.

    Reconciliation Canada is a charitable, national initiative seeking to promote reconciliation by engaging Canadians in dialogue and experiences that aim to revitalize relationships among Aboriginal peoples and Canadians. It's estimated 160,000 aboriginal children attended residential schools across Canada.

    Joseph, who lives in a house in Alert Bay about 225 metres away from the St. Michael's building, said the decision to tear down the building is historic and symbolic.

    "It has been a constant reminder of the experiences," he said. "It really has cast a dark shadow for so long. Symbolically, it's a liberation from the haunting past. Symbolically, it's really important for the survivors because it allows us to have hope and optimism."

    Joseph said he remembers not wanting to get out of bed when he was at St. Michael's. He said seeing that building come down is a major step towards healing wounds.

    "It used to be a place I hated to come to," he said. "But we have to seize the opportunity to celebrate the idea that nobody will ever be treated that way again."

    St. Michael's school held aboriginal people from northern Vancouver Island and B.C.'s north coast, including from Bella Bella, Bella Coola, the Nisga'a territories and Haida Gwaii. Former Nisga'a Nation president Joe Gosnell, a well-known treaty pioneer in B.C., spent time at St. Michael's.

    Claire Trevena, who represents Alert Bay for the Opposition New Democrats in the B.C. legislature, said the community's decision to demolish the school removes a dark cloud that has hung around far too long.

    "There's a sense of haunting about it because it's so imposing," she said. "It's almost like a Victorian prison, out of a work house, out of Oliver Twist or something."


  45. The intergenerational trauma of First Nations still runs deep

    by KEVIN BERUBE, Special to The Globe and Mail February 16 2015

    Imagine a knock on your door. You open it and are met by strangers accompanied by a police officer. These people are speaking a different language so you don’t understand what they’re saying. Eventually, you come to the surreal realization that they’ve come for your children. There is some time given to pack clothes and say goodbye. Any resistance is met with the threat of arrest by the police. You’re not sure where your children are going or if you will ever see them again. You’re wondering what you did wrong. You have no idea what is happening as you helplessly watch this nightmare unfold before your eyes.

    How does an event like this affect the child? The parents? The community?

    This sounds like something that happened long ago, somewhere far away, but this was the reality only a half-century ago with the residential-school education project across Canada and the Sixties Scoop – the “scooping up” of First Nations children by the planeload for adoption, under the guise of protection, unbeknownst to their family and community across North America and Europe.

    Can communities simply learn to move on, or will these two remarkable events in Canadian history reverberate through future generations – and for how long?

    Many years after the last residential school closed its doors and most of the First Nations children taken from their homes through child welfare removal were returned, these events continue to have an impact on individuals, families and communities.

    Intergenerational trauma, or transgenerational trauma, is what happens when untreated trauma-related stress experienced by survivors is passed on to second and subsequent generations. The trauma inflicted by residential schools and the Sixties Scoop was significant, and the scope of the damage these events wrought wouldn’t be truly understood until years later.

    Intergenerational trauma is usually seen within one family in which the parents or grandparents were traumatized, and each generation of that family continues to experience trauma in some form. In these cases the source can usually be traced back to a devastating event, and the trauma is unique to that family.

    What makes the intergenerational trauma in the case of First Nations people different is that it wasn’t the result of a targeted event against an individual – it was a set of government policies that targeted and affected a whole generation. Children were traumatized when they were taken from their parents and placed into either government-funded, church-controlled, residential learning institutions or into foster homes. Many children suffered horrific abuse while in these homes and institutions. And parents and communities were traumatized when their children were taken away from them with little or no idea if or when they would return.

    continued below

  46. Direct survivors of these experiences often transmit the trauma they experienced to later generations when they don’t recognize or have the opportunity to address their issues. Over the course of time these behaviours, often destructive, become normalized within the family and their community, leading to the next generation suffering the same problems.

    Many self-destructive behaviours can result from unresolved trauma. Depression, anxiety, family violence, suicidal and homicidal thoughts and addictions are some of the behaviours our mental health therapists see when working with clients who have experienced direct or intergenerational trauma. In most cases, the self-destructive behaviour exists because the client is having a difficult time dealing with the pain of remembering the past, or trying to survive an abusive situation now.

    Talking with a mental-health therapist can help break the cycle of trauma. Family therapy may also be required to prevent behaviours continuing among the younger generation. The goals of the therapeutic relationship are to acknowledge the negative behaviour; help the individual and their family make the connection between the behaviour and the historical trauma; introduce healthy alternatives and coping mechanisms; and provide support and feedback to the individual and family as they carry on with their lives.

    People reaching out for help may seek the support of traditional healers to assist them on their healing journey. Traditional healing, along with conventional therapeutic methods, have been effective tools in addressing intergenerational trauma. We must always be mindful to put the individual at the centre of the healing plan, critical not just in working with trauma survivors, but in the development of any patient plan that is going to yield the best outcomes. We need to recognize that patients know themselves better than anyone, and services should work together to consider their holistic needs.

    Kevin Berube is director of the Mental Health and Addictions Program at the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, which provides health services to 30 First Nations communities in Northwestern Ontario. A band member of Flying Post First Nation, he has more than 20 years of experience in child welfare, mental health and addictions working with First Nations communities.


  47. Marking the End of a Dark Era

    Residential school demolition ceremony gives former residents a chance to heal.

    By Katie Hyslop, TheTyee.ca February 18, 2015,

    It's been 70 years since Pauline Alfred, then six years old, started at St. Michael's Indian Residential School in Alert Bay, a tiny village on Cormorant Island just off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. Operated by the Anglican Church from 1929 until 1974, the school housed up to 200 aboriginal children a year, forced to attend by the local government Indian agent.

    Alfred remembers how school officials addressed her -- not by name -- but by her student number, 564, during the six years she spent at St. Michael's.

    "I'm surprised I remember my name," said Alfred, 76, a member of the Kwikwasut'inuxw First Nation. "If they found your jacket on the floor they'd yell your number out, and you had to run for it to grab that jacket to hang it up. If you didn't then you got hit with a strap."

    Alfred still lives in Alert Bay where she met her husband and raised seven children. She looks at the crumbling brick building almost every day; a disturbing sight, which she says has kept some St. Michael's survivors from returning to Alert Bay.

    That will change today when as many as 600 visitors are expected to descend on the island of less than 1,300 people for a healing ceremony to mark the demolition of St. Michael's, although the building itself will be taken apart in stages because of asbestos inside.

    "So many survivors are reminded of their experience in there [by the building], and of course that's traumatizing for many of them," said Chief Robert Joseph, hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, who spent 11 years as a student in St. Michael's and is organizing today's event for the 'Namgis First Nation.

    "Part of the reason why they're really welcoming the demolition is that it's going to remove that blight on the landscape and that blight in their mind's eye about their life experience there."

    Dark memories

    Born on Gilford Island -- about 100 kilometres from Alert Bay -- and raised by her mother, grandmother and great-aunts, Alfred recalled happier times before St. Michael's: "They spoiled me, they hugged me, and they said they loved me, and they would sing songs for me."

    Her memories of residential school are much darker. The first day she arrived, Alfred only spoke Kwakwala language. She didn't understand the words staff said to her when they threw out the pretty dresses her mother had made and packed for her.

    With no nurturing adult figure in her life at school, Alfred was plagued by loneliness and hunger. She can still smell the bacon and eggs cooked for staff when children were forced to eat porridge. Alfred said some kids told her their meals contained worms.

    "They brought us to that school so we could be good Christian girls," she said. "But it just taught us how to steal because we're hungry. It taught us how to lie because if we told the truth we'd get strapped."

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  48. One of 18 residential schools in BC St Michael's opened in 1929 and took students until 1974 when it closed. After that, the 'Namgis First Nation took over and had several uses for the building including housing its own school, a restaurant, a nightclub and band offices.

    As recently as 2001, the band wanted to house a language centre in the building to help preserve and revive the Kwakwala language. But it was unable to raise the $15 million necessary. Eventually the space was used for carvers, but the cost of heating and maintenance became too much and the band closed St. Michael's doors for good in 2012.

    Chief Joseph, 75, was a couple weeks away from turning seven when he started at St. Michael's in 1946. For over a decade he suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of staff. He believes even the students who were never touched are traumatized.

    "There was no redeeming grace about taking little children away from their families, homes and communities; destroying their sense of pride and their language; and stripping them of the ability to have loving relationships with their parents and family," he said.

    Day of prayers and speeches

    Today's day-long ceremony will feature prayers and speeches from former students -- including Alfred, who will lead the Survivors' Prayer -- representatives from the 'Namgis First Nation, an Anglican Church representative, the Assembly of First Nations, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and Reconciliation Canada, an aboriginal-led charity aiming to bridge the divide between indigenous communities and settler Canadians.

    Former students and their families will have the chance to strike back by throwing stones at the building, as well as honouring students -- through songs and prayer -- who did not return to their homelands after they left the school.

    Alfred isn't looking forward to the ceremony. "Why would I throw rocks at that school?" she asked, noting that it was people who caused harm -- not the building. "It was the people that built it, and the Indian agent, and the white staff."

    Chief Joseph says no one will be forced to participate if they aren't comfortable.

    "The main theme in this gathering is to mark the passing of a dark era, and look to the future with hope and optimism," he said, adding that includes survivors finding their own path to healing.

    "We should no longer be defined by that building and that history, otherwise we'll be doomed to pass on the same characteristics of the next generation."


  49. St. Michael's Residential School: Demolished but Not Forgotten


    On Wednesday, Feb. 18 The Tyee's Katie Hyslop reported on the demolition of St. Michael's Indian Residential School in Alert Bay, British Columbia. A day-long ceremony honoured St. Michael's survivors with prayer, speeches and song.


    Though the building is set to disappear from the landscape, the experiences of these survivors will not be forgotten. This video piece by Ed Carswell captures a personal account of survivor Verna Flanders, as told to a class of young students in Courtenay, B.C.


  50. Macdonalds legacy not entirely golden


    The recent bicentennial celebrations of Sir John A. Macdonald’s birth have left me flinching in a family conflict kind of way. Part of me feels proud to be related on my mother’s side to the so-called “Father of Canada.” I am fond of an heirloom circular table, which he once used, that sits in the corner of my home office.

    However, when I gaze at his sombre face on our current stamps, another part of me feels embarrassed. His Canada Post portrait reminds me that I share the same blood as someone whom our history books should more rightly call “father of residential schools.” Centuries of official accounts in this country have ignored Macdonald’s role in initiating and approving the forced assimilation of aboriginal children, which launched Canada’s residential school system.

    A new, thoroughly researched hardcover book, which I edited, aims to correct the popular image of this crusty politician, my ancestor, and expand our vision of Canadian history.

    In Residential Schools: With the Words and Images of Survivors (Indigenous Education Press and Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre 2014), residential school survivor and award-winning author Larry Loyie challenges our widely accepted version of how Macdonald shaped this nation.

    Under the heading “John A. Macdonald: Friend or Foe?” he and co-authors Constance Brissenden and Wayne K. Spear write: “His dream of a nation stretching from sea to sea had one major obstacle ... Aboriginal people were in the way.”

    Our first prime minister and his Canadian government gained complete control over the nation’s aboriginal people, thanks to the British North America Act of 1867 and the Indian Act of 1876.

    But the reserve system, which put aboriginals under strict government control in designated areas, was not enough to reassure early would-be settlers that it was safe to put down roots in Canada’s undeveloped west. Macdonald reasoned that aboriginals needed to adjust their beliefs and behaviours to the European way of life, starting in childhood.

    Hence, he endorsed the forced assimilation of aboriginal children, initiating the system of “Indian” boarding schools. This policy was identified as “aggressive civilization” in an 1879 report to the Canadian government.

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  51. The first official residential schools in Canada opened in 1892, a year after Macdonald ended his final term in office. But the model for these schools began more than 60 years earlier. The Mohawk Indian Industrial School, also known as the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont., opened in 1828. It was financed by a Protestant missionary society based on the U.S. East Coast. With a former British army officer in charge, the school took in boarders from the Six Nations Reserve in 1831. Children as young as five received strict army-style training.

    Macdonald endorsed this military model of assimilation. Under his legacy, more than 150,000 aboriginal children attended an estimated 144 residential schools from the late 1800s to as late as 1996. They suffered verbal, physical, emotional and psychological abuse at many of these schools.

    The co-authors of Residential Schools are determined to put Macdonald’s role within a truer, broader framework. They hope that their book, identified on the cover as “A National History,” will be used as a textbook across Canada. As a whole, it provides a coast-to-coast look at the long-term impact of colonization and assimilation policies on aboriginal culture and traditions.

    I’m not surprised that aboriginal-rights advocates recently demanded the removal of Macdonald’s statue in downtown Hamilton; to our nation’s aboriginals, he is a symbol of genocide. About two dozen people staged a protest Jan. 11 in front of the statue, disrupting a local society’s celebration of Macdonald’s bicentennial birthday.

    Just as Columbus Day in the U.S. ignores aboriginal culture and presence by celebrating European colonization, Canada’s official bicentennial celebrations for Macdonald’s birthday disregarded more than a century of abusive treatment launched by our first prime minister’s policies.

    “The hidden history of residential schools must be known to ensure the human rights of all Canadian children,” says Loyie.

    It is vital that in the telling of history, whether it’s of a nation or a family, we are honest about the influence, in all its forms, of a prominent figure. Otherwise, we present only a whitewashed version of the past, which does a disservice to us all.

    Heather Conn, MFA, is an author of two history books and a former oral historian. A history graduate from the University of British Columbia, she works as a freelance writer, editor, writing coach, and communications consultant.


  52. Canada is Killing Our People

    Genocide? Murder? Criminal Negligence? Or Passive Indifference?

    by Pam Palmater, Indigenous Nationhood February 20, 2015

    Racism doesn't just hurt our feelings - racism kills. The two senseless deaths of First Nations children in a house fire in Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in Saskatchewan from an unpaid bill of less than $4,000 has sparked outrage across Canada. In no other place in Canada would an ambulance, fire fighter or police officer ask a provincial resident if they had paid their taxes before answering an emergency call for help. Canada has a deep-seated racism problem which is killing our people. But to truly understand Indigenous outrage and sadness, one must understand both the context and true depth of this problem in Canada.

    In the mid-1700’s, colonial governments in what is now Nova Scotia considered the Mi’kmaw Nation to be “rebels” because we refused to give up our land. As a result, Governor Cornwallis issued a scalping proclamation that decimated the Mi’kmaw Nation by as much as 80%. In 1971, Donald Marshall Jr., was sentenced to life in prison for murder and spent 11 years in jail before his wrongful prosecution was exposed. A subsequent Royal Commission found the reason for his imprisonment was racism against Mi’kmaw people by all levels of the justice system.

    In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that the Mi’kmaw right to fish and trade it commercially was protected in our constitutionally-protected treaties. The result? Canada sent in law enforcement to beat, pepper spray and run over our fishing boats – in addition to legal charges. In 2013, Elsipogtog First Nation and other members of the Mi’kmaw Nation who supported their anti-fracking stance in Mi’kmaw territory were labeled “terrorists”, “militants” and “bad Indians”. The scalping law was not used but our people were beaten and imprisoned.

    From small pox blankets and scalping bounties to imprisonment and neglect – Canada is killing our people and Canadians will be next if nothing is done to change the value (or lack thereof) that we collectively put on human life – all human life. This dictatorial, police state is not what newcomers to Canada had in mind when they came to Canada. A territory shared with Indigenous Nations based on formal agreements (treaties) and information agreement (alliances) were founded on three principles: (1) mutual respect, (2) mutual prosperity and (3) mutual protection. Indigenous peoples, their families, communities and Nations protected and cared for newcomers. Our people fought in Canada’s world wars to protect our shared territory and people. Now it’s time for Canadians to stand up for Indigenous peoples.

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  53. In 1971 Helen Betty Osborne was kidnapped and murdered in The Pas, Manitoba. Her grieving friends and family were treated like criminals while the accused men were given the royal treatment by law enforcement and left to walk free for years. This wasn’t the first time our Indigenous women and little girls have been victims of a racist Canada, but no action was taken. Today, Canadians are well aware of the thousands of Indigenous women and little girls have gone murdered and/or missing in Canada. Yet, there is no sense of alarm in Parliament, nor has the Canadian state taken any steps to work with First Nations to embark on an inquiry or implement an emergency action plan.

    By 1996, the last residential school had closed which was supposed to mark an end to the theft of Indigenous children from our Indigenous families, communities and Nations. Literally thousands of Indigenous children were victims of murders, rapes, tortures and medical experiments – and upwards of 40% never made it out of some of those schools alive. The legacy of thousands of our children who died as a matter of state law and policy should at least have included a promise to stop stealing our children. Today, we have more than 30,000 Indigenous children in care and growing. The problems have not stopped – they are getting worse.

    The use of small pox blankets on our people to try to kill us off faster has been described by medical doctors as the first example of “biological warfare” during non-war times. Indigenous women and little girls were forcibly sterilized without their knowledge and consent for decades in an effort to stop us from reproducing. The Canadian state does not need to use such blatant policies to reduce our populations anymore – willful neglect has the same lethal effect. Federal, provincial and municipal governments are standing by while our people die. This is not an “Indian problem” – this is a Canadian problem that impacts every single Canadian and our collective future.

    In 2005, Jordan River Anderson, a little boy from Norway House Cree Nation with many medical issues, died in hospital at 5 years old never having seen his home because the federal and provincial governments couldn’t stop arguing over who would pay. In 2008, Brian Sinclair, a double amputee, whose family had roots in Berens River and Fort Alexander First Nations, died after waiting 34 hours in a hospital waiting room waiting for treatment for a bladder infection – while nearly 200 people passed him by – including staff who wrongly assumed he was “sleeping it off”.

    The former Auditor General for Canada raised the alarms about discriminatory funding and the failure by Indian Affairs to take action on programs that would significantly impact the lives of First Nations. The Office of the Correctional Investigator has called the increasing over-representation of Indigenous peoples a crisis that needs to be addressed. The United Nations Special Rapporteur ha