28 Feb 2011

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

rabble.ca - Canada February 18, 2011

Confronting the hidden legacy of residential schools

by Noreen Mae Ritsema

In an attempt to discuss the impact of residential schools on the families of survivors and strategies for the future, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is opening a national intergenerational conference next week in Winnipeg. It is the first intergenerational event on the issue that is First Nations-led.

Speakers and attendees are expected from across the country to attend workshops from Feb. 22 to 24 on the state of living for First Nations, looking at subjects including prison populations, school dropout rates, gang membership and substance addiction, and how these problems have the single thread of residential schools running through them. The importance of healing and the opportunities for justice are also to be discussed.

The fallout left by the schools has scarred generations of First Nations peoples, and Joanne Henry, executive director of the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools(CAIRS) in Whitehorse, Yukon, has witnessed this firsthand in her work with survivors.

"The legacy of the schools is over 50 years, we've got generations upon generations of residential school history that we have to heal from. Our parents weren't given the opportunity to learn how to be parents. Therefore, we weren't given the opportunity to learn how to be parents either," said Ms. Henry, in an interview with rabble.ca.

Dedicated to helping the healing incurred this type of historical trauma, Dr. Eduardo Duran, a clinical psychologist and author of The Soul Wound explains that he has found a clear relationship between residential schools and trauma. He is a keynote speaker at the conference.

"It is well known that the boarding school model was developed in order to extricate culture from Native people. The manner in which this was done was violent and thus traumatic... If trauma is not grieved and healed, this is passed on to the children and their children. This transmission can be through behavior patterns, spiritually and genetically."

Ms. Henry reports seeing increased addiction issues with the Indian Residential Schools Settlement because survivors have been recounting their school experiences more frequently in recent years.

"There is a lot of alcohol and drug addiction and it seems to have come out a lot more with the CEP [common experience payment] and more with the IAP [independent assessment process] where you actually talk about your experience in residential school," she said.

"I know one lady, in particular, she did not drink for over 30 years and when she did her IAP she started. So it has a devastating effect. It's not a simple thing to go through. For support afterwards, you can go for counseling, but to actually have a support system in place -- there is nothing like that."

Dr. Gabor Maté, a physician in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, is another speaker at the conference. In conversation, he explains how addiction works. "Addiction is always a response to deep emotional pain, to trauma. It's an attempt to soothe the pain of trauma. The residential school traumatized not only individuals but several consecutive generations; in fact, it traumatized an entire people. When that happens, abuse becomes endemic and is passed on from one generation to the next. As abuse is passed on, so is addiction."

When facing an addiction, Dr. Maté, explains that the first action a person must take actually consists of three steps that must be taken together, a message he wants to discuss at the conference.

"Addicted people must have the courage to accept that they are addicted, that their lives are out of control and that their addiction has multiple negative consequences for themselves and for people close to them. But they also need to recognize at the same time that it's not their fault, it's nothing they chose deliberately but was their way of coping with stress and deep emotional pain," he said.

"And finally, they need to own the problem -- while it's not their fault, it is their responsibility. That is, no matter what the cause of the addiction, only the addicted human being can take responsibility for liberating themselves from its chains."

Western medicine has not widely acknowledged the role of historical trauma, such as the residential school legacy, in relation to illness, and healing from historical trauma has been slow.

Dr. Duran said that without understanding, there is no validation for the pain that people feel.

"In most Western diagnostic procedures the patient is pathologized and their historical context is ignored for the most part. What this tells the person is that they are sick and defective, which can then become a form of identity that takes over their lives."

This points to why The Hidden Legacy conference can have such a positive impact.

"There is strength in numbers, there is power is recognizing that one is not alone, in seeing that the problem is a historical one whose consequences need to be confronted by mutual support and by a common struggle to gain justice. And there is relief in hearing the experience of other people, in telling one's own story, and in learning from one another's strengths and successes," says Dr. Maté.

Joanne Henry also sees the strength in such a gathering. "Anything that deals with residential schools, if we're given the time and the courtesy to look into it and get learning tools from it, will help residential school survivors and be beneficial."

CAIRS, a community resource for residential school survivors in Whitehorse, can be reached at 1-867-667-2247.

Noreen Mae Ritsema is an intern with rabble.ca.

This article was found at:



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

No easy road to recovery for survivors of clergy abuse, even with settlement

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

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

‘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

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

Jesuit leaders concealed 40 years of warnings about pedophile priest who became spiritual adviser to Mother Teresa

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

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

When will church learn lessons about abuse scandals?

Former member of Quebec Catholic order says superiors and Vatican knew about years of abuse but kept silent

Holy Cross Brothers stand accused

Sexual abuse by the Brothers of Holy Cross ruined lives of victims

Dark side of the 'chaste' life

Plea for help from survivors of abuse at prestigious Quebec Catholic school rejected because of class-action suit

Current wave of global Catholic scandals just tip of iceberg says Quebec advocate who predicts many more to come

Christian Brothers school built by sex abused child slaves depicted in film on tragedy of UK's child migration scheme


  1. First Nations children still taken from parents

    Analysis finds more First Nations children in care than at height of residential school system

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/08/02/pol-first-nations-kids.html [excerpt below]

    After decades of wrestling with the impact of the residential school system -- and then with the "Sixties Scoop" that placed so many aboriginal children in non-aboriginal homes -- First Nations are now facing another tragedy of lost children in the new millennium.

    There are more First Nations children in care right now than at the height of the residential school system. That system was a national disgrace that prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize for its catastrophic impact on natives. Instead of being at home with their parents, brothers and sisters, tens of thousands of First Nations children are in foster homes, staying with distant relatives or living in institutions.

    "It's a culmination of decades worth of social ills," Beaucage says. A disheartening mix of poverty, addiction, history and politics has conspired to separate First Nations children from their parents.

    Researchers aren't certain how many native kids are no longer living with their parents. A major study in 2005 pegged the number at 27,500. Since then, provincial and federal data as well as empirical reports suggest the numbers have risen. That's easily double the size of the cohort forced away from their homes and into residential schools during the late 1940s and 50s -- a brutal period of Canada's history that still haunts First Nations families.

    There's no question native children dominate the child welfare system. Former auditor general Sheila Fraser estimated First Nations children were eight times more likely to be in care than other Canadian kids. She pointed out that in British Columbia, of all the children in care, about half are aboriginal -- even though aboriginals are only about eight per cent of the population.

    Beaucage's report says aboriginal people make up about two per cent of the population, but between 10 to 20 per cent of the children in care. "Given the data I've had a chance to see, if anything, it's an underestimation," said Nico Trocme, director of McGill University's Centre for Research on Children and Families.

    "It's getting harder to be a parent in these communities."
    Expert after expert recognizes that family dysfunction is more broadly rooted in poverty, poor health and the oppressive legacy of the residential school system that robbed the parents of first-hand knowledge of how to raise a family.

    "The simplest reason why, the most important reason why, is that these children are living in communities where families are facing enormous hardships," says McGill's Trocme. "The supports to bring up kids just aren't there."

    A child at risk often comes from a home that is over-crowded, with up to four people to a sparse room. The home may not have clean drinking water. It may have mould or boarded-up windows as the house falls into disrepair. The parents are often not there, or not paying attention.

    Instead, they're in their own cycle of trouble, often related to addictions. Or they have not developed the social skills or parenting skills they need to deal with a precarious situation. ...

  2. Victims of residential schools have until Monday to file for settlement money

    Alberni Valley Times September 15, 2011

    Any former residential school students who have not yet filed for compensation under the Common Experience Payment Program have until Monday, Sept. 19 to get their applications in. Successful applicants can get $10,000 for the first year or part of a year that they lived at one of the schools, plus $3,000 for each year after that.

    The Quu?asa office on Argyle Street, set up by the Nuu-chahnulth Tribal Council, has been working for several years to get the word out about the program, and helping applicants fill out forms and assemble documentation. "I would encourage people who haven't filed to come forward, so we can get the applications in," Quu?asa support worker Richard Watts said. "A lot of people still haven't applied, either because they didn't hear about it or didn't want to bother. Some people just wanted to forget the whole thing, because it was too traumatic."

    The Common Experience Payment is a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, signed in November, 2005. The federal government set aside a $1.9 billion fund to recognize the experience of children taken away from their families and denied access to their culture and language while living at an Indian Residential School. Applicants for this program do not have to prove abuse. A separate program provides for higher awards for First Nations people who suffered physical and sexual harm.

    Most eligible people in the Nuu-chah-nulth territories have applied and received payments, according to Watts. He knows of about 10 cases, though, where applicants have not been paid for all of the years they were in residential schools. Quu?asa is helping them with their appeals.

    "Certain people were denied certain years and we don't know why. They went for seven years and only got paid for two," Watts said. "It's tough because you have to rely on government records or search for pictures taken in the schools. You have to talk to fellow students who were there at the same time. I find it's a crime that through legislation, you take people's kids away and then deny that they were even there."

    Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Cliff Atleo attended residential school for nine years. He said he did not suffer some of the more serious abuse that others experienced, but he did received a severe blow to his right ear that affects his hearing to this day.

    "The impacts on me were the deprivation of teaching the values of our lessons, our history, our governance system - all those things were taken from us," Atleo said. "We weren't allowed to extend that teaching line that existed before. An incredible knowledge gap exists."


    Government officials who think that the residential school issue is going to go away on Monday, Sept. 19, can think again, if Atleo and others have their way.

    "We're strongly recommending an extension because whoever determined the timetable had no clue as far as the depth and reach of the trauma," Atleo said. "As recently as two weeks ago, I spoke to a relative of mine who indicated how difficult it was to begin the application because it was so traumatic. We're dealing with multi-generational impacts. When the deadline goes, that's probably the signal for someone in government to say that's over and done, but for us, it's not. We'll continue to address the challenges and issues that confront us."

    read full article at:

  3. Nisga'a residential school survivors return home

    CBC News October 5, 2011

    Four hundred members of the Nisga'a Ts'amiks, many of whom have not stepped foot in the Nass Valley since they were taken away to residential schools, march towards the Nisga'a Museum in Greenville.

    Hundreds of Nisga'a now living in southern B.C. are reconnecting with their homeland in the Nass Valley in the northwestern part of the province.

    Most of the 400 returning Nisga'a are residential school survivors who haven't been back since they were taken away as children.

    The Journey Home tour, organized by Vancouver's Nisga'a community, has been in the works for three years.

    The project gave many returnees the opportunity to reconnect with their heritage by relearning Nisga'a customs, language and culture before their journey north.

    Richmond resident and residential school survivor Esther Stewart is one of the many who are making the emotional return.

    "It opened a lot of feelings that I never knew I had," she said. "This was a powerful journey. I meet a lot of heartwarming, beautiful people wherever we go."

    Organizer Sherry Small said the project is incredibly important.

    "It is just that to put their feet on the ground of the creator and to feel the spiritual nature and of what that means to be Nisga'a."

    The group will be in Gitwinksihlkw on Wednesday before finishing their trip in New Aiyansh on Thursday.


  4. Cost to redress native residential school abuse set to pass $5-billion

    by BILL CURRY Globe and Mail November 18, 2011

    Twenty nine thousand. That’s Ottawa’s latest estimate of how many people will ultimately come forward with compensation cases for physical and sexual abuse suffered at Canada’s native residential schools. The volume is more than twice what was expected, meaning the final cost of Canada’s 2006 out-of-court settlement with former students is on pace to exceed $5-billion – well beyond the original $3.2-billion budget set five years ago.

    The settlement awarded at least some money to all living former students, but also included an option for additional compensation for physical and sexual abuse via an Independent Assessment Process. It was estimated that 12,500 former students would apply. Now the latest estimates forecast at least 29,000 IAP claimants will come forward, and the vast majority of claims so far have been validated by independent adjudicators. The sheer volume of successful cases supports those who say violent abuse was rampant, not isolated.

    “I think the message is that sexual abuse was prevalent in these institutions,” said Charlene Belleau, who manages the Assembly of First Nations residential schools unit. Ms. Belleau, a former B.C. chief, said she expects the final numbers will be even higher as the Sept. 19, 2012 deadline approaches. With IAP settlements averaging just over $120,000 including legal fees, a rough estimate suggests Ottawa could be on the hook for well over $2-billion in additional costs tied to compensating former students.


    Residential schools were originally created as part of religious missionary work and started receiving federal support in 1874. They were then run as joint ventures by Ottawa and the churches as part of a policy to assimilate natives. Nearly all of the remaining schools were closed in the mid-1970s.

    The original 2006 agreement broke down costs into six sections, totalling about $3.2-billion. That included $1.9-billion for a Common Experience Payment that went to all former students based on the number of years they attended the school. This payment is meant as compensation to students for being removed from their homes and for having their languages and culture diminished.

    The second largest section was the IAP, which allows former students to tell their story in a private hearing – sometimes with the alleged abuser present. Government-appointed adjudicators listen to the stories of abuse and approve compensation, using a matrix that increases the payment based on the severity of the physical or sexual abuse and the severity of the long-term emotional impact on the former student.

    The remainder of the deal included $125-million for Aboriginal Healing Foundation programs, $100-million for the payment of plaintiffs’ legal fees, and $60-million toward a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    read the full article at:


  5. Expect more residential school claims, say observers

    CBC News December 3, 2011

    The government expects roughly 29,000 former residential school students to apply for their alternative resolution process, which will hear claims of abuse outside a courtroom setting.

    But community leaders predict the number of applicants looking for compensation will be much higher.

    Former students have 292 days left to apply for the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), which could provide compensation to students who experienced physical or sexual abuse at Indian Residential Schools.

    But some who work with former students are concerned that the government is not prepared for a much higher demand, referencing their experiences at the community level.

    Joe Pintarics, project supervisor at the Healing Drum Society, said the government's estimate is low.

    His Yellowknife-based organization runs a trauma recovery program with a seven-person staff, and Pintarics said the number of clients has been consistently high.

    "It's been a steady flow," he said. "I've been here four years now. We've had the same level. It's been a very high level."

    Pintarics said as more people talk about their experiences, more come forward looking for help.

    He said there is no sense of the depth of damage caused by residential schools.

    "We need treatment facilities that are highly specialized," he said, adding that help should be "available for this generation, the next generation, and probably for the next after that."

    He also worries about the former students and families he deals with now because the Healing Drum funding is expected to end four years from now.

    The number of former residential school students is considerable.

    Initially, about 1,100 students attended 69 schools across the country. In 1931, at the peak of the residential school system, there were about 80 schools operating in Canada.

    A total of about 130 schools operated across Canada — excluding Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick — from the earliest in the 19th century to the last, which closed in 1996.

    All in all, about 150,000 aboriginal, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the schools.

    "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," states the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

    Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus agrees that government is underestimating the number of former students that will come forward.

    The Dene Nation holds its own conferences and workshops on residential schools. Erasmus said everyone who has been to residential school has been hurt and should be compensated.

    "There are people that can no longer hold a job. They can no longer hold a full-time job because of what occurred to them when they were children," said Erasmus.


  6. Survivors closer to healing with news Truth and Reconciliation Commission is coming

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley Times December 16, 2011

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has announced it will hold hearings in Port Alberni on March 12 and 13, 2012.
    It is long-awaited news for many Aboriginal People here in the Alberni Valley who attended the infamous Alberni Residential School, which operated from 1920 to 1972.

    Tom Happynook, Huu-ay-aht First Nations councillor, said the hearings are one of the most important steps the federal government is taking to heal the wounds created by the residential school system here and across Canada.

    Happynook's grandmother, father, aunties and other members of his family experienced abuse while attending the Alberni Residential School.
    His grandmother was born in 1914 and was sent away to the school at the age of six.
    "Her hair was cut off and they washed her in kerosene," Happynook said.

    He added that she had many painful memories from her 10 years at the school.

    "I was really angry about how our people and my family have been treated by our government," Happynook said.

    He worked through his anger by realizing he needed to have peace to find solutions and to be a good husband and father to his three children.
    Happynook's grandmother died at the age of 93, but lived long enough to hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper's public apology (in June of 2008) on behalf of the government to Aboriginal People across the country who are survivors and family members of survivors of residential schools.

    "She appreciated the apology," Happynook said.
    In the months following this significant move, payments were sent out to aboriginal people based on the length of time they attended residential schools.

    Happynook said the payments were important as an acknowledgement of the abuse that took place in the schools, that the system was "created by the government of Canada."

    "But it certainly wasn't enough," he added.
    However, the coming of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to Port Alberni is a vital step in the healing process.

    "I think the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the more important part," Happynook said. "It allow survivors to tell their stories. Even though they have to relive those horrors, it will be documented. This genocide will become part of Canadian history forever."

    Tseshaht Chief Councillor Les Sam said when the hearings take place, his people will make their request that a health and wellness centre be constructed where the old residential school building stood, so that it can become a place of healing.

    "We still consider this an open wound," Sam said. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  7. Former NHL player Fred Sasakamoose recalls abuse at residential school

    by The Canadian Press February 02, 2012

    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - A former player in the National Hockey League has opened up about abuse he experienced at a residential school in Saskatchewan.

    Fred Sasakamoose spoke on the third and final day of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's community hearing in Prince Albert.

    He told the hearing that he was raped by older children when he was nine years old at the Duck Lake residential school.

    Sasakamoose said a priest might have seen what was happening, but didn't do anything.

    He said he and a friend, who was also raped, were instead whipped and had coal oil poured over their heads.

    Sasakamoose dressed for 11 games with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1950s.

    “I feel that I could be able to talk now,” Sasakamoose said Thursday.

    He recalled getting up after the rape and having no clothes on.

    "Then I started running, put my clothes on and walked out. The priest was there. He could have seen it, but there was nothing that he would do.”

    Sasakamoose said he and his friend were trying to escape when they got caught and were put in the centre of the dining room during dinner hour.

    “Took our clothes off from the waist up and give us a whipping, then poured coal oil on top of us. That coal oil would burn my eyes.”

    Sasakamoose said he witnessed other abuses and there is "so much that I have to carry.

    "My little friend that I see in front of me — in bed being raped. My brother, who I saw also, being raped in front of me."

    Sasakamoose said it is only because of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings that he feels he can talk about his abuse in such detail.



  8. Residential schools called a form of genocide

    by CHINTA PUXLEY WINNIPEG — The Canadian Press February 17, 2012

    The chairman of Canada’s truth and reconciliation commission says removing more than 100,000 aboriginal children from their homes and placing them in residential schools was an act of genocide.

    Justice Murray Sinclair says the United Nations defines genocide to include the removal of children based on race, then placing them with another race to indoctrinate them. He says Canada has been careful to ensure its residential school policy was not “caught up” in the UN’s definition.

    “That’s why the minister of Indian affairs can say this was not an act of genocide,” Judge Sinclair told students at the University of Manitoba Friday. “But the reality is that to take children away and to place them with another group in society for the purpose of racial indoctrination was – and is – an act of genocide and it occurs all around the world.”

    About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were forced to attend the government schools over much of the past century. The last school closed outside Regina in 1996.

    The $60-million truth and reconciliation commission is part of a landmark compensation deal between the federal government, the Crown and residential school survivors. It is about halfway through its mandate and has visited about 500 communities, where it has heard graphic details of rampant sexual and physical abuse.

    The commission has taken 25,000 statements from survivors so far and has heard from about 100 people who worked in the schools, Judge Sinclair said.

    Their legacy has left an indelible impact on Canadian society, he added. The commission has heard stories of survivors continuing the cycle of abuse with their own children.

    Even those who worked at the schools are not immune. Many of them were victims, too, and suffer lingering guilt and shame.

    “We’ve had teachers come forward to us and spoken to the commission … about how they so hated the experience of teaching in a residential school that they quickly left,” Judge Sinclair said. “They never put the fact that they worked at a residential school on their resumé and they always kept that fact hidden from everybody, even from their own families.”

    Just as children of school survivors suffer with their parents’ pain, so, too, do children of those who worked in the schools, Judge Sinclair said. Children of staff members also attended the schools and still grapple with what they saw and experienced there. Some watched their parents become deeply depressed later in life as they came to realize what they had been a part of.

    “In many ways, they also feel victimized by having been in residential schools. There is a great mixture of experiences here.”

    The commission is expected to release an interim report shortly about what it’s heard so far. But even halfway through its mandate, Judge Sinclair said, it’s clear work will take much longer to complete.

    There are between 200 million and 300 million government documents on residential schools policy and about 20 million photographs. The commission has only managed to copy about 14,000 photos for the record, he said.

    Canada will have to work hard to undo the damage done by the schools long after the commission has finished its work, Judge Sinclair suggested. Generations of children – both aboriginal and non-aboriginal – have been brought up on a curriculum that dismissed aboriginal culture and history as worthless and inferior.

    Another consequence is that there is a spiritual void in many aboriginal communities, Judge Sinclair added. Churches that once had strong congregations in aboriginal communities have moved out and elders who could pass on traditional spiritual teachings are no longer living.

    “It took 130 years to create this problem. It’s probably going to take us 130 years to undo it.”


  9. Report urges residential school history classes

    CBC News February 23, 2012

    The residential school system constituted an assault on aboriginal children, families and culture, and Canadians have been denied a full and proper education about aboriginal societies, according to a copy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's interim report obtained by CBC News. The interim report was leaked Thursday to CBC News, a day before the three commissioners — chair Murray Sinclair, Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson — release the report in Vancouver.

    Their 20 recommendations address education, health and commemoration, among other issues. The commission calls for all provinces and territories to develop residential school education materials for public schools. Provinces and territories should hold education campaigns about the history and impact of residential schools in their jurisdictions, the commission says.

    The report also asks the federal government to distribute a framed copy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's historic formal apology to residential school survivors, saying it should be displayed prominently in every secondary school in the country. The commissioners want the apology delivered to every known residential school survivor. They recommend setting up a mental-health wellness facility in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, saying such a centre is "critically needed by residential school survivors and their families and communities."

    The federal government and the churches involved in residential schools should establish what the commission calls "an ongoing cultural revival fund" to pay for projects related to the cultural, traditional and spiritual heritage of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The interim report comes as the commission reaches the halfway mark in its five-year mandate. The commissioners are set to deliver their full report when their mandate expires in 2014.

    Some other recommendations are:

    --Provinces and territories should review what is taught in public schools about residential schools and develop new materials to address any shortfalls.

    --The federal government should set up centres for grief and trauma counselling and treatment.

    --The concerns of former students who feel unfairly left out of compensation programs should be addressed.

    --The federal government should work with the commission to make sure it has adequate funds to complete its mandate on time.

    --All levels of government and those party to the settlement agreement should use the United Nations Declaration on the -Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for ongoing reconciliation work between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

    --The federal government should restore funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation within the next fiscal year.

    --The federal government, churches and other agencies should hand over all relevant documents to the commission so that it can continue its work.

    continued in next comment...


    Truth and Reconciliation Commission interim report (PDF)


  10. continued from previous comment:

    Aboriginal children separated from families

    The first residential schools were established in the 1840s and the last one closed in 1996.

    Aboriginal children were separated from their families and sent to Christian schools, where many students were abused.

    The report says the impacts were immediate and have been ongoing since.

    The report insists the commission can’t accomplish reconciliation alone. It says that until the federal government recognizes Aboriginal peoples’ unique legal status as the original peoples of this country, there will be no reconciliation.

    Ron Morrisseau is a survivor who went to St. Joseph's school in Thunder Bay, Ont. He says students need to know more about what happened, but it should come not from teachers but from survivors because they were there.

    "The people, man or woman, who went to the residential school should have the privilege of presenting their own consequences. They should be teaching the children, not the government," Morrisseau said.


    Truth and Reconciliation Commission interim report (PDF)


  11. Ottawa, churches withholding documents, residential schools commission says

    by TAMARA BALUJA, Globe & Mail February 24, 2012

    Ottawa is restricting access to federal archives and withholding several key documents on church-run residential schooling, says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission charged with exposing the dark legacy of this period in aboriginal education.

    The commission’s mandate is to create a comprehensive historical record of residential schooling in Canada with a purpose of helping victims to heal and encourage reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. But in an interim report released Friday in Vancouver, the commission says the federal government and some churches are frustrating their efforts to search through their archives and causing “considerable delay.”

    “It is unlikely that the document collection process will be completed without a significant shift in attitude on the part of Canada and those parties who have been reluctant to co-operate,” Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the commission, wrote in the report.

    The commission was established in 2008 through the court-approved Residential Schools Settlement Agreement that was negotiated among legal counsel for former students, the churches, the Assembly of First Nations and the federal government.

    Jan O’Driscoll, a spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, said the government will carefully review the interim report, but refused to answer any questions on restricting access to records or costs. Mr. O’Driscoll added that the government has already handed over close to a million digitized records to the commission and is preparing to disclose more in the near future.

    The commission says, however, that the federal government has from five million to 50 million relevant files on residential schooling, and more than 100,000 boxes of records at the Library and Archives Canada, including some 40,000 boxes from the Aboriginal Affairs Department.

    While the report doesn’t name which churches are not co-operating with the commission, the United Church of Canada said it has hired a researcher specifically to sift through its archives on residential schooling.

    “The only documents we’re withholding are those with solicitor-client privilege and even then, we are willing to have a discussion with the commission about it,” said Reverend James Scott, general counsel for residential schools. “But most of the documents, close to 95 per cent, are simply not a problem.”

    What those church and national archive documents might reveal remains unknown as most organizations don’t have a full inventory yet, Judge Sinclair said. The commission has been provided with “only a very limited portion” of photos and documents in the original lawsuit. But it also needs access to documents on daily operations, such as what the children ate at these schools, for example, to get a “more clear picture.”

    Judge Sinclair said the cost for reproducing copies of the archives should be borne by the federal government and the churches involved. If the commission is forced to pick up the tab, the costs could exceed the commission’s $60-million budget.

    “We don’t have any authority to force anybody to do anything,” Judge Sinclair said. The commission will now seek advice from the courts on how to ensure compliance, before its mandate expires in 2014.


  12. Truth and Reconciliation Commission says healing requires education

    The Canadian Press February 24, 2012

    Tears form in Barney Williams eyes and his hand rests over his heart when he speaks about how important a report on residential schools is for First Nations who grew up in the church-run schools.

    "Many survivors are in terrible pain," Williams said, who himself is a residential school survivor and an elder with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which released its interim report Friday.

    He said the report is proof that many of the 150,000 aboriginal children who went the residential school systems suffered horrible neglect or physical and sexual abuse.

    Williams, 73, went to a residential school on the west coast of Vancouver Island, not far from his Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation reserve, near Tofino, B.C.

    He was "not quite seven" when he was first sexually assaulted, he stated matter-of-factly. "Pedophiles have their victims. They used you for a while until they found another victim."

    It's a story he's told all over Canada, but he said many still don't believe that something so horrible could be part of Canada's history.

    "A lot of people I talked to would say 'Well gee you know priests and nuns would never do that,' that's the belief right," he said. "I'm saying 'Well you know what? They did that because my abusers were both male and female."'

    That's why he feels the commission's recommendation to use the education system to tell students what happened is a key part of the report.

    "It's going to take a lot of work to convince the general public that this really happened. There is still doubt among the general population."

    Chairman says education needed

    Justice Murray Sinclair, the commission's chairman, said panel members were struck by the amount Canadians don't know about aboriginal people and the sorry legacy of residential schools.

    "It has been through the use of an education system by the Canadian government that we have established and created the situation that exists within aboriginal communities and within aboriginal families in this country," Sinclair said at a news conference.

    "Also, it is through the educational system that non-aboriginal Canadians have been taught what they've come to learn about aboriginal people, or not learned about aboriginal people in this country.

    "We believe it is through the educational system that that information can be corrected, that that lack of information can be filled."

    Sinclair also called on the government to mount a public information campaign to educate Canadians.

    It took 130 years to get to this point in the process, Sinclair said, and it may take that long again for First Nations to recover from the abuse.

    Commissioner Marie Wilson told reporters that because the residential school stain was never taught in Canadian schools, no one knew what happened to generations of aboriginals.

    "We have all been the losers for lack of that knowledge and understanding. It has led us to a place of stereotypes and judgment."

    The commission was set up to help First Nations heal from abuses in the system that was "an assault" on aboriginal children, their families and their culture, the interim report said.

    continued in next comment...

  13. continued from previous comment:

    The report said the schools "often were sites of institutionalized child neglect, excessive physical punishment, and physical, sexual and emotional abuse."

    Generations of trauma

    The commission found that several generations of children were "traumatized" by being abused, witnessing abuse or being "coerced to participate in abuse."

    Aboriginal children were taken from their families and forced to attend the schools, the first of which opened in the 1870s and the last of which closed in 1996.

    The commission makes 20 recommendations in its interim report, including a call for the federal government to distribute a framed copy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's historic formal apology to residential school survivors.

    It says the apology should be displayed prominently in every secondary school in the country and be delivered to every known residential school survivor.

    The interim report comes as the commission reaches the halfway mark in its five-year mandate, with a full report due when the mandate expires in 2014.

    Sinclair said the education system needs to address important issues about residential schools before then.

    A copy of the interim report was leaked to CBC News on Thursday, a day before the three commissioners — Sinclair, Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson — released the report in Vancouver.


    Truth and Reconciliation Commission interim report (PDF)


  14. Government still trying to assimilate aboriginals by underfunding child welfare, natives argue

    By Teresa Smith, Postmedia News February 14, 2012

    OTTAWA — The federal government continues to use assimilationist policies — such as those perpetrated by decades of residential schools — by consistently underfunding child-welfare agencies that provide services to First Nations children on reserve, a counsel for the Assembly of First Nations said Tuesday in Ottawa.

    Speaking before a judicial review at the Federal Court, David Nahwegahbow said the residential school system mentality was so entrenched in the minds of lawmakers that it simply morphed into the modern-day child-welfare system that is currently responsible for three times more children than at the height of the residential school system.

    "It's not as obvious," said Nahwegahbow, "but evidence seems to suggest that kids are being taken away from their homes due to a lack of funding for preventive programs, that could keep them with their families."

    The three-day judicial review, which concludes on Wednesday, is the result of an appeal by aboriginal child-advocacy groups of a 2011 Human Rights Tribunal decision to dismiss a discrimination case against the federal government.

    The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations are alleging that the government is discriminating against aboriginal children by consistently underfunding child-welfare services on reserves, leading, they contend, to poverty, poor housing, substance abuse and a vast over-representation of aboriginal children in state care.

    "This case will not only affect one child, one family or one First Nation. This complaint is about all FN children on reserve — it is therefore an issue of significant importance" and should be heard on the merits, said Sarah Clarke, counsel for the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

    The decision will affect all First Nations people on reserve whenever they are receiving a service that is provided off reserve by the province, said Clarke.

    In addition to child welfare services, that includes health care, water services, education and police services.

    The aboriginal advocates are arguing that the chair of the tribunal made an error of law when she dismissed the case because it is too important a case to be dismissed without a hearing.

    The federal government is expected to argue Wednesday that, because it merely sends funds to band managers — who themselves administer the services — the government cannot be held responsible for the services delivered.

    The government also says the question itself is invalid because it funds services on reserves, while provincial governments are responsible for services to the rest of Canadians, and that comparing two governments is both "unreasonable" and nonsensical.

    The "comparator" argument was used in the Human Rights Tribunal's initial decision to dismiss the case in 2011 before any of the main evidence had been heard.

    However, Nahwegahbow asked the court to take into account the government-sanctioned "history of disadvantage" plaguing First Nations. "Given the fact that there is no parallel example in this country which could compare to the experience of aboriginal people," Nahwegahbow argued that the government should be held accountable by "the honour of the Crown."

    That is the principle that "in all dealings with aboriginal people, the Crown must act honourably." It enshrines the government's duty to consult with aboriginal people and accommodate their interests, and it has been used in previous cases of land claims at the Supreme Court level.

    "It would be dishonourable of the Crown to argue that it can't be held accountable" just because there is no obvious comparator, said Nahwegahbow.

    continued in next comment...

  15. continued from previous comment:

    "The best interests of the child should be the primary consideration," he said.

    At a rally on Parliament Hill in conjunction with the case, students from six public schools across Ontario and Quebec gathered to deliver Valentine's Day cards to Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding "equal education" for First Nations children.

    As part of the Have a Heart camp again, several carried posters with handwritten messages, such as "My Canada includes Reserves" and "The Gov't of Canada is no ally to protect the rights of First Nations Children."

    A young boy from the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Maniwaki, Que., was one of several students from Grades 4 to 8 who spoke to the 400-strong crowd about the need for improved education services in First Nations schools.

    His school, he said, doesn't even have a library.

    "The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights is for all Canadians," said another student, named Elliot. "Despite the commitment of Canada, Canada has failed miserably in this regard."

    The Federal Court "has an obligation to hear the case," Elliot said. He added that Harper has "no right to criticize China about human rights'" when First Nations communities in Canada lack basic housing and education.

    That reality was again brought to the fore when Attawapiskat, a northern Ontario community of 2,100 people on James Bay, declared a state of emergency over deplorable living conditions on Oct. 28.

    For at least the last two years, some of the community's residents had been living in shacks and makeshift tents without electricity, heat or indoor plumbing.

    Meanwhile, a Devonshire Public School student asked: "Why is it I have a good school and they don't? Is it because I am not native and they are?"

    As images of a housing crisis on the northern Ontario reserve hit TV screens across the country last year, Attawapiskat — one community among a hundred remote reserves in the same dire conditions — put itself on the map.

    Since then, a delegation of six aboriginal young people travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to tell the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child about their experiences in Canada.

    One of the young people, 22-year-old child and youth care student Madelynn Slade told the committee about her experience in the child-welfare system.

    Against the government's own policies, which promise culturally appropriate care, Slade was placed with a white family, away from her home community.

    She said her goal is to "keep speaking until somebody listens."

    "Children are dying in these homes, children are being abused in these homes and no one is caring," said Slade after returning to Victoria where she attends university.

    "It's hard to think about, but it's happening right now, this second. And, that's not something where I should I have to go to the UN and beg them to listen to me because the Canadian government hasn't listened."

    With files from Sheila Dabu Nonato, Postmedia News


  16. Curtain lifts on decades of forced adoptions for unwed mothers in Canada

    Kathryn Blaze Carlson, National Post March 9, 2012

    Karen Lynn was 19 when her mother sent her to a home for unmarried pregnant women in Clarkson, Ont., in 1963. There, she was known as Karen No. 1 to protect her family’s reputation, and said it was clear she would not have been allowed to stay there if she did not agree to an adoption. A year later, Sharon Pedersen was 20-years-old when she was drugged and tied to her bed during labour and then shown four different babies through the nursery window at a hospital in Victoria, she said.

    She ultimately signed adoption papers at the local children’s aid society, she said, but not before social workers held a pen in her hand and threatened to call the police because she was screaming and throwing furniture in protest.

    Similar accounts have begun to emerge across Canada, and there is now a growing movement calling on the federal government to probe this country’s historic adoption practices. Many decades have passed, and many women have since reunited with their sons and daughters, but they are speaking out against what they say were coerced and forced adoptions.

    Not every unmarried mother was coerced or forced into giving up her child, but the women going public today are not alone.

    Their stories sound eerily like the hundreds of testimonies submitted to a recent Australian inquiry into adoption from the 1950s to the early-1980s, and last month an Australian Senate committee urged the government to apologize to the “many parents whose children were forcibly removed” from their care.

    Beyond a push for an inquiry here, Canadian provinces from Quebec westward will soon be hit with class-action suits accusing the governments of kidnapping, fraud and coercion, according to the well-known lawyer heading the pending actions.

    “Clearly, this story is a sad and difficult one, and we’re just beginning to hear more about it,” said Bruce Gregersen, a spokesperson for the United Church, which co-ran Winnipeg’s Church Home for Girls, where one woman said she was told she could be criminally charged if she tried to keep her child. “This will warrant a great deal of attention.”

    Seven women spoke with the National Post, most telling their stories openly for the first time, in the hopes of airing what some say was more than a vague societal push for unmarried mothers to consent to adoption.

    Teenaged and unmarried, Valerie Andrews said she was unknowingly given medication to block her breast-milk. Hanne Andersen said her B.C. hospital records say “Baby for Adoption” even though the teenaged single mother had planned to keep the baby. Social workers in Sudbury, Ont., never told Esther Tardif she was eligible for social assistance and said if she loved her unborn child, she would let him go.

    Most of the mothers interviewed for this story said the coercion was systematic: From the church-run maternity homes where accommodation was sometimes predicated on adoption and where mothers had to write a letter to their unborn child explaining the separation; to the social workers who concealed information about social assistance and who told single mothers they could be charged with child endangerment; to the medical staff who called the women “sluts” and denied them painkillers, and who reportedly tied teenagers to their beds or obstructed their view of labour with a sheet.

    “To the Canadian establishment, this will come as a big surprise,” said Ms. Lynn, who heads the Canadian Council of Natural Mothers, which aims to expose the negative treatment of mothers in adoption practice. “What we hear all the time is, ‘You gave up your baby.’ What I say is that, at very best, it was a tragic choice.”

    continued in next comment...

  17. continued from previous comment:

    Ms. Andrews has studied Statistics Canada data on illegitimate births from 1945 to 1973 and the rough rate of adoption among unmarried women at the time, and offers what seems to be an astronomical estimate: that 350,000 unmarried Canadian mothers were persuaded, coerced or forced into adoption.

    But some unmarried women may have been grateful to know their child would grow up in a secure home and spared the stigma of being an illegitimate child, said Lori Chambers, who pored over thousands of archived children’s aid cases for her book, Misconceptions, about unmarried mothers in Ontario from 1921-1969. And not all ostracized women suffered in maternity homes — some would have appreciated the shelter, food and friendships that no one else would provide.

    “The question becomes not why unmarried women gave babies up for adoption, but how some women had the fortitude not to,” Ms. Chambers said. “Most of them gave up and released their child for adoption.”

    Ms. Andrews has spent much of the past four years documenting the treatment of unmarried teenaged mothers in church-run maternity homes, hospitals and children’s aid societies, at a time when abortion was illegal, birth control was not easily accessible, and unmarried mothers were seen as loose women too feeble-minded to parent.

    Joyce Masselink, a social worker who dealt with unmarried single mothers in Toronto and B.C. in the 1960s, said Ms. Andrews’ estimate “does not sound realistic,” and said girls were “treated very well” in the church-run maternity home she often visited in Vancouver.

    When Marilyn Churley found herself alone and pregnant in 1968, the former Ontario MPP said her social worker in Barrie, Ont., was the only friend she had — although she said the social worker never talked about alternatives to adoption and that she endured a “horrific” 24-hour labour without painkillers.

    “I didn’t know any social workers who forced or coerced women into adoption, and I certainly didn’t myself,” Ms. Masselink said, adding that some social workers were, however, rigorous in promoting the social values of the day. “I do know that probably went on, though. Women’s stories attest to that.”

    An April 25, 1961, Ann Landers column perhaps best illustrates how society viewed unmarried mothers. In describing a single mother’s love for her child, she wrote: “Such ‘love’ is questionable. It is a sick kind of love turned inside out — an unwholesome blend of self-pity mixed with self-destruction and touch of martyrdom.”

    Most of the mothers interviewed for this story said they kept their secret for decades, having been “groomed for shame,” Ms. Andrews said. But with last month’s Australian report, the women said it is time for Canadian mothers to know they are not alone and for their children to know they were not unwanted. Ms. Andrews has planned a two-day conference airing Canada’s history of adoptions this fall in Toronto, and is hopeful hundreds of mothers and adoptees will attend.

    The Australian committee called on the government to apologize — without reference to the social values of the day — and to compensate mothers, some of whom “recounted a pregnancy marred by systematic disempowerment,” according to the report.

    “I still feel the shame,” said an Ontario woman named Katie, who asked that her last name not be used because her daughter does not know she was conceived in rape. “It wasn’t until I got my hospital records and saw what they did to me that I could start breathing without this horrible weight on my shoulders.”

    Katie said she was given labour-inducing drugs and was not allowed to hold the child at a Winnipeg hospital, not far from the United Church home where she was living. The fair-haired 17-year-old was knocked out with what “felt like a chemical straight-jacket” and later shown a black-haired baby who was too big to be a newborn, she said.

    continued in next comment...

  18. continued from previous comment:

    Katie said she never signed an adoption paper but remembers nodding in a courtroom where she thinks she made her daughter a ward of the state.

    Ms. Chambers said until Ontario children’s aid societies started receiving substantial government funding in 1965, they relied mostly on donations, often from adopting parents. She said the societies were in a conflict of interest, then, and at times struck a deal with the father: If he consented to an adoption and paid a small sum, the society would not represent the woman in a costly child-support battle.

    Ms. Andrews, who heads Origins Canada supporting people separated by adoption, is urging the federal government to follow Australia’s lead and launch an inquiry here. She said roughly 100 mothers and adoptees have so far registered with the organization for a future inquiry, but said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s office told her this is a provincial matter. A spokesperson for the minister confirmed this is the government’s position.

    Ms. Andrews said a July, 2011, letter written by her Ontario MPP, Reza Moridi, to the Minister of Children and Youth Services has so far gone unanswered.

    “Nobody will acknowledge this because they don’t believe us, just like for years they didn’t believe the women in Australia,” said Ms. Andersen, who today heads Justice for Mother and Child, an advocacy group for those “unlawfully separated” at birth.

    She plans to file a police report this month to prompt an RCMP criminal investigation into women she said were “targeted” for their babies, many of whom were white, healthy and in high demand, she said. Ms. Andersen, who became pregnant at age 15 in 1982 and said she was allowed to hold her baby just once, will also be the lead plaintiff in a class-action suit expected to be launched against the B.C. government in the coming weeks or months.

    “My feet were still in stirrups and I had a sheet over my body so I couldn’t see the baby,” said Ms. Andersen, who claims her consent to adoption was invalid because she said she never actually had possession of her daughter in the first place. “They wrapped her up in a blanket … I said, ‘Stop! Where are you going with my baby? I asked three times and had to yell, ‘Bring me my baby now!’”

    A draft of the statement of claim says the class action will cover women affected by the “Baby for Adoption (BFA) protocol” and seeks general and special damages for the lost opportunity to parent, medical treatment without consent, and mental distress.

    “I don’t think there is any question there was a policy where, if a child was born outside of a marriage, that child was not to remain with the mother,” said Ms. Andersen’s well-known Saskatchewan lawyer, Tony Merchant, whose firm secured a $2-billion settlement in the 2006 Indian Residential School class action.

    In Australia, the inquiry heard the “BFA” policy often led to treatment in line with the then-popular “clean break theory,” which said it was in everyone’s best interest to avoid contact between the natural mother and her child after birth.

    A spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development said ministry staff “don’t know of any concerted policy in the government back in the 1960s and 1970s that would have forced women to give up their babies.”

    Mr. Merchant said the class-action suits will attempt to saddle the provinces with responsibility for the wrongdoings of church-run organizations because they were provincially funded agents.

    John Murray, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army, said the government-funded maternity homes it ran — such as Maywood, the B.C. home where Ms. Andersen said she was starved, verbally abused and never told of any available social assistance — helped pregnant teens in a time of need.

    continued in next comment...

  19. continued from previous comment:

    “I can’t specifically comment on how the organization managed its operations 40 or 50 years ago,” said Mr. Murray. “That’s not to say there weren’t perhaps isolated situations … but certainly, I think historically the Salvation Army was welcomed and valued by people in the community.”

    A spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church in Canada, which owned the maternity home where Ms. Lynn stayed, said “there’s no one here now with any kind of living memory of what went on 40 years ago.” The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said it is up to each specific diocese to comment separately. Neither the Canadian Medical Association nor the Canadian Pediatric Society would comment. The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies passed an interview request to the Toronto Children’s Aid Society, which did not respond to a separate request for comment.

    Mr. Gregersen, meantime, said the United Church will now comb through its archives to find out what happened at its maternity homes, but said he invites mothers to come forward so researchers know where to focus their efforts.

    “Canada is so far behind on this,” said Ms. Pedersen. “I’ve been breathless ever since the Australian report came out. It’s about time it was acknowledged that these were forced adoptions.”


  20. Sharing stories is a big part of Truth and Reconciliation hearing

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley Times March 12, 2012

    March 12 marked a long-awaited catharsis for aboriginal residents in Port Alberni and the West Coast, who were given the opportunity to speak their truth about the terrible legacy of the Alberni Residential School, which operated on Tseshaht Land from 1920 to 1972.

    Commissioner Marie Wilson opened the event at Maht Mahs Gym by saying it is "an incredible opportunity to learn from it so that we can start to imagine...new ways of being a country."

    In 2007, a multi-pronged settlement agreement was reached with residential school survivors that included some funds for restitution, commemoration and to fund the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is currently documenting the experiences of survivors all across Canada, community by community.

    When the work is complete in 2014, a national research centre will be opened that can be accessed by anyone who wants to learn more about this dark part of Canadian history.

    "Our nation has so much to atone for," Wilson said.

    The event is being hosted on Tseshaht land, where the Alberni school was located.

    "It's been a long road for the Tseshaht. They put a residential school in our backyard. We never had a chance to be asked if we wanted one, it was something that was forced on our people," said Tseshaht Chief Councilor Les Sam. "The effects are generational. It is an open wound that has still not healed."

    The hearings progressed Monday, with survivors called to the microphone to share their memories, both good and bad.

    All the stories are being recorded for historical use. The hearings will continue Tuesday.


  21. Seeking truth and healing

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley Times March 13, 2012

    On March 12, aboriginal residents in Port Alberni and the West Coast were given the long-awaited opportunity to speak their truth about the sad legacy of the Alberni Residential School. Stories heard and recorded at the Alberni event will become part of a much larger, national memorial that will be preserved for all time.

    Many attended the hearings as part of their healing process. Some were there to listen, others to speak.

    The Alberni Residential School operated from 1920 to 1972, very close to the site of the current hearings.

    They were held at the Maht Mahs Gym on Tseshaht land.

    Canadian churches ran residential schools under contract with the government: the United Church (that ran the Alberni school), the Catholic Church, the Anglican/United Church and the Presbyterian Church.

    Several churches sent representatives to the Alberni event.

    Following an opening prayer and traditional Tseshaht dance, commissioner Marie Wilson opened the hearings by explaining in detail exactly what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will do.

    Following that, Tseshaht Chief Councillor Les Sam was one of the first aboriginal representatives to speak.

    "It's been a long road for the Tseshaht. They put a residential school in our backyard. We never had a chance for them to ask if we wanted one, it was something that was forced on our people.

    "The effects are generational. It is an open wound that has still not healed."

    Sam described a ceremonial tearing down and burning of one of the school's old buildings some years ago.

    "More than 400 people attended," Sam said. "People were invited to burn a piece of the building. It was closure for some."

    He welcomed the hearings as a chance for survivors to return and heal, adding they are welcome in his territory.

    A list of speakers were called to share their personal stories throughout the day. Some were tales of hope, some were painful memories of past abuse and neglect.

    Following each presentation, the speaker stood and was thanked for sharing his or her story.
    Multiple support workers were on hand to assist survivors.

    continued in next comment...

  22. continued from previous comment:

    The TRC is one-fifth of an overall agreement that includes a Common Experience Payment that was given to those who went to residential schools on approved lists, the Alberni school being one of them.

    The second part of the agreement is the Independent Assessment Payment for those who suffered harms or injuries aside from the general harm of being removed from families. This includes sexual, psychological and/or physical abuse. Taking this step requires a hearing and evidence and careful preparation, Wilson explained.

    The third is payments for commemoration projects. Approximately $20 million has been allocated for this purpose, and the deadline for applications is the end of this month.
    The fourth part of the agreement includes funds allocated to aboriginal healing foundations for healing initiatives.

    Some $60 million is allocated to the fifth part of the settlement, to all of the work of the TRC.

    "Our job is not about any of those pots of money or deciding on that. Our job is about contributing to healing and to the education of our country," Wilson said. "Our nation has so much to atone for."

    She said the TRC's job is to gather together the complete history of residential schools in Canada, to document and safeguard it and to make sure the information is accessible to all future generations and to make final reports and recommendations to all the parties.

    When the commission's work is complete in 2014, a national research centre will be opened and will be accessible to the public as a lasting memorial for survivors and their descendants.
    A number of regional and national events will also be hosted by the TRC, including a regional event in Victoria on April 13 and 14, and a national event in Vancouver in the fall of 2013.
    "The Canada of the future will never be able to say this didn't happen in our country. It did happen in our country," Wilson said.


  23. Painful truth comes out at hearing

    Survivors of Alberni Residential School share their stories to Truth and Reconciliation Commission

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley March 13, 2012

    Terror, abuse, neglect and pain. These were the horrifying realities for some who attended Alberni Residential School.

    On Monday, many of them told their stories to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and an audience of their friends, families and supporters.

    "I am terrified to be here. I was so tormented here," said Elizabeth Kimberly Good. "But I know the people who reside here now are beautiful people."

    Good was one of 10 children in her family, all of whom attended a residential school.

    As a young child taken from her parents, Good found solace in her friendship with a young classmate.

    "I remember his face. I remember his hands," she said. "He was always so kind to me."

    One day her friend did not appear for their usual meeting. The next day she found out he had died.

    "That was my goodness of the residential school, and he died," Good said, weeping openly as a hushed audience of supporters listened.

    Good grew up but could not put the past behind her. She sought "the place of pure joy" she hoped she might find in death.

    "I'm thankful that I'm here today," she said.
    Good asked the representative of the United Church at the hearing (the United Church ran the Alberni School) to stand.

    A chair scraped softly and a man stood up to face Good.

    "I forgive you," she said. Sharon Marshall Neill told the commission that both her parents attended a residential school, and the impact shattered her childhood.

    "I grew up in a lot of violence and alcoholism," Neill said. "I have seen a lot of things a child shouldn't see.

    "At five-years-old, I seen a woman get raped. And at seven I seen another woman raped by men. This caused a lot of fear in me. I didn't understand it, I still don't. How a woman could be treated that way."

    She pointed out that some of her siblings went to a residential school and others did not, but "they suffered as much as we did through the violence and alcoholism."

    Neill said she was not appearing before the commission to speak about herself, but to advocate for help for women and an end to domestic violence.

    "I would like to see safe homes for children," she said.

    Neill concluded by telling the commission that her people were once self-sufficient, and had it not been for the legacy of residential schools, "we would have a better life, and we wouldn't have to carry the shame."

    continued in next comment...

  24. continued from previous comment:

    There were also stories of hope and defiance.
    Huu-ay-aht elder Benson Nookemus spoke of his father's refusal to be beaten by a principal at the residential school.

    "They called him into the principal's office. They locked the door-he grabbed the strap. But my dad was ready for him," Nookemus said. "My dad, he grabbed that strap and started beating up that principal. He was kicked out of school."
    Attending a residential school himself, Nookemus remembered girls being sexually abused at the school and conditions that were less than humane.

    "We were always hungry. We were always having to steal food," he said.

    Some of the meals survivors describe being fed included stale bread and gruel.

    "But we had to eat what they gave us, otherwise we would have starved to death," Nookemus said.
    Tim Sutherland remembers being attacked by five or six boys at the school and sexually abused in front of other students. "I don't remember their names, it happened so quickly," Sutherland said. "I was very humiliated, I couldn't hide."

    He described the frustration of trying to seek justice, only to be defeated in an appeal.

    "I want everyone to know we are not lying about such a big thing as sexual abuse. I was abused," Sutherland said. "The man who was supposed to be watching us is now in jail for sexual abuse. He wasn't there for me."

    As he concluded his story, Sutherland hoped for peace.

    "I no longer want to hear myself and feel myself get upset about what happened. I don't want to tell this anymore," he said.

    The TRC hearings are meant to preserve a lasting record of people's experiences in the residential school system, and to help with the healing process. The Port Alberni hearings conclude today.


  25. TRC story ends with hope

    Commission wraps up two-day stop in Port Alberni with aim of healing survivors

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley Times March 14, 2012

    While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard many heartbreaking histories over the last two days, people also shared their tales of hope and healing.

    In addition, the commission learned how important gaining back their culture is to Aboriginal People here.

    The TRC wrapped up two days of hearings in Port Alberni on Tuesday.

    The commission will visit more communities, both large and small, across the country in the coming months. The goal is to create a lasting record of survivors' experiences while attending residential schools, which were run by various churches under contract to the government.
    The Alberni Residential School, which operated from 1920 to 1972, was one of many in which alleged physical, emotional and sexual abuse took place.

    While many tears were shed over the two days in Port Alberni, one strong message emerged - healing is possible.

    "We want to get back who we are," said Lawrence Baird, who spoke to the commission on Tuesday. "Don't let it stop your progress."

    And following each person's revelations, emcee Stan Matthews offered praise to the survivor.

    "You are a beautiful person," Matthews said to survivor Sherry Brown after her emotional story.
    "Welcome to the new you." Several of the speakers expressed concern that traditional aboriginal languages are being lost.

    "If we don't move now, it will go extinct," Baird said.

    On Monday, Huu-ay-aht elder Benson Nookemus made the same strong point, saying there may be as few as 150 people out of 9,000 in his nation that are still fluent in their traditional language.

    He added there is hope. New classes are being held at North Island College that started up in September. But Nookemus also hinted the federal government could do more to help fund the revitalization of aboriginal culture.
    "It would be nice to send a couple of million dollars to me," he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

    He added he would use the funds to foster language learning in his people.

    The commission does not make any decisions during the hearings. The purpose is to listen and record.

    Perhaps the most inspiring moment came during a break in the speakers, when Tseshaht children from haahuupayak School performed with classmates.

    Grouped in a circle, they sang a song of hope in their traditional language, moving many in the crowd to tears.

    Following the song, the children distributed handmade paddle necklaces decorated with rainbows. One was given to each survivor in the audience.

    The hearings wrapped up on Tuesday with closing remarks and a dance performance.

    Aside from running short on time for all the speakers, the hearings were a positive success story. The TRC will document the experiences of survivors, then gather them together, creating a lasting memorial to their experiences.


  26. Born Evil: That's What the Mormon Church Taught Me as a Brown and Female Child

    By Neeta Lind, Daily Kos Posted on AlterNet June 25, 2012

    I was probably in the second grade. The Sunday school teacher in my southern Utah town was giving a lesson from the Book of Mormon to a small class of a few girls. It had to have been in very simple terms since we were so young. I can see now that the lesson was meant to be a self esteem-builder. But it backfired on me. The teacher was trying to show us little girls how much God loved us and how important we are on this earth to do his work. I was barely paying attention since I really wanted to be home watching Rocky and Bullwinkle. I resented missing all my cartoons and being forced to go to church, which I considered boring. But I had no choice in the matter.

    That day, however, as the teacher recited the lesson and looked from girl to girl, my attention perked up when she said, "and YOU are all white and delightsome to our lord and he has special plans for you in this world ..." Just then, she came to me and her roving eyes stalled out. She stammered a couple of times because she had forgotten that her rote lesson was being delivered in a class that now included a little brown girl. An Indian that the Book of Mormon (I later found out) describes as bloodthirsty, fierce and loathsome. An Indian whose skin was dark because of a curse from God.

    After gulping a couple of times, she said something like "but Neeta here is a Lamanite (the Book of Mormon's name for the descendants of Laman, who was cursed with dark skin for displeasing god) and we welcome her. They too, if they work very hard can go to the Celestial Kingdom." That being the highest of the three kingdoms in heaven. I was told that if I made it to the Celestial Kingdom my skin would turn light.

    This promise of skin lightening was commonly preached when I was growing up. In fact, there was a Paiute woman in our town who had vitiligo, "a skin condition in which there is a loss of brown color (pigment) from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin." My full-blood Navajo mother, Flora, a devoted Mormon, said that one of the bishops had told Mrs. Kanosh that the skin-color change was her reward from God for going to church. My mother was so pleased with this news. She loved anything that pointed to proof the Mormon gospel was true.

    Gradually, over the next few years, I learned more of what Joseph Smith (the founder of the church and the author of the Book of Mormon) had said about Indians. We were innately wicked. We converted ones had to be constantly watched against reverting to our evil, heathen ways. This was on top of the church's attitudes toward women. The General Counsel (the church's highest governing body) instructed women to obey their husbands, the priesthood holders. Another instruction I remember: The priesthood holder should love the lord first and then his wife. One really had to accept a lot of demoralization to be female AND BROWN when I was growing up Mormon.

    Attitude was bolstered by action. The church's Indian Placement Program ran from 1947 to 1996. Its mission was to remove children from desolate reservations and help them get an education by placing them in Mormon foster homes. Any child involved had to be baptized in order to participate. Nothing subtle about this virtual kidnapping. The church took children away from their homes to assimilate them into Mormon culture.

    continued in next comment...

  27. continued from previous comment:

    As the daughter of a Navajo mother and a white father, I straddled two cultures differently than the foster kids. I had many relatives on the reservation and spent much time in the summers there. But it wasn't home. In talking with some of the foster kids, I learned they had a hard time when they were younger. Some didn't want to join the church but were forced into it. They found it difficult to live in two worlds, the white world during the school year and then back on the reservation during the summer. Some of them sadly recounted that they were made fun of back on the reservation because they had lost some of their language and traditional knowledge.

    The majority of the Indian students attending school in our town were not foster kids but lived instead at the Indian dormitory on the outskirts. There was no requirement there to join the church. But those kids also told me about being homesick and feeling like an outsider in both worlds.

    Today, it's clear to most people that taking young children away from their families and culture is NOT a good thing. In fact, it's terrible. And it happened to 20,000 children in the Mormon church's Indian Placement Program.

    These decades-old memories came flooding back to me when I saw a recent report that Lamanite action figures were being sold at the church-owned Deseret Bookstore and online by a private company, Latter Day Designs.

    The Book of Mormon descriptions I came to strongly resent are used for each product.

    [see product photos and descriptions at the link below]

    Mormons weren't the only people who believed that the curse of Cain was dark skin. That was once the standard Christian view. But Mormons took it very seriously and barred African Americans from holding the priesthood because of the curse. I was 22 years old in 1978 when the church back-pedaled and allowed black men to hold the priesthood. That was quite a big step in damage control. But the teachings that produced the racist beliefs in the first place have never been officially repudiated. Still, I never thought I'd see African Americans allowed into the priesthood. It was hardly enough to keep me in the church and I left shortly afterward.

    All the derogatory descriptions about Lamanites remain in the Book of Mormon in verses like Alma 3:6:

    "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men."

    Those descriptions live on in Sunday school lessons and action figures for impressionable Mormon children. It's hard to change the word of God in books like that, so the record on what the Mormons think of Indians is written ongolden plates, never to be changed.

    How one can be Indian and a member of the Mormon church is completely beyond me.

    Neeta Lind is the community organizer of SFKossacks and Native American Netroots. Neeta has lead the Native American Caucus at Netroots Nation every year since 2006.


  28. 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.


  29. 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.

    continued in next comment...

  30. 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.”


  31. 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.

    continued in next comment...

  32. 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.

    continued in next comment...

  33. 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.


  34. 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.”

    continued in next comment...

  35. 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.”


  36. Presenting Indian Residential Schools in Books for Young Children

    A Review of Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell, As Long as the Rivers Flow by Larry Loyie, and Arctic Stories by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak

    Residential School Stories http://residentialschoolstories.wordpress.com/ March 19, 2009

    Children’s books about Indian residential schools have been published in North America for several years, and there is now a relatively large body of work in this area. In Canada, a growing number of children’s books on this subject are being published, and these books have been garnering more attention recently as public knowledge of the history and legacy of residential schools is (hopefully) increasing and as parents, teachers and librarians look for resources with which to teach children about this subject.

    As Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin have demonstrated in their critical reviews, books for children about residential schools vary in quality, legitimacy and accuracy (Seale and Slapin 56-83) . The notion of accuracy is a difficult one with regard to the history of residential schools – while common features existed among all schools and, on a certain level, a common experience was shared by all the children who attended them, individual experiences were personal and impressionistic, and each child’s suffering was unique. Seale and Slapin repeatedly point out that attempts to paint an accurate, objective picture of the residential school experience in books for children often fall short (Seale and Slapin 56-83) . Moreover, non-fiction about this subject is perhaps inappropriate for very young readers, because to explain residential schools to children in a straightforward, expository manner would result in necessary over-simplification of events, their causes and consequences – something that Seale and Slapin find especially offensive. If not made carefully, efforts to present this history in conventional history textbooks or even in semi-fictional accounts can not only seem sterile, but can do a great disservice and even disrespect to the complexity and variety of emotion, memory and feeling that are central to this experience.

    By contrast, fiction is a uniquely powerful medium in which to write about the residential schools, and can be used more fruitfully to examine this subject and to teach children about it. Both fictional and semi-fictional stories allow for a richer exploration of experiences, impressions and emotions, and compel readers to consider the greater importance of this subject beyond the simple “facts” of history. The narrative format, therefore, is a particularly effective means of introducing young children to this subject.

    continued in next comment...

  37. Several books have been written for older elementary and secondary school readers about residential schools in Canada, notably My Name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling and No Time to Say Goodbye by Sylvia Olsen. Like most books on this subject, these two stories focus on life inside the schools and present the harsh and sometimes graphic details of the residential school experience.

    While the history of residential schools is also a suitable subject for younger children, it must be presented in a different way and to be introduced more subtly and gently than in books for older children and young adults. A handful of books have been published that do a wonderful job of presenting this history to younger readers, three of which will be explored here: Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell, As Long as the Rivers Flow by Larry Loyie, and Arctic Stories by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak.

    Shi-shi-etko and As Long as the Rivers Flow both delicately introduce the topic of residential schools to children by presenting it as the backdrop to personal stories instead of as the main setting. The authors focus on ideas and emotions evoked by the thought of residential school, rather than describing the details of school life. Both stories are set in the summer before the main character leaves for school for the first time, and the specter of residential school is used to create the context for stories in which the authors’ main purpose is to portray the importance of family, home, memories, and traditions. The residential school system had many consequences for aboriginal children and their families, but these two authors make this complex story simple and compelling by focusing exclusively on the theme of loss. The power of these stories comes from illustrating (both with words and with beautiful pictures) what will be lost to the children: their homes, families, customs, lifestyle, and the opportunity to learn from their elders.

    As Long as the Rivers Flow is a picture book for upper elementary school readers that tells a fictionalized story of real people and events. Loyie does an especially good job of showing the significance of traditional knowledge that is passed down from elders to children. In sharp contrast to the type of education provided by the schools, Loyie shows that children’s education within aboriginal families was much more holistic and comprehensive, and children learned constantly by watching their older relatives. Though not mentioned explicitly, the dichotomy between these two ways of learning is a strong current that underlies this story and asks the reader to contemplate just what these children were supposed to learn at school and what knowledge they would lose by being taken from their families.

    In Shi-shi-etko, her book for younger readers, Campbell also effectively shows the importance of traditional knowledge and the significance of passing that knowledge from generation to generation. Her storytelling uses fewer words than Loyie’s, and the impact of her story comes from repetition and the patterns she makes with those words. Even more so than in Loyie’s book, the richly coloured, impressionistic illustrations contribute a great deal to the story’s lasting impression.

    continued in next comment...

  38. Both stories present the importance of memory as a main theme, as the characters make conscious efforts to take in and absorb as much as possible before leaving home — going to favourite places, listening to favourite stories, spending time with favourite relatives — so that they will have memories to cling to while they are away at school. This theme conveys the message that most children did not want to go to residential school and that going was a great hardship on them and their families. Both of these stories are deeply moving, and they effectively convey the sadness and loss of the residential school experience without getting into subject matter that is perhaps too mature for younger readers.

    Residential school also serves as the background to “Agatha Goes to School,” a tale in Michael Kusigak’s Arctic Stories. Like the other two stories discussed above, residential school is presented as a backdrop that sets the scene for the events taking place, rather than being the focal point of the story. However, this story is very different from the other two — it is much more cheerful than the other stories, and the author avoids dwelling on the negative aspects of residential school. The main character in the story decides “not to think bad thoughts… besides, there were some good things that happened in this awful place.” Kusugak briefly touches on the fear and sadness that come with leaving home and being in a strange place without family, but this is not what his tale is about.

    Although the story is set at a mission in the Northwest Territories where the main character goes to school, the reader does not learn much at all about school life. The action takes place outdoors on the lake near the school where the children ski and skate, and the plot is centered on the events of a single afternoon. What is most striking about this story is that, in contrast to many other stories about residential school, the author was able to find some humour in the situation and to show children being themselves and having fun. In his short afterword, Kusugak mentions very briefly that abuses took place at the schools and that some of the priests and nuns mistreated the children. “But,” he writes, “there were some good things that happened; we got a good education. And then there were the skis, the skates…” This story suggests to readers that children attending residential school were sometimes able to find some enjoyment and have some positive experiences, even in the midst of a terrible situation.

    Fiction provides a valuable medium for telling stories that are perhaps too difficult or complicated to tell in conventional non-fiction books for children. These three books represent the great potential of this genre to introduce young children to the subject of residential schools, and to lay a foundation for further reading about this subject as older children and young adults. We can hope that these books will serve to promote more discussion of this subject in homes, schools and libraries, and provide a catalyst for more books like these to be published in the near future.

    Works Cited:

    Campbell, Nicola I. Shi-shi-etko. Illustrated by Kim LaFave. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2005.

    Kusugak, Michael Arvaarluk. Arctic Stories. Illustrated by Vladyana Langer Krykorka. Toronto: Annick Press Ltd., 1998.

    Loyie, Larry and Constance Brissenden. As Long As the Rivers Flow. Illustrated by Heather D. Holmlund. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2002.

    Olsen, Sylvia. No Time to Say Goodbye: Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis Press, 2001.

    Seale, Doris and Beverly Slapin, eds. A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2005.

    Sterling, Shirley. My Name is Seepeetza. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 1992.


  39. Ottawa ordered to provide all residential schools documents

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission took federal government to court over denial of millions of documents

    The Canadian Press January 30, 2013

    The federal government is obliged to turn over its archival records on Indian residential schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an Ontario court decided Thursday.

    In his decision, Justice Stephen Goudge said the obligation to provide the materials is clear from the settlement agreement that established the commission.

    "The plain meaning of the language is straightforward," Goudge said. "It is to provide all relevant documents to the TRC."

    The decision comes in an increasingly acrimonious dispute between Ottawa and the commission over millions of government documents the commission says it needs to fulfil its core mandate.

    The government maintained it had no obligation to provide the records in Library and Archives Canada.

    The commission, under Justice Murray Sinclair, argued Ottawa's intransigence would make it impossible to complete its work on budget as required by July 1, 2014.

    "We're grateful to be able to continue the commission's work of gathering and protecting for future generations documents that are relevant to the history of the Indian residential schools," Sinclair said in a statement.

    "We especially acknowledge the clarity of Justice Goudge's decision."

    Part of the commission's mandate is to help in a process of reconciliation, while yet another is the "creation of a legacy" that includes collection of records, taking statements from those involved, and classifying and preserving the materials.

    "Canada's documents, wherever they were held, would have been understood as a very important historical resource for this purpose," Goudge said.

    Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said the government was reviewing the decision.

    "The decision is anything but clear-cut," Duncan told the House of Commons during question period Wednesday. "The discussion in terms of relevant documents is left somewhat open by the judge. We believe that we've been meeting the spirit and intent [of the agreement], but if there is a slightly different interpretation we will meet the spirit and intent of the judge's decision."

    continued in next comment...

  40. The residential schools system, which ran from the 1870s until the 1990s, saw about 150,000 native kids taken from their families and sent to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of "civilizing" First Nations.

    Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.

    In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the churches that ran the schools and the Canadian government. The $1.9-billion settlement of that suit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the creation of the commission.

    In its submissions to the court, the commission argued the Canadian government was trying to renege on its legal deal with Aboriginal Peoples because sticking to the terms would cost too much.

    Lawyer Julian Falconer, who represented the commission, called it a "truly landmark" judgment.

    "The court's answers to the commission's reference will ensure that the dark chapter in Canadian history that is the residential school story will never be forgotten," Falconer said.

    In opposing the court application, the federal government argued the commission had no legal standing to take the matter to court.

    It also maintained its only obligation was to throw open the doors to the Library and Archives Canada to commission researchers.

    Goudge disagreed on both counts.

    "While Canada is not obliged to turn over its originals, it is required to compile all relevant documents in an organized manner for review by the TRC," the justice said.

    Goudge also weighed in on the dispute over what constitutes "relevant" documents, saying not every document that mentions residential schools is key to the commission's mandate.

    An evaluation of relevance is context specific and the obligation on the government to produce documents must be reasonable.

    "Suffice it to say that Canada's obligation ... is to provide the documents in its possession or control that are reasonably required to assist the TRC to tell the story of the legacy of Indian residential schools," Goudge said.


  41. Residential school survivor says compensation process failed him

    Despite severe abuse, John Mantla's IAP claim was denied

    CBC News February 11, 2013

    A residential school survivor says the Independent Assessment Process failed him and other students.
    John Mantla, from Behchoko, N.W.T., says he experienced severe physical abuse at school but his claim for compensation was denied.

    That's the case for 10 per cent of all IAP applicants.

    The process is a way for former residential school students who suffered abuse at the schools to get compensation. It’s separate from the Common Experience Payment, but the IAP is for more serious claims of sexual and physical abuse.

    Mantla says his three sisters and two brothers got paid and he doesn't understand why his experience of abuse was treated differently.

    At the age of seven, Mantla says he was taken from his home and sent to residential school in Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

    While attending La Pointe Hall in November 1967, Mantla says a priest intentionally hit him with a hockey stick. He was hospitalized for a month and his nose and eye were permanently damaged.

    Four other survivors and a doctor confirmed his story, but remembering the details is a struggle for Mantla.

    “Because it's way back over forty years, and when you’re young back then, you don't remember that kind of stuff."

    He says that’s the reason his application was denied.

    Unlike the Common Experience Payment process, the IAP is built on court rules. Survivors don't only have to prove they went to residential school; they also have to prove they were abused.

    Lawyer Steven Cooper has represented former students.

    "Your memory has to be sufficient enough that the adjudicator both believes you and feels that they can rely upon you, on the evidence, so they can make a decision on whether you were injured or assaulted or abused in a way that's compensable, " Cooper said.

    Mantla was sent to a doctor in Calgary who assessed his memory and condition. The doctor’s report said it was highly likely that he suffered mild to moderate brain damage as a result of the injury from the hockey stick.

    The doctor also said Mantla likely suffered permanent memory loss as a direct result of the incident.

    Compensation would help break cycle, survivor says

    The average Independent Assessment Process compensation amount is $125,000.

    Mantla says that money would have helped him break what he calls a cycle.

    "It affects my kids. Because of alcoholism, none of them graduated."

    Mantla says the injury and his time at residential school has defined his life. Because of his criminal record, he cannot get a job anywhere the public is involved.

    "It doesn't seem to go away. There's alcohol involved, there's jail involved, there's criminal charges involved. There's going to treatments, but still it doesn't help. It stays in your head."

    Mantla has seen a psychologist but he says it hasn’t helped either. That's why he went through the Independent Assessment Process.

    "Nobody's going to talk about it. We are too ashamed. We are too ashamed to talk about it," he said.

    “You're going to die with it."

    A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former residential school students.

    The next national event for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be in Montreal in April.


  42. At least 3,000 died in residential schools, research shows

    Dormitories for aboriginal children in disgraced system were disease 'breeding grounds'

    The Canadian Press February 18, 2013

    At least 3,000 children, including four under the age of 10 found huddled together in frozen embrace, are now known to have died while they were attending Canada's aboriginal residential schools, according to new unpublished research.

    While deaths have long been documented as part of the disgraced residential school system, the findings are the result of the first systematic search of government, school and other records.

    "These are actual confirmed numbers," Alex Maass, research manager with the Missing Children Project, told The Canadian Press from Vancouver.

    "All of them have primary documentation that indicates that there's been a death, when it occurred, what the circumstances were."

    The number could rise further as more documents — especially from government archives — come to light.

    The largest single killer, by far, was disease.

    For decades starting in about 1910, tuberculosis was a consistent killer — in part because of widespread ignorance over how diseases were spread.

    "The schools were a particular breeding ground for [tuberculosis]," Maass said. "Dormitories were incubation wards."

    The Spanish flu epidemic in 1918-1919 also took a devastating toll on students — and in some cases staff. For example, in one grim three-month period, the disease killed 20 children at a residential school in Spanish, Ont., the records show.

    While a statistical analysis has yet to be done, the records examined over the past few years also show children also died of malnutrition or accidents. Schools consistently burned down, killing students and staff. Drownings or exposure were another cause.

    In all, about 150,000 First Nations children went through the church-run residential school system, which ran from the 1870s until the 1990s. In many cases, native kids were forced to attend under a deliberate federal policy of "civilizing" Aboriginal Peoples.

    continued in next comment...

  43. Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide. Some died fleeing their schools.

    One heart-breaking incident that drew rare media attention at the time involved the deaths of four boys — two aged 8 and two aged 9 — in early January 1937.

    A Canadian Press report from Vanderhoof, B.C., describes how the four bodies were found frozen together in slush ice on Fraser Lake, barely a kilometre from home.

    The "capless and lightly clad" boys had left an Indian school on the south end of the lake "apparently intent on trekking home to the Nautley Reserve," the article states.

    A coroner's inquest later recommended "excessive corporal discipline" of students be "limited."

    The records reveal the number of deaths only fell off dramatically after the 1950s, although some fatalities occurred into the 1970s.

    "The question I ask myself is: Would I send my child to a private school where there were even a couple of deaths the previous year without looking at it a little bit more closely?" Maass said.

    "One wouldn't expect any death rates in private residential schools."

    In fact, Maass said, student deaths were so much part of the system, architectural plans for many schools included cemeteries that were laid out in advance of the building.

    Maass, who has a background in archeology, said researchers had identified 50 burial sites as part of the project.

    About 500 of the victims remain nameless. Documentation of their deaths was contained in Department of Indian Affairs year-end reports based on information from school principals.

    The annual death reports were consistently done until 1917, when they abruptly stopped.

    "It was obviously a policy not to report them," Maass said.

    In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the Canadian government and the churches that ran the 140 schools. A $1.9-billion settlement of the lawsuit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    The research — carried out under the auspices of the commission — has involved combing through more than one million government and other records, including nuns' journal entries.

    The longer-term goal is to make the information available at a national research centre.


  44. At least 45 died in Yukon residential schools, says researcher

    Records document at least 300 deaths at Northern residential schools

    CBC News February 20, 2013

    A Truth and Reconciliation Commission researcher says at least 45 students died while attending residential schools in the Yukon.

    Across the North, researcher Alex Maass said she has accounted for 300 deaths.

    Maass, a research manager with the Missing Children Project, said after researching cemetery records and wading through a million documents they can now prove one out of every 50 children forced to attend Indian Residential Schools never made it home. However, she says the records are still incomplete and in some cases they've been able to show they are not accurate.

    She said the official records don't account for all of the children's bodies in the schools’ cemeteries, and added the problem is evident at Northern schools like the one at Fort Providence, N.W.T.

    “There's a very large cemetery associated with the Fort Providence school that is estimated to have close to 300 individuals in it — most of them are children,” she said.

    “It doesn't match up. What we see on the ground doesn't match with the documentation.”

    Maass said most of the children died from disease, however she said there were also many accidental deaths attributed to drownings, fires or other accidents.


  45. Angels Story: Trapped in a Violent World

    Brutal forces 'funnel' some aboriginal women into prostitution, say advocates who oppose legalization. A multimedia report.

    By Krystle Alarcon and Sam Eifling March 4, 2013

    Angel Gates has been trying to exit prostitution ever since she was "turned out" at the age of 11 in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Money issues, addictions and lack of support services have held her back from escaping.

    She's not alone. The harsh realities of what women like Gates go through have caused national aboriginal women's groups to take a stance against calls to legalize prostitution, saying what's needed instead is a commitment to creating alternatives for women facing brutal pressures to become, and remain, sex workers.

    Gates says she was "tied up, blindfolded and gagged," on her first day at the Balmoral Hotel on East Hastings.

    She does not blame her mother, a former prostitute herself, for forcing her to turn her first trick to pay for her own addictions.

    "She did the best she could with the tools she was given. I know that. I miss her a lot," Gates says. Despite (or perhaps in spite of) all the traumas Gates has been through, including losing custody of her children and having to kill a john in self-defence, she walks around with eyes on the back of her head. She's the type who can hear two conversations at once and does not take well to pity. (Gates shares more of her views and story in the video at the top of this article.)

    Her mother's picture now hangs in her aunt Bernie Williams' community space, The Sacred Circle, as part of a collection of missing and murdered aboriginal women in the Downtown Eastside.

    'It breaks my heart'

    Gates and Williams hail from the Haida nation of northern B.C. Williams has been begging Gates to stop ever since she found out she was prostituting. "I understand why, you know, why you've ended up down here. It breaks my heart every time I see you," Williams says to Angel.

    "I just look at these pictures and I hope to God I never have to carry you."

    Williams has been advocating for an end to prostitution for three decades now -- her fire has never been quelled since her two sisters and mother are among the missing and murdered First Nations women in the Downtown Eastside.

    That burning yearning for justice kindled a strength in her to walk hundreds of miles with other aboriginal women to bring attention to the missing and murdered women. They trekked along the so-called "Highway of Tears" in 2009, from Kamloops to Winnipeg in 2010, and from Vancouver to Parliament Hill in 2011. Williams co-founded the Walk4Justice marches withGladys Radek, a Gitxsan/Wet'suwet'en woman.

    Williams believes social forces such as poverty, residential schools and the lingering effects of colonization have funneled aboriginal women into prostitution. "These are women who have been so well entrenched in violence that they think this is all they are worth," she says. "They didn't end up down here just because they wanted to get away (from home), no."

    Roots of exploitation

    According to a report in 2005 of prostitution in Vancouver, 52 per cent out of a sample of 100 people interviewed identified themselves as aboriginal (First Nations, Metis or Inuit). A startling link may be drawn with childhood abuse: 96 per cent said they were sexually abused, 81 per cent said they were physically abused as minors.

    continued in next comment...

  46. A separate study on trafficked and prostituted aboriginal youth in the Downtown Eastside connected Canada's historic residential schools to prostitution. "The impact of the residential schools is illustrated by harmful behaviours adopted by many of the survivors like alcoholism, compulsive gambling, substance abuse, and high incidences of sexual problems including sexual abuse and incest. These intergenerational effects of trauma leech outward from the victims to touch all the people surrounding them, like parents, spouses, children and friends," the report states.

    Robyn Bourgeois, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto whose forthcoming dissertation is titled Pathways of Resistance: The Politics of Addressing Violence Against Aboriginal Women and Girls in Canada, 1980-2010, agrees with this systemic analysis of prostitution. In her research, she found that the prostitution of aboriginal women was used as a means to prevent mixed marriages with western men, to enforce residential schools, to facilitate the widespread removal of children from aboriginal families into the child welfare system -- the so-called "sixties scoop."

    "It is one of those systems of oppression that has been used to establish the inferiority of aboriginal women in particular in order to justify colonialism again and again and again. And it slips really nicely with that language that aboriginal women are dirty, promiscuous easy 'squaws,' right?"

    'Scared to death'

    Bourgeois, who is Lubicon Cree, is also a former prostitute, trafficked by one of those "boyfriend" types of pimps. Although she only prostituted for a few years, the experience scarred her for life.

    In an interview with The Tyee, she recalled the first day she was forced to prostitute in Vancouver. Her pimp took her to a hotel, where they "were daydreaming about how beautiful it was." He then invited her to a nice stroll in the park, by the dock. There, he forced her head underwater.

    "I was freaked out of my mind and scared to death and I knew what was going on. But you take these drugs and you take a drink and you can forget that. You do what you have to do," she laments.

    Bourgeois was 18 at the time. Ten years later, she is releasing her PhD dissertation on violence against aboriginal women and girls in Canada. She knows her privileges and "pledged every ounce of it to ending this violence," she says in a blog interview.

    Like Williams, Bourgeois also sees family as the only way out of prostitution right now. "It was family who had resources who were able to help me," Bourgeois says. "Either you have somebody in your family who really loves and cares about you, or you go out in a pine box and that's it," Williams echoes.

    State responsibility

    The personal has become political for First Nations women such as Gates, Williams and Bourgeois. They strongly oppose the current cases launched in Ontario and B.C. to legalize brothels, pimping, street transactions of prostitution and to make sex work a constitutional right. These cases are better known as the Bedford case and the Sex Workers United Against Violence v. Canada case.

    continued in next comment...

  47. Gates does not agree with the legalization of the whole sex industry, but also thinks that prostitutes should not be criminalized. "Men go to john school and women go to jail. I think they should fix it so the women are safer. Legalizing only puts little kids out on the street and makes it okay. We don't come into prostitution by accident. We're made this way. It's some form of pain that you put there in the first place, usually sex crimes when you're little. I don't think it's okay," she says.

    Gates, who still lives in the Downtown Eastside, says that Canada should create more harm-reduction services such as those implemented in the neighbourhood. She says that as an "active prostitute," she does not see the eradication of prostitution as realistic.

    Bourgeois, Williams and advocates of the Aboriginal Women's Action Network (AWAN) do. They prefer the "Nordic model" over legalization -- where prostitutes are decriminalized and pimps and johns are criminalized. The model, implemented in Sweden, Iceland and Norway, is a three-prong approach to slowly ending the demand to prostitution.

    "This model includes law reform that criminalizes the male demand for paid sex and decriminalizes prostituted women, offers comprehensive social programs to all women and girls, and educates the public about prostitution as a form of male violence against women and girls. We, Indigenous women, believe this model encourages true social change that works in our interest," AWAN states in a 2011 Women's Worlds Conference declaration.

    'Not asking the hard questions'

    Samantha Grey, a member of AWAN, vehemently disagrees with the way the Bedford case would potentially change prostitution laws in Canada. "The women who are doing the Bedford case do not represent the majority of women in prostitution, they represent that very small minority of women who claim that that is their choice. And the sad part is that they're always the ones more vocal because they have the freedom."

    Another national aboriginal women's group, the Native Women's Association of Canada,intervened in the Bedford case and agree with the Nordic model. Their position is based on the582 cases they documented of missing and murdered aboriginal women throughout Canada as of 2010.

    Grey says that there also needs to be more exiting services for women to leave the prostitution. "We don't want safer, we want safe. We don't want a band-aid solution, Grey says.

    Grey echoes other First Nations women advocates in declaring that the discussion around poverty, addiction and prostitution is too limited, even at the very top levels of policy and legal decision-making. "They're not asking the hard questions," says Grey. "They're not asking the questions that need to be answered in order to make prostitution non-existent."

    to see the numerous links embedded in this article and to view the mulit-media go to:


  48. The Healthy Aboriginal Network

    Non-profit promotion of health, literacy and wellness.

    We create comic books on health and social issues for youth. The books we have in stock are listed below. Please note the comics on youth health issues, gambling awareness and living with FASD have all sold out. There are no immediate plans to reprint, as we need an anchor order of 10,000 copies in order to get cost effective pricing.

    Lost Innocence- is a fictional story (but based on documented real life experiences of survivors) of a brother and sister's residential school experience in the 1930's. The sneak preview is 20 pages but the completed book will be 64 pages and has a truth and reconciliation theme. Because of the length this book costs $6 each.


    to view the rest of the comic books in this series go to:


  49. Facebook sweat lodge, the online resurgence of native spirituality

    By Waubgeshig Rice, CBC News March 16, 2013

    About The Author
    Waubgeshig Rice is an Ottawa-based CBC journalist, documentary maker and author, whose book Midnight Sweatlodge, about growing up on the reserve, was published in the fall of 2011.

    Smudging, sweat lodges, drum songs. If you were to ask most Canadians what comprises indigenous spirituality in this country, those are the images that would likely come to mind.

    These are common practices, integral elements of many indigenous cultures that can transcend language and local affiliations.

    What's more, they are the ones often relayed to non-native Canadians through mainstream media, largely because they are often the only regular ceremonies that media and spectators in general are allowed to take pictures of — though only with an elder's blessing.

    Not surprisingly, then, that this is what most people think of when they contemplate "native spirituality."

    But that is a much too general term to describe the very different and vibrant beliefs and ceremonies that span this great landscape, and which are now starting to surface again, spurred on by a young, more assertive generation and the investigative tools of social media.

    It's common now to see Facebook groups dedicated to the organization of the once-banned sun dances in Western Canada, and even traditional seasonal Anishinaabe ceremonies in the east.

    In fact, you might say there is even a sort of spiritual resurgence online, with young indigenous people no longer ashamed of their past, and using social media both to plan ceremonies and events, and mine internet resources to breathe new life into the old ways.

    Most Canadians likely aren't aware of many of these older ceremonies, and even indigenous people themselves don't practice them with much continuity or prevalence.

    That's because for a long time in Canada, it was forbidden to do so.

    In 1876, the federal government passed the Indian Act to give itself exclusive authority over Indians and their lands.

    In the decades that followed, a long list of amendments were passed that were direct affronts to indigenous culture, language and general lifestyle.

    continued in next comment...

  50. One of the more obscene amendments came in 1885, prohibiting "religious ceremonies and dances."

    In other words, Canada made it illegal for Indians to pray and practice their spiritual beliefs the way they had for millennia prior to contact with Europeans.

    These Indian Act changes also led directly to the establishment of the residential school system, mostly Catholic- and Anglican-run institutions that were essentially designed to wipe away indigenous identity.

    Traditional beliefs and ceremonies took a serious beating for decades.

    But despite those federally imposed hardships, indigenous ceremonies survived, thanks in large part to the dedication of certain people and their covert methods of keeping them alive.

    The sweat lodge, a healing and purification ceremony performed by many indigenous cultures across Canada, is one such example.

    The ceremony involves an elaborate process of building a small, covered structure and heating stones in an outdoor fire until they're glowing.

    The stones (or "grandfathers", as they're called in the Anishinaabe way) are brought into the lodge to heat it up and create a steamy effect similar to European saunas.

    It's hardly a discreet process and, once it was forbidden by the federal government, Indian agents would break up the ceremonies if they came across them on reserves.

    So many communities started holding sweat lodges under the darkness of night in an almost clandestine way, far from the abusive watch of the Indian agent.

    There are many other stories like this, such as children in residential schools practicing traditional songs in their language whenever a nun or priest wasn't in earshot.

    Still, there's no doubt that, culturally, much was lost. But now, as newer generations start to reclaim the ways of their ancestors, many of these ways are slowly flourishing again.

    Indigenous people were once shamed out of practicing their spirituality, or forced to hide it.

    But that shame has slowly evaporated over time, and people are turning to fasts and sun dances, perhaps in part to reconcile themselves and come to terms with some of those old abuses.

    These are clearly more than just token gestures. A sweat lodge ceremony can take seven hours or more to carry out, while fasts and sun dances can go on for days, so there is a substantial time commitment here that is being undertaken.

    Today, though, we are free to practice our beliefs out in the open, and these different types of ceremonies can be found all over the internet.

    It is inappropriate to share teachings or ceremonial protocol this way. But organizing spiritual events online is proof that the sweat lodge under darkness has swung completely the other way around.

    Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of most of these ceremonies is that they are very inclusive.

    Indigenous nations have long accepted and embraced newcomers, as long as they approach in a respectful and positive way.


    Related Stories on CBC

    Listen: The sweat lodge documentary on The Current http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2011/06/03/the-sweat-lodge-documentary/

    8th Fire: Aboriginal peoples, Canada and the way forward http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/8thfire/

  51. Tears flow as residential school victims share stories of abuse and heartache


    EDMONTON - Crumpled tissues damp with the tears of residential school survivors were collected in a small basket Saturday as men and women recounted traumatic childhood memories that torment them.

    The Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in Edmonton Saturday to collect statements, both privately and during public sharing circles, at Boyle Street Community Services, at 10116 105 Ave. It’s the first time the court-ordered national commission has held such an event at an inner-city agency.

    “This is a missing story in our work,” said Willie Littlechild, one of three commissioners.

    “We’ve been to over 500 communities across Canada over the last three and a half years, listening to stories about the residential school experience,” said Littlechild, a lawyer and former MP originally from Hobbema.

    “It’s been very difficult to hear from the street, for example, homeless people, and their story is critically important. We were ordered by the court to try to find out the truth about residential schools ... and they make the story complete. So it’s important for us to come to the community as opposed to asking them to come to us.”

    The commission was established as part of a residential schools settlement that included compensation and an apology in 2008 from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to former residential school students.

    About a dozen men and women participating in a morning sharing circle at Boyle Street Community Services sat on folding chairs around a video camera that recorded their statements.

    In the centre of the room was a small bundle, two pouches of tobacco wrapped in layers of coloured broadcloth and tied with blue ribbon. Cultural adviser Gary Moostoos will later take that bundle to a sweat lodge, pray over it and offer it up in a sacred fire.

    The tissues collected during the sharing circle will also be burned in a ceremony meant honour the cleansing and healing power of those tears, said Brenda Reynolds, who facilitated the sharing circle and works with the Indian Residential Schools resolution health support program.

    continued in next comment...

  52. More than 130 residential schools operated with government support in Canada. More than 150,000 students passed through those schools. Aboriginal children were removed from their homes and placed in the church-run schools where they were isolated from their culture and language and, in some cases, physically and sexually abused.

    Alberta had about 24 residential schools, the most in Canada.

    Survivors told stories Saturday of lasting anger that got them in fights as adults or in trouble with the law. Some dulled their painful memories with substance abuse — alcohol, heroin, sniffing gas.

    Myles, who did not want his last name published, sobbed as he described the sexual violation and mental and physical cruelty that started when he was a five-year-old boy and lasted until he was 12. The fear and suffering he endured for most of his childhood at a residential school in Wabasca still haunts him daily, Myles said.

    “They say it’s going to end. Believe me, it’s never going to end,” said Myles, 58.

    “People tell me that’s in the past. We’re the ones that feel the pain. We’re the ones that feel the hurt. We’re the ones that have been destroyed, our thoughts and our minds.”

    He described being slapped, choked, grabbed by the hair or ears, stripped of his clothes and being sexually abused. He learned to keep quiet, shut off his emotions. Some students committed suicide, he said.

    “My spirit was getting weaker. My body was getting heavier, so heavy, like I was carrying a big tree that I was going to carry for the rest of my life,” Myles told the group.

    The smell off coffee still sparks flashbacks of frightening mornings waking up at the school, he said.

    “Now, today, it haunts me every day. When I try to sleep, I hear footsteps.”

    Myles said his children urged him to attend Saturday’s event and “tell it all, Daddy,” so he did.

    “I’ve got to keep going and work on myself,” Myles said, exhaling heavily.


  53. Residential school childhood artwork repatriated by adult survivors

    Alberni Valley News April 3, 2013

    Debora Steel is editor of Ha-Shilth-Sa, http://www.hashilthsa.com/ the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s newspaper.

    It took a long time for Georgina Cootes to get used to art teacher Robert Aller, a volunteer who worked with students of the Alberni Indian Residential School from 1959 to 1966. It took a long time not to be afraid that he would do to her what other adults had done to her in the school, she said.

    “But he didn’t.”

    Aller instead provided a safe space for Cootes and other First Nations children from AIRS to create; to see something in their mind’s eye and put it down with paint on paper without fear of reprisal.

    And what they created were scenes of home, of their culture, of a way of life far from a notorious place that would become synonymous with physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse perpetrated against Indian children.

    Cootes painted a picture of the beach at her home in Kildonan. She explained that she deliberately chose not to include the houses there, because their absence represented the children taken from home to attend residential school.

    On March 30, Cootes was reunited with her painting in an emotional repatriation ceremony that took place at Alberni Athletic Hall. The family of Robert Aller, who died in 2008, were in attendance to witness the event.

    (In addition to his work at AIRS, Aller studied with Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer and in 1965 helped form the Community Arts Council of the Alberni Valley with Tseshaht artist George Clutesi and others.)

    Art teacher Aller had asked each child for a painting that he could keep, and after his death, the collection of 47 paintings went to the University of Victoria.

    For the past two years, UVic visual anthropologist Dr. Andrea Walsh has worked to find the artists to reconnect them with their art.

    The original paintings were carried into the hall behind Nuu-chah-nulth drummers and set beside framed copies. The copies were presented to the artists and it was up to each of them to either take the original as well, or ask the university to continue to care for it.

    Maquinna Lewis George, head chief of Ahousaht, the largest First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island, asked UVic to hold on to his paintings—one of a Halloween pumpkin and one of his father’s fishing boat.

    “The best time of my life was fishing with my dad,” he said.

    The paintings are to “come home” if the Nuu-chah-nulth ever build a museum or cultural centre of their own, Maquinna said through speaker Ron Hamilton.

    And there was another proviso. His story was to accompany his paintings wherever they are stored—on this Maquinna was adamant.

    “It’s critically important to him that along with those paintings goes his story—unchanged—in his words, not prettied up in any way,” Hamilton explained.

    continued in next comment...

  54. Maquinna remembered being very excited about the art class, because it got him away from the school and the early bedtime of six o’clock. He remembered the difficult time that the students had at AIRS and he choked up at the memories the paintings brought back.

    He had never told his story publicly. He wasn’t done with his healing, he said, but he wanted to share.

    When he was about six years old he got up early one morning to use the bathroom. A supervisor decided to teach the child a lesson about school rules. Maquinna said the supervisor told him to never, ever go to the bathroom again without his permission.

    “He said ‘pull down your pajamas,’ and he strapped me. That’s the story that goes with (his paintings)... When you want to go and use the washroom, nobody should say you can’t,” said Maquinna.

    Jeff Cook, a ranked chief with Huu-ay-aht First Nation, was the first to receive his framed print, choosing to leave his original painting of a black duck with Walsh. So important is the painting to the chief that he intends to reproduce it on his curtain, a ceremonial draping that shows the history of his people.

    Cook said there is little that remains from that time in his life. He said he became very emotional to have something from his youth.

    Charlie Max Lincoln of Kincolith in Nisga’a territory dressed in his traditional regalia for the re-uniting ceremony. His picture was coloured with rockets heading to the moon, an eagle soaring and the boat of his father.

    “When I first saw it, my heart nearly stopped,” he said. Aller had told him to ‘draw whatever your heart feels.’

    The art classes allowed the children to remember the people they came from; unlike the school environment where children were strapped for speaking or singing in their traditional languages, he said.

    Lincoln also took time to thank a Miss Joseph who worked in the kitchen at AIRS. “She was our mother,” he said. Joseph provided protection, some extra food from time to time and hugs when they were needed, Lincoln explained. She always told him to be proud of where he came from.

    Shelley Chester never knew her mom, Phyllis Tate, who gave her up for adoption. Still, seeing her mother’s paintings was an emotional experience. Chester choked up when declaring she didn’t know what she wanted to do with the originals.

    “To touch something that she created is really something,” Chester said.

    Myrna Cranmer said it’s been 41 years since she left residential school. She understood the label survivor, she said. “I get it, but I prefer warrior.” The school, she explained, made her tough.

    The artwork was first displayed at the Truth and Reconciliation regional event in Victoria last April. The works left with the university can be seen in an upcoming exhibit at UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery located at 630 Yates St. starting May 8.


  55. Sihkos’ Story: Residential school remembrances of a little brown ‘white’ girl part 1 December 27, 2012

    by Jane Glennon (Woodland Cree), B.A., B.S.W., M.S.W., is a retired social worker, counsellor and teacher who currently lives in Prince Albert, SK.

    It has taken me a long time — literally decades — to try and tell my story, a story that I’ve never disclosed in its entirety to anyone, not even family. Accompanying me on my first steps down this path are the words of Paulo Coelho, the brilliant Brazilian writer whose works have sold over 100 million copies in sixty-nine languages. Coelho is among the authors I most admire and his writings truly inspire and motivate me, and after reaching out to him for counsel on the writing of my biography, Mr. Coelho shared with me the words you see above. It is in the spirit of his words that I now share mine.

    * * *

    I consider myself a product of the residential school era, but I do not consider myself a victim.

    What I am is a survivor, and I can honestly state that, prior to being taken away to residential school, life consisted of positive childhood events and memories. I felt secure, safe, nurtured, and protected by my family. Much of those feelings changed in the schools I attended.


    Today, it is clearly evident that Canada has failed in its objective of absorbing First Nations people into mainstream society. But what it has done is seed dysfunction and despair among the thousands of Aboriginal people who’ve passed through the residential school system.

    read the rest of part 1 of this article at:


    Sihkos’ Story, Part II: Sturgeon Landing Residential School part 2

    by Jane Glennon April 13, 2013

    In September 1951, on a nice, cool fall day, my sister and I walked through the doors of a residential school for the first time in our lives. Located in the midst of a small Saskatchewan settlement known as Sturgeon Landing (roughly 9 hours’ drive northeast of present-day Saskatoon), the school was built in the vicinity of Sturgeon Lake.

    The school was operated by an Oblate Missionary, with nuns of the St. Joseph order teaching and supervising about 200 girls and boys. Most of the students were Woodland Cree from the surrounding area. Meantime, the few native families who actually lived in the settlement had their children enrolled in a day school located on the other side of the lake.

    Immediately upon their arrival at Sturgeon Landing IRS, the children were told by the nuns to throw away the clothes they had been wearing and to put on a kind of dark uniform instead. We were also assigned a number at that time: mine was ‘32.’ This would serve as your “ID” throughout the year. When your number was called, it was usually for ‘misbehaviour’ (in their eyes, anyway); otherwise, it was for routine situations like being called to do chores, or seeing the doctor for your annual check-up.

    It would only occur to me later on that this sort of treatment — where you’re only known by your number — was not much different than what would happen in jail or in the army. We were like robots then: always told what to do, feel, and say. Our behaviour was always monitored. Everything had to be done in unison with the other girls. Individuality was non-existent in every aspect of our lives.

    read the rest of part 2 of Jane's story at:


  56. Indigenous Holocaust

    Produced Missy Whiteman IIFM Directed by Missy Whiteman IIFM

    Indigenous Hip hop artist Wahwahtay Benais music video featuring First Nations United

    This music video is dedicated to the children who lived and died in boarding schools.


    Verse 1

    Them devils came to the village posing as priests stealing children from
    they homes took and placed 'em in a school to replace and undo what they
    labeled as savage
    before the gates ya long hair sheared tossed in a pile like it was garbage
    stripped down from ya custom attire ya skin scrubbed till it bleed put his
    clothes in a fire and bury
    his items replace 'em with ours give 'em a bible teach 'em to read bleach
    'em indeed if he speaks one word of his tongue no songs sung from the
    homeland wich he learned as a
    young buck from a old sage in the village to a school made of brick were
    they plan was to kill 'em save the man was the modo sodomized dramatized
    gettin beat grueling rations when
    he eat many died cuz they starved no one notifyed buryed in the yard for not
    following the cross or officials for my ancestors ya heart beats thru me.


    They took his son from his home yeah they pulled 'em apart/ they took her
    daughter from her home they were forced to depart amongst the others on a
    train they called the Iron Horse
    Another Native Fell victim to they holocaust. x2

    Verse 2

    She came from a family of five she was 9 at the time when they came to pay
    the people a visit with a man who translated the language they promised
    beautiful things if she attended without mentioning the evil they imposed
    his hands clammy and they cold as he shakes with a smile on his face now she
    on her way to carlisle with no knowledge of her fate he tell her calm down
    come now we at the gate she see the faces of her schoolmates saddened and
    broke they sat her down cut her hair and made her wear proper clothes to
    look civilized no
    more livin like ya tribe Lye soap if you try to speak a word of ya tongue ya
    mouth washed was the punishment amongst others gurls raped and made mothers
    babys born babys murdered women sterilized a act of genocide mutha***** ya
    heard me F*** the government cuz we didnt die we survived.


    They took his son from his home yeah they pulled em apart/ They took her
    daughter from her home they were forced to depart amongst the others on a
    train they called the Iron Horse
    another native fell victim to they holocaust.x2

    Verse 3

    for more then 500 yrs we been fightin to live 80's baby born 85 12yrs after
    wounded knee but what about the massacre were they slaughtered 300 and i
    aint talkin bout the movie
    1890 on a cold december day when the calvary came and started shootin cuz of
    ceromonie scared we might raise the dead and take back our lands raise or
    arms and make a stand iam fightin back with these words if u dont know ur
    past then the future is bleek so seek knowledge from the elders who still
    livin holdin teachings for the people gotta carry on tradition for or
    children so we bridging the gap cuz pratt sought break us down by creation
    of school 1879 we were takin treated cruel like some animals dem priests
    never took sabatical from beatin and rapin young women and men dem f***


    they took his son from his home yeah they pulled em apart/ they took her
    daughter from her home they were forced to depart amongst the others on a
    train they called the iron horse another native fell victim to they

  57. Residential school survivors gather at Williams Lake site

    St. Joseph's residential school was torn down 26 years ago

    CBC News April 25, 2013

    Survivors of a residential school in Williams Lake, B.C. will gather together this week for a month-long reconciliation project.

    St. Joseph's residential school was torn down 26 years ago, but it left a painful legacy for survivors and their families.

    Over the next month, there will be several events where survivors will share their stories. There will also be a reunion for the former residential school students.

    Esketemc First Nation Chief Fred Robbins attended St. Joseph's, and is one of the organizers of the project.

    "I think that's a huge part of the healing, is just getting back together, and feeling that we were in this together," Robbins said.

    "That's what I think this reunion is all about — bringing back the friendships that were made and releasing a lot of the anger and frustration that happened at the residential school."

    The project will also include two monuments: One dedicated to the survivors, and the other to the children who died at St. Joseph's.

    The monuments will be located at the site of the torn-down school and at a park in Williams Lake.


    Related Stories

    CBC Digital Archives: Canada's Residential Schools

    Related Links

    The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre

    Indian Residential School Resources

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

  58. Abuse victims recount residential school heartbreak

    CTV Montreal April 25, 2013

    MONTREAL - More witnesses, many speaking with voices choked with emotion, told their wrenching stories at the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings in Montreal Thursday.

    One of the witnesses explained that recounting her sufferings was a nearly-impossible task.

    “This is really difficult for me to say,” said Sheri Lynne Neapetung, one of six survivors of Indian residential schools asked to tell her story on the day.

    “It took a long time for me to remember that I was molested and I have no identity of my perpetrator because it happened at night.”

    The consequences have been devastating, she recounted.

    “I've had repeated nightmares of a dark figures attacking me and this has lasted for many, many years,” she said.
    Others also struggled to speak, including one male witness who haltingly described the sexual abuse he underwent, one of many forms of abuse he and others fell victim to.

    “Emotional, sexual, physical abuse, you name it, brainwashing, it was all there,” said residential school survivor David Decontie.

    He said he hopes to heal from the damage caused in his childhood.

    “I still have a long road to go, it's not going to be easy,” he said.

    Another First Nations victim of the school scheme said that the trauma pushed her to alcoholism.

    “I’ve cried many tears,” said Lizzy Kasudluak. “I've filled maybe 10 buckets of tears in my lifetime.”

    And while others said that the hearing might help the healing process, the commissioner noted that it was also important to record the chapter as an important part of Canadian history.

    “This country and those of us living in it will never be able to say that this did not happen in Canada,” said Commissioner Marie Wilson.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was given a $60-million budget to hear from 150,000 aboriginals who were uprooted from their homes and culture and relocated to special boarding schools as children.


  59. Aboriginal childrens artwork repatriated to Australia

    Colgate University in NY donates works to Western Australia university

    CBC News May 10, 2013

    Artwork created by Aboriginal children in residential schools is being returned to Australia from Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.

    The 119 drawings and paintings had been part of the university art collection since 1966. They are to be returned to Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, after an agreement was reached between the two universities.

    The art was created by Noongar children between 1945 and 1951 at the Carrolup Native School and Settlement — children who were part of what Australia terms the "Stolen Generation". From 1910 to the early 1970s, as many as 100,000 mostly mixed-race Aboriginal children were taken from their families under government programs meant to assimilate them and housed in government camps.

    Art by children from Carrolup, including native imagery, kangaroos and Australian landscapes, was considered so remarkable it toured Europe in 1950.

    Herbert A. Mayer, a businessman and Colgate graduate, donated the collection to his alma mater in 1966. He had purchased the works from Florence Rutter, a benefactor to the Carrolup School.

    In 2004, a visiting scholar from Australia immediately recognized the work of children from Carrolup. Additional drawings were discovered, and the artwork attracted international news coverage in 2005 when it was exhibited in Colgate's Picker Art Gallery.

    On Wednesday, a painting by Reynold Hart called Hunting was presented to Curtin University at a ceremony ahead of the future transfer of the full collection.

    Curtin and Colgate Universities have built a relationship over the last eight years, with American students studying Aboriginal culture on exchange programs with the Australian university. In 2006 Colgate lent the artwork for the Perth International Arts Festival and the issue of repatriation was raised.

    “We had to develop a relationship with an institution that would preserve the work forever,” said Ellen Percy Kraly, a demographer and professor of geography at Colgate.

    "The work has so much meaning in country that it deserves to be within the hearts, souls, and eyes of the people," she added.

    Curtin has the highest enrollment of Noongar students among Australian universities and plans to exhibit the works locally.

    see sample of art at:


  60. Saskatoon police mourn homeless drunk they considered a friend


    Alvin Cote is shown in a photo posted to the Saskatoon RCMP Facebook page on Thursday April 25, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO [see link below]

    He was one of the most recognizable residents in Saskatoon and some people consider the Prairie city a little different now that he's gone.

    Alvin Cote wasn't a well-known politician, businessman or hockey player, but a ragged, homeless alcoholic whose tough talk would easily melt into a hearty chuckle and a big smile short on teeth.

    He spent the past couple of decades living in Saskatoon. He could be seen curled up on the floor of a bank foyer, sleeping on park benches or reading worn copies of National Geographic in the drunk tank.

    He died April 19, a few days shy of his 60th birthday.

    Saskatoon police officers are still talking about his death, even though they considered it an inevitable fate. It's believed Cote had been arrested more times for public drunkenness than anyone else in the city's history. Some officers put the tally at close to 1,000.

    Although his obituary does not list an official cause of death, police say Cote was in hospital with pneumonia when he died.


    Downtown beat officer Const. Derek Chesney was surprised and saddened when he heard the news. He saw the man almost every day over the past five years.

    "It's not often that you can arrest somebody on multiple occasions and end up being friends with them. But such was the case with Alvin," Chesney recently wrote on his official police blog, Cops and Bloggers.

    The officer confesses that he had a good cry after writing the online tribute. He fights back tears again as he talks on the phone about the important life lesson Cote taught him.

    "You realize that people can fall through the cracks," says Chesney. "And just as much as a good person can have a bad day, things can happen to people in their lives where they end up going on a path that perhaps they didn't choose."

    Cote was from the Cote First Nation in the Kamsack area, east of Saskatoon near the Manitoba boundary. He was carted off as a child to a residential school on a neighbouring reserve and suffered years of abuse, says Chesney.

    He says Cote never talked about it, but the abuse likely set him on his destructive path. Cote has a sister in Saskatoon and she tried to look after Cote for a while, says Chesney. But he wouldn't stop drinking.


    Chesney remembers meeting Cote for the first time in the winter of 2009 outside the old train station downtown. Chesney had just earned his badge and saw the man with a scraggly beard tapping and flexing his arms, yelling his catch-phrase: "I'm a fighter."

    Chesney calmed him down by asking, "I heard you were a lover, not a fighter."

    "Well, I'm that too," Cote laughed.

    continued in next comment...

  61. Chesney and his partner then put Cote in their cruiser and, as they were heading back to the police station, Cote knocked on the dividing window with $5 in his hand. He said he was hungry. Chesney ran into a McDonald's and got him two double cheeseburgers. Cote happily devoured his meal during the rest of the ride.

    Chesney says he and many other officers looked out for Cote. They checked on him at night and made sure he had enough to eat. Sometimes, when Cote was hanging out on his usual bench in the public lobby of the police station, officers changing shifts would hand him their lunches as they walked by.


    One time, when Cote was in detention on his birthday, staff rummaged up a cupcake and stuck a candle on top. "They actually had everybody on key and everybody else in cells sang Happy Birthday. He blew the candle out through the bars."

    Chesney says he last saw Cote a few weeks before he died, sitting outside a Tim Hortons. Chesney patted him on the back and they ended their chat the way they always did.

    "OK, Bud. See you later," Chesney said.

    "You will," Cote replied.

    Chesney says he and other officers have made their way in recent weeks to the home of Cote's sister to drop off sympathy cards and kind words about the man they miss. Some even say they thought of him as family.

    But the police aren't the only ones mourning Cote. Chesney's blog has received hundreds of clicks and comments from people who had seen Cote on the streets, even though they never knew his name.

    A McDonald's manager wrote about how she will miss waking up Cote outside the restaurant in the mornings and asking him to move along. Another woman said she'll miss buying him lunch. One man talked about how he once saw Cote sleeping inside a bank foyer. He slipped some money under the pile of clothes the man was using as a pillow.


    "Sounds like this guy may have been an angel in disguise?" wrote a woman named Amy. "He seems to have brought out the best in humanity."

    Const. Robbie Taylor often sat and had coffee with Cote. He laughs as he recalls his favourite stories about the man, like the one about how Cote used to wear a second-hand sweater from the Salvation Army. On the front it read, "What the world's greatest mom looks like."

    Then there was the time when Cote pitched a fit in detention because officers gave him a magazine with singer Anne Murray on the cover. "I hate her!" he ranted.

    continued in next comment...

  62. Taylor says Cote loved to read but was always losing or breaking his glasses. So officers usually grabbed him glasses from boxes of used, donated pairs that were supposed to go to Africa.

    Taylor once gave Cote an amateur eye exam. He had him read an oatmeal box while trying on different glasses. If he squinted, Taylor had him try on another pair. The ones Cote liked best were large and red and made him look like TV talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael. Cote suspected they were women's glasses but he still tucked them away in his pocket.

    "I still have a couple of pairs in my locker. They were ready to go if he broke them again."

    Cote was such a character that a worker at the police detention centre sketched his picture, put his mug on some T-shirts and gave them to other staff. Orders for more are now rolling in so people will have something to remember him by.


    The workers tried to give one of the T-shirts to Cote last year for Christmas but he didn't want it. He grumbled that he looked too much like Santa Claus.

    Even Saskatoon's police chief knew Cote. Clive Weighill recalls seeing him at a Tim Hortons just a few weeks before he died. Weighill slipped him some cash.

    "I think most people thought I was telling him to leave but I was just giving him a five dollar bill so he could go get himself something to eat."

    Weighill says a study completed last year tracked Cote and 22 other homeless people with substance abuse problems. It showed that they cost the city $2.8 million over one year in policing, ambulance and hospital costs.

    That's why police, health officials and other agencies hope to build a wellness centre in the city to house the group. Weighill says it's a more dignified solution than sticking them in police cells.

    The centre could also provide faster access to treatment services, but Weighill concedes some people just don't want help.

    Chesney says he did everything he could for Cote. "I couldn't make him sober up. I couldn't bring him home and put him in my basement and give him a bath. He lived the way he wanted to and you almost have to respect somebody for that."

    Some officers say they would have gone to Cote's funeral but he was buried on his home reserve some 350 kilometres away. There's talk of a local memorial, but nothing has been organized.

    Chesney hopes the bench in the police lobby that Cote sat on for countless hours will be decorated with a plaque in his name and moved into the new police station that's under construction. That way Cote will always be there.

    "He was a fighter. He was a survivor. And he'll be remembered."


  63. Video: Interview with Barney Williams Jr., TRC Indian Residential School Survivor Committee


    In this interview, Barney Williams Jr talks about his own personal experience in a residential school and the healing process, how it relates to the thousands of other survivor's experiences, and how that informs the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

    Recorded 26 April 2013 in Montreal at the Quebec National Event.

    More info: http://trc.ca


  64. Residential schools: Addressing a lasting legacy

    BY GREG MACDOUGALL, rabble.ca APRIL 30, 2013

    This past week in Montréal was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada's Québec National Event, the fifth of seven such gatherings across the country.

    From April 24-27, an estimated 12,000 visitors stopped in to the historic Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, and some 8000 tuned in online, to engage in the process of learning about this history, what exactly the residential school experience meant for survivors and for the country as a whole, and how we can move forward.

    "The important thing that I do want people to understand is that this is not an Aboriginal problem, this is not just for Aboriginal people to address. The issue of the impact of residential schools upon this nation is an issue that the nation as a whole needs to address, and then as a country, as a future nation of this world, we will be in a better situation when Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people have full mutual respect for each other, and that's what reconciliation is all about," says Murray Sinclair, Chair of the TRC.

    There were a number of different activities over the four days. It began with the lighting of a sacred fire, and there was also a Survivors' Walk and Procession before the welcome and opening ceremonies.

    Survivors share their stories

    There were many different sessions in the schedule, and also various exhibits and displays, but the main focus was on residential school survivors sharing their experiences.

    There were Commissioner Sharing Panels in the largest room, where survivors shared their experiences with one or more of the three TRC Commissioners and a large audience, as well as slightly smaller Sharing Circles facilitated by the TRC Indian Residential School Survivors Committee members.

    NDP MP Romeo Saganash was the highest-profile survivor to share his story at the gathering. He spoke of how he, and all others who attended residential schools, "can never be normal" after the experience. He told of how his brother died in his first year at residential school, and how it took 40 years and his sister working at CBC to be able to locate his grave. He denounced the current government's approach to handling Aboriginal issues, and gave the commission some recommendations for how this country can move forward positively.

    The TRC collected a total of 162 survivor statements during the four days, but, as Sinclair explains, "altogether as Commissioners we've probably visited over 500 communities" across the country collecting testimonies. They are done both to preserve a record of history, and to contribute to the final report and recommendations that the TRC process will culminate in.

    continued in next comment...

  65. Canada's national shame

    "Our first recommendation, right from the outset of the Commissioners' Interim Report, was to undertake a process of ensuring that curriculums in this country, the public schools, teach children properly about who the Aboriginal people are, who they were, what they have contributed to the history of this country in a positive way, and how they have been victimized … and in doing that, we can help Canada as a whole overcome its national shame," say Sinclair.

    The first part of the first day of the gathering was only open to school groups, who had a chance to come and learn more, but also for many of them to share what they had done as participants in the innovative Project of Heart initiative that allows students or other groups to learn about, commemorate and take action on the residential school legacy.

    Another educational initiative, The Wampum Project, has been travelling across Québec raising awareness about residential schools and was described by Marcel Petiquay in his testimony. Petiquay shared how he "was taught violence in residential school," and chose to be violent as a result -- one story that illustrated this was how his then-girlfriend bought him a present of perfume, the smell of which reminded him of the abuse he'd received at the school only months earlier, and he proceeded to be violent towards her.

    Healing programs are vital

    Petiquay also talked of his alcoholism, having started drinking at the age of 10 after being abused by a priest, and how it has been a very long journey to start the communication, to start the healing. Looking at the bigger picture, he stressed that child protection agencies are still taking away Aboriginal children from their families, and also how disheartening it is that healing programs funding are being cut.

    The support that healing programs can offer is vital now and in the future in addressing the legacy of residential schools. There were support workers on hand at the gathering to help survivors in dealing with whatever might come up from hearing the testimonies.

    Sheri Lynne Neapetung was in tears on stage as she recounted the effects of being molested at night in the dorm room of her residential school. "I had my life taken from me," she said. She had seen her mother turn to substance abuse and couldn't go that route, so she had nothing to turn to when the memories came back. She wasn't able to take care of herself, let alone her children, and spoke of not being able to leave her house, not being able to shower. She trusted no-one, and felt that people might not believe her if she told them what had happened to her. "I need this out, out of me, because it's been eating me on the inside," she said. She spent "so many years crying … crying for my spirit to be whole."

    continued in next comment...

  66. Self-harm and suicide

    Not everyone is or was ready to share their personal stories of hurt, pain and abuse. In testimony, Debby Flamand talked about how when her alcoholic father first learned that there would be the TRC and the sharing of residential school experiences, he attempted suicide, shooting himself in the head. The bullet went out the other side, leaving him alive but blind. She herself spoke of breaking the taboo in her community of denouncing the culture of domestic violence and the legacy of residential schools; she had also, earlier, lost her sister to suicide.

    David Decontie shared his own experiences of around 10 suicide attempts while addicted to alcohol, and then later while sober being too scared to die to attempt it anymore. He said, "I was like a stranger within my own family once I got out of residential school," and talked about how he didn't have a sense of belonging or any friends. Communication was a big problem for him, often happening only after having been drinking.

    Decontie also lost his language at residential schools, suffering beatings and soap being shoved in his mouth for speaking his Native tongue. He feels it's really important that gatherings also happen for the young people, for the children of residential school survivors, so they can have their say too, as it has such huge intergenerational effects.


    All of these experiences and impacts on individuals, families and communities are part of what was documented as a planned project to "kill the Indian in the child," says Sinclair. "The forcible annihilation, through removal of children, of one race … is an act of genocide. And I've pointed that out to the Canadian population -- that the International Convention on Genocide includes a definition that exactly describes what went on in residential schools and why residential schools were created."

    He adds that because Canada has not fully adopted the Convention on Genocide, "officials in Canada cannot be prosecuted for what's occurred … but people have sometimes misinterpreted it to mean that therefore they have not committed genocide, and that's not quite accurate."

    Dealing with a legacy of genocide is no easy task. As Sinclair states, "The future will be the only judge of the success of what [the TRC] accomplished."

    Greg Macdougall is a member of IPSMO, Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa, and is also active in other community organizing, education and media work. His website is www.EquitableEducation.ca


  67. Interview with Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission


    Murray Sinclair speaks about the process of the Commission gathering testimonies from residential school survivors, preparing recommendations, and what this history of genocide means for all Canadians.

    Recorded 25 April 2013 in Montreal at the Quebec National Event.
    More info: http://trc.ca

    Video by Greg Macdougall, http://EquitableEducation.ca


  68. Paul Martin accuses residential schools of cultural genocide

    'Call a spade a spade,' former prime minister says

    CBC News April 26, 2013

    Residential schools engaged in "cultural genocide," former prime minister Paul Martin said Friday at the hearings of the federal Truth And Reconciliation Commission, adding that aboriginal Canadians must now be offered the best educational system.

    "Let us understand that what happened at the residential schools was the use of education for cultural genocide, and that the fact of the matter is — yes it was. Call a spade a spade," Martin said to cheers from the audience at the Montreal hearings.

    "And what that really means is that we've got to offer aboriginal Canadians, without any shadow of a doubt, the best education system that is possible to have."

    The residential school system existed from the 1870s until the 1990s and saw about 150,000 native youth taken from their families and sent to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of "civilizing" First Nations.

    Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide or died fleeing their schools. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.

    In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the Canadian government as well as churches that ran the schools. The $1.9-billion settlement of that suit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the creation of the commission.

    But the government has clashed with the commission and recently had to be ordered by an Ontario court to find and turn over documents from Library and Archives Canada.

    "Every document is relevant," Martin said. "We have hid this for 50 years. It's existed for 150. Surely to God, Canadians are entitled ... aboriginal Canadians and non-aboriginal Canadians, to know the truth. And so let the documents be released."

    New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash also testified on Friday about the damage he suffered in a residential school.

    Saganash, who was separated from his family and sent to a residential school in the Quebec town of La Tuque, cried as he described the death of his brother Johnny, whom he never met.

    He said his family still doesn't have a death certificate or know what really happened, and that he wasn't even allowed to return home for his father's funeral.

    Saganash told the audience at the Montreal hearings that he might look like a normal person but isn't.

    "I can never be normal," said Saganash, who for the first few years of his life spoke Cree and lived in nature.

    "And none, none of those kids who were sent to residential schools can claim to be normal today. It's impossible."

    Like several others who spoke at the hearing, Saganash said injustices to aboriginal peoples did not stop with the closing of residential schools.

    "There are still racist policies against aboriginals," said Saganash, who referred to the federal Indian Act.

    "Even when we get a victory before the courts, the government continues to fight against our fundamental rights."


  69. Residential school survivors reunite in Williams Lake

    St. Joseph’s Mission School torn down in 1980s
    CBC News Posted: May 17, 2013

    Residential school survivors in Williams Lake, B.C., are reuniting this weekend to remember and heal.

    Though St. Joseph's Mission School was torn down in the 1980s, the painful memories are still fresh for the school’s former students.

    Esketemc Chief Fred Robbins was taken to the residential school when he was six years old.

    "My aunt and uncles brought me, dropped me off, and said, ‘We'll see you in 11 months' and left,” he said. “Then they shuffled me into the dormitory. The first week all I did was cry. All I wanted to do was go home."

    Yesterday, a commemorative monument was unveiled in the cemetery at the former school — a tribute, Robbins says, to those who died at the school and those who are still healing.

    "It means so much because my grandparents, my parents have all attended this school,” he said.

    “I first thought about it eight years ago. What really brought it to the forefront was finding out that one of my friends had committed suicide, and he never left anything behind."

    Robbins hopes the monument will help some former students heal.

    "This project is the first one across Canada to encompass non-First Nations with its reconciliation, which I think goes a long way in building that foundation and creating a new legacy."

    A second monument will be unveiled in a Williams Lake park on Friday. Over the weekend, hundreds of former St. Joseph's students will gather for a reunion.


  70. AFN on fifth anniversary of residential school apology: 'Actions must match words'

    BY RABBLE STAFF | JUNE 11, 2013

    The following statement was issued Tuesday by the Assembly of First Nations.

    On the fifth anniversary of Parliament's Apology for Indian Residential Schools, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo called attention to the outstanding requirement for all governments and all Canadians to commit to reconciliation.

    "There is a growing frustration among First Nations across the country with lack of action and lack of commitment on the part of the Government of Canada to work in real partnership with our peoples and governments," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. "Five years ago, the Prime Minister stated: 'There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again.' Those attitudes include the colonial notion that other governments know best for First Nations and have the right to make decisions for us, yet we have not seen change in the continued pattern of unilateral approaches and imposed legislation. This is incongruent with the apology and other commitments. We must break the pattern once and for all. Actions must match words. Our people are calling for a true and collective commitment to reconciliation that respects First Nations peoples and rights as the way forward to a stronger Canada."

    The historic apology offered to residential school survivors took place in the House of Commons June 11, 2008. It included a commitment by Parliament and all of Canada to join First Nations on a shared journey toward healing and reconciliation, including ensuring continuity with healing efforts initiated through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

    "All those affected by the Residential Schools must be supported in their healing journey," said AFN Regional Chief Bill Erasmus who leads the national advocacy work in this area "The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission remains fundamentally important and the Government of Canada must cooperate fully in achieving their mandate, including programming and supports for all survivors and their descendants."

    In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper dated June 10, 2013, National Chief Atleo and the AFN national executive committee outlined key areas for action based on shared commitments toward reconciliation. A similar letter was also sent by all parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement of 2007.

    "On this important anniversary, we honour the many survivors of Indian residential schools and their families," said National Chief Atleo. "Without their strength and courage to share their stories and push for reconciliation, we would not be in a position to address the challenges we face today. In spite of challenges, First Nations are implementing First Nation-driven solutions based on their rights and their Treaties. This work is aimed at supporting and strengthening our governments, building our economies, providing fair and equitable education and health systems for our kids and families in ways that honour our heritage and languages and ensuring our citizens and communities are safe and secure. We must see concrete action by government to support these efforts now."

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.


  71. Sihkos’ Story, Part III: Guy Hill Residential School

    http://www.mediaindigena.com/ June 23, 2013

    Jane Glennon (Woodland Cree), B.A., B.S.W., M.S.W., is a retired social worker, counsellor and teacher who currently lives in Prince Albert, SK. This is the third in her series of writings for MI about her time at residential school and beyond; consult parts one http://www.mediaindigena.com/guest/living/sihkos-story-residential-school-remembrances-of-a-little-brown-white-girl and two http://www.mediaindigena.com/guest/issues-and-politics/sihkos-story-part-ii-sturgeon-landing-residential-school for earlier instalments.

    + + +

    My first residential school having burned to the ground, what was supposed to be a summer stay with family was mercifully extended to December.

    When winter came, our parents had us all move into a small, one-room log cabin built by my father. Somehow, nine people fit inside that tiny structure, a lone wood stove doing its best to keep us warm. There was no concrete flooring; all we had to sleep on was thick bedding placed atop tree boughs and canvass material.

    Despite our obvious poverty, I remember nothing but contentedness and happiness, and we young children found our thrills where we could, such as all-day sliding sessions down a nearby hill. Sometimes we’d accompany my mother to check on her rabbit snares (pictured above). Made of stainless steel wire that could be readily bent into a circle, this contraption was attached to a stick low to the ground. Once the rabbit’s head went through the wire trap, the contraption would snap. Highly visible rabbit tracks made it easy for my mother to figure out where to set the snares.

    But the snares proved just as useful to other creatures, allowing some animals (likely owls) to help themselves to the spoils. This prompted my mother to hatch a plan of checking the snares at night. Some of us kids tagged along, and I remember how brightly the full moon illuminated the forest. Everything was quiet. All we could hear was the snow crunching beneath our feet: that and maybe the sound of our hungry stomachs, hoping tonight’s moonlit walk would result in tomorrow’s delicious rabbit soup.

    Beyond a modest family allowance of five dollars per child, there was no welfare available, so my father also provided for us by trapping and hunting. There were some extremely hard economic times. Things got so bad at one point that my father had to approach the Northern Store manager to see if he could borrow some frozen fish the manager had been saving for his dogs. I could easily tell how very low and desperate my father felt doing this, but his pride had to be put aside if he was to feed his family.

    * * *

    The day would eventually come for my return to residential school, only this time in a new building and in a new province. Upon my arrival at the Guy Hill Indian Residential School in The Pas, Manitoba — some 90-odd kilometres southeast of my last school — I was subjected to the same coal-oil delousing I had gone through at Sturgeon Landing. Here too our original outfits were taken away, to be either trashed or burned, and individual numbers assigned to us for identification purposes.

    Accompanying me on my first days at this new institution was my older sister Charlotte (continuing the support mission our parents had sent her on at my first school). Two other sisters would later come to Guy Hill when they were of school age. By this point, Charlotte had been deemed ‘unteachable’ by those in charge, so they had her work as a maid instead. Charlotte would carry out these domestic duties at Guy Hill until she turned sixteen, three years after our arrival in 1950.

    continued in next comment...

  72. Clothes for newly-admitted girls included dresses or skirts, plus thick navy bloomers (a kind of undergarment or panty). In between the dress/skirt and the bloomer was an awkwardly-designed slip: featuring a pocket in the middle, it meant that, in order for us to reach our hankies, we’d have to lift up our skirts or dresses. This involuntary exhibitionism left me feeling embarrassed whenever I had a cold, especially when we were in the presence of the boys.

    Still on the subject of clothes, I remember one time I had been given what I perceived to be some sort of uniform. Convinced that I had been promoted to a leadership role of some kind, I beamed with pride at my new ‘honour.’ I later found out that the dress was actually just something a girls’ scout troop had donated to the school.

    Students were taught according to the provincial curriculum, delivered by the nuns and a few lay teachers. Classes featured no Aboriginal content whatsoever: clearly, the objective here was to assimilate and acculturate Native students. Time and time again, we were reminded of how we had to be civilized. After all, it’s why we were brought to this residential school environment — to forget that we were Indians so that we’d become productive little brown white people capable of joining mainstream society. Still, I must have learned something because I kept passing, even excelling in some subjects, as I earned the required grades to move on.

    It was surely an injustice that we were not allowed to learn our history as Aboriginal people. I wondered why we had to study foreign cultures like the ancient Egyptians. Meantime, some of us had come into the school having learned Aboriginal spirituality from our parents, but these students were told that they had to forget these practices because they were ‘pagan.’ The Catholic religion was pounded into our heads on a daily basis.

    The one bit of relief came courtesy of a class clown (every classroom seems to have one). I recall one morning when the teacher-nun had briefly left the room, the perfect opportunity for this boy to push out a big loud fart. Upon hearing the entire class roar with laughter, the teacher-nun came rushing back in to see what the commotion was all about. Walking directly up to the class clown, she demanded: “Please repeat your joke.” Once again, the class immediately burst out laughing, a moment of hilarity that made everyone’s otherwise boring day.

    * * *

    Where Guy Hill differed most from Sturgeon Landing was in the way it segregated students into groups of small, medium and big girls. This segregation eventually alienated a number of us from our younger, smaller siblings. As a consequence, over the course of my time at Guy Hill, I would increasingly come to reject my younger sister. It was not until after we’d both left school that we became reacquainted, something I found very difficult. For the longest time, I could not forgive myself for what I had done to her. Even today, I have not fully apologized to my sister for rejecting and neglecting her while at Guy Hill. Today, I try to make amends to her in as many ways as I can.

    What skills Guy Hill did provide students were of a mostly practical, household nature. The nuns taught us girls how to knit our stockings, socks, mittens and scarves (perhaps the one useful ability I picked up in all my time there). The bigger girls also took turns performing such tasks as mending as well as washing clothes, stairs and floors. The nuns used to constantly stress the importance of doing everything to perfection: for some students, such nagging meant they went on to become clean freaks as adults. (Whether that is a negative or positive characteristic is anyone’s guess. Happily, I have not been so impacted. My housekeeping standards have always been wanting, carried out only according to my inclination and no one else’s.)

    continued in next comment...

  73. Girls would also help out in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and preparing vegetables. Meanwhile, I liked cleaning up the dining room where the priests and brothers ate — thanks to their privileged plates, they regularly dined on much finer foods — because I could then help myself to leftovers when the nuns weren’t looking. The nuns likewise ate much better than we did, leaving us to be satisfied with mediocre rations.

    Still with food, I recall one late afternoon when five of us girls waited anxiously on the porch for the baker to bring that week’s supply of fresh bread to school. Soon after he had neatly stacked the loaves and was on his way, we attacked them like starved little animals. With each of us ripping up a loaf, we devoured almost the entire shipment. Of course, it wouldn’t take long for us to get caught and, while it meant we were denied that night’s supper and movie, we all agreed that it was well worth it.

    Now, as punishments go, that was relatively mild. But, in fact, fear and intimidation never felt far from the surface at Guy Hill. I’ll never forget the time this one nun got into a fight with a student. The girl’s medium build was no match for the burly nun’s enormous weight. It all started because the young girl was upset that her little sister’s hair had been forcibly cut by a school employee. Next thing I know, I’m part of a circle of students, some of us with tears in our eyes, unable to do anything but watch this stout older woman pin down and pound on this poor girl. We were all so scared; none of us had the courage to intervene. How desperate and helpless I felt watching this abuse. If I remember correctly, as a consequence of this clash, the girl was sent home, which I thought was totally unfair because no caregiver should ever resort to that type of treatment.

    Some of us girls developed a saying whenever one of the nuns scolded us. We used to whisper the word, kiyâm (kee-YAM), which in Cree means “I don’t care.” We also said it whenever one of the nuns used to whisper “sauvage” under their breath. (Despite their use of French, we understood perfectly well that they considered us savages.) The word kiyâm frustrated the nuns to no end, their faces becoming beet red, a reaction we little rascals enjoyed immensely.

    Another intimidating incident I recall involved me and a boy with whom I was friends at school. With the rules forbidding any talking on the stairway between students, my friend and I had been ‘caught in the act’ by a janitor, who then immediately took us to the principal’s office. The first thing the principal asks when we get there is what the date of my last period was, his not-so-subtle implication that the boy and I had been sexually active. I assured the principal that nothing of the sort had happened, but he was determined to punish me. His strap in hand, the principal then proceeded to instruct me to drop my bloomers down to my ankles. But I had made up my mind that I was not getting strapped for something that I did not do. I started to cry, and after much convincing on my part that I hadn’t done anything wrong, the principal relented, but not before making me promise never to talk to the boy again.

    Incidents like these made it clear to me that the priest and nuns most likely thought of us boys and girls as little more than immoral pagans and savages constantly preoccupied with fornication. I would later come to realize that, if anyone had had a hard time suppressing these kinds of thoughts, it was them — the people whose supposed vows of chastity seemed to only fuel the fire that would leave so many kids scarred. There is much more to tell here, I’m afraid, but, for now, it is a story best left to another day.

    continued in next comment...

  74. As a young girl, I had not been taught about menstruation, either at home and school. I thus came to regard it as something shameful, and when my period would come every month, I did everything to hide it. I remember that I used to wash my underwear whenever I could and wear it soaking wet. It was a very trying time for me. As for the school itself, all it offered in the way of menstrual pads at the time were flannel cloths. Staff made us soak our soiled cloths in the bathtub, then take turns rinsing them prior to washing. The stench was unbearable. (Later, the school did eventually supply girls with actual menstrual pads.) But that wasn’t the only substitution forced upon us. Instead of regular toilet paper, we were made to use cut-up, square pieces of newspaper. I assumed such deprivation was a way to save the school money.

    Meanwhile, what little recreation we were permitted typically came with its share of negatives. For example, the school often selected films depicting stereotypical ‘Cowboys and Indians,’ with the Indians always portrayed as stupid losers. The assimilation process was certainly at work here: I remember well how some girls used to later re-enact and reflect some of the movies’ themes at playtime. Contrast that experience with the annual dog sled races, which we were never allowed to watch even though some of us knew some of the participants who’d come from our reserves. Undaunted, we snuck around anyway and saw the races through the windows. Of course, for those who were caught, it meant a night without supper or a movie.

    At Christmas time, I remember the children were given the opportunity to visit Santa Claus at some downtown location. We felt privileged as we carried our little bags of candy, the only time that we were allowed to enjoy such treats. Though I doubt it was because staff were concerned about tooth decay: our dental care was administered once a year, usually by a foreign doctor who’d rather pull out teeth than try to save them. It was assumed more money could be made that way, a rationale that infused much of the overall health care we received as children.

    continued in next comment...

  75. Turning from matters of the body to those of the spirit, my attitude towards Christianity was deeply and enduringly shaped by my time at residential schools, but not in the way those responsible for their creation likely intended. As a result of having to go to church almost every single day at school, I honestly believe that this is why, from the moment I left school, I never went back to church. I would like to believe that God is fair and just. I hope that He hears me as I pray on my own. However, I regret very much that I did not act to instil a sense of spirituality within my own children. When he was five, I had my son Rick baptized in the Catholic Church but this is the one and only time he’s ever attended a service. Had his father been Catholic, or had we been of the same faith, perhaps things would have turned out differently. We were of the opinion that our children would decide on their own as adults what religion to embrace, a decision I very much wish I could have over again. I now see that being forced to attend church as a child had still affected the way I approached religion as a parent, just one of the many ways my earlier experience would later impact my children.

    There are parallels here perhaps with my parents and me. Growing up, they were not church goers. As I mentioned in an earlier instalment, when my parents migrated to Southend, SK they were the only Anglicans amidst a community of Catholics. Like me, my mother was a residential school product and, also like me, she consciously or unconsciously decided not to teach her children any religion. This is partly why I believe my mother underwent the same assimilation process as I did. In fact, I can honestly say that all of my siblings experienced residential school impacts growing up. That said, I acknowledge that my mother tried her best as a parent, and did so despite carrying the struggles that came with being orphaned at a young age then placed in an arranged marriage.

    I eventually did try to embrace Aboriginal spirituality, when my adult daughter Samara and I took part in a ceremony to receive our Native names. However, that’s where our participation in such practices ended; again, I think that’s because I was too deeply brainwashed by my Catholic indoctrination at the schools. Even today, I struggle to rid myself of the fear that I will be condemned forever if I ever decide to leave the Church altogether.

    In my next instalment, I will write of my time at yet another residential school, one that would take me the furthest I’d ever been from my home.


  76. Hungry aboriginal people used in bureaucrats experiments

    Food historian published details of nutritional experiments that began in the 1940s

    The Canadian Press July 16, 2013

    The Canadian government says it's appalled to hear hungry aboriginal children and adults may have been used as unwitting subjects in nutritional experiments by federal bureaucrats.

    Recently published research by food historian Ian Mosby has revealed details about one of the least-known but perhaps most disturbing aspects of government policy toward aboriginal people immediately after the Second World War.

    "It was experiments being conducted on malnourished aboriginal people," Mosby, a post-doctoral fellow in history at the University of Guelph, told CBC's As It Happens program on Tuesday.

    "It started with research trips in northern Manitoba where they found, you know, widespread hunger, if not starvation, among certain members of the community. And one of their immediate responses was to design a controlled experiment on the effectiveness of vitamin supplementation on this population."

    Mosby also found that plans were developed for research on aboriginal children in residential schools in British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Alberta.

    "If this is story is true, this is abhorrent and completely unacceptable," a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt stated in an email late Tuesday.

    "When Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper made a historic apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools in 2008 on behalf of all Canadians, he recognized that this period had caused great harm and had no place in Canada."

    The spokesperson added that the federal government "remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools."

    Visited northern Manitoba reserves
    Mosby — whose work at the University of Guelph focuses on the history of food in Canada — was researching the development of health policy when he ran across something strange.

    "I started to find vague references to studies conducted on 'Indians' that piqued my interest and seemed potentially problematic, to say the least," he told The Canadian Press. "I went on a search to find out what was going on."

    Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 aboriginals, most of them children.

    It began with a 1942 visit by government researchers to a number of remote reserve communities in northern Manitoba, including places such as The Pas and Norway House.

    They found people who were hungry, beggared by a combination of the collapsing fur trade and declining government support. They also found a demoralized population marked by, in the words of the researchers, "shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia."

    The researchers suggested those problems — "so long regarded as inherent or hereditary traits in the Indian race" — were in fact the results of malnutrition.

    Instead of recommending an increase in support, the researchers decided that isolated, dependent, hungry people would be ideal subjects for tests on the effects of different diets.

    "This is a period of scientific uncertainty around nutrition," said Mosby. "Vitamins and minerals had really only been discovered during the interwar period.

    "In the 1940s, there were a lot of questions about what are human requirements for vitamins. Malnourished aboriginal people became viewed as possible means of testing these theories."

    continued below

  77. Some selected to receive vitamins
    The first experiment began in 1942 on 300 Norway House Cree. Of that group, 125 were selected to receive vitamin supplements which were withheld from the rest.

    At the time, researchers calculated the local people were living on less than 1,500 calories a day. Normal, healthy adults generally require at least 2,000.

    "The research team was well aware that these vitamin supplements only addressed a small part of the problem," Mosby writes. "The experiment seems to have been driven, at least in part, by the nutrition experts' desire to test their theories on a ready-made 'laboratory' populated with already malnourished human experimental subjects."

    The research spread. In 1947, plans were developed for research on about 1,000 hungry aboriginal children in six residential schools in Port Alberni, B.C., Kenora, Ont., Schubenacadie, N.S., and Lethbridge, Alta.

    One school deliberately held milk rations for two years to less than half the recommended amount to get a 'baseline' reading for when the allowance was increased. At another, children were divided into one group that received vitamin, iron and iodine supplements and one that didn't.

    One school depressed levels of vitamin B1 to create another baseline before levels were boosted. A special enriched flour that couldn't legally be sold elsewhere in Canada under food adulteration laws was used on children at another school.

    And, so that all the results could be properly measured, one school was allowed none of those supplements.

    Many dental services were withdrawn from participating schools during that time. Gum health was an important measuring tool for scientists and they didn't want treatments on children's teeth distorting results.

    Ethically dubious, says researcher
    The experiments, repugnant today, would probably have been considered ethically dubious even at the time, said Mosby.

    "I think they really did think they were helping people. Whether they thought they were helping the people that were actually involved in the studies, that's a different question."

    He noted that rules for research on humans were just being formulated and adopted by the scientific community.

    Little has been written about the nutritional experiments. A May 2000 article in the Anglican Journal about some of them was the only reference Mosby could find.

    "I assumed that somebody would have written about an experiment conducted on aboriginal people during this period, and kept being surprised when I found more details and the scale of it. I was really, really surprised.

    "It's an emotionally difficult topic to study."

    Not much was learned from those hungry little bodies. A few papers were published — "they were not very helpful," Mosby said — and he couldn't find evidence that the Norway House research program was completed.

    "They knew from the beginning that the real problem and the cause of malnutrition was underfunding. That was established before the studies even started and when the studies were completed that was still the problem."

    With files from CBC News


  78. Food historian discovers Federal Government experimented on aboriginal children during and after WWII

    CBC Radio report July 16, 2013

    Food historian Ian Mosby has found evidence of experiments conducted by the federal government on aboriginal children and adults, during and immediately after the Second World War.
    What he discovered, when he probed a little deeper, was a program of breathtaking scale and cruelty. Listen to our interview with University of Guelph post-doctoral fellow, Ian Mosby, in which he describes what happened to these people.
    After the programme went to air, we received this written statement from Andrea Richer, Press Secretary for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Bernard Valcourt:
    "If this is story is (sic) true, this is abhorrent and completely unacceptable. When Prime Minister Harper made a historic apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools in 2008 on behalf of all Canadians, he recognized that this period had caused great harm and had no place in Canada. Our Government remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools."

    Listen to the radio report at:



    These reports about the unethical experiments on Indigenous people, mostly children in Indian Residential Schools, is extremely troubling. One of those schools mentioned was in Port Alberni, British Columbia. I grew up in the late 1950s and 60s across the Somass river from that notorious residential school where many children were sexually, physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually abused. Last year I attended the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation hearings on the former site of that school, which was demolished some years ago.

    This report on forced malnutrition for experimental purposes brings back a shameful memory for me. In those days, I don't think any adult in the settler community, except for perpetrators, had any idea of the atrocities occurring in that school. As a young child, I certainly had no idea of the long history of maltreatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. In grade four I had an Aboriginal classmate who never brought lunch to school like everyone else. Some of us would give him things from our own lunch we didn't want. One day, being the smart-ass I am, I 'joked' that Barney was the class garbage can because he ate anything we gave. He got really mad and almost hit me, but I had no idea why. I did not understand what a horrible cruel thing that was to say to him, that he probably lived in poverty and was suffering directly and inter-generationally from the effects of assimilation abuse in residential schools.

    Later in life, I learned about the horrors of Canada's treatment of the Indigenous Peoples and heard many direct testimonies of residential school abuse. Knowing that history has made the memory of my cruel 'joke' at Barney's expense a haunting memory I'll never forget, that still brings tears to my eyes.


    B.C. residential school survivor says he was starved

    At least 1,300 aboriginal people were involved in the government-run nutrition experiment

    CBC News July 17, 2013

    As a 10-year-old boy, Alvin Dixon remembers having to milk cows during his stay at a residential school in Port Alberni, B.C.

    Yet, he was always fed only powdered milk.

    Dixon, who is now 76 years old, was forcibly taken from his family in Bella Bella, on British Columbia's northwest coast, when he was a child and relocated to Port Alberni, B.C., where he said he and many of his classmates were starved.

    "We would be so hungry and we would steal these potatoes [from farmers' fields] and eat it raw," he told CBC News.

    Recently published research suggests Dixon's experiences were part of a long-standing, government-run experiment designed by researchers to test the effects of malnutrition.

    The research by food historian Ian Mosby has revealed the experiments involved at least 1,300 aboriginal people, most of them children.

    In 1947, plans were developed for research on about 1,000 hungry aboriginal children in six residential schools in Port Alberni, B.C., Kenora, Ont., Schubenacadie, N.S., and Lethbridge, Alta.

    continued below

  80. One school deliberately held milk rations for two years to less than half the recommended amount in order to get a "baseline" reading for when the allowance was increased.

    At another, children were divided into one group that received vitamin, iron and iodine supplements and one group that didn't, according to Mosby's research.

    One school depressed levels of vitamin B1 to create another baseline before levels were boosted. A special enriched flour that couldn't legally be sold elsewhere in Canada under food adulteration laws was used on children at another school.

    And, so that all the results could be properly measured, one school was allowed none of those supplements.

    "The term 'guinea pig' comes to mind quite quickly and readily, because that's what we were, I guess," said Dixon, who recalls having to fill out forms about his food consumption.

    By the time he reached high school, Dixon said he remembers being smaller compared to his non-aboriginal classmates.

    Malnutrition experiments began in Manitoba
    According to Mosby's research, the experiments began with a 1942 visit by government researchers to a number of remote reserve communities in northern Manitoba, including places such as The Pas and Norway House.

    They found people who were hungry, beggared by a combination of the collapsing fur trade and declining government support. They also found a demoralized population marked by, in the words of the researchers, "shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia."

    The researchers suggested those problems — "so long regarded as inherent or hereditary traits in the Indian race" — were in fact the results of malnutrition.

    Instead of recommending an increase in support, the researchers decided that isolated, dependent, hungry people would be ideal subjects for tests on the effects of different diets.

    First Nation councillor demands apology
    Today, the chief councillor of the Tseshaht First Nation in Port Alberni demanded an apology from the federal government.

    "Canada has been sitting on this and hiding this information from the aboriginal people now since it first happened in the '40s and '50s," said Hugh Braker, who added that the band is horrified by the revelations.

    "There needs to be an apology done to the victims of the experimentation," he added.

    Cliff Atleo, president of the Nuu-Chah-nulth Tribal Council, said he wants all information about the tests to be made available to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is studying the legacy of Canada's residential schools.

    "It's hard not to get sick to the stomach, given that we are dealing with children at these schools, " he said.

    "This story … is really going to open up some old wounds, and scars that really run deep in our communities."



    These reports about the unethical experiments on Indigenous people, mostly children in Indian Residential Schools, is extremely troubling. One of those schools mentioned was in Port Alberni, British Columbia. I grew up in the late 1950s and 60s across the Somass river from that notorious residential school where many children were sexually, physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually abused. Last year I attended the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation hearings on the former site of that school, which was demolished some years ago.

    This report on forced malnutrition for experimental purposes brings back a shameful memory for me. In those days, I don't think any adult in the settler community, except for perpetrators, had any idea of the atrocities occurring in that school. As a young child, I certainly had no idea of the long history of maltreatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. In grade four I had an Aboriginal classmate who never brought lunch to school like everyone else. Some of us would give him things from our own lunch we didn't want. One day, being the smart-ass I am, I 'joked' that Barney was the class garbage can because he ate anything we gave. He got really mad and almost hit me, but I had no idea why. I did not understand what a horrible cruel thing that was to say to him, that he probably lived in poverty and was suffering directly and inter-generationally from the effects of assimilation abuse in residential schools.

    Later in life, I learned about the horrors of Canada's treatment of the Indigenous Peoples and heard many direct testimonies of residential school abuse. Knowing that history has made the memory of my cruel 'joke' at Barney's expense a haunting memory I'll never forget, that still brings tears to my eyes.


    Nutrition experiment victim speaks out; Years after the Canadian government cleared experiments, Benson Nookemus looks back on effects

    JULY 17, 2013

    After he left the Alberni Residential School in 1947, Huu-ayaht First Nations elder Benson Nookemus started losing his adult teeth. He was 11 years old at the time.

    Eventually, he required the use of dentures many decades before people from his generation typically did.

    Nookemus' time at the school coincided with secret nutrition experiments done by the Canadian government and the Canadian Red Cross Society at six residential schools and a few remote reserve communities in northern Manitoba.

    The research was recently brought to light in a paper by University of Guelph food historian Ian Mosby on research and experimentation done in Aboriginal communities in the 1940s and 1950s.

    The aim of the experiments was to study the effects of different diets on humans.

    continued below

  82. It is estimated that more than 1,300 aboriginals, most of them children, were subjected to those experiments.

    In Port Alberni, it is believed the experiments started in 1947 and ended in 1952. No one is certain of the exact dates.

    Tseshaht First Nation chief councillor Hugh Braker estimated the Alberni Residential School victims to number in the many hundreds.

    Braker is calling on Ottawa and the Canadian Red Cross to apologize to First Nations for the experiments, compensate the victims, disclose all other experiments that were done on aboriginals and fund research on the long-term experiment effects.

    "We call on the Red Cross to own up responsibility and to step up to the plate," he said.

    "We want to know who knew and who authorized the experiments."

    He added that Mosby was right to draw a comparison between this experiment and what the Nazis did in concentration camps.

    "There is a correlation between this, what was learned at the Nuremberg trial and what the U.S. government did in Guatemala and in Tuskegee," he said. Meanwhile, Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo said his father was among the victims.

    "It hits home in a deeply personal way," he said. "I've heard these stories - some kids allowed to have their oranges and vitamin Cs and others not.

    "I've heard these stories all my life."

    At the Port Alberni school, students were given a daily milk portion of 237 millilitres. At the time, the Canadian government was recommending a portion of at least 591 millilitres for children.

    Through a careful diet, students were deprived of vitamins A, B, C, iodine and riboflavine.

    In order to see the nutrients deficiency effects on the students, dental care was withheld from them.

    "A lot of us were always sick," Nookemus said.

    "I remember being sick for quite a few days once. I don't

    know what they gave me or did to me at the infirmary."

    Before he was taken from his family, Nookemus lived off natural resources in his Vancouver Island West Coast village. He said his diet consisted of fresh salmon, shellfish and berries.

    At the Alberni Residential School, he ate store foods and canned foods. Breakfast was porridge every day and a typical afternoon snack was one slice of dried bread.

    Nookemus said he did not know how old the bread was.

    He said the diet change was awful.

    "We were always hungry," he said. "We used to dig up raw potatoes and carrots from the school garden and eat them."

    Another option was to crawl under the fence, which surrounded the school, and sneak off with Tseshaht First Nations students, whose families were nearby, to their homes where they would enjoyed a square meal.

    Nookemus spent five years at the school.

    "[When I left], it was so nice to get back home and eat traditional food again," he said. "My health started improving."


  83. When Canada used hunger to clear the West

    by JAMES DASCHUK, The Globe and Mail July 19, 2013

    Twenty years ago, Saskatoon scholar Laurie Barron cautioned that stories of sexual and physical abuse at Indian residential schools should be taken with a grain of salt; he thought they were just too horrific to be believed in their entirety. But national leader Phil Fontaine’s public admission of his abuse, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People and the haunting testimony presented recently to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have brought the horrors of the residential school system to the forefront of our consciousness. We are often shocked, but we really shouldn’t be surprised.

    Nor should we be surprised by the revelations in Dr. Ian Mosby’s article about the medical experimentation on malnourished aboriginal people in northern Canada and in residential schools. Rather than feed the hungry among its wards (even adult “Registered Indians” were not full citizens until 1960), government-employed physicians used pangs of hunger to further their research into malnutrition, in a plot reminiscent of the Tuskegee experiment on African-Americans with syphilis, whose conditions were monitored rather than treated.

    Researching my own book forced me to reconsider many of my long-held beliefs about Canadian history. A professor of mine at Trent University once explained that Canadian expansion into the West was much less violent than that of the United States’, because in that country, “the person with the fastest horse got the most land.” By contrast, in the Dominion’s march west, the land was prepared for settlement by government officials before the flood of immigrants.

    What we didn’t know at the time was that a key aspect of preparing the land was the subjugation and forced removal of indigenous communities from their traditional territories, essentially clearing the plains of aboriginal people to make way for railway construction and settlement. Despite guarantees of food aid in times of famine in Treaty No. 6, Canadian officials used food, or rather denied food, as a means to ethnically cleanse a vast region from Regina to the Alberta border as the Canadian Pacific Railway took shape.

    continued below

  84. For years, government officials withheld food from aboriginal people until they moved to their appointed reserves, forcing them to trade freedom for rations. Once on reserves, food placed in ration houses was withheld for so long that much of it rotted while the people it was intended to feed fell into a decades-long cycle of malnutrition, suppressed immunity and sickness from tuberculosis and other diseases. Thousands died.

    Sir John A. Macdonald, acting as both prime minister and minister of Indian affairs during the darkest days of the famine, even boasted that the indigenous population was kept on the “verge of actual starvation,” in an attempt to deflect criticism that he was squandering public funds.

    Within a generation, aboriginal bison hunters went from being the “tallest in the world,” due to the quality of their nutrition, to a population so sick, they were believed to be racially more susceptible to disease. With this belief that aboriginal people were inherently unwell, their marginalization from mainstream Canada was, in a sense, complete.

    For more than a century, Canadians have been accustomed to reports of terrible housing conditions on reserves, unsafe drinking water, dismal educational outcomes and, at least in Western Canada, prison populations disproportionally stacked with aboriginal inmates. Aboriginal leaders and young people such as those who embraced the Idle No More movement have been calling for Canadians to fundamentally acknowledge the injustices and atrocities of the past and fix the problems that keep indigenous Canadians from living the same quality of life as their non-aboriginal neighbours.

    As the skeletons in our collective closet are exposed to the light, through the work of Dr. Mosby and others, perhaps we will come to understand the uncomfortable truths that modern Canada is founded upon – ethnic cleansing and genocide – and push our leaders and ourselves to make a nation we can be proud to call home.

    Dr. James Daschuk is the author of Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, an assistant professor in the faculty of kinesiology and health studies at the University of Regina and a researcher with the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit.


  85. Ottawa accused of thwarting electric chair compensation claims

    By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press July 11, 2013

    TORONTO - The federal government is thwarting compensation attempts from students at a former Indian residential school who say they were victims of horrific child abuse, including some jolted in an electric chair, advocates say.

    They accuse the government of hiding thousands of pages of documentary evidence — much of it from a criminal investigation of St. Anne's in northern Ontario — that might support their claims.

    "The federal government is turning its head and doing everything it can to keep the abuse from being uncovered," said Fay Brunning, an Ottawa-based lawyer who acts for some of the claimants.

    "(One client) said it feels the same as the past, when the Catholic church was pretending there was no abuse."

    Even within a system that has proven a dark stain on Canadian history, St. Anne's residential school in Fort Albany was particularly ugly.

    From 1904 to 1976, hundreds of aboriginal children from remote James Bay communities were sent to St. Anne's, one of 140 church-run residential schools in Canada set up to "civilize" First Nations.

    Ontario Provincial Police Det. Const. Greg Delguidice led a five-year investigation in the 1990s of abuse at the school.

    According to a statement Delguidice gave this year as part of ongoing civil proceedings, students complained they had been whipped, kicked and beaten.

    Boys and girls said they were raped or otherwise sexually abused. Children said they were made to eat their own vomit.

    The investigation resulted in criminal charges against seven men and women. Five were convicted for offences such as assault causing bodily harm, indecent assault and administering a noxious substance.

    His investigation also turned up evidence of an electric chair made by a supervisor, he said.

    Victims said they were made to sit on the metal-framed chair with its plywood seat and wires leading to a black box. A supervisor would crank a handle, jolting the bodies.

    "The small boys used to have their legs flying in front of them," said Edmund Metatawabin, 65, who said he was twice put in the chair as a seven-year-old in the mid-1950s.

    "The sight of a child being electrocuted and their legs waving in front of them was a funny sight for the missionaries and they'd all be laughing."

    continued below

  86. The girls would be strapped to the chair and jolted for punishment, Metatawabin said in an interview Thursday from Timmins, Ont.

    "The cranking of the machine would be longer and harder," he said. "Now, you're being inflicted with real pain. Some of them passed out."

    Metatawabin denounced the federal government for withholding evidence the victims themselves presented.

    In 2007, to settle a class-action suit, the government set up the "independent assessment process" to adjudicate individual claims and compensate victims ofCanada's residential school system.

    To date, about $2 billion has been paid to more than 21,300 victims across Canada, with more than 16,400 claims still in process.

    The lawyer for residents of St. Anne's accused the government of wilfully depriving about 100 students of evidence that would corroborate their claims.

    "There are no recorded cases granting compensation to anyone for having been electrocuted in this chair at St. Anne's," said Brunning, adding electro shocks amount to torture.

    New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, who has written Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt to complain, said government lawyers seem to be opposing any compensation for those who say they were subjected to electric shock.

    Janet Brooks, the head of the government's legal team, did not respond to a request for information.

    However, the government, which has not acknowledged an electric chair was used, maintains it cannot release the documentation related to the criminal investigation for privacy reasons.

    Andrea Richer, a spokeswoman for Valcourt, said the government takes Angus's complaints seriously.

    "Addressing abuse such as this is one of the reasons that the (assessment) process was set up," Richer said. "We will continue to ensure that the department is fulfilling its obligations."

    Brunning called Ottawa's position "perverse."

    "The federal government clearly knows physical and sexual abuse was proven in courts of law but is refusing to obtain the evidence and/or reveal it," she said.


  87. A homegrown genocide

    BY LEANNE SIMPSON, Briar Patch magazine JULY 23, 2013

    Anishinaabe culture, like many other Indigenous cultures, holds children in the highest regard. We recognize that children see and experience the world differently than adults and we honour these experiences. We cherish children because they are gifts from the spirit world, and many of us believe that children carry important teachings for adults, if adults are paying attention.

    Because of these beliefs, Anishinaabeg traditionally parented children in a way that honoured them as full human beings. Children had a large degree of self-determination and learned to navigate the consequences and responsibilities of that freedom. They saw adults in their extended family modelling leadership – listening, being humble, and bringing people together. They were raised gently – grounded in their language, culture, the land, and the stories that tie them to those things. They were encouraged to find their passion, to learn how to be a responsible and giving member of their community, and to live gently on their first mother, the earth.

    It was a style of parenting and education that generated a different kind of governance, a different kind of leadership, and a different kind of nation.

    Colonial policy recognized this. It also recognized that the destruction of Indigenous women and children was the fastest way to remove Indigenous Peoples from the land. It is the fastest way to destroy nations. So policies were designed to target children. Settler colonial policies are still designed to target children.

    This past week, these policies have been front and centre in the Canadian mainstream media. First, the re-emergence of the story of Edmund Metatawabin and the electrocution of Native children at the St. Anne residential school in Fort Albany in a homemade electric chair. Now, evidence from the research of postdoctoral fellow at the University of Guelph Ian Mosby, clearly demonstrating that the Canadian government conducted nutrition experiments on malnourished Native children and adults in communities and in residential schools. People who were malnourished and living in poverty because their land had been stolen and their way of life nearly destroyed.

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me. Starvation has long been used as a tactic by the government to dispossess us from the land, to get us to sign unfair treaties, and to co-opt us into large-scale development. This is one reason why Theresa Spence’s fast late last year resonated with so many Indigenous people. Some of the most horrific stories I’ve ever heard, stories I could never have imagined, come from the residential school era. This is what happens when Indigenous Peoples are dehumanized – in residential schools, day schools, sanitariums, in the child welfare system, and more broadly in Canadian society. This is the face of a homegrown attempted genocide. And Indigenous children are still starving – many living in poverty without the basic necessities of life, because land and resources continue to be stolen from their territories. Just as many are starving for meaning, their culture, their language, and their land. Our ability to feed ourselves is still under attack because we don’t have access to our lands – environmental destruction and encroachment still threatens our local Indigenous food systems and forces many of us into substandard colonized diets.

    continued below

  88. The legacy of residential schools and the dehumanization of Indigenous peoples reaches directly into the families of the present. The children of those who survived the nutritional experiments, torture, sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, and the assimilative and genocidal policies of Canada still live with the consequences and the trauma. Every day. There are more Native children in the child welfare system than were in the residential school system at its height because of the cycles of violence and trauma they inflicted on our families.

    As a parent, these stories elicit in me a swelling of anger and a mama bear desire to protect my children, and all children. I think many Canadians feel the same way when they read these stories in the newspaper. When I look at my two young children, I don’t know how any parent could survive this. I don’t know how any child could survive this.

    But many families did, and contrary to popular stereotypes in the mainstream media, I see Indigenous Peoples working hard to fix this. I see people in my community work long hours fighting for our families, educating, parenting, and building community programs for those who can’t. Rebuilding Indigenous nations requires us to rebuild how we parent, how we educate, and how we model our governance in our families – not nuclear families, but big, beautiful, diverse, multi-racial networks of loving people.

    Being open and honest about what was done to these children and their families is a first step in truth telling about our shared past. Providing all of the necessary documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the most basic level of human decency.

    To Canada, I say this: Honour the Apology. Release the documents. Be on the right side of history on this one. It’s the very, very least you can do.

    To that end, people of all faiths are invited to honour our children and their families by participating in local events associated with the National Day of Prayer #HonourTheApology. These events are taking place across Canada at noon on July 25.

    Leanne Simpson is of Mississauga Nishnaabeg ancestry and is the author of Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence and a New Emergence. She is the editor of Lightening the Eighth Fire: The Liberation, Resurgence and Protection of Indigenous Nations and This is an Honour Song: Twenty Years Since the Blockades, all published by Arbeiter Ring Publishing in Winnipeg.


  89. Aboriginal children used in medical tests, commissioner says

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission seeks further documentation on tests

    CBC News July 31, 2013

    Aboriginal Canadians were not only subjected to nutritional experiments by the federal government in the 1940s and 1950s but were also used as medical test subjects, says the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    In an interview with CBC Radio's All Points West on Tuesday, Justice Murray Sinclair told host Jo-Ann Roberts that commission staff has "seen the documents that relate to the experiments that were conducted in residential schools."

    Other documents related to experimentation in aboriginal communities outside of residential schools have not yet been obtained, Sinclair said.

    "We do know that there were research initiatives that were conducted with regard to medicines that were used ultimately to treat the Canadian population. Some of those medicines were tested in aboriginal communities and residential schools before they were utilized publicly."

    Sinclair said some of those medicines developed were then withheld from the same aboriginal children they were originally tested on.

    "Some of those medicines which we know were able to work in the general population, we also have discovered were withheld from children in residential schools, and we're trying to find the documents which explain that too," Sinclair said.

    CBC News has not seen the documents in the possession of the commission.

    Recent revelations that the Canadian government used at least 1,300 aboriginal children attending residential schools in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia as test subjects have prompted further calls from aboriginal groups to pressure the federal government to turn over all archival documents related to residential schools.

    "Our government recognizes that the relationship between Canada and First Nations has helped shape the country we know today," Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's director of communications Jason MacDonald said Wednesday in a statement.

    "While we cannot undo the past, we can learn from it and ensure that those dark chapters are not repeated."

    MacDonald said that is why the Conservative government apologized for the residential school policy and "that is why we continue to focus on the work of reconciliation, on improving living conditions for First Nations, and on creating economic opportunities for First Nation communities."

    continued below

  90. The commission, according to Sinclair, is in possession of the documents used by historian Ian Mosby to show that the Canadian government conducted nutritional experiments on malnourished aboriginal children and adults attending residential schools during and after the Second World War.

    However, the commission has not been able to obtain documents "related to experimentation that went on in aboriginal communities outside of the residential school setting."

    "We haven't seen those documents," the chair of the commission told CBC News.

    Valcourt's office has said they have turned over 900 documents related to this to the work by the commission.

    In January, an Ontario Court ordered the Canadian government to turn over all residential school archival documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and while the federal government has expressed a willingness to comply, Sinclair said "we haven't seen the documents start to flow yet."

    The worry now, said Sinclair, is that even with the best of intentions Ottawa may not have the resources to provide all these archival documents in a timely manner.

    "It's a question of capacity and whether they have sufficient resources and time to be able to get them to us before our mandate as a commission expires on July 1, 2014."

    Sinclair said that if the federal government is unable to turn over all of the documents from Library and Archives Canada before the commission's mandate expires next summer, the commission may have to turn to the courts once more.

    Many of the documents are said to reside with departments outside of Aboriginal Affairs, such as the Health Department.

    But a final report without all the documents would not be a "truthful" report, according to Sinclair.

    "The report itself, in our view, only complies with the mandate if we are able to write a full and complete history of residential schools and in order to do that, we need those documents," the chair of the commission told CBC News.

    The residential schools system, which ran from the 1870s until the 1990s, removed about 150,000 aboriginal children from their families and sent them to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of "civilizing" First Nations.

    Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.

    In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the churches that ran the schools and the Canadian government.

    The $1.9-billion settlement of that suit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper followed by the creation of the commission in 2008.


  91. Ear experiments done on kids at Kenora residential school

    14 different drugs tried on children with ear infections, school nurse's report shows

    By Jody Porter, CBC News August 8, 2013

    A local doctor and a school nurse experimented with 14 different drugs to treat "ear troubles" in children at Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, according to a 1954 report obtained by CBC News.

    The report, from the Indian and Northern Health Services archive, said that some of the children being treated became deaf.

    School nurse Kathleen Stewart wrote the report, entitled "Record of Ear Treatments and Investigation."

    "The most conspicuous evidence of ear trouble at Cecilia Jeffrey School has been the offensive odour of the children's breath, discharging ears, lack of sustained attention, poor enunciation when speaking and loud talking," she wrote.

    Stewart said the children were taught to irrigate their own ears, or the ears of younger children, with hot water. A doctor visited the school on a weekly basis looking out for ear infections "and the recommended medicine was used when possible," Stewart wrote.

    Former student Richard Green said he remembers the nose drops used to treat what Stewart described as "mouth breathing."

    "All these things … we had nose drops, there were some different kinds of pills that we took for nutrition, I don't know what they were, I still don't know what they are," Green said.

    In a followup report, entitled "Experimentation and Treatment of Ear Disease Among 165 Pupils," Stewart noted three of the children "were almost deaf with no ear drums, six had [hearing in] one ear gone."

    Some of the case files reported the children to be in better health after having had a holiday at home. A handwritten note at the bottom of one file read: "returned to school well, but obviously deaf."

    "The new information that's coming out now, it's been very troubling for the students who went there," Green added. "It's hard to process."

    continued below

  92. Green said it's especially frustrating since many former students have already completed their hearings as part of the residential school settlement agreement. He said the legal process placed an unfair burden on survivors to recall what happened when they were children, while the government withheld documents like the ones obtained by CBC News.

    "People are done their healing, now new information comes out, you don't know what to do with it," Green said. "That aggravates a lot of things."

    A University of Guelph food historian recently highlighted the nutritional experiments at residential schools, including Cecilia Jeffrey in Kenora. In an interview with CBC, Ian Mosby said doctors and scientists around the world regularly used vulnerable populations and took a race-based approach to their work in the 1950s.

    But other countries have unconditionally apologized and fully disclosed the details of those experiments, Mosby said.

    "The response of the Canadian government in the case of the experiments conducted in Canada has been more lacklustre," he said. "It doesn't seem like there is a thorough attempt to get to the bottom of what was happening during this period and whether these were the only experiments."

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada had to go to court to gain access to more of the 3.5 million documents related to residential schools. Researchers with the commission began combing through them this week.

    Murray Sinclair, the commission's chair, has said he is concerned there might not be enough time to get all the work done by June 2014, when the TRC's mandate is supposed to be complete.

    Former student Green said survivors are also running out of time to come to terms with their painful history.

    The 65-year-old's voice still breaks when he thinks about his younger siblings, whose residential school experiences he witnessed.

    "The stuff you're seeing, you witnessed … I think it was just terror," he said. "We were terrified."

    Survivors of Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School will gather for a commemorative event on Aug.14 in Kenora.

    listen to interviews and read documents at:


  93. No new apology for residential school experiments

    Conservative MP says 2008 apology covers everything that happened at residential school

    by Jody Porter, CBC News August 9, 2013

    The government will not issue a new apology after revelations that children in residential schools endured medical experiments, according to Conservative MP Greg Rickford.

    Rickford's Kenora, Ont. riding is home to the former Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential school, where newly released documents show children were subjected to experimental treatment for ear infections, in addition to the nutrional and dental experiments recently highlighted by a food historian.

    News reports this summer mark the first time many survivors learned the extent to which they had been subjected to experimentation.

    But Rickford told CBC News the residential school settlement agreement and the 2008 apology from the federal government covered everything that happened at residential school.

    Rickford worked as a lawyer, representing more than 900 survivors in the Kenora area, before going into politics.

    "The apology itself that the Prime Minister made looked at the Indian Residential School as a dark chapter in Canada's history, it included a number of activities that were regrettable, unfortunate, and for which an apology accounts for that," Rickford said.

    "But more, or as importantly, that we live up to the agreements that all parties came to the courts with, avoided litigation and were satisfied at that time."

    But some survivors are not satisfied.

    Richard Green attended Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School for nine years.

    He said the new revelations of medical experiments are troubling for survivors, especially those who have already gone through the compensation process, not knowing they were subjected to medical experimentation in addition to other abuses.

    "I think the problem is that the onus is still on the children to remember all these events when they're four, five, six, seven years old," Green said.


  94. A legacy of Canadian child care: Surviving the sixties scoop

    BY CHRISTINE SMITH (MCFARLANE) • Briar Patch Magazine September 1, 2013

    I’m sitting at a long brown table, a table scratched and worn by the god-knows-how-many people who have sat here before me. My feet barely touch the floor. An older lady, my lawyer, sits beside me.

    My heart is thumping as I look out over the huge expanse of brown carpet to the large desk where the judge sits.

    I glance up and see my adoptive father striding across the floor. He stares ahead, careful not to look over at me, and then sits down at the court officer’s request.

    The fear inside me pushes my heart into my throat and I take a huge gulp of air, willing my heart to slow down.

    I don’t remember much about what was said that day in court, decades ago. Everything that happened went over my 10-year-old head. But, I do remember the devastation I felt when I heard the words, “Christine is not wanted. We want to give her up to the care of the Children’s Aid Society.”

    I remember walking out of the courtroom to the elevator with my lawyer. We were both quiet. I wanted to cry but couldn’t. My little fists were clenched at my sides. My insides were in turmoil, and all I could think was, “I don’t have parents anymore: I am an orphan.”

    My life as I knew it changed that day, but the course I was on had started much earlier. I was a child caught in the Sixties Scoop.

    The Sixties Scoop refers to the period of Canadian history from 1960 through the mid-1980s when thousands of First Nations children were taken from their homes and communities and adopted by non-Native families.

    Figures from Aboriginal Affairs indicate that at least 11,132 status children were adopted in this period. Determining a precise number is all but impossible because adoption records rarely indicated Aboriginal status as they are now required to do.

    In the Kenora, Ont., region in 1981, 85 per cent of the children in state care were First Nations children, though First Nations people made up only 25 per cent of the population. The number of First Nations children adopted by non-Native parents increased fivefold between the early 1960s and late 1970s, with 78 per cent of the adoptions of First Nations children going to non-Native families.


    My experience with the Sixties Scoop began when my three siblings and I were removed from our mother’s care in the early 1970s in Winnipeg. My older brother was put into an institution because of developmental issues, but at age three and four, my biological sister and I were adopted out into a non-Native home in Ontario. My younger brother’s whereabouts are still unknown.

    My sister and I were obviously different from the rest of our adoptive family. For the first couple of years, our situation seemed okay: there were no outright displays of abuse towards us, or none that I can recall. But once we started school, the emotional and physical abuse began. We were separated from our culture, kept from knowing our own language or traditions.

    Our adoptive parents believed that because we were First Nations we were genetically predisposed to obesity. Their obsession with fat led them to withhold adequate food from us. They would lock me in the backyard, crying from hunger, with the family pets. When I was allowed to eat, I was given bland foods or small portions. My sister would convince me to go down to the kitchen late at night and sneak us some food even though it meant getting beaten if I was caught.

    continued below

  95. Physical and emotional abuse were a part of my daily life. I was called insulting and degrading names and, toward the end of my time with my adoptive family, I was locked in my bedroom and only allowed out to go to school. I reacted to this abuse by acting out and running away from home. At the age of 10, I was taken to a girls’ residence, and within months of arriving there, I found myself sitting in that courtroom hearing the words “you are not wanted.”

    When I was returned to the care of the child welfare system, I was separated from my sister, my last connection to my birth family, for the next seven years. My experience was not exceptional. Breakdowns in adoptive families were common. Seventy per cent of Aboriginal children adopted into non-Native homes as part of the Sixties Scoop were returned to the care of the Children’s Aid Society.

    The forced removal of First Nations children from their families and communities in this period had various consequences. Many children grew up without knowing about their culture, language, or traditions. The Canadian government’s colonialist policies made First Nations children feel something was wrong with them. This led to loss of identity, separation from birth families, and difficult reunions with birth family members in later years. Children had to fight to learn the ways of their people, often from outside their adoptive families and communities.

    Métis historian Olive Patricia Dickason has said that “for aboriginal peoples the experience of externally enforced assimilation was a national one, as were its consequences: rising rates of substance abuse, with physical and health problems; psychological and sexual abuse; broken families, community dysfunction and soaring suicide rates.” The policy of “killing the Indian in the child” resulted in adults who were “disconnected from their communities, in turn mistreating their own children in a cycle that has passed from generation to generation.”

    Without apology

    I did not know that the turmoil and pain I was suffering were connected to the way that many other First Nations children in similar situations felt. The practice of adopting First Nations children into non-Native households had intense identity consequences for the objects of interracial adoptions. The adoptions, like the residential schools before them, created a deep and unhealed pain in First Nations communities. Jeannine Carrière, a Métis adoptee and adoptive parent and a social work instructor, describes the Sixties Scoop as the “most comprehensive assault on Indigenous families following that of sending Indigenous children to residential schools.”

    As a ward of the state, I felt an immense loss that I could not explain to others around me. When I spoke of the loss I felt from being taken from my birth family and then my adoptive home, I felt worthless. I felt that if my own biological parents and, subsequently, my adoptive parents did not want me, there must have been something fundamentally wrong with me. There were many times I did not think I would survive and times I did not want to live.

    In the child welfare system, I struggled in my foster homes because I believed that I was not worth caring for. I stayed longest in my third foster home, where the foster parents let me know from the beginning that, no matter what I did, they wanted me. Although I had this assurance from them, my self-esteem was so low that I continued to act out in their care. I had shut myself down. I turned my pain, hurt, and sadness inwards and became anorexic. My teenage years were fraught with confusion and pain no matter what others did or where I landed.

    continued below

  96. After my third foster home, I moved into an independent living home run by the Roman Catholic Children’s Aid Society that was supposed to help me learn to live on my own. I lived with several other girls and one staff member and had a semblance of support and routine, but my transition was difficult. I had been thrust into an environment I wasn’t prepared for. I had no one watching out for me when it came to the eating disorder, and my self-harm escalated. When I moved out on my own at 17, I was still a small child at heart.

    Ultimately, my struggles with identity and eating disorders, and my numerous suicide attempts, landed me in an intensive care unit. I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals until I was well into my 20s. The hospital became a safe haven, a place that could protect me from myself and the emotional pain I felt. All I saw was a darkness from which I did not think I could ever rise.

    It wasn’t until I entered post-secondary education at the University of Toronto in my early 30s that I learned about the Sixties Scoop and its effects on First Nations people. In learning about First Nations peoples and history, I also learned about the role of child welfare in the history of adoption in First Nations communities. For the first time, I realized my story was not unique and that other First Nations people were struggling with the same pain.

    The Canadian government has made two apologies to the First Nations people of Canada. The first was on January 7, 1998, when then-Indian Affairs minister Jane Stewart singled out Indian residential schools as the most reprehensible example of Canada’s degrading and paternalistic Indian policies. The second was when Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood before Parliament on June 11, 2008, and offered an apology to former students of Indian residential schools.

    Though Harper stated that the treatment of children in residential schools was a sad chapter in Canada’s history, I questioned why he didn’t also apologize for the systematic adoptions of First Nations children into non-Native homes, a central practice of the Sixties Scoop.

    Where I am

    The Canadian government’s attempt to assimilate First Nations children through adoption continues, but, since the time of the Sixties Scoop, there have been some important changes to child welfare policy. Beginning in the 1980s, the provinces and territories amended adoption laws to prioritize adoption placements that would keep children within their extended families or with other Native families. In 1990, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada created the First Nations Child and Family Services program which transferred the administration of child and family services from the province or territory to the local band. In many provinces and territories across Canada, children are now entitled to know their cultural background.

    That said, in 2013, there are more First Nations children in state care than ever before. The estimated 27,000 First Nations children in child welfare account for 48 per cent of children in care even though they represent less than five per cent of the child population of Canada. These numbers reveal a colonial system still endured by thousands of Indigenous children and families.

    Many First Nations adoptees from the era of the Sixties Scoop still fight feelings of shame and low self-worth. It has taken me many years to get to where I am, and I recognize that I am fortunate. I am doing what I love the most: writing. I know that I no longer have to destroy myself. It is within me to address the wrongs that were done to me and to change the legacy of my family and community, one step at a time, by making my voice heard. I want others to know they can fight too – and be survivors.

    Christine Smith (McFarlane) writes about what’s close to her heart, which includes all things Indigenous. Her work has appeared in Anishinabek News, First Nations House Magazine, New Tribe Magazine, Shameless, Toronto Review of Books, and Windspeaker.


  97. SFU gives prestigious award for community achievement to reconciliation ambassador

    By KATIE HYSLOP, The Tyee September 12, 2013

    Simon Fraser University is expected to announce Chief Robert Joseph, ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, as their next Jack D. Blaney Award for Dialogue recipient.

    Simon Fraser President Andrew Petter is expected to make the announcement during today's SFU Reconciliation Day, marking the arrival of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings in Vancouver next week. Part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class action suit in Canadian history, the TRC hearings document the experiences of aboriginal survivors of Canada's residential school system.

    "The Blaney Award is a pretty prestigious award based on community work and community achievement," William Lindsay, director of Simon Fraser's Office for Aboriginal Peoples, told The Tyee.

    Previous recipients of the Jack D. Blaney Award, recognizing international achievement in dialogue, include Mary Robinson, former member of the UN High Commission on Human Rights and president of Ireland, and Maurice Strong, secretary general of the both the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and the 1992 Rio Environmental Summit.

    Lindsay says the award recognizes Joseph's role as ambassador for and visionary behind Reconciliation Canada, a charitable organization independent from the TRC that strives to repair and reform relations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada. Reconciliation Canada is hoping to start that effort in Vancouver with the All Nations Canoe Gathering on Sept. 17 and the Walk for Reconciliation on Sept. 22.

    As a professor, Lindsay says he would end his lectures on residential schools by looking at their lasting legacy, which "wasn't good news."

    "Chief Joseph and others are taking it to the next step: reconciliation. How can we come to grips with this? How can we reconcile who we are today as a people with what happened in the past? How can we involve the rest of non-aboriginal society in this process?" he said.

    "Residential schools will never be forgotten, but I think there comes a point where you come to grips with it: you realize what happened, you realize what it did, but you move on. And I think a lot of aboriginal people are doing that now in Canada. But it's through the efforts of people like Chief Joseph and others that this is taking place."

    The Blaney Award won't be bestowed on Chief Joseph, a hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation and a residential school survivor, until early next year. Lindsay told The Tyee it's part of the university's mission to carry the message of truth and reconciliation into the future.

    "We're looking to the new year to have further discussions about this when we give this award to Chief Joseph, and then thereafter continue to pursue this and make sure that SFU is at the forefront of institutions that are going to promote this as an initiative for the coming years," he said.

    SFU's Reconciliation Day events happening today on the university's Burnaby campus also include a keynote speech from Karen Joseph, executive director of Reconciliation Canada and daughter of Chief Joseph, a panel discussion with residential school survivors, and a screening of the documentary film We Were Children, which recounts the abuses suffered by aboriginal children under Canada’s residential school system.


  98. We Were Children (documentary)

    Warning: This film contains disturbing content. Parental discretion, and/or watching this film within a group setting, is strongly advised. If you need emotional support, please contact Health Canada.

    In this feature film, the profound impact of the Canadian government’s residential school system is conveyed through the eyes of 2 children who were forced to face hardships beyond their years. As young children, Lyna and Glen were taken from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools, where they suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the effects of which persist in their adult lives. We Were Children gives voice to a national tragedy and demonstrates the incredible resilience of the human spirit.

    Directed by Tim Wolochatiuk and written by Jason Sherman, We Were Children is produced by Kyle Irving for Eagle Vision Inc. and David Christensen for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).


  99. For Residential School Kids, a Legacy of Sex Abuse

    Native leaders hope Truth and Reconciliation hearings will break the cycle of violence.

    By Pieta Woolley, Today, Tyee Solutions Society

    Jerry Adams hears "Just get over it," a lot. He hears it from some young aboriginal kids who say they're sick of talking about their grandparents' residential school experiences. He hears it from some non-native people, dismissive of the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which is coming to the PNE Coliseum in Vancouver Sept. 18 to 21 to record the stories of residential school survivors and their descendants.

    Just get over the past. Get over residential schools.

    "We're trying to," he says, laughing, in his office on East Broadway, on the main floor of a no-frills three-story apartment building decorated with aboriginal art and smelling of freshly-baked buns.

    Adams, 63, a stocky, cheerful former social worker and member of the Nisga'a Nation, is the executive director of the Circle of Eagles Lodge Society. He seems, on the surface, like a walking advertisement for getting over it.

    Adams was the first of his siblings not be sent to residential school. Instead, he was raised by grandparents before being boarded out for high school. He went directly from there to Langara College, where he began studying social work. Eventually he earned degrees from UBC and UVIC. For the past 40 years, he's worked in youth outreach, in social work, and in administration with the Urban Native Youth Association and Circle of Eagles. His wife, his children and his grandchildren have not been abused, he volunteers.

    Adams holds a wall of awards recognizing his work. Still, he admits that he doesn't know how he was able to break the cycle while so many people he works with and loves seem trapped. They're good people, he notes, who are struggling with pervasive, multigenerational horrors. Speaking only for his own experience, he said, it is the love of his grandparents and his extended family in his home village of Aiyansh that fill him with strength.

    "Healing can't come from anyone else but our people," said Adams. "Parents teaching their kids that abuse is not okay."

    That can be hard, he adds, when for so many aboriginal people abuse is so close it's still raw. His own brother survived horrific abuse, Adams said, but still won't talk about it. His niece committed suicide.

    "It's really trying to unlearn the cycles, and be understanding that there is a possibility for us to be healed. It's so hard for us to trust one another still. Abuse has affected so many of us directly."

    Disturbing pattern of sex abuse

    Circle of Eagles is a home for aboriginal men transitioning out of prison. Some are sex offenders. Their crimes have usually been against the women and children closest to them, Adams said, which often leads to social workers taking their own kids away. The residents will be among those paddling from Kits Point to Science World as part of an All Nations Canoe Gathering to mark the TRC's hearings. They are part of the community as well as part of the story.

    continued below

  100. Sexual abuse is a leading reason for government child protection services to become involved in a family, which often results in the removal of kids. About one in 35 kids whom social workers confirm has been abused has also been sexually violated. Many more, Adams and others suggest, are never officially reported.

    Adams is not sure how widespread incest and sexual violence are among First Nations in B.C., but he's sure they are much more common than most people are ready to acknowledge.

    "There are programs [for sexual offenders] in institutions, but it doesn't stop it," he said.

    He hopes story telling at the TRC this week will begin to crack open the conversation. But he also acknowledges that it will take time over generations before the community washes itself clean of the effects of chronic abuse.

    Abductions then and now

    Fifteen years ago, Sto:lo Nation activist Ernie Crey and journalist Suzanne Fournier wrote the book, Stolen from Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. It was among the first to make the argument that provincial foster care has become the residential school of the modern era.

    In the book, Crey also suggested that stopping the chronic incest plaguing so many communities is the key to ending mass apprehensions of aboriginal children. Stop abusing them, he says in effect, and government will stop taking them away.

    Unlike much child protection thinking in North America whose guiding principal is "the best interests of the child," Crey and Adams focus on helping adults -- especially those sexual offenders who were victims themselves.

    "The community has never gone through a deep healing process to make it safe for men who were abused and men who became offenders to come forward and disclose and get healed," a man called Peter Joe told Crey and Fournier in Stolen from our Embrace. "Behind all the alcoholism and drug abuse, the family violence; men are hurting pretty bad. You know, all those scenes [in residential school] come back to me, the beatings and being so scared, in my nightmares and even when I'm awake."

    At least one notable change has taken place since Crey and Fournier's book was published, but perhaps not entirely for the better. The province has handed much of B.C.'s child protection work over to aboriginal agencies. Formerly, most of these offered family support only, an approach that Crey believes had been working.

    While Crey certainly supports the principal of aboriginals administering child protection, he says that mixing their mandate to include the power to remove kids introduced a distrust that has undermined their efforts. "Parents don't trust the agencies because they deliver both support and apprehensions," Crey told the Tyee Solutions Society. "What was once a helping agency now has a dual role."

    continued below

  101. Breaking the silence

    Crey believes the only way to restore lost confidence is for both aboriginal agencies and the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development to separate family support programs from the function of taking children into foster care. Lifting the threat of child removal, he says, will rebuild trust and ultimately offer families and communities the help they need.

    For his part, Adams proposes two approaches to ending the cycle of violence and apprehensions. Some people are able to make a personal decision to change their behaviour for themselves and their own families. Many of his staff, he said, have made that choice and been able to maintain it.

    But abuse is not an individual problem either, he insists. It's a shared legacy of a dark era, a community-scale problem that demands community action. He urges a community return to the power of traditional spirituality: the drum, gatherings and dances.

    Both men suggest that a critical first step is simply the acknowledgment that incest and sexual violence are widespread in aboriginal communities, and stem from a multigenerational cycle of abuse that started in residential schools.

    That work has a chance to continue this weekend, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission listens to the stories of those who survived the residential schools, and now are struggling to rebuild lives and families.


    Many speakers at the Truth and Reconciliation hearings are expected to be "intergenerational survivors" -- people who didn't attend residential school themselves, but whose lives have been affected by the scars that parents, grandparents and communities bear from the residential school experience. Their testimony will shed light on the ongoing connection between abuse suffered at residential schools and the myriad social problems plaguing First Nations communities, including aboriginal over-representation in foster care. Some facts:

    - In B.C., about five per cent of the population is aboriginal.

    - Nationally, aboriginal children represent about 22 per cent of child protection investigations when abuse is suspected. Social workers are four times more likely to find substantiation for an allegation of abuse of an aboriginal child than for allegations of abuse of non-aboriginal children.

    - In B.C., just over half of kids in the care of the Ministry of Children and Families are aboriginal.

    - Of street youth in B.C., 54 per cent are aboriginal In Vancouver, the figure rises to nearly two thirds (65 per cent). Forty percent of kids on the street have spent time in foster care. More than a third said they'd been sexually exploited and 15 per cent already had a child of their own.


  102. An interview with Tsleil-Waututh elder Amy George at beginning of Truth and Reconciliation Week

    by Linda Solomon, Vancouver Observer September 16, 2013

    It was just a few days before British Columbia’s Truth and Reconciliation Week when I went to visit Amy George, a 71-year-old Tsleil-Waututh elder, who is the daughter of Chief Dan George, and the mother of Rueben George, the band's leader in an ongoing to fight to stop Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion proposal from going through. Having been impressed by George at the 2013 Healing Walk in Fort McMurray, I was curious to learn more about her and the occasion of Truth and Reconciliation week seemed a prime time to do that.

    George was serious and direct, as we talked. Despite the fact that she walks with a limp due to an injured leg, she seemed younger than her years. Preparing to be photographed, she looked striking in a black dress, her salt and pepper-coloured hair touching her shoulders. She told me she's a pipe carrier, a sun dancer and a spirit dancer. When asked to describe the significance of these roles, she looked me in the eye and said, “Holy.”

    I asked Amy George if she would be participating in British Columbia Truth and Reconciliation Week herself, and she said that Kinder Morgan is a corporate sponsor of the event and that corrupts the entire effort and she won't have anything to do with it.

    "It's bullshit," she said. She said she wholeheartedly supports the residential school survivors, but that she doesn't understand why Kinder Morgan is supporting the reconciliation effort, even as it's destroying First Nations' land and livelihood through its oil sands pipelines.

    It's the hardest month of the year for George. September is always depressing. It brings back bad memories rooted in experiences from years long ago, from the formative years of childhood.

    “It’s the change in the air and the smell and the coolness. And, in my body, I’m remembering the fear I had as a child and the hurt and the pain of leaving my mom," George said and reiterated that she wouldn't be participating in next week's events, not only because of Kinder Morgan, but but also because of the horror she experienced.

    "How can you reconcile that level of cruelty?" she asked.

    I asked George if it would ever be possible for her to forgive the Canadian government.

    But she said that it wouldn't be. "The government said we’re sorry for what happened to you. They didn’t say we’re sorry we built these schools so you would die. Every apology they make, I say, 'that’s bullshit.'

    "I wonder why I’m still here," she mused. Other residential school survivors have committed suicide, had their lives ruined by alcoholism or drugs. "They're just totally lost people," she said. "Some of the elders on the reserve can’t even mention that they were in residential school. I used to be the same. I had my whole childhood blocked out it was like a gray area, my whole childhood."

    Then she went into counselling. Her counsellor said, "We’re going to take a peek at your residential school issue, because if you try to look at it all at once it could do you more harm than good. So, we’re going to just glance.

    "I said to her, 'Why the hell am I telling you? How could you ever understand what I went through?' And she said, 'I’m a second generation Holocaust survivor and I know exactly how you feel.' And then we both cried.

    George said she will never forget that moment.

    "We just looked at each other and couldn’t believe it. She said you have all the same characteristics as a Holocaust survivor."

    But George said it's not really the same. "That genocide ended, but it's still ongoing here. It didn't end," she said. "The objective of the government of Canada has always been to kill my people."

    continued below

  103. Last week, it was announced that a delegation of federal ministers would be traveling to British Columbia to try and win First Nation opponents over on pipeline proposals. I told her I thought it was interesting timing for the ministers to come during Truth and Reconciliation Week and I asked what she thought of this.

    George said, "It tells me that the people in charge of the administration of Canada cannot be trusted. "They’re putting money ahead of the people, of all living things. When I was very little, my dad said to me, 'If you take fish out of water, you take a life. If you chop down a tree, you take a life, so you be appreciative and use every bit of deer or fish you take. And be appreciative of that life.

    "We’ve always only taken what we’ve needed," she said, "and that was with respect for all living things. The people who are in power in Canada have lost all touch with what it’s like to be a human being. A human being has respect for all living things." She said that to her, people at Kinder Morgan are liars and murderers if they condone what is being done to kill plants, trees, animals and people who depend on having a clean environment.

    "It’s not if there’s a dump., but when there’s a dump out here," she said, turning her gaze to Indian Arm. "Then we’re going to be breathing poison, the plants are all going to die, the fish are all going to die and we’re going to all die. They don’t clean up after there's an oil spill, it’s up to the people. They move on to the next place. They should just get over their addiction to oil."

    What about her, I asked. Would she be prepared to stop using oil and oil-based products?

    "There’s other energies available," she said.

    A punishing education at Indian Residential School

    Like all the other children on the reserve, Amy George was forced to leave her parents when she was six-years-old. She was sent to live at St. Paul’s Indian Residential School, which was run by the Sisters of the Child Jesus nuns and the Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

    "She was really beautiful, really extremely beautiful," George said, recalling the pain of being separated from her mother. "She could be so comical sometimes.

    "Whatever she would say to me especially in a group of people, they’d be laughing. She was really kind and she loved loved loved us. And she was wise. "My brother told me years later that every time they brought us back to residential school, she’d cry all the way home. And she said to my brother that it was just like she could look down the beach and still see all the brown bodies just running and having so much fun, 'and now it’s more quiet than the grave now, so quiet, no more kids.' "

    Although St. Paul's was also in North Vancouver, the authorities forbade parents to visit their children and George said that she could recall a mother coming to pick up her child at the end of the year only to learn for the first time that he had died months before.

    Established in 1881, the school housed children as young as four years old and as old as seventeen.

    continued below

  104. The teachers were all nuns.

    “The sisters spoke among themselves and with the priest in French when the children were to be excluded from knowing what was being spoken about. The children were never allowed to speak or use their own languages and were punished for doing so as they were often mistaken for ‘making fun’ of the Sisters," text on the Vancouver Foundation's website on Indian Residential school explains of St. Paul's.

    All of the ‘chores’, the cleaning, cooking and laundry were done by the students under supervision of the Sisters. The regimen of discipline was extremely harsh:

    Pinched ears, arms and raps across the knuckles with a metal edged ruler for immediate reproach on whispering, not answering fast enough or correctly, at ‘day-dreaming’, or being too tired. Punishments included being made to kneel beside your bed or desk or anywhere you happened to be, for 10 min or an hour at a perceived infraction.

    Children were often ‘made an example of’ or shamed by being made to wear a ‘dunce cap’ in class or having to ‘stand in the corner’ facing a wall in a classroom or hallway or dormitory if your work or chores or school work wasn’t ‘good enough’. Getting the ‘strap’, a long hard woven leather belt was common for major infractions like trying to run away from the school, or direct defiance or disobedience.

    Students were given numbers and the number was often used instead of their names.

    “I was Number 50,” George said.

    I asked George if she suffered sexual abuse at the school. She gave me a piercing look. I waited for her answer. Tears collected in her eyes.

    "Yes," she said.

    "I wonder what kind of major sin I could have committed as a six-year-old to be so severely punished day in and day out.

    “The Canadian government built those schools. They said those small pox blankets didn’t work, the alcoholism didn’t work. They said, ‘we’ll build these schools. We’ll take their children away. We’ll kill their language. Then their spirits. And they will die.’ That was the whole reason they built these schools. There was murder in them," George said.

    “At the end, I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. They fed me a daily diet of ‘dumb Indians’ ‘thick-headed Indians’ ‘stinking Indians.’ They’d say, ‘you stink to high heaven.’ They never gave any instructions about moon time. It was harsh, harsh, harsh. There was no love in those schools. They said hell is where there is no God and no love and that’s exactly where I was.”

    Once she left school, she immediately started drinking to dull the pain and to try and forget. For many years she continued drinking.

    continued below

  105. She said she left the residential school at age 15, then was transferred to another school called Notre Dame, where she was the only native student. There, too, she was treated "horribly", she says. Like many residential school survivors, George turned to drinking to forget her past trauma. But when her husband died, she became determined to stop.

    "My husband died in 1986 and every time I would pick up a drink or a beer, in my drunken brain, I kept expecting to see him walk in and it was such a big horrible pain. I said 'I can’t do this anymore.' I kept expecting him to walk in. And he wasn't here anymore.

    "He was in the worse school, Port Alberni's school was the worst in BC. All the abuses were rampant there. Sexual abuse. There was a treatment center on an island and the children would try to swim home and drown...

    "This year when I got severely depressed I went into the sweat and I cried for two rounds steady. I couldn’t stop I couldn’t stop crying. When I came out, I felt a hundred percent lighter. I gave it to the rocks, I gave it to my ancestors, I gave it to the creator. I said, 'I’m too small and weak, help me.' I asked all my grandmothers and grandfathers, 'help me out, I’m suffering.'

    "No matter where I went, I cried just as hard. We’re a people who are told everything about ourselves was wrong and there wasn’t one thing that white society said ‘this is valuable we'll take this from your society’. It was like everything we had was useless and now look at the world the way it is. Are we the last of the human beings that understand this tree is a living entity, that this insect going by is a living entity, that everything has a right to grow? Our earth, she can’t breath anymore and she’s not going to be able to provide food, because we’re overpopulated.

    "All my life in residential school was were called dumb Indians. Even as a child I thought how can we be dumb when you don’t even know that tree is a living entity. And they pull everything out of the ocean, they pull sharks out and chop their heads off and throw them back to the water..."

    Chief Dan George's pain
    Her father, Chief Dan George, was only 5 when he was sent to St. Joseph's, which is now where St. Thomas Aquinas stands. Before going to school, his name was Geswanouth Slahoot, but at school he got the name 'George.'

    "He had never worn shoes and he couldn’t speak English and he was so terrified. I remember him saying when he was five as soon as you’d get into the schools if you had brothers and sisters they’d separate you immediately.

    "He’d be running to where his older brother was and say 'I will sleep with Henry.' And they’d bring him back to his own bed. And he’d run from school through a trail into the bushes home. If you didn’t put your kids in residential schools, they’d put your parents in jail. At one of the residential schools, they’d stick a needle in their tongue and they had to wear it, if they spoke their own language. My father was forced to learn English.

    "He would never mention it, but I can’t ever remember him putting his arm around me or sitting me on his lap or hugging me. He grew up with no love so he didn’t know how to give it. Towards the end of his life he’d kiss our cheek if I just sat beside him. If I was having a bad day I just sat beside him and that made me feel better..."

    continued below

  106. Last June, at the 2013 Healing Walk in Fort McMurray, Amy George had stopped at a tailing pond near the Syncrude facility with a small group of chiefs and elders, and she wept for a long time. As cannons boomed to scare away wildlife, George stood facing the polluted body of water and I could only imagine what she was thinking and feeling. Her grief was so moving it literally stopped the march and the demonstrators stood respectfully listening.

    I asked her and she explained. "In the Eastern direction are the yellow people and in the South are ourselves, the red people, and in the West where I prayed are the black people. In the North are the white people. They were getting someone to pray in each of the directions. I was asked to pray in the West and I have heard horror stories of people having ear infections, eye infections, throat infections, stomach infections, and dying of cancer from breathing that poison day in and day out downstream of the tar sands.

    "And when they asked me to pray in that direction, I sort of asked, 'Creator, are we not your grandchildren, too? Why do we suffer? Why do our populations keep diminishing and others thrive? Are we not your grandchildren, too? I’m praying for all those who’ve died, I’m praying for their families, the ones who suffer because of these tar sands and breathing in poison day in and day out 24/7."

    She went on, saying "I wonder if that was the right thing to question my Great Creator. I believe he is the maker of all things and in that moment I felt angry towards him. I saw despair, grief, hopelessness in people living near the tar sands. I could see it in the eyes of the people who have family members, who have died or are dying. It was all contained in that moment. It was sorrow for all living things.

    "Someone asked me during the walk, about the people living in Fort Chipewyan, why don’t they move? Why do they stay there? I knew the answer to that question. My people have been here for 30,000 years. I remember when I told my father, 'Dad, they said they’re going to relocate the Indians and make this the biggest sea port in the world.' He said, 'that’s the only time I’d ever take up my gun if they try to move me. I’d sooner die than be relocated. I got so frightened that my dad was willing to stay here and die. Now, at my age I understand. I would fight till the end. I wouldn’t move. Why did my ancestors fight with their lives for this land, and suffer all they suffered, if we just move?"

    When she returned to British Columbia, George said she felt ecstatic to be home. "It felt so good in my heart to come here and see all this green and the little birds on the trees. And then I had a nightmare that from the band office on the top of the hill, it was all grey, and everything -- all the greenery, all the people -- were dead. The trees were all gone and it just looked like the tar sands."


  107. Hey Teach, What's Reconciliation?

    Skip class, rewrite curriculum, build a world-class research centre. How Lower Mainland schools will mark the TRC hearings.

    By Katie Hyslop, TheTyee.ca September 17, 2013

    You would be hard-pressed to find mention of Canada's residential school system in the curriculum for B.C.'s kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

    Aside from elective classes like B.C. First Nations Studies 12, or optional resources social studies teachers can choose to use, there is little to no mention of the 100-plus years the Canadian government forced Aboriginal children to attend church-run schools.

    Mandated by the federal government, the schools subjected children to physical, mental, and sexual abuse in an effort to assimilate them into broader Canadian society.

    "Right now [the curriculum is] silent on it," said Glen Hansman, first vice president of the BC Teachers' Federation.

    Post-secondary does a better job at addressing the legacy of residential schools. But students outside of First Nations Studies, or whose Canadian history courses take a colonialist point of view, still have little knowledge of the schools' history and impact on the indigenous population.

    Due to recent efforts by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or TRC, local schools are beginning to focus on the system's legacy. In Vancouver this week, the Commission hearings will give residential school survivors in the region a chance to speak out about the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse they suffered because of government's attempt to "kill the Indian in the child."

    Now, some educators across the Lower Mainland are turning the Commission's visit into a teachable moment. From joining Sunday's Walk for Reconciliation to cancelling classes for students to attend events, The Tyee has rounded up some of the ways schools are lifting the veil of silence surrounding residential schools.

    Thousands of high school and intermediary students and teachers are descending on Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition this Thursday for the Commission's Education Day. From 9 a.m. to early afternoon, they have sole access to art displays and activities engaging them in the legacy of residential schools.

    The Vancouver School Board said it expects 1,000 students will attend, with some participating in panel discussions at the event, while the Burnaby School Board said students from every district high school are attending.

    The BC Teachers' Federation set aside $100,000 to bring students and teachers from across B.C. to Commission events this week. Hansman said he expects people from almost all of B.C.'s 60 school districts to attend.

    Younger grades in the Lower Mainland will participate in events like Tuesday's All Nations Canoe Gathering in False Creek and the upcoming Walk for Reconciliation on Sept. 22.

    But student engagement in reconciliation started long before the Commission hearings landed in Vancouver. Public hearings have already happened on Vancouver Island and in B.C.'s north since 2012, and since then the teachers' union has been urging districts across the province to take part in Project of Heart, a teacher's resource guide for engaging students on the residential school system.

    continued below

  108. Project of Heart encourages schools to invite residential school survivors into classrooms, and get students to decorate small wooden tiles, each representing one of the over 3,000 children who died in the schools. In August, the union's Langley chapter unveiled a canoe decorated with hundreds of the tiles from students across the province.

    Last year, the union also gave teachers copies of "100 Years of Loss - The Residential School System in Canada", a curriculum guide for Grades 6 to 12 created by the Legacy of Hope Foundation, a national Aboriginal charity dedicated to educating people about residential schools.

    Hansman said the union provided support for teachers using the resource "so it wasn't just something that sat there and collected dust, or was handed out decontextualized."

    A different classroom for a day

    Secondary students and teachers from Burnaby also participated in last week's Reconciliation Day at Simon Fraser University. One of several events held by the university this month, the day featured a keynote speech with Reconciliation Canada's Karen Joseph, a panel discussion with residential school survivors, and a screening of We Were Children, a documentary film focusing on the residential school experience of two survivors.

    In a conversation with The Tyee last week, the university's First Nations Centre director William Lindsay said he expected a packed house for Reconciliation Day, with several education classes expected to attend.

    "It's my hope that some of these [future] teachers will incorporate the residential school system into their curriculum development later on when they're practicing teachers," he said.

    The university's senate also passed a resolution absolving students of any academic penalty for skipping classes to attend Commission events at the PNE from Wednesday to Friday. Lindsay acknowledged some students might use it as an excuse to skip class.

    "Those who aren't interested aren't going to go. But if students want to take a day off and try to fool somebody, that's up to them," he said.

    Kwantlen Polytechnic University, named after the Kwantlen First Nation on whose land their Langley campus sits, is also encouraging professors to direct students to events held on three of their four campuses this Friday.

    From book launches, to panel discussions, documentary screenings, and a powwow to wrap up the day, the university is offering free shuttle services between the Lower Mainland campuses to encourage students and the public to take in as much as possible.

    "Some profs are even making this a component where students have to attend an event or present a paper on something they've attended," said Lisa Monchalin, Kwantlen's indigenous studies program developer.

    continued below

  109. The University of British Columbia (UBC) is taking it one step further, suspending almost all classes on Sept. 18 and encouraging students to head to the PNE instead. Linc Kesler, director of UBC's House of Learning, says it's the first time the university has cancelled classes in the decade-plus he's been there.

    "It's a very significant commitment... the thinking was that if students are able to connect with the first day of the [Commission], they might be able to go back and attend other events," he said, adding suspending classes communicates the event's importance to faculty and students.

    The university is also showing a live feed of the hearings at several locations on campus.

    Reconciliation doesn't end this week

    Truth and reconciliation will take longer than one week, however. Continuing the message of the Commission's hearings for years to come is a goal educators want to realize.

    New curriculum that includes residential schools is currently being piloted in some B.C. schools. But it won't go mainstream until next year.

    "Both the [teachers' union] and the ministry wanted to make sure we had Aboriginal representation on all of the working groups revising the curriculum, because the commitment from the province is that Aboriginal content and knowledge will be embedded into the curriculum," Hansman said.

    The University of British Columbia's biggest legacy from the Commission hearings will take even longer to develop. In collaboration with the University of Manitoba, future home of the official Commission archives, the university has proposed its own centre focusing on residential schools.

    Part museum, part library, the centre would be open to anyone wanting to learn the history of residential schools, students requiring access to the schools' records for academic research, and used for events targeted at the schools' legacy and how to move forward. Plans also include a monument to honour the system's victims and survivors.

    All that's left now is to find the money. Kesler wouldn't say how much the centre would cost, just that it's a minor project by university standards. Currently seeking funders, he said he hopes to have the final budget by the end of this academic year.

    As a way to continue the legacy of truth and reconciliation, Kwantlen will commission artwork from local First Nations whose land their four campuses sit on. But sociology professor Seema Ahluwalia says changes to how the university supports Aboriginal students today would also make a fine tribute.

    "One of the things I suggested is that we look at ways that we can be more supportive of Aboriginal students by making sure that there's childcare and more programs to support them financially," she said.

    Kwantlen is already in the process of developing new indigenous programming at its Surrey campus, and Ahluwalia is confident the university's new president, Allan Davis, is moving Kwantlen in a good direction.

    "It's not something that I feel Kwantlen has been very good at responding to in the past, and I'm really hopeful that there will be more momentum behind supporting Aboriginal students and communities," she said.

    to read links embedded in this article go to:


  110. To Break Residential Schools Dark Legacy, Understand Why

    Know the roots of Canada's incarceration of native children and see why effects linger.

    By Kevin James Ward, TheTyee.ca September 18, 2012

    Many Canadians know that from the later part of the 19th century through much of the 20th, the federal government and various Christian denominations used residential schools as part of a broader effort to subjugate native peoples and colonize their lands. Less known, however, is the reason for choosing this particular institution as part of facilitating the colonial process.

    Research shows that prior to their arrival in North America, comparable institutions had been used in Europe for quite some time. But a deeper look into their design and purpose reveals why they essentially became Canada's prime colonial instrument of choice.

    James G. Gibb, in The Archaeology of Institutional Life, writes, "Institutions permeate our lives, and their actions -- and inaction -- ramify for generations." This compels us to understand the influence of institutions on our lives, as well as their historical impact. In so doing, we must understand first the conceptual origins of the institution in question. Understanding the Indian residential school means inquiring into its root.

    In A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System -- 1879 to 1986, historian John S. Milloy says early proponents of Indian residential schools believed they would be the "most efficacious educational instrument" to assimilate Indians into civilization, as well as being a "valuable tool of social control." However, he says it is "not clear exactly what had brought the idea" to the government's attention, nor could he locate a "single root from which the Canadian residential school system can be seen to have grown."

    He does however remark that by the 1840s, institutions of this kind existed in Europe and that the British Empire and the United States used them for non-native and native children alike.

    Why is it important to trace back through this history? I can tell you why it's important to me. In 1992, my siblings and I held our mother's funeral in her home community of Fort Chipewyan, in northern Alberta.

    On arriving, the village's kindly elders and others, along with a Catholic priest and nun, organized a service in their modest A-frame church. We learned the church was the same one our mother attended as a child, located near the former site of the residential school she spent 10 years in, from 1940 to 1950.

    Prior to the service, I took in the various paintings and murals on the walls. All were familiar Christian motifs, except one. Atop all the others, above the pulpit, was a large image of a lone eye. I was dumbfounded and disturbed as I imagined my mother as a child sitting where I was, with this unnerving image and its explicit message of surveillance impressed upon her.

    In the days that followed, I was compelled to examine my own understanding of God, which included the belief that the divine Himself scrutinized and scored all of my thoughts and actions. Consequently, I decided I needed to know more about this image; especially its use in a colonial context.

    As the years passed, I sought out and was fortunate enough to locate the following threads of insight, which I wove into a story that clarifies for me the root, function and consequence of Canada's Indian residential school system.

    continued below

  111. More importantly, during this time I came to understand why my mother reflexively sent me to Sunday school when I was quite young, which is where the bad seed of a watchful God took hold of my mind. Subsequently through non-Bible studies, so to speak, I eventually exorcised this indefensible belief by seeing it for what it was and has always been throughout time: indoctrination.

    'Strike the soul rather than the body'

    In Michel Foucault's deconstructive account of the origin of the prison, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, he reveals that in late 18th-century France, the Crown's use of public executions involving dismemberment were becoming increasingly intolerable to social reformers. Not because protesters opposed executions, but rather, in step with the prevailing ideals of the Enlightenment, they stood to establish the "legal limit: the legitimate frontier of the [sovereign's] power to punish."

    When executions were scheduled, they sought to keep the condemned person's body intact for reasons of humanity and respect. This was when the "birth of reform" as a broad penal movement found footing in Europe.

    According to Foucault, underpinning the reformists was the added belief that, in the absence of execution, punishment should involve incarceration. They thought this would allow for corrupted thoughts and habits to be re-shaped and aligned with "normalized" social behaviours. In time, this saw the corrigible groomed to fill the lowest stations of the nascent industrial economy.

    As society transformed from peasantry to industrialism, new kinds of crimes emerged that demanded censure and the wrongdoer's correction. The consequences of this shift fueled the reform movement, which began to spread throughout European society with special attention given to reshaping and disciplining the under-classes, especially the vulnerable young, based on the principle that punishment "should strike the soul rather than the body."

    Furthermore, Foucault says, the "general recipe for the exercise of power over men" was to impress upon minds "as a surface of inscription for power, with semiology as its tool; the submission of bodies through the control of ideas." In short, the prison would be where the "universal pedagogy of work" would be impressed upon "those who had proved resistance to it."

    Europe's earliest prison schools

    According to Foucault, Mettray, a French 19th-century penal colony for boys, signified the "completion of the carceral system... the disciplinary form at its most extreme, the model in which are concentrated all the coercive technologies of behaviour. In it were to be found 'cloister, prison, school, regiment.'" Pre-dating Mettray, though, was Rasphuis of Amsterdam, which opened in 1596.

    Rasphuis also incarcerated young malefactors, on whom a number of reforming techniques were used -- "a whole complex of methods 'to draw towards good' and 'to turn away from evil' held the prisoners in its grip from day to day," writes Foucault. It became the model institution for others like it. The maxim over its gate read, "Wild beasts must be tamed by men."

    Even so, Foucault says what set Mettray apart was the "essential element of its programme," which ensured future cadres faced the same apprenticeships and coercions as the inmates themselves did. In other words, "they were 'subjected as pupils to the disciplines that, later, as instructors, they would themselves impose'. They were taught the art of power relations."

    continued below

  112. The prison, says Foucault, became these "new castles of the new civil order" -- "a machine to alter minds" -- that had "transformed the punitive procedure into a penitentiary technique." As importantly, he contends, it would be a phenomenon that would over time finds its way into the "entire social body."

    Foucault also shines a light on Jeremy Bentham, the British philosopher, jurist and social reformer, as well as designer of a penitentiary model that epitomizes the length and desire to which power will go in order to discipline both the incarcerated and the broader social body.

    Bentham's Panopticon, conceived in 1785, foresaw cells ringing a central observation tower, with prisoners exposed in open chambers to perpetual observation, without the prisoners ever actually seeing the observer in the tower. The main effect of this, says Foucault, was to "induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic function of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action… in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers."

    In other words: create in the inmate a self-conscious, self-correcting, and self-regulating mind and therefore body.

    Incidentally, Foucault says the Panopticon model should also be understood as a way of defining power relations in the everyday world of people. It serves to "reform prisoners... to treat patients, to instruct school children, to confine the insane, to supervise workers [and] to put beggars and idlers to work."

    The Panoptical residential school

    In 1879, an influential report on Indian industrial schools in the United States, the Davin Report, came to the Canadian government's attention. In it, the report's author recommended Indian children be "kept constantly within the circle of civilized conditions," that is, confined to industrial boarding schools (which later became known as residential schools). This aligned with Foucault's observation that "discipline sometimes requires enclosure; the specification of a place heterogeneous to all others and closed in upon itself. It is the protected place of disciplinary monotony."

    Canada established Indian residential schools as federal policy in the 1880s. By the 1920s, parents were legally compelled by threat of imprisonment to turn over their children to be incarcerated in these institutions, which by then totalled more than 100 across the country.

    Similar to the initial aim of the prison, as described by Foucault, the Indian residential school's standard curriculum, as initially envisioned by the federal government, included practical training to "remove prejudice against labour." Reform also included having hair traditionally worn long radically shortened and European-styled clothing imposed. In all, says Milloy, the Indian child's every "action, thought, speech and dress" was under the press of total reform during his or her time at a residential school, which included stripping away mother tongues and replacing them with English or French.

    The effect of this, he says, was to reset "the child's cultural clock from the 'savage' seasonal round of hunting and gathering to the hourly and daily precision required by an industrial order." To where, he adds, the "temporal orchestration of life heard in the sounds of water breaking through spring ice and leaves rustling in freshening fall breezes was to be replaced by ticking clocks and ringing bells -- the influence of the wigwam replaced by that of the factory… Equally essential was the influence of the Christian faith."

    continued below

  113. In Who is Breaking the First Commandment?: Oblate Teachings and Cree Responses in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, by George Fulford with Louis Bird, the latter recounts his experience in the early 1940s at the St. Anne's residential school in northern Ontario.

    Bird describes how the priest used an illustrated book of the Bible to instruct the children. This method was highly successful, he says, such that he could recall the images even 60 years afterward. According to him, the pictures impressed the children "more than words." For instance, on the image of Moses with the commandments, he says, "That picture scared us to death when we were young."

    He explains before the appearance of missionaries, his people sought out high places for vision quests, and because they only had small hills and the mountain in the picture was much higher and surrounded by clouds and lightening, the effect of seeing this was "powerful medicine." The priests, he says, knew their pictures would have this kind of effect. "The missionaries know how the mind of the native people work. They know this is going to work. And it did work. It's still in effect."

    This pedagogical approach recalls Foucault's remark regarding the "general recipe" on controlling bodies by controlling ideas. A priest who had taught during Bird's time seemingly confirms this: "That process of teaching with images, so successful in teaching civilized children, is doubly so for our Indians. They must see to understand."

    Then there was the object of the instructional method itself. The image of Moses that so impressed the young Bird also included the inscription: "God inspired fear in Moses and his people so that they would observe his laws." The aim here was clear: Instill in the Cree children the fear of a judgmental and punishing God and impose a life-long obedience to the Church.

    Of course, putting the fear of God into persons, principally children, is a common Christian objective. For instance, in Parental Use of the Threat "God Will Punish": Replication and Extension, authors Hart M. Nelsen and Alice Kroliczak discuss how Christianity generally holds up God as an "all-seeing God" or an all-knowing entity where "escape from the punisher is impossible."

    Here the spectre of the panoptical Indian residential school arises, operated as they were by various Christian churches and funded by the federal government. And another of Foucault's striking observations comes to mind, where he notes that at Mettray, the French 19th-century penal colony for boys, "the entire parapenal institution... culminates in the cell, on the walls of which are written in black letters: 'God sees you.'"

    A dark legacy

    Through this story and others, I have come to understand better the plight of native peoples generally and, in some cases, those native individuals and communities I either have known or worked for in my life.

    One particularly good summary of this understanding comes unsurprisingly from Foucault, who argues prisons "cannot fail to produce delinquents. It does so by the very type of existence that it imposes on its inmates... it is supposed to apply the law, and to teach respect for it; but all its functioning operates in the form of an abuse of power. The arbitrary power of administration: The feeling of injustice that a prisoner has is one of the causes that may make his character untamable. When he sees himself exposed in this way to suffering, which the law has neither ordered nor envisaged, he becomes habitually angry against everything around him; he sees every agent of authority as an executioner; he no longer thinks that he was guilty; he accuses justice itself."

    continued below

  114. This insight allowed me to see how this type of distrust likely played out in the lives of native parents who spent too many terrible years in an Indian residential school, specifically in regards to entrusting their children to government schools, residential or otherwise.

    No doubt a serious reluctance pervaded their thinking. And no doubt this reluctance, resistance even, played out in the lives of their children as one would expect: poor learning and other adverse outcomes that in time would create more troublesome consequences. This observation is borne out by far too many bleak historic and contemporary socioeconomic statistics profiling native Canadians.

    Of course, in addition to this mistrust, other effects followed generations of Indian residential school survivors: racism, sexism, classism, ignorance and general discrimination lead to perpetual ill-treatment. Equally obvious, as we now know, was the existence of serious forms of internalized and lateral abuse resulting from survivors' experiences of mental, emotional, spiritual, cultural, physical and sexual abuse in those institutions.

    No doubt, the presence of overwhelming and unresolved grief factors in, too. So would the absence of parenting skills which vanished in the process of denuding homes and communities of children.

    Intrinsic individual resilience, or more specifically its lack -- such as various addictions -- also played a role in poor outcomes overall. Still, one cannot discount the big picture's underlying influence on survivors' choices, vices or habits or worse -- dying too soon or causing grievous harm to themselves or others.

    In any case, there is another, pertinent reason for this dismal record: the newcomer's initial rejection of native people, both as cultural groups and individually, that ultimately resulted in native people's subjugation through Indian residential schools and other oppressive means, such as reserves.

    More recently, though, this rejection persists in government denials of native land and cultural rights. This denial fuels the broader intergenerational impacts of colonialism, which when combined with native people's anomie indicates that no thriving future lies immediately ahead for them.

    My vision of truth and reconciliation

    I have hope that the dark legacy of a people imprisoned for simply being who they were can be broken and replaced by something this country can be proud of, something that today's outgoing native and non-native generation can embrace as a new and exceedingly honourable legacy worthy of their best deeds.

    This would be a bequest that rests on at least two ideals: The first of which is having our country's youth taught a common truth about the Indian residential school system as well as the intergenerational impacts of these institutions and of colonialism itself.

    The second is bridging the contemporary relationship between native and non-native Canadians and having this reflected in dramatically improved outcomes for today's and tomorrow's native youth, resulting in their cultural survival and prosperity, whether in their own lands or in this country's urban communities.

    To me, this is what a lasting truth and reconciliation between us would look like.


  115. They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School (Book)

    by Bev Sellars


    Xat’sull Chief Bev Sellars spent her childhood in a church-run residential school whose aim it was to “civilize” Native children through Christian teachings, forced separation from family and culture, and discipline. In addition, beginning at the age of five, Sellars was isolated for two years at Coqualeetza Indian Turberculosis Hospital in Sardis, British Columbia, nearly six hours’ drive from home. The trauma of these experiences has reverberated throughout her life.

    The first full-length memoir to be published out of St. Joseph’s Mission at Williams Lake, BC, Sellars tells of three generations of women who attended the school, interweaving the personal histories of her grandmother and her mother with her own. She tells of hunger, forced labour, and physical beatings, often with a leather strap, and also of the demand for conformity in a culturally alien institution where children were confined and denigrated for failure to be White and Roman Catholic.

    Like Native children forced by law to attend schools across Canada and the United States, Sellars and other students of St. Joseph’s Mission were allowed home only for two months in the summer and for two weeks at Christmas. The rest of the year they lived, worked, and studied at the school. St. Joseph’s Mission is the site of the controversial and well-publicized sex-related offences of Bishop Hubert O’Connor, which took place during Sellars’s student days, between 1962 and 1967, when O’Connor was the school principal. After the school’s closure, those who had been forced to attend came from surrounding reserves and smashed windows, tore doors and cabinets from the wall, and broke anything that could be broken. Overnight their anger turned a site of shameful memory into a pile of rubble.

    In this frank and poignant memoir, Sellars breaks her silence about the institution’s lasting effects, and eloquently articulates her own path to healing.

  116. Healing from horrors of Indian Residential Schools during BC Truth and Reconciliation Week

    In a powerful speech, Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, addressed a crowd of thousands at the Pacific Colesium, saying also that, “This is not an aboriginal problem, this is a problem for all of Canada. Those listening were moved to tears and told a Vancouver Observer reporter the stories of grandmothers and mothers, grandfathers and fathers, torn from family homes as young children to attend Indian Residential Schools.

    by Krystle Alarcon, Vancouver Observer September 19th, 2013

    Like too many of her generation, Lorelei Williams' mother had to develop a defense mechanism after she went to St. Mary's Indian Residential School. She resorted to alcohol to numb the pain. For her mother, BC Truth and Reconciliation Week, and the event yesterday at Pacific Colesium with its rousing keynote by Justice Murray Sinclair, came too late.

    Williams' mother passed away last year.

    "I find it very emotional just to come here. I’m getting anxiety... Her story wasn’t ever told because she just couldn’t come out with it."

    On the rare times that her mother opened up to Williams about residential school, her words would strike a nerve.

    "The hardest part was what she told me in front of my daughter, who was six at the time. She told me that she was taken from her mother at six years old. And she said she was taken on a bus. And she counted the mountains from her reserve to St.Mary’s so she can find her way home.

    "So she’s telling me this and I’m looking at my daughter.. and I’m thinking 'Oh my gosh, if my daughter was taken like that, I can understand why there’s so much abuse, and pain and alcoholism. How do you even heal from that? I don’t even know what I would do to myself if that happened to me and my daughter.'"

    Many women in Williams' family suffered from abuse, she said. Her cousin's DNA was found on Pickton's farm, and her aunt is still missing.

    Her mother died on April 25, 2012. And Williams did not cancel a hip-hop dance called Butterflies in Spirit she dedicated to her cousin and aunt, which she initiated during the Missing Women Commission Inquiry, scheduled to take place a mere five days after her death.

    "I still went on with the performance because I knew how much it meant to her, to get my missing aunty’s picture out there."

    And she's still trying to make a difference. Williams outreaches to aboriginal sex workers, at-risk youth and family members of missing and murdered women with the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre Society.

    Asked what her thoughts are on the Truth and Reconciliation meetings, the personal became political.

    "People say this is history. The last residential school was closed in 1996. My children don’t have grandparents, they don’t have a grandmother now because of this. And when they come out and tell their stories, it’s a start of healing."

    continued below

  117. A ritual meant to heal
    Tissue boxes were laid on every other folding chair of the first few front rows of the Pacific Coliseum, as the event began.

    And they were placed with good reason. The front seats were reserved for elders who attended the Truth and Reconciliation event in Vancouver. The residential school survivors, their children, and their grandchildren consistently described the first day of the event as heart-wrenching.

    Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, addressed a crowd of thousands who packed the coliseum, saying, “This is not an aboriginal problem, this is a problem for all of Canada.

    "Because all of Canada has lost out on the opportunity to benefit from our cultures, all of Canada has lost out on the opportunity to benefit from our intelligence," he said.

    He went on in tones that resembled Dr. Martin Luther King delivering his "I had a Dream" speech. "All of Canada has lost out on our ability to contribute to the economy.

    "All of Canada has lost out on the fact that our languages are now diminished.

    "All of Canada has lost out on not being able to take advantage of the fullness of our culture, on our teachings and our systems of governance. And because of that this country has been damaged as well.”

    The crowd roared, whistled, and got up from their seats when Sinclair said, “There are many people today and there will be many people in the future who will be prepared to deny that this ever happened. We will not ever want that to be said.”

    Many reached for the tissue boxes when he closed his speech, urging family members to take the first step in helping residential school survivors heal.

    “The most important gesture for reconciliation for them is for you to tell them that you love them, that you forgive them, and that you understand.”

    Sinclair’s closing remarks resonated with Sharon Neel from the Ahousaht First Nation. "I need to say to my kids, 'I’m sorry, I didn't know any better. I was angry. But that wasn’t my anger,. That was my mother’s anger."

    At 60, Neel spoke with an air of confidence and smiled glowingly when she recalled the good moments of her life after Saint Mary's Indian Residential School in Mission, B.C.

    She had to pause, gulp and look away when asked about her parents' experience in residential schools. Both were severely beaten. "Both of them were deaf," her sister, Linda Marshall, 61, added, her voice trembling with emotion.

    "(My dad) lost hearing in one ear. They suffered a lot of violence. And growing up with my mom, her survival skill was to be tough. Almost unfeeling. I know now that was part of her defense for survival," Neel said.

    to view photos, video and links in this article go to:


  118. Shawn Atleo raises spectre of residential schools in criticizing Stephen Harper’s education proposals

    by Mark Kennedy October 7, 2013

    OTTAWA — The Harper government is on the verge of potentially imposing an “assimilationist” education system on aboriginal children that repeats the mistakes of residential schools from past decades, says the head of Canada’s largest aboriginal group.

    In an interview with Postmedia News on Monday, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to turn the page on more than a century of Canada’s mistreatment of its indigenous peoples.

    He called on the federal government to take substantive action in critical areas — by recognizing native treaties and land claims, establishing a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, and dropping its “unilateral” and “top-down” approach on how to bolster education for aboriginal children.

    The calls came as aboriginals marked the 250th anniversary on Monday of the Royal Proclamation, the document which provided the basis for promises made to First Nations peoples by the British Crown.

    Harper’s record on aboriginal issues is now under the international microscope, as a United Nations fact-finder began an eight-day trip through Canada to collect information about this country’s treatment of its indigenous peoples.

    The government’s education plan will be the centerpiece of its aboriginal affairs agenda — to be featured in next week’s throne speech, and then detailed later this year with the introduction of a First Nation Education Act.

    But so far, said Atleo, the Conservative government’s approach to working with First Nations on the forthcoming act has been reflective of how federal governments have always acted — “paternalistic at best and assimilationist at worst.”

    He said that although Harper agreed at a mid-January meeting with aboriginal leaders to bring more “political oversight” to aboriginal issues, his government’s consultation on education has “fallen short.”

    continued below

  119. He said aboriginal leaders all agree on the need to improve education for indigenous children, but they are worried the current plan is being unilaterally designed by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and that the upcoming act will impose standards that don’t reflect indigenous culture, and that funding for aboriginal education won’t be increased.

    “That would be an example of paternalistic at best,” Atleo said.

    “Anything less than full supports for language and culture would absolutely fit within a continued assimilationist effort that we still have to this very day,” he said.

    “I’ve had residential school survivors who are now leaders in education say to me that the approach (now led by Valcourt) feels like the experience of residential schools.

    “This is a pattern that the prime minister has to understand. What would give action to his words of apology in 2008 is to not repeat the pattern of the past and just exacerbate a problem for decades into the future.”

    In 2008, Harper delivered an apology in the House of Commons to aboriginals for the federal government’s involvement in church-run residential schools.

    Over many decades, 150,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families and sent to these schools, where attempts were made to assimilate them into European culture, and where many faced physical and sexual abuse.

    Valcourt was unavailable for an interview Monday. In July, his department released a “blueprint” that provided hints of what the education act will contain. It indicated the bill will allow schools to be community-operated through First Nations or an agreement with a province, and there will be standards for qualifications of teaching staff and curriculum and graduation requirements for students. There will be regulations governing discipline (such as codes of conduct and policies on suspension and expulsion), hours of instruction, class size and transportation.

    The government will share a draft version of the bill with aboriginal leaders before it is tabled in Parliament, but it wants the new system in place by September 2014.

    Aboriginal youths are now the fastest growing demographic in the country, and the federal government says it wants to help them “achieve their full potential.”

    But Atleo said that won’t happen without a significant increase in funding.

    “I’ve had senior corporate executives travel with me to northern remote reserves and see first hand kids going to school in trailers at 35 degrees below zero that are not even properly insulated. You walk through that front door and you’re walking into the classroom, and the kids are sitting around with their winter boots on and their jackets on.”


  120. Here are two excellent blog articles from two Indigenous academics and activists on the issues discussed in the previous comment above concerning Indigenous education in Canada.

    "From Residential Schools to the First Nations Education Act, colonialism continues"

    by âpihtawikosisân — http://apihtawikosisan.com/2013/10/08/from-residential-schools-to-the-first-nations-education-act-colonialism-continues/

    "Defer, Deflect, Deny, Destroy: Harper’s First Nation Education Act"

    by Pam Palmater http://indigenousnationhood.blogspot.ca/2013/10/defer-deflect-deny-destroy-harpers.html

  121. The Indigenous man featured in this article, Alvin Dixon, was a child prisoner in one of Canada's most infamous Indian Residential School in Port Alberni, my home town. I grew up across the river from that school, completely unaware that children my age were being physically, sexually, psychologically, spiritually abused, and deliberately starved as part of an experiment by the government. The Truth & Reconciliation hearings held here, which I attended, were held on the site of that school, which survivors had a hand in tearing down several years ago. I can confirm the rampant anti-Indigenous racism that exists in Canada, and how it is inculcated in children and immigrants, that this article discusses. I have seen and heard it many times, even from some of my own relatives.


    A bigotry ingrained in the bones

    Discriminatory attitudes against natives are rooted in our DNA, an attitude inherited by children and new immigrants to Canada


    Racism against aboriginals in B.C. runs so deep that we barely recognize it. It’s in our DNA, it’s in our children’s vocabulary, it’s absorbed by new immigrants as soon as they land.

    The stereotypes: Indians don’t work, don’t pay taxes. They’re ‘chugs’ — lazy drunken welfare bums. They’re chronically poor because they settle for handouts, and they deserve what they get.

    Many average Canadians harbour these attitudes, legacies of racist policies baked into government laws that continue to reverberate throughout our institutions.

    And the impacts are clear. Aboriginals are suffering more acutely than any other Canadian community, by any economic and health measure. Proportionately, they vastly overpopulate jails and the foster-care system. They die sooner and face the highest levels of poverty, disease and violence.

    They are also the youngest, fastest growing group in Canada, with a median age of 28 compared to 41 for the rest of the population.

    Social assistance transfer costs will skyrocket for all Canadians if the suffering continues, says Calvin Helin, a First Nations author who advocates greater self-reliance and economic power for indigenous people.

    “This is probably the most important issue that Canada faces,” Helin says. “If we will continue to be a prosperous nation we have to fix this, not for altruistic reasons, but in our self-interest.”

    As far as 76-year-old Alvin Dixon can tell, the racism comes down to everlasting greed.

    Dixon — a self-described guinea pig in newly revealed government experiments — was taken from his parents in Bella Bella under the Indian Act. His parents would have been jailed if they refused to release their six children, who were scattered across western Canadian residential schools.

    Dixon was placed in Port Alberni Indian School when he was 10. He recently learned the horrific secrets behind questions that always puzzled him.

    Dixon and his friends milked cows for chores, but were fed powdered milk. Fresh salmon was abundant nearby in the Pacific, but they ate stale rations of fish from the Atlantic. The kids were made to record their daily portions in spread sheets. They stole potatoes from local farms and ate them raw, Dixon says, because they were always hungry.

    “We were all undernourished and thin,” Dixon recalls. “I guess if we didn’t fill out those sheets we’d be punished. We were strapped, slapped, our knuckles hit with the yard sticks.”

    continued below

  122. When a University of Guelph historian published new evidence showing Dixon’s school was among six that Canada used to conduct scientific malnourishment experiments on about 1,000 aboriginal children, Dixon wasn’t really surprised, just disappointed.


    “The first reaction was anger because nothing has changed, the racism is still here,” Dixon says.

    Dixon, who was 128 pounds when he graduated Grade 12, studied English at university and eventually became a manager in a fishery business.

    He believes racism toward aboriginals in Canada stems from the land grab that established the wealth of our nation at aboriginals’ expense. The same factors are still at work, according to Dixon.

    “White Canada thinks that we are getting everything for nothing, when they are really getting everything for nothing, because they stole the land and resources from us,” Dixon says. “The resource corporations are still after our territories, and they are offering us peanuts. It’s beads and trinkets. The racism comes from greed. I’ve said that over and over again.”

    Stereotypes are so entrenched and tolerated in Canada, Dixon says, that recent immigrants quickly turn on aboriginals.

    “It is in Canadians’ DNA. Newer immigrants are acquiring this racism from older Canadians,” Dixon says. “One of the aboriginal girls I know that goes to school in North Vancouver was racially bullied. She was told she should go back to the reserve she came from, and we at first assumed it was a white kid. But we found out it was a South Asian girl.

    “And where did she learn it? From the white kids she is with.”

    Mo Dhaliwal, a young Vancouver high-tech executive who is passionate about eliminating racism, shares Dixon’s assessment. Racism towards aboriginals is in Canada’s bones. Dhaliwal noticed it first in Abbotsford’s Punjabi community, where he grew up.

    “Some people would talk about them, like, ‘They’re just a bunch of chugs,’” Dhaliwal says. “In the Punjabi community, if you talked about Indians it was just dismissive. It was an assumption that they were savages, drunk and lazy.”

    Dhaliwal says he believes Canadian immigrants are deeply sensitized to systemic racism because of what they face upon arrival. But they also quickly recognize Canada’s racial pecking order, with aboriginals stuck at the bottom.

    Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond, B.C.’s Representative for Children, probably knows better than anyone the institutional and personal racism that aboriginals face in B.C.

    Turpel Lafond — a Harvard-educated judge from Saskatchewan who is Cree — and her husband George Lafond, a treaty commissioner in Saskatchewan, are arguably at the top of Canada’s meritocracy, and look the part. But even they face racism.

    “It is painful, I bear witness,” she says. “We see the situation where we’ve gone to the pharmacy and my husband buys mouthwash and they’ve made the point to him, ‘Please don’t drink it.’ It’s the reminder that this is how we see your family, this is how we see your children.

    “It’s imprinted on me.”

    Many of the abuse and self-harm cases Turpel Lafond investigates involve foster children. Of 8,000 children placed in foster care in B.C., 5,000 are aboriginal. That ratio is much higher than the already stunning national average of 48 per cent aboriginal children in foster care.

    It’s “grotesquely clear” that destruction to aboriginal families in residential schools continues to echo and disintegrate First Nation children in the system, Turpel Lafond says.

    continued below

  123. She says the failed policies of the Indian Act still directly impact, as family maintenance orders can’t be enforced on reserves and police are barred from stopping assaults.

    “I feel like we are screaming in a snow storm — we have to have basic equity in family supports,” she says.

    “I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of cases where a woman is victim of persistent domestic violence, there are children in the home, and there is no safehouse. It creates a ghetto mentality, because the nuts and bolts of our family policy in Canada don’t apply on our reserves.”

    “The Indian Act still has racist statutes on the books, which is quite an affront,” she adds. “It needs to be torn up.”

    The children Turpel Lafond deals with are doubly hurt, by institutional failings and the racist thoughts that other children have absorbed in Canadian society.

    “When they go to school, they face other children saying aboriginal people are drunks, or homeless, or they don’t pay tax. Young people are hurt by that, and they express that to me regularly,” Turpel Lafond says.

    “The weight of racism on top of failed policies is a pretty toxic combination.”

    Racial bullying makes many young aboriginals feel shame about their origins and dream of being white, according to social workers and teens interviewed by The Province in East Vancouver. Some aboriginal teens even use racial taunts against others.

    “Older girls were telling me, ‘Your mom is a welfare bum. She’s alcoholic,’” one 14-year-old girl who was put in care for cutting her wrists, told The Province.

    Ginger Gosnell-Myers — a young aboriginal leader working with the City of Vancouver — helped complete a 2010 Environics Institute survey of non-natives in major Canadian cities which suggests racism against aboriginals is well-hidden. Very few respondents made racist remarks, but 25 per cent of non-natives surveyed in Vancouver had dismissive opinions of aboriginals as freeloaders.

    Ernie Crey was the first high-profile aboriginal leader to speak out when women began disappearing from the Downtown Eastside in the early 1990s. In a horrible irony, his sister Dawn Crey disappeared from the neighbourhood in 2000, and her DNA was found in a trailer on Robert Pickton’s pig farm.

    Crey compares the crisis for aboriginals in the DTES to the first case he had as a young social worker in the 1970s.

    He remembers travelling into the bush off Highway 16 outside Prince George to meet 150 members of the Tsay Keh Dene band, who were flooded out of their territory by the building of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in 1968.

    Band members were suffering from tuberculosis and impetigo, and were not being accepted into schools and hospitals. Flooding destroyed their hunting grounds, homes, trap lines and graves. Promises made to the band by the government were broken.

    “They were living in the direst poverty in Canada,” Crey recalls. “I don’t see the difference between what I see in the Downtown Eastside, and what I saw 40 years ago in the bush near Prince George. All sorts of promises were made to these people that were not kept, so here they are, high and dry.”

    There is much work to do, but there is evidence of progress, says Wade Grant, a young Musqueam band councillor who also sits on Vancouver’s Police Board.

    “My grandfather never would have believed I’d be sitting on a board,” Grant says. “It took about 100 years for the government of Canada to almost decimate our culture, and it will take a long time to heal.”


  124. What Canada committed against First Nations was genocide. The UN should recognize it

    by PHIL FONTAINE AND BERNIE FARBER Special to The Globe and Mail October 14, 2013

    On Monday, Oct. 14, we have the unique and historic opportunity to meet with Professor James Anaya, the Special United Nations Rapporteur for Indigenous People. It is our conviction that Canada’s history with First Nations people was not just dark and brutal, but in fact constituted a “genocide” as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide. Unresolved issues regarding genocide can have the effect of holding back real progress in economic development in any community.

    Genocides rarely emerge fully formed from the womb of evil. They typically evolve in a stepwise fashion over time, as one crime leads to another and another.

    The Holocaust is the undisputed genocide of all genocides, and it has been argued passionately by many historians that no other dark period in human history quite compares to it. Although qualitatively true in some aspects, modern historians no longer need to rely on shades of darkness in order to analyze genocide.

    The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) was adopted on Dec. 9, 1948. It gives a very clear definition of what is and what is not a genocide. Stated another way, since 1948, social scientists have had the necessary tools to determine if genocide has occurred. It should also be pointed out that under the CPPCG, the intention to commit genocide is itself a crime, and not just the act of genocide.

    It’s clear that Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald’s policy of starving First Nations to death in order to make way for the western expansion of European settlers meets the criteria of genocide under the CPPCG.

    Similarly, the entire residential school system also passes the genocide test, in particular if you consider the fact that the Department of Indian Affairs, headed by Duncan Campbell Scott, deliberately ignored the recommendations of Peter Bryce, Canada’s first Chief Medical Officer, regarding the spread of tuberculosis in the schools. Such willful disregard for the basic principles of public health constitutes an act of genocide by omission, if not deliberate commission.

    continued below

  125. Finally, we have the very recent and painful memory of forced removal of First Nations children from their families by Indian Agents which occurred in the 1960s, also known by the popular term “Sixties Scoop.” This is an act of genocide that clearly meets the CPPCG test, and also fell outside of the residential school system.

    Our conviction is that Canadian policy over more than 100 years can be defined as a genocide of First Nations under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

    We hold that until Canada as represented by its government engages in a national conversation about our historical treatment of the First Nations; until we come to grips with the fact that we used racism, bigotry and discrimination as a tool to not only assimilate First Nations into the Canadian polity, but engaged in a deliberate policy of genocide both cultural and physical; we will never heal.

    The fact that Canada’s Aboriginal peoples have not been wiped out, and are indeed growing in numbers, is not proof that genocide never occurred, as some would have us believe. The historical and psychological reality of genocide among our Aboriginal communities is very much alive and a part of living memory. The sooner we recognize this truth, the sooner both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians will be able to heal from our shared traumas.

    This is adapted from a letter to the United Nations Rapporteur for Indigenous People delivered by Phil Fontaine, a former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Bernie Farber, senior vice-president of Gemini Power Corporation and former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress. It is also signed by Elder Fred Kelly, a spiritual elder and member of the AFN Council of Elders, and Dr. Michael Dan, president of gemini Power Corporation.


  126. Should the UN recognize Canada's treatment of First Nations' people as a genocide?

    CBC Radio, October 17, 2013

    Some Canadians believe one of the saddest chapters in our history isn't merely about brutality or injustice. They want the United Nations to define the treatment of First Nations' people in Canada - as genocide. Today we debate over the power of that term.

    Listen to the radio podcast at:


    A demand to recognize an old policy as a diabolical crime

    "Government and aboriginal people agree that education is a key issue that needs to be addressed. Reconciliation needs to happen. There's agreement that the situation of murdered aboriginal women needs to be addressed. That's the starting point. There's agreement on this. And what is being discussed is the best path forward". James Anaya, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur

    James Anaya, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, finished a Canadian tour this week with some advice for Ottawa. He's calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, a more cooperative approach to First Nations' education and a renewed commitment to ending the disparity between native and non-native communities.

    • What Canada committed against First Nations was genocide. The UN should recognize it By Bernie Farber & Phil Fontaine -- The Globe & Mail


    Phil Fontaine, the former head of the Assembly of First Nations, hoped for something more. Mr. Fontaine, along with a group of native and non-native Canadians, wants the UN to declare the treatment of Canada's First Nations ... a genocide. But for the UN to do that, fairly specific criteria must be met.

    As it stands now, Canada recognizes five genocides ... its treatment of Native Canadians is not among them.

    • Raphael Lemkin, the man who defined the term "genocide." -- Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform

    Canada recognizes these genocides: the starvation of Ukrainians in the 1930s, the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Turks, the Rwandan carnage, the killing of 8,000 Bosnians in Srebrenica, and of course, the Holocaust.

    Does Canada's treatment of First Nations deserve a place on that list?

    Bernie Farber is a human rights activist, the former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Senior Vice President of Gemini Power Corporation. He co-wrote the letter with Phil Fontaine. Bernie Farber was in Toronto.

    William Schabas teaches international law at Middlesex University in London. He was also one of the commissioners for the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission. William Schabas was in The Hague. http://www.sierraleonetrc.org/

  127. Rules tightened for residential schools settlement lawyers

    CBC News October 23, 2013

    his story may trigger painful memories for former residential school students. If that's the case for you, we encourage you to tell someone you trust about how you are feeling. You can also find help from the toll-free 24-hour crisis line for victims: 1-866-925-4419.

    Federal authorities are tightening rules to protect Indian Residential School claimants from being taken advantage of by lawyers.

    The new rules will curtail lawyers from giving clients high interest cash advances, charging finders fees, or billing for improper expenses.

    "The vast majority do excellent work they’re ethical and very professional," says Dan Shapiro, chief adjudicator for the independent assessment secretariat, and the man responsible for making sure the settlement process is being handled appropriately. "There are, however, a handful of lawyers that have engaged in conduct that we feel is unconscionable and in some cases illegal."

    Across the country, more than $2 billion has already been given out in compensation for victims of residential schools. The new rules aim to get rid of the bad apples in that process, to make sure unscrupulous lawyers don't skim more than they are entitled to from victims.

    Broadly, the new rules crack down on three main violations, Shapiro says:

    It's not appropriate for lawyers to be engaged in the assignment of the settlement of funds. In a few instances, lawyers would disburse settlement funds to their clients only after having kept an unfair percentage to themselves. Shapiro says some lawyers have already been disbarred for this, and the new rules will crack down on that process even more.

    Settlements will include, in very clear language, the fee structure rulings, so it's very clear to victims exactly how much money they can expect to receive. "If there are any deductions from that, they are invited to contact our office," Shapiro says.

    If there's any sort of administrative fee for form-filling, the lawyer is responsible for paying those fees — not the victims themselves.

    Shapiro also listed a number of red flags for clients to look out for. Specifically, he says a lawyer who is non responsive to telephone calls, and reluctant to meet in person to their client's satisfaction could be a sign that something is amiss.

    "Lawyers asking them to sign agreements to be paying some of their settlement funds to third parties," is also a red flag to watch out for, he says.

    The new rules have already come into effect, and anyone involved in the process is invited to contact the secretariat's hotline set up to give more information.That number is 1-877-635-2648.

    What's expected of IAP lawyers: http://www.iap-pei.ca/former-ancien/expect-attentes-eng.php


  128. The Conservative Government is re-victimizing survivors of residential schools

    BY CHARLIE ANGUS, Member of Parliament | OCTOBER 29, 2013

    If you want to know why the Conservative government has lost so much goodwill on the residential school apology, look no further than the treatment of the survivors of St. Anne's Residential School.

    In the dark annals of the residential schools, St. Anne's stands out as a particularly brutal symbol of torture, shame and abuse. Unfortunately, the Federal government is re-victimizing the survivors by deliberately monkey-wrenching a process that was supposed to finally bring closure.

    Just this past week the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) took the extraordinary step of intervening in a court case over the Federal government's attempt to hide thousands of pages of police and court evidence documenting abuse, rape and torture of children over decades at St. Anne's.

    It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) set up as part of the residential school settlement agreement was supposed to be non-confrontational. Survivors were to be given the chance to appear to tell their individual stories. The adjudicators would then compare these claims with the documented evidence of abuse at a particular institution.

    Under the IAP, the Conservative government has a legal obligation to provide an official "narrative" outlining the documented evidence of abuse. In the case of St. Anne's this should have been easy. In the mid 1990s, Ontario Provincial Police undertook a massive investigation of abuse at St. Anne's. It was the largest investigation into child sexual abuse outside of the Mount Cashel inquiry.

    By the time it got to court, many of the more notorious perpetrators were dead or could not be located. Nonetheless, the nearly 700 witness statements aided in numerous convictions. Among the more horrific stories was the fact that a homemade electric chair was used to torture children as young as five. According to the police evidence, this use of electric torture was considered a form of entertainment for staff.

    The Federal government was well aware of the police and court evidence. But they chose to suppress this information by providing the survivors with a false narrative stating that no documentation of abuse existed.

    It was a claim that was patently false. The question is why did they suppress this information? Was is an attempt to limit the extent of their liability by ensuring that corroborating evidence was not available to the adjudicators and the legal teams representing the survivors? Such a move would completely undermine the legitimacy of the process.

    continued below

  129. Early last July, I wrote to Indian Affairs Minister Valcourt pointing out that in presenting the hearings with a false narrative, his government had interfered with the legal rights of the survivors. Further, such a move had compromised the entire process.

    In his response to me, Mr. Valcourt continued to play fast and loose with the facts. He attempted to tell me that police and court evidence was not admissible under the IAP.

    Having read the legal terms of the process, it was clear that Mr. Valcourt was either misinformed or attempting to misrepresent something that was easily verifiable.

    No doubt, realizing that he was boxed in, Mr. Valcourt agreed to refer the matter to the Ontario Superior Court for an opinion. This hearing on whether the government is obliged to share this evidence is expected to be heard on December 17. With the intervention of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Conservative case has been dealt a serious blow.

    The TRC has written to the Ontario Court pointing out that the Federal government does indeed have a legal obligation to turn over both the court records (already in their possession) and obtain the thousands of pages of police testimony (in the hands of the Province).

    Even more damning, the TRC has told the Ontario Court that they wrote to the Federal government on May 2, 2012 specifically asking them to turn over all records relating to police investigations and court proceedings relating to abuse of children at residential schools. At the time, the government simply ignored this letter.

    For what possible benefit would the Conservative government undermine the work of the TRC? How is it possible that in 2013, the Federal government would prefer to cover up police evidence of sadistic acts that were carried out on mere children?

    St. Anne's was a monstrous institution. The horrors perpetuated in that austere building on the Albany River still resonate across my region. I have sat with the families who continue to grieve the loved ones who died there. I have met families who long for closure for little brothers who were lost in the snow as they attempted to find their way home to escape the beatings. And I have met too many people whose families are still scarred from them having been used as sexual toys or punching bags when they were mere children.

    The Prime Minister's apology had an incredible impact on these survivors. There were residential school survivors who literally wept for days because they were so overcome at hearing the word sorry. They took this Prime Minister at his word.

    It is a sad commentary that their attempts to finally have justice have been so cynically undermined. The survivors of St. Anne's deserve justice. All Canadians have a stake in ensuring that justice is finally done for these innocent victims.


  130. First Nations seek truth about nutrition experiments at schools

    by Stewart Burnett / Alberni Valley Times, Victoria Times Colonist November 13, 2013

    As Truth and Reconciliation Commission events are held across the country, traumatic stories and new evidence about abuse at residential schools is being made public. Two upcoming seminars aim to seek clarity and support for those affected.

    A group of Island First Nations wants answers about the longterm effects of nutritional experiments on children in residential schools, documented in research discovered by a historian this year.

    The Tseshaht First Nation and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council are teaming up to find out the truth about experiments on students at the Alberni Indian Residential School.

    The two organizations are hosting an all-day forum at Maht Mahs Gym with Dr. Ian Mosby, the University of Guelph researcher who exposed the government's experiments in his paper "Administering Colonial Science."

    It was revealed this past spring that in the 1940s and 1950s aboriginal students at AIRS were subjected to medical experimentation and deprived of food and treatment in the name of scientific research.

    Mosby wrote in that paper that scientists "came to view Aboriginal bodies as 'experimental materials' and residential schools and Aboriginal communities as kinds of 'laboratories' that they could use to pursue a number of different political and professional interests."

    The residential schools system ran from the 1870s to the 1990s, removing aboriginal children from their homes and placing them in church-run schools. Many students were abused and committed suicide.

    The experiments involved at least 1,300 people, most of them children, in six communities. They included controlled malnutrition, calcium and dentalcare deprivation. Survivors have shared memories of sneaking out at night to steal milk from cows and eat raw potatoes from the ground because they were starving.

    "We've had a few dozen people come forward, wondering if the calcium experiments have anything to do with their arthritis issues or their teeth falling out," said Hugh Braker, chief councillor of the Tseshaht First Nation. Former students also want to know what their rights and what recourse they have, Braker said.

    He hopes some of these questions will be answered at the oneday forum. A doctor and a lawyer will be available for survivors and their families to consult.

    "The difference between this and the horrific stories that have already come out about sexual abuse at residential schools is that these experiments were sanctioned by the government," Braker said.

    Mosby will provide the forum's keynote address and answer questions about his research.

    Tseshaht has also invited representatives from the Canadian Red Cross to explain their organization's involvement in residential schools during that period. The forum will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 11. Seating is limited. Call the Tseshaht First Nation to register at 250-724-1225, or go to surveymonkey.com/s/B2J65CS.


  131. What Climate Change Does to Our Minds

    Surprising insights from studies on the experience of Canada's Inuit.

    By Geoff Dembicki, TheTyee.ca December 9, 2013

    Sometimes the smell of Skidoo exhaust makes Melva Williams yearn for the winters of her childhood, when cross-country journeys began in the darkness of early morning, layers and layers of clothing kept the intense cold out, and the ice was so thick people rarely worried about plunging through it. A few years ago, Williams and her husband found themselves unable to traverse Labrador's frozen wilderness after an unusually warm winter left the ice too thin to support their snowmobile.

    Now she wonders whether "there may be a time when the weather conditions change so drastically that we cannot safely travel on the ice" at all. Each mild winter Williams experiences -- and lately there have been a lot of them -- brings her closer to that "heartbreaking" reality. "To be a part of a culture and a people that has a necessary connection to nature and the outdoors and is used to living in a certain way -- to see that slipping away is scary," she lamented in a video posted to YouTube.

    Her fears may seem anachronistic in a highly modern Western culture that's never felt so detached from the physical world. Our generation venerates the self-inventing tech entrepreneurs building a "new economy" unbound by traditional notions of place or time. We spawned a transglobal class of plutocrats that calls no country home. Yet an emerging body of mental health research suggests we may share more in common with people like Williams than most of us imagine.

    "We've totally misunderstood our connection to the natural world," said Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, a Canada Research Chair at Cape Breton University who's helping lead first ever studies that measure how rising global temperatures affect the mental well-being of Canada's Inuit. One of her biggest takeaways: that human identity is inextricably tied to the natural world. As climate change alters that world in profound and unexpected ways, she told The Tyee, "very few people are going to be untouched."

    'A caged in animal'

    Few people know more about life on a warmer planet than the Inuit of Canada's Nunatsiavut region, a vast Arctic wilderness in northern Labrador. The five Inuit communities nestled into the region's coastal inlets can be reached only by snowmobile or floatplane during the winter. They're still far enough below tree line to be fringed by black spruce forest. "In many ways, they have also experienced warming and changes at a faster rate than Inuit communities higher in Canada's North," Cunsolo Willox said.

    Four years ago, she joined a team of researchers working with the town of Rigolet, and first visited during the mildest winter any of its 310 residents could remember. The annual sea ice freeze-up came two months later than usual, and left about two months early. Even while it lasted, the sharp and choppy conditions made snowmobile travel riskier. "In the back of my mind I'm thinking 'I hope the ice is safe, I hope we're okay,'" one woman explained. "Which is something we never ever had to think about before."

    continued below

  132. Unable to hunt, fish, trap and forage, Rigolet's residents spent months indoors. They felt bored. Many became restless and depressed. "When I don't get out on the land," one resident explained to the researchers, "I'm like a caged in animal. I really can't relax properly." Cunsolo Willox's team had come to Rigolet to study how warmer weather affected the community's overall health. Researchers soon realized the biggest impacts were occurring inside people's heads. "I can't imagine how life would be if I couldn't travel in the winter," Williams lamented.

    Others described the milder weather of recent years as "devastating," "depressing," "frustrating," "sad," "scary," "worrisome," and "extremely stressful," according to a summary of Cunsolo Willox's research published this fall. For some of Rigolet's seniors and elders, the mental impact was existential. "The place has changed so much around them," Cunsolo Willox said, "that they no longer feel at home."

    A new type of sadness

    Halfway across the planet, a similar type of mental anguish had been observed among people living in the drought-stricken Upper Hunter region of eastern Australia. For decades they had seen their landscape transformed by open-pit coal mines, power plant pollution and a drier, less predictable climate. Some suffered "from a form of chronic distress," wrote Glenn Albrecht, a researcher who studied the region. "Their relationship to their home environment had turned bad."

    Albrecht coined an influential new term to describe the particular type of sadness he witnessed in the Upper Hunter: "solastalgia." "The homesickness you have when you are still at home," is how he defined it. Researchers have since documented solastalgia among the older indigenous women known as "Aunties" on Australia's Erub Island, and most recently in the cold and isolated Nunatsiavut towns of northern Canada. "[Albrecht's] concept is very, very relevant," Cunsolo Willox said.

    Her team found that solastalgia seemed to affect Rigolet's oldest residents most. Like Inuit all across Canada's north, they'd lived through six decades of traumatic change. They'd been forced off their traditional lands, sent away to residential boarding schools and assimilated into a Western culture bearing little resemblance to their own. Now they couldn't depend on an annual sea ice freeze-up to provide structure to their lives. "And that's almost worse," Cunsolo Willox said.

    continued below

  133. Denied the opportunity to hunt for caribou, to visit winter cabins in the woods, to leave town on Skidoos in the pitch black of early morning, Rigolet residents young and old found it harder to deal with traumatic events from the past. "When people are unable to spend time on the land," one local health worker explained to researchers, "they have more time to dwell on the negative, to remember things like residential schools experiences when they felt really trapped and unable to leave."

    'It makes you, you'

    Being trapped indoors made some people feel cut off from themselves and their identities. "It's like taking part of your arm away," one man said. "There is just really something missing." Cunsolo Willox's team heard variations of this statement over and over again: that people physically identified with the natural world surrounding them. They didn't so much consider themselves as being from Nunatsiavut, as literally of it.

    Despite the changes brought by a warming climate, more than two-thirds of those interviewed for the studies said they still loved the land they'd grown up in, and would not choose to leave it. "The land... defines who we are," one young mother told researchers. "It makes you, you."

    That feeling may be hard for many North Americans to relate to. "In a world of cheap airfares, laptops, and the Internet, we proudly regard mobility as a sign of how advanced we are," tech writer Clive Thompson has argued. "Only losers get attached to their hometowns." In many ways, any sense that our identities might be "directly related to the ground we stand on," Cunsolo Willox said, "that we can feel our ancestors and our history through it, has been lost in many urban settings."

    But just because we don't feel that connection doesn't mean it's gone. Our psyches may in fact remain deeply vulnerable to environmental change. After Hurricane Katrina, for instance, Harvard researchers found the rate of "serious mental illness" among survivors to be double that of the general population. Still, the mental impact of a warmer climate will likely be felt gradually. Look to Australia, where 25 per cent of kids "honestly believe [the world] will come to an end before they get older," one survey suggests.

    These are glimpses into a disorienting future. "Although they cannot be described with certainty," the American Psychological Association predicts, global warming's effects on our emotional well-being "are likely to be profound." No need to explain that to Rigolet's Melva Williams, though, for whom Skidoo exhaust triggers memories of a simpler childhood. "Whenever the cold is just right, the wind is just right, I happen to smell that smell again, it brings me right back to those happy times," she said.


  134. Paul Leroux gets 3 years for residential school abuse

    Former residential school supervisor convicted of sexually abusing boys

    CBC News December 12, 2013

    Paul Leroux, a former dormitory supervisor who has been convicted of sexually abusing boys at a residential school decades ago, has been given a three-year sentence by a judge in Battleford, Sask.

    Leroux shook his head as the sentence was handed down on Thursday. Some of his victims who were in court said they were upset with the prison term and that it was not enough considering their years of suffering.

    "I feel so totally inadequate," one of the victims said outside of court. The man cannot be identified because of a publication ban. "I feel like my life is worthless for what the judge had given him. Three years. With good behaviour, he'll be out in seven months. He'll be out of there by next summer while we have to live with what he has done to us."

    In his remarks on the sentence, the judge said he recognized the victims have suffered and that any sentence he imposed would not relieve that suffering or seem adequate.

    The judge said one of the factors he took into consideration was Leroux's age, 73, and that since his last conviction, in the 1990s, he had been successfully reintroduced into society. The judge noted Leroux is also considered a very low risk to reoffend.

    "I think it was a farce, given the number of offences," another man said. "And I don't think age should have ever been a factor in his sentencing, because he sure didn't consider the age of the people he molested."

    The Crown prosecutor had sought a sentence of 11 years in prison. Mitch Piche said later he was not satisfied with the sentence and will consider an appeal.

    Leroux worked at the Beauval Indian Residential School nearly 50 years ago. Last month, he was found guilty on 10 counts of indecent assault.

    Before the sentencing on Thursday, CBC News spoke with one victim, who cannot be named. He said nothing will undo what happened to him and the other victims.

    "It doesn't matter what he gets," the victim said. "The damage is done. He's stolen many years from us. Whether he gets two, three, four, 10 years, it doesn't matter."

    Leroux has been representing himself in court. He maintains he did not commit the crimes and is not apologizing.

    1998 conviction

    Leroux's previous convictions stem from his time working at a residential school in Inuvik during the 1970s. He was sentenced to 10 years in 1998 for sexually abusing boys there.

    The Beauval school was operated by the Catholic Church under the supervision of the federal government, from 1895 to 1983.


  135. Tseshaht, NTC seek answers, apology, action

    NTC and Tseshaht host forum to discuss nutrition experiments at Alberni Indian Residential School

    by Lise Broadley, Alberni Valley Times December 12, 2013

    A crowd of about 250 people sat rapt Wednesday as they listened to stories of the starvation and neglect suffered by First Nations children who attended Alberni Indian Residential School in the 1940s and 1950s.

    The day-long forum was the result of an explosive paper written by University of Guelph food historian Dr. Ian Mosby. It was made public in July of this year and outlines a series of biomedical and nutritional experiments conducted on First Nations children in six residential schools and on northern Manitoba reserves between 1942 and 1952.

    Hosted and organized by the Tseshaht First Nation and Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Wednesday's event was designed to facilitate discussion, provide information and push for federal support for those who were subjected to the experiments. In Port Alberni, some First Nations children at the residential school were denied even minimum levels of essential nutrients, including calcium. Others were denied proper dental care. The long-term effects of the experiments are not known, but survivors spoke of the affect on their lives.

    "There were 300 children here when I was here. I remember, I was really involved with the dentists. I saw them pull the teeth, no freezing or anything," said Dolly McRae, who was at the residential school from 1945 to 1955. "I'm thinking of all the children that were here, and I'm really concerned about that."

    "I was at this residential school for two years...We seemed to be starving all the time," said one female survivor. "I just want our people to heal from all that - we're damaged. We're not stupid, we're damaged. And we didn't have a choice."

    Tseshaht and the NTC, along with the Assembly of First Nations, are calling on the federal government to disclose all of the facts of the experiments, apologize to the victims, provide them with compensation and fund research into the long-term effects of the biomedical and nutritional studies.

    "Canada must apologize to the victims of the experimentation, and it must be a public apology. We reject Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper's assertion that he has already apologized. You cannot apologize for something that the people you are apologizing to didn't know had happened," said Tseshaht chief councillor

    Hugh Braker. "We want a public accounting of the information that is available."

    Mosby, who uncovered evidence of the experiments while conducting academic research, said the forum was extremely moving.

    "There was powerful testimony from survivors, people who lived through the experiments. Just amazing strength of people who stood up and talked to today and people who came to listen. They are painful stories," he said. "I have to say I was shocked when I discovered these documents, but I wasn't surprised."

    "I was well aware of residential schools and their legacy of abuse and ill-health, malnutrition, but it's hard not to be shocked when you read about it," Mosby added.

    The experiments began in 1942 after officials noted that numerous First Nations children in residential schools were already suffering from malnutrition. Rather than provide the children with nutritious food, government officials elected to study the effects of their nutrient-poor diets and, in some cases, severely restrict the food provided to the students.

    The experiments were done without the permission or knowledge of the children or their parents.


  136. Starved residential school children deserve disclosure and apology

    Editorial, Alberni Valley News December 12, 2013

    It is ironic that in the same week South Africa mourns the loss of the “Father of Freedom”, Nelson Mandela—the man responsible for abolishing apartheid—the Alberni Valley was the scene of an emotional Forum on Experiments on Students at the Alberni Indian Residential School.

    As Africa—a country long divided by lines of colour—reconciles its past and crafts a future that includes equality, Canada is only now discovering that some of its aboriginal children were starved in the name of science.

    So-called nutritional experiments were uncovered by Canadian food historian Ian Mosby and published in a scholarly article in July.

    The fact that this information was buried in historical records and not made public until now is reprehensible.

    Some may say this forum is so much hype — that people have always known that kids were being starved in residential schools, and that some arrived at the schools in a malnourished state. The line in the sand is drawn for us, however, in that withholding food was deliberate.

    Turn this around: if such experimentation had occurred in private boarding schools, would we be so lackadaisical about the results? There would be no question people would be in an uproar.

    While we are adamant that financial compensation should not be viewed as affixing dollar figures to human beings, we can’t help but be shocked that the federal government has said it has already paid compensation for wrongs for students attending residential schools; this is a new revelation.

    Besides, it’s not about the money. It’s about acknowledging children whose lives were entrusted to staff at these schools were wronged. At some point, people whose entire lives have been affected by residential schools must be able to move on. In order to do that, they must be given full disclosure on what really happened in those schools.

    If ever there was a case for any level of government to make an apology for an historical wrong, the deliberate experimentation on children at residential schools is it.


  137. Residential school students bodies were experimental materials: Mosby

    by Wawmeesh G. Hamilton - Alberni Valley News December 11, 2013

    Early researchers viewed students from Alberni Indian Residential School as bodies to be experimented on and the school as a laboratory, researcher Ian Mosby said.

    “I have an eight-month-old son. Imagining him going through something like this is unimaginable,” Mosby said to a crowd of more than 200 at Maht Mahs gym on Wednesday morning.

    Former AIRS students came from as far away as Alberta and Northern B.C. to attend a special one-day AIRS Nutritional Experiments Forum, which was hosted by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Tseshaht First Nation.

    The event sought to provide information to students about nutritional experiments performed on them by researchers in the 1940s and 1950s.

    Now an adjunct professor at Guelph University, Mosby came across the findings at the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa while he was studying Canada’s nutrition policies during the Second World War.

    “The documents were discovered by accident and not by someone who was looking for them,” Mosby said. “It begs the question: were there additional experiments in Indian hospitals and residential schools.”

    Mosby’s role in the forum was to provide as much information to former students as possible. “We don’t know everything we can know,” he said. “There’s more documents to be found. The feds must step up.”

    At AIRS, researchers curtailed students milk intakes to half that of the recommended amount for two years to establish a baseline. Then, they added extra milk to see what the effects would be.

    Researchers monitored students blood, saliva and dental conditions during the tests.

    Students were also denied fluoride during the experiments. Dental conditions and gingivitis were considered integral to determining nutritional status. “Any significant dental intervention would interfere with the results of the study,” Mosby said.

    At the outset of tests researchers found that the children were already malnourished from poor quality and quantity diets at the schools, Mosby said.

    continued below

  138. The experiments were conducted without informed consent, and with no thought to ethics, both issues of which were in their infancy stage of development.

    Researchers viewed malnourished students as “an opportunity first” rather than an issue requiring medical intervention, Mosby said. “They viewed aboriginal bodies as experimental materials, and residential schools as labs to further their...agendas,” Mosby said.

    The Canadian Red Cross was not involved in the experiments but they did survey residential schools during the experiment period, Mosby said.

    In the end, the experiments proved of little value. Much of the research was never completed. Some that was published was done so only in minor journals, Mosby said.

    In an interview with the News, Mosby said he was struck when looking into the audience at the faces of adults who were the very children who were experimented on in Port Alberni.

    “I’m amazed at the strength of the people who came here today,” he said. “It must be very difficult for them to be here.”

    Mosby said that he was aware of the litany of abuses at the residential schools. “But I was shocked and horrified by what I found with this,” he said.

    “Given the level of abuse though I can’t say I’m surprised that this was allowed to happen.”

    The experiments are consistent with the mandate of the day to extinguish aboriginal culture. “But this very event shows that this failed,” Mosby said. “And that’s a testament to the strength of the survivors.”

    In a twist, coming to Alberni to speak at the forum is something of a homecoming for Mosby. His father Rod was born in the Alberni Valley but relocated to Castlegar when he was a young man.

    The government’s conduct was “immoral if not criminal” Tseshaht chief councillor Hugh Braker said.

    The Tseshaht are calling for the government to apologize for the experiments, to fully disclose what happened, provide reparation for it and to underwrite research into the long-term impacts of the experiments, Braker said.

    AIRS students were helpless to stop what happened. “If this happened at a private boarding school in Point Grey then there would be an uproar,” he said.

    A representative from the Red Cross was slated to address the forum after the News deadline.


  139. St. Annes Residential School survivors face off with Ottawa

    Fight on to obtain documents former students say would corroborate abuse claims

    By Karina Roman, CBC News December 17, 2013

    St. Anne's Residential School survivors are before the Ontario Superior Court today in a bid to get the federal government to release documents the former students say would help corroborate their claims of abuse.

    The documents they want are from a five-year Ontario Provincial Police investigation in the 1990s, as well as files from the subsequent trials that resulted in several convictions against school staff and supervisors.

    St. Anne's operated in Fort Albany, Ont., near James Bay, and was the site of some of the worst cases of abuse in the country, including physical and sexual abuse. Survivors tell stories of children being forced to eat their own vomit and of the nuns and brothers shocking children as young as six in a homemade electric chair.

    "We're just so tired of trying to convince people that this happened," said Edmund Metatawabin in an interview with CBC News. He attended St. Anne's for eight years starting in 1956.

    ​Under the residential school settlement, former students can make a claim for compensation through the independent assessment process (IAP). In a private hearing, they tell their stories to an adjudicator. The adjudicator is meant to have information on the school, known perpetrators and convictions in advance. However, until recently, the information provided on St. Anne's said there were no known incidents of sexual abuse at the school, despite the police investigation and trials.

    'They're hiding evidence,' survivor says

    Fay Brunning, a lawyer representing some of the former students, said she pointed this out to the government. At first, the federal government said it had no obligation to get the files from provincial authorities. But Ottawa had obtained many of the files 10 years ago and still has them.

    "What's happening is individual people are going in and they're basically having to start from scratch with every adjudicator every time, because this entire body of evidence has not come forward," Brunning said in an interview with CBC News.

    The government has amended the St. Anne's "narrative" for adjudicators to include all the known convictions, but only did so after the battle over the documents began.

    continued below

  140. In its submission to the court, the government cites privacy concerns when arguing against disclosing the files. But it also argues that evidence from investigations and trials pertaining to certain victims should not be used for claimants not involved in those cases.

    "It is Canada's position that such evidence is both inadmissible and irrelevant in the context of an IAP claim," the submission said, adding that the extra evidence is also not necessary for a former student to make a successful claim when St. Anne's former students have so far had a very high claim success rate.

    "There is no practical requirement for corroborative evidence in respect of alleged acts of compensable abuse."

    Brunning disagrees.

    "The federal government has a duty to disclose all documents in its possession that contain allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the school. There's no exceptions," she said.

    Survivors 'heartstoppingly credible'

    Diana Fuller was the Crown prosecutor for the St. Anne's trials in the late 1990s, and is now retired.

    "These witnesses were just heartstoppingly credible in their accounts," she said in an interview with CBC News. "It was almost as if it was crystallized in their mind what happened."

    Fuller said if there is documentation available that is helpful to the survivors in making their claims, it should be provided.

    The independent assessment process was supposed to be non-adversarial. But survivor Metatawabin says this dispute shows him the government sees itself as a defendant.

    "And when you begin to defend yourself, you begin to hide things. That's exactly what the government is doing. They're hiding evidence," he said.

    There are many interveners in the case. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is also arguing for access to the documents. The Assembly of First Nations supports the commission's bid as well as that of the survivors'. Also intervening are the OPP, the Office of the Chief Adjudicator, and the Sisters of Ottawa.


    Download the Documents here:

    Applicants' factum http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/902099-factum-of-applicants-factum-1.html

    Assembly of First Nations' factum http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/902095-2013-12-14-factum-afn-st-annes.html

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission's factum http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/902096-factum-opp-documents-restannesresidentialschool.html

    Attorney General of Canada's response to applicants http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/902098-factum-of-the-agc-december-9-13-1.html

    Attorney General of Canada's response to TRC http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/902097-agc-trc-factum-1-1.html

  141. St. Annes Residential School: One survivors story

    Edmund Metatawabin recounts abuse he suffered at St. Anne's Residential School

    By Karina Roman, CBC News December 18, 2013

    Former students of St. Anne's Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont., say their dispute with the federal government over disclosure of documents shows true reconciliation is a long way off.

    Edmund Metatawabin, 66, is one of several survivors pushing for the government to release documents they say would corroborate their claims of abuse.

    His own story is like so many others, but also unique. He is a success story in Fort Albany.

    But when he was seven, he had no idea what was in store for him.

    In 1956, succumbing to pressure from Catholic priests, Metatawabin's father dropped him off at St. Anne's. He was the first of 10 siblings to attend the school.

    He went in with his father and was sent to the bathroom while his father talked with the nun. And then he heard a door close.

    "I looked out the little window and saw my dad walking by, head down, looking really sad," said Metatawabin in an interview with CBC News. "I hear, 'Come out of there, that's enough, your daddy's not here to protect you no more!' As soon as I opened the door, she grabbed my shoulder, gave me a vicious slap across the face from behind. And I hit the wall on the other side."

    That was Metatawabin's first impression of St. Anne's.

    He says students were hit, by hand or with objects, for the smallest of infractions, or for no reason at all.

    And it only got worse.

    One day he wasn't feeling very well. "For breakfast you got a bowl of porridge as usual. I felt sicker and sicker and finally I threw up into my porridge. And I was told go upstairs and go to bed. I was there for three days."

    "On the morning of the fourth day … we're now in the dining room for breakfast. And everybody is getting their bowl of porridge except me. And then I hear the sister and she came behind me … and said 'Here, finish that. You didn't finish it last time.' And I looked at that and knew what was in there. I could see it, but I had to eat it. There was no choice."

    Home-made electric chair

    Metatawabin says a home-made electric chair at the school was used for both punishment and entertainment.

    continued below

  142. He remembers that at seven years old, his feet didn't even touch the floor while seated in the chair.

    "There was a metal handle on both sides you have to hold on to," he said. "And there were brothers and sisters sitting around in the boys' room. And of course the boys were all lined up. And somebody turned the power on and you can't let go once the power goes on. You can't let go."

    "And my feet were flying in front of me and I heard laughter. The nuns and the brothers were all laughing. Thought it was funny that my feet were flying around, I guess."

    Metatawabin says anyone who tried to resist the abuse was doubly punished.

    He didn't question why they were treated the way they were. It was the only school he knew.

    Metatawabin was there for eight years.

    But his summers back at home, on the land with his father, were a respite he treasured.

    "And one of his stories is that I would never be a trapper or a hunter. That my life would be with a pencil."

    His father was right. Metatawabin went to high school in Kirkland Lake, where despite being too afraid to speak in class, he succeeded because of athletics.

    "I learned to run. Long distance, cross country. Because I could beat the guys who were teasing me. So my body did the talking. That was my saving grace there."

    He went on to university and was working on his masters degree when he was summoned back to Fort Albany to be chief.

    Survivors conference

    During his 10 years as chief, he organized a conference for St. Anne's Residential School survivors in 1992.

    He saw the suffering of people in his community and thought it was time they told their stories.

    Those horrific accounts formed the basis of a five-year provincial police investigation.

    Out of that came trials and several convictions of former staff and supervisors, including the nun who made Metatawabin eat his own vomit.

    Survivors say it is those police and court documents that will help back up their claims for compensation under the residential settlement agreement.

    At first, the federal government said that it had no obligation to get those documents for the claims process, but it turned out the government had possessed them since 2003.

    Metatawabin says he's tired of getting the runaround.

    "All we want is justice," he said. "All we want is movement that will make me feel 'Oh, finally it's over. Finally it's over. They believe me.'"


  143. Genocide on Trial - Push for justice in Guatemala raises questions about Canada's residential schools.

    By Dawn Paley and Sandra Cuffe, Canadian Dimension November/December 2013 issue

    People began lining up even before the sun rose over the mountain ridge, quietly waiting their turn at a makeshift desk outside a home of wood and earth. One by one, relatives of the dead come forward.

    Brother. Uncle. Father. Nephew. Grandfather. Cousin. Son. Do you know where their bodies are? Estrella Polar. North Star. All the men were rounded up in the church, executed and dumped in a mass grave in the plantation.

    10 years ago, representatives from the National Coordination of Widows of Guatemala (CONAVIGUA) visited the Communities of Population in Resistance (CPR) of the Sierra, gathering information from family members of indigenous civilians killed by military and paramilitary forces in the 1980s. It's seven hours of bus and pick-up rides from Guatemala City to the end of the road in the municipality of San Gaspar Chajul, department of El Quiché, and an even longer hike to CPR communities further up into the Cuchumatanes, leaving the shrill hum of insects behind.

    Three years after CONAVIGUA collected testimonies in the community, the remains of 86 people were exhumed from a mass grave in the Estrella Polar plantation. The massacre took place on March 24, 1982, one day after the coup d'état that began Efraín Ríos Montt's brutal regime in Guatemala.

    200,000 people were murdered in Guatemala during a 36-year war that ended in 1996. For the first time in the Americas, this spring the domestic court system and national legislation were used to try former state officials for war crimes. But Guatemala is far from the only place in the Americas where indigenous people have endured and survived genocide. In Canada, too, indigenous people continue to battle state policies that strip them of their land, decimate their traditional leadership and attempt to destroy their languages and identities. This article offers a preliminary look at a question the Canadian media has carefully ignored: could Guatemala's trial open new possibilities for indigenous peoples to seek justice in Canada?

    Guatemala's history of impunity exposed in court

    First, a look at recent history in Guatemala. The CIA-backed coup d'état that saw Jacobo Arbenz removed from power in 1954 uncorked a series of conflicts that eventually led the Guatemalan state to plan a genocide against indigenous people, execute it and then absolve themselves of responsibility. The mere mention of Guatemala has become synonymous with impunity. "In 2009, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights noted that Guatemala's impunity index for current and past crimes was 98%," according to a project that monitored the trial. "It identified the impunity for the crimes against humanity connected to the internal armed conflict as near-total."

    The genocide trial represented a new level of co-operation among the country's courts in order to bring war criminals to justice. It was brought about through a confluence of factors.

    Directly impacted Mayan communities have been the protagonists, organizing for justice and reparations, as well as against racism and ongoing encroachment into their lands. For over a decade, Mayan activists and their allies had been working to bring a case against eight of the intellectual authors of crimes against humanity in Guatemala. It wasn't possible to prosecute for atrocities committed during the war until 2010, when new tribunals were created. Finally, Ríos Montt, who ruled the country for nearly a year and a half in 1982 and 1983, lost his immunity from prosecution in January 2013.

    continued below

  144. It was a perfect storm. Ríos Montt was formally accused of genocide on Jan. 26 of this year. The trial inched into the media spotlight as winter turned to spring. On March 17, Ríos Montt and Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez were indicted for the massacre of 1,771 Maya Ixil people and the forced displacement of 29,000 people, as well as for sexual violence and torture committed against members of Maya Ixil communities. Ixil survivors and family members attended court in Guatemala City, speaking out about the massacres, the rapes and the terror they experienced during those years.

    The trial itself was riveting and complex, the courtroom constantly packed. April was marked by a series of annulments, constitutional challenges, rulings and a recess. First, Ríos Montt was found guilty and sentenced to 50 years in prison for genocide and 30 years for crimes against humanity. Then suddenly he was off the hook. After a rollercoaster ride, things calmed back down to a grinding status quo: the trial was partially annulled, scheduled to start again in May 2014. Ríos Montt was put under house arrest.

    Now, "the trial will have to restart from zero, and the forces that oppose the trial are too powerful," according to Luis Solano, a Guatemalan analyst. The business elite, military and traditional oligarchy all oppose the trial. Then there are the wider networks of participation in genocide, revealed in the course of the trial. "If everything took place according to the law and without intervention from the most powerful groups, it would be necessary to bring Otto Pérez Molina to trial, but I sincerely doubt that that will take place," Solano told Canadian Dimension.

    The actions of the courts in the Ríos Montt case are reminiscent of the Guatemalan state's conduct during the internal conflict. "Just like what happened during the most cruel stage of the internal armed conflict, regardless of existing legal structures, the state violated its repressive legitimacy in order to carry out its counterinsurgency project," Iduvina Hernández Batres, a writer and analyst with the Association for the Study and Promotion of Security in Democracy in Guatemala City, wrote in an email to Canadian Dimension.

    6,000 kilometres from the Guatemala City courtroom, a red cedar bentwood box sits at the front of a hall. Its carved panels represent the indigenous cultures of the children forced to attend residential schools, bearing silent witness to the collective grief, anger, strength and resilience among those listening. In this and other rooms throughout a sprawling convention centre, survivors were giving statements at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) regional event in Victoria.

    Teaching away indigenous identity, language and culture

    From the 1880s to the 1990s, more than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families, cultures and communities and sent to federal and church-run residential schools across Canada, in an attempt to "kill the Indian in the child." Indigenous languages and interaction between sisters and brothers were forbidden. Many children were subject to years of severe physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and many never had the chance to tell their stories. According to the TRC's research into residential school health reports from the first half of the 20th century, some prairie schools had a death rate of 50 per cent.

    continued below

  145. Now nearing the end of its five-year mandate, the TRC resulted from the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class action lawsuit settlement in the history of Canada. The TRC was created to investigate and document the history and intergenerational legacy of residential schools. Some survivors at TRC events across the country insist that residential schools must be clearly framed as genocide, and TRC head commissioner Justice Murray Sinclair has echoed that claim on several occasions. "The reality is that to take children away and to place them with another group in society for the purpose of racial indoctrination was -- and is -- an act of genocide and it occurs all around the world," Justice Sinclair told students at the University of Manitoba in February 2012.

    Whether and to what extent the TRC will explicitly address the question of genocide in its final report and recommendations has not yet been determined, TRC commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild told Canadian Dimension in an interview. The commission's statement and document-gathering work is still underway. But on a personal note, Littlechild, who is also a lawyer and member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation, hopes the issue will be directly addressed by the commission as its mandate comes to an end.

    "Individually, I would hope that we would comment on it," said Littlechild. "I say that more not as a commissioner as such, perhaps, but as a survivor. I spent 14 years in those residential schools, two of them, so I have a particular opinion and feeling about whether or not this, my experience, constitutes cultural genocide."

    An earlier draft of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide originally included elements of cultural genocide, but Canada and other colonial states worked hard to have that broader framework omitted. The resulting international legal definition of genocide always involves an intent to destroy a group in whole or in part, but the accompanying physical aspect does not necessarily require killings; "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group" is enough. In fact, in its ruling against Ríos Montt, the Guatemalan court included the forcible removal of Ixil children to other regions and the severing of their connection to the Ixil language and culture in its determination of the acts of genocide.

    Memory, structural racism and violence

    The war is officially over in Guatemala; peace accords were signed in 1996. But the violence and trauma goes on. During the trial, a state of siege was declared just south of Guatemala City, in San Rafael Las Flores, where Canadian company Tahoe Resources has plans to build a gold mine. Conflicts involving the extractive industries are far from unusual in Guatemala, and cannot be understood outside of the context of impunity and militarization stemming from the genocide.

    "Peace without deep social reforms cannot be sustained by a contractual piece of paper, by discourses that are far removed from the daily struggles to survive against rampant privatization, or the further dismantling of already minimal state welfare social programs," wrote Egla Martínez-Salazar, a Guatemalan scholar and professor at the University of Ottawa in her 2012 book Global Coloniality of Power in Guatemala. Indeed, "The waning of one kind of violence has sometimes been associated with new kinds of violence or galvanized social residues and collective memories of past traumas and brutalities," wrote a group of U.S. researchers in 2008. Guatemala City's murder rate was recently ranked the 12th highest in the world; in 2012 there were over 2,000 assassinations in the city of three million. These statistics reveal part of the lived experience of millions, and set the backdrop for foreign direct investment in Guatemala today.

    continued below

  146. Many survivors had previously given testimony to Guatemala's Historical Clarification Commission, created as part of the peace process in the 1990s. In Canada, many survivors have been critical of the fact that alleged perpetrators cannot be named and that no references or recommendations can be made by the TRC with regards to possible criminal or civil liability, unless the findings have been established through legal proceedings. "We were criticized severely for that because some people felt that they were muzzled by the commission because we couldn't allow them to name names," said TRC commissioner Littlechild.

    Kate Doyle, senior analyst of U.S. policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive, says the same critiques were present at the outset of Guatemala's Historical Clarification Commission, which also had a mandate prohibiting the body from individualizing responsibility.

    "But what happened actually was the truth commission found a way to tell the story of injustice in Guatemala, of racism, historical racism in Guatemala, of economic inequality in Guatemala, and to explain to Guatemalan society and to the world precisely how those historical structural factors in Guatemalan life for hundreds of years led kind of inexorably to this period of terrible violence," Doyle told Canadian Dimension.

    Both the 12-volume report of the Historical Clarification Commission and the Catholic Church's Recovery of Historical Memory project (REMHI) have been essential to the process of justice, she said. "Those reports have served as this kind of really powerful narrative and kind of rough foundation on which prosecutors have been able to build the specifics of individual cases of human rights abuses and, you know, attach those cases to individual perpetrators."

    continued below

  147. Will a genocide case ever be heard in Canada?

    Graham Hudson and David MacDonald have been researching and publishing on the question of whether Canada's residential school history qualifies as genocide. But either way, they don't think a criminal case will be possible.

    "I think that the criminal side is something that we won't see in the way that you're seeing it in Guatemala," Graham Hudson, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at Ryerson University, told Canadian Dimension. "The criminal proceeding for something as serious as genocide quite simply will never happen for political reasons, I think, because proceedings can only be initiated at the will of the attorney general of Canada." Over the years, and particularly in the past two decades, some individual staff members from residential schools around B.C. and throughout Canada have been prosecuted -- and in some cases jailed -- on lesser charges, especially related to the sexual assault of schoolchildren by teachers and staff. But investigations have often concluded in a lack of evidence due to the long period of time that has passed. Often, the alleged perpetrators are no longer alive.

    The potential for a genocide case in Canadian courts is also limited by the way genocide has been written into Canadian law. To implement its obligations related to the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Canada enacted the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act in 2000. While the act places no time restraints on crimes committed in foreign jurisdictions, when it comes to Canada, applicability is not retroactive. "The statute clearly states that it does not apply to actions [in Canada] that preceded the year 2000, right, so no matter what anyone says, unless that statute is amended or there's a Charter claim which states that that's unconstitutional to prohibit the access to justice on that ground -- unless those sorts of things happen -- there will be no movement, in my opinion, in terms of prosecutions [for genocide]," said Hudson.

    A legal case for genocide in Canada at the international level is just as unlikely, says David MacDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Guelph. "It's very hard to indict a country for genocide unless you are yourself a country. Bosnia can take Serbia to the International Court of Justice for genocide, but Chief Littlechild couldn't take the Canadian government to court for genocide or something like that," said MacDonald. "The reality of international law and international politics is that states set the rules and they are the main players, and most international law is set up for the benefit of states."


  148. Duncan Campbell Scott: The Poet Who Oversaw Residential Schools

    Biographer Mark Abley seeks answers from a contradictory man.

    By Mark Abley, The Tyee January 8 2014

    Book Excerpt: Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott by Mark Abley; Douglas & McIntyre (2013)

    The traditional ways were dying: Duncan Campbell Scott believed this.

    Nearly everyone believed it. The past was nomadic; the future was agricultural and industrial; he trusted it would also be imperial. The poet in him had started off as something of a cultural nationalist, keen to evoke Canadian landscapes, proud to write on Canadian themes. Yet the poet in Scott was at the mercy of his political convictions, his public faith. As an old man in 1939, he fulfilled a commission to celebrate a royal tour by delivering a servile ode in which he promised the people of this country would "do our part in high and pure endeavour / To build a peaceful Empire round the throne." The CBC broadcast the poem from its Halifax studios as the king and queen were sailing out of Halifax harbour back to an England on the brink of war. Three months before Scott died, he semi-facetiously wrote to a friend, "Why don't you order a poem on some special subject, say the marriage of Princess Elizabeth, if the CBC would pay me for it!" Against what he had called, in his ode, the "ageless, deep devotion" of Canadians to the Crown, he found it only natural to believe that Aboriginal cultures, languages and ways of life were doomed.

    The surprise, or paradox, or twist of the knife is that while doing his utmost to enforce government control over indigenous people, Scott made them the subject of his most vibrant writing. Of the 11 pages Margaret Atwood found for him in the New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse, eight are devoted to poems about Indians. These items form a small minority of his total output; they also show his talents at their best. When John Masefield spoke at a memorial service held for Scott in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, the British poet laureate declared that Scott had been deeply impressed by many of the Indians he had met: "Admiration is a great help to understanding. In his poems and stories about them we are brought, perhaps for the very first time, to a living knowledge of what they are."

    A colder view is possible. Perhaps Scott was simply using Indians for his own literary gain. In her book The Laughing One: A Journey to Emily Carr, Susan Crean condemned him as a "thin-blooded bureaucrat" who "rather perversely...wrote lyric poetry that idolized the very vanishing race whose affairs he was governing." His job gave him access to rare material, thanks to which he could make Aboriginal stories and customs appear picturesque. Yet this is not the whole story. In the early 20th century how many other writers, anywhere in the English-speaking world, would have written an ode in praise of indigenous names?

    They flow like water, or like wind they flow,
    Waymoucheeching, loon-haunted Manowan,
    Far Mistassini by her frozen wells,
    Gold-hued Wayagamac brimming her wooded dells:
    Lone Kamouraska, Metapedia,
    And Metlakahtla ring a round of bells.

    The bells of Metlakahtla, though, were tolling an Anglican tune: this isolated Tsimshian settlement on the Pacific coast lay under the rigid control of its founder, an evangelical missionary named William Duncan who called traditional First Nations beliefs "demoniacal."

    continued below

  149. The general assumption was that the people from whose mouths such evocative names had sprung did not have long to live. "Indian Place-Names" begins in a very different spirit from the lines quoted above: "The race has waned and left but tales of ghosts..." The names, and perhaps the tales, are all that will survive. One of Scott's most accomplished sonnets, "The Onondaga Madonna," describes "This woman of a weird and waning race"; her infant child, presumably the son of a white man, is "The latest promise of her nation's doom." He wrote the poem in 1898, a year in which his department's report from the Six Nations reserve in southern Ontario, where Canada's Onondaga lived, noted that "The general health has been unusually good during the year" and "The Indians are constantly improving their homes by better ventilation." Scott the civil servant had to worry about ventilation and epidemics; Scott the poet preferred to contemplate doom.

    "The Onondaga Madonna" tackles assimilation as a subject. It is tougher and more complex than the bulk of his work, which features regular appearances by mists, flowers, exclamation marks, and beauty with a capital B. The sonnet's bleakness recurs in other poems that touch on what Scott saw as the degraded condition and miserable fate of Aboriginal people. In his late poem "A Scene at Lake Manitou," for instance, an Ojibwa woman sits below some cedars and watches her adolescent son die. Against the illness that had also killed his father, the white men's medicine and religion are of no help. Desperate, the woman reverts to her old beliefs and tries to win the help of the lake's spirit by throwing her most treasured possessions into the water: a gramophone, a little sewing machine, her blankets.... The boy dies anyway. Bereaved and alone, yet still defiant, the woman stares at a line of distant, burned-out trees. The image comes to symbolize her people's destiny:

    Standing ruins of blackened spires
    Charred by the fury of fires
    That had passed that way,
    That were smouldering and dying out in the West
    At the end of the day.

    The image recalls a sentence in a biography Scott had written many years earlier of John Graves Simcoe, the first governor of Upper Canada: "The Indian nature now seems like a fire that is waning, that is smouldering and dying away in ashes." More distantly, it echoes some heartbroken lines that commemorate his daughter's death:

    The dew falls and the stars fall,
    The sun falls in the west,
    But never more
    Through the closed door,
    Shall the one that I loved best
    Return to me...

    Elizabeth had brought "the beauty of sunrise" into the poet's life. Now the sun had gone. Writing to his friend Pelham Edgar a few weeks after her death, Scott said: "In no merely rhetorical way I say it seems impossible for us to go on." But he went on. Indeed, he lived another 40 years in the rambling house on Lisgar Street, where the music room would always contain, along with the grand piano and the painted landscapes, a few of his daughter's favourite toys.

    The Deputy Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs would not have put it quite this way in his terse memos to the minister, but his imaginative writings suggest what he believed his day job entailed: managing the final years of a doomed people. They were smouldering. They were dying out. They were falling in the west.

    A national crime

    Today some people continue to look on indigenous cultures as an obstacle to progress. Interviewed on CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition, Frances Widdowson, co-author of the 2008 book Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry, informed Michael Enright that even if the now-geriatric Indian Act were scrapped or transformed, a crucial difficulty would remain: "The core problem is that you have a people that still retains a lot of features from the hunting and gathering period."

    continued below

  150. In that book, Widdowson and Albert Howard claim that Aboriginal people suffer from "undisciplined work habits, tribal forms of political identification, animistic beliefs, and difficulties in developing abstract reasoning." By hanging on to tradition, they have "not developed the skills, knowledge, or values to survive in the modern world." Their languages are utterly inadequate for modern society, and any efforts to maintain these languages do "a disservice to native people." Widdowson and Howard are dismissive of attempts to integrate traditional beliefs into the school curriculum; in their minds, such work amounts to "honouring the ignorance of our ancestors."

    This last phrase -- one of the chapter titles -- is particularly offensive to many Aboriginal people. (It's also a sarcastic echo of Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors, a book by the indigenous scholar Gerald Taiaiake Alfred.) Widdowson and Howard contend that Aboriginal people today are preyed upon by lawyers, professors and consultants who gain financial benefit from their plight; this is the "aboriginal industry" they set out to disrobe. Yet as far as the authors are concerned, much of the lamentable state of affairs seems due to the inability of the Indian to thoroughly comprehend and adequately put into effect the primary laws of civilization.

    The book struck a chord. Despite the shoddiness of many of its arguments -- what the authors say about languages, for example, is absurd -- the book was widely praised in the national media (a Globe and Mail columnist called it "impressive," a National Post reviewer "valuable" and "powerful"). Such commentators were happy to overlook the hard-line Marxism that underlies Widdowson's and Howard's analysis, a Marxism that allows the authors to praise the residential schools. "Leaving aside the tragedy of incidental sexual abuse," they write, "what would have been the result if aboriginal people were not taught to read and write, to adopt a wider human consciousness, or to develop some degree of contemporary human knowledge and disciplines? Hunting and gathering economies are unviable in an era of industrialization, and so were it not for the educational and socialization efforts provided by the residential schools, aboriginal peoples would be even more marginalized and dysfunctional than they are today."

    One of the many distasteful things about this passage is that its abstract rhetoric bears no relationship to the lived experience of human beings. As the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples stated in its final report, "Children were frequently beaten severely with whips, rods and fists, chained and shackled, bound hand and foot, and locked in closets, basements and bathrooms." What boys and girls endured in the residential schools was not just a socialization effort. It was indoctrination, enforced by what plenty of observers at the time recognized as physical and mental abuse. To take but one example, Bill Graham, an inspector of residential schools in southern Saskatchewan, informed headquarters in 1907 about abuses at Crowstand, a Presbyterian school near the town of Kamsack. Graham noted that when retrieving some runaway boys, the principal of Crowstand had tied the children to ropes and forced them to run eight miles back to school behind a buggy. The department urged the Presbyterian church to dismiss the principal, but the church declined; there was no room in the wagon, it said, and the horses were not trotting fast.

    continued below

  151. In 1921, when Scott was in control of Indian Affairs, he reacted with anger after a nurse at Crowfoot School in Alberta sent a disturbing report to his department. A complaint about poor food had led her to enter the school's dining room unexpectedly. There she found four boys and five girls chained to the benches. One of the girls had been badly scarred by the strap. Scott wrote to the school's principal, an Oblate priest: "Treatment that might be considered pitiless or jail-like in character will not be permitted. The Indian children are wards of this Department and we exercise our right to ensure proper treatment whether they are resident in our schools or not."

    But the department almost never did exercise its right. John S. Milloy's superb book "A National Crime": The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986 gives many examples of other reports that landed on the desks of Indian Affairs but were never acted upon. Scott could compose a chilly letter to Father Riou at Crowfoot School, but he had no power to fire an offending principal; that would be up to the church, and the church, whether Protestant or Catholic, generally refused to act. Time and again, teachers, nurses or Indian agents would inform the department of hunger, violence, overcrowding, sodomy, disease, brutality, escapes, drastic incompetence, deaths; and the department would make a recommendation, offer a suggestion or file the matter away for possible action at some point in the future. It often declined to do even that much, choosing to reply that the complaints were excessive, the charges unproven or the complainants unreliable.

    The government could, and did, point an occasional finger at the churches, whose ability to manage the schools was so patently dismal. But the churches could, and did, point an occasional finger back at the government, which never gave them enough money to operate the schools in a humane or efficient way. For many years the per capita amount that Ottawa granted the churches for Indian education was about half what it provided for orphanages and homes for white children. The finger-pointing was mild and genteel. The treatment of Aboriginal children was anything but.

    continued below

  152. Scott did his best to hide this news from the public. Troubled by a complaint about the physical abuse of children in the Mohawk Institute near Brantford in 1913, he composed a memo to his minister, W.J. Roche, admitting and deploring the use of corporal punishment: "The rules governing the disciplinary action in the case of misdemeanours by pupils, are I think antiquated...I do not believe in striking Indian children from any consideration whatever." But when he wrote to the lawyers acting on behalf of the complainants, he sounded a different note: "No necessity exists for the investigation which is asked for by the Indians mentioned. That it is a popular Institute is shown by the fact that the waiting list contains the names of 80 children whose parents are anxious for them to attend." In fact the Mohawk Institute was known by many of its inmates as "the mush hole."

    Ten years later, answering a question from a parliamentary reporter, Scott made the outlandish claim that "99 per cent of the Indian children at these schools are too fat." (The reporter knew of a letter that a boy in the Saskatchewan school of Onion Lake had sent to his parents; the boy had complained about cruel treatment and lack of food, mentioning that seven children had tried to run away because of extreme hunger.)

    Despite the official lies, at least part of the truth was available to anyone determined to look for it. In 1907 Samuel Blake, a reform-minded lawyer for the Anglican church, had told the minister of Indian Affairs that "the appalling number of deaths among the younger children... brings the Department within unpleasant nearness to the charge of manslaughter." The minister was unperturbed. The department's annual report for that year made no mention of Blake's charge, although Frank Pedley did lament "the retarding and retrogressive influences of the home upon the pupils" and the "hostility [that] results from superstition." Families, once again, were proving to be a bad influence. Failure, once again, was the Indians' fault.

    Blake did not give up. He wrote to the Attorney General's office in Edmonton, seeking details about "the Indian question" in Alberta. In March 1908 a reply came from A.Y. Blain, the inspector of legal offices for the province. Blain, who had only recently moved to Alberta from Ontario, told Blake that he had now met all the members of the legislature "and made a point to get what information I could in regard to the Indian from such of the Members as had reserves in or near their districts." He had consulted other Albertans too. The results were discouraging. "I might say," Blain wrote, "that most of those with whom I have spoken are not, I would gather, very much in sympathy with the Indian, nor with the efforts to better his condition. They look upon him as a sort of pest which should be exterminated."

    From the book Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott, © 2013, by Mark Abley. Published in 2013 by Douglas & McIntyre. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. [Tyee]


  153. Sihkos Story, Part IV: Assiniboia Residential School

    Media Indigena January 9, 2014

    by Jane Glennon (Woodland Cree), B.A., B.S.W., M.S.W., retired social worker, counsellor and teacher who currently lives in Prince Albert, SK. This is the fourth in her series of writings for MI about her time at residential school and beyond. See the previous parts at http://www.mediaindigena.com/guest/living/sihkos-story-part-iv-assiniboia-residential-school

    Upon my arrival in the Fall of 1958 at the Assiniboia Indian Residential High School in Winnipeg, it wouldn’t be long before I once again found myself disappointed with the way things were run.

    In my late teens by this point, I was a reluctant student. But the parish priest and my parents never wavered: both were still firm that I continue my education, so that I might fulfil the potential they saw in me. “You are smart, and learn quick,” I’ll always remember my mother saying. “You can become something and have a good life,” she’d urge.

    Speaking of potential, after my first two schools, I thought this experience might prove more modern and uplifting. But the same basic rules and regulations were in place at Assiniboia. There was one difference: the order to which the sisters belonged, namely, the Grey Nuns. Along with the Oblate Fathers, they administered the school, in co-operation with the federal government. There was even an Aboriginal nun. Some students related to her but, beyond being understanding and helpful in some areas, she couldn’t really obtain any concessions for us. Yet more disappointment, I guess.

    At Assiniboia, I was mostly preoccupied with trying to get good grades but at the same time got very homesick, even if I was now older. That sense of forced isolation from loved ones was one shared by many of my classmates. On the edge of this fenced yard where we all played baseball, my girl friends and I endlessly walked and reminisced about our homes or boyfriends. Many years later, I revisited those school grounds: the path we used to walk, week after week, was still visible.

    There were times that I tried to act on my homesickness. Once, a couple of friends and I tried to run away. We didn’t get very far, however: possessing neither the money nor the courage to venture into the big city, we soon turned back. Another time, me and a friend from my reserve missed home so much we protested by locking ourselves in the bathroom, refusing to go to class. Eventually, the principal came and talked us out of there by persuading us that it was important that we continue our education. Looking back, I’m thankful he did, as both my friend and I went on to make something of ourselves by following a learning path.

    But now, school wasn’t just about books for me: it was also about boys. Now, of course, at Assiniboia, having boyfriends consisted of smiling across the dining hall and waving. (Still, some may have stolen a little kiss or two in a forbidden part of the school now and then.)

    Secret letters or notes were also a way of communicating young love. A relationship I had with a Cree boy at Assiniboia was memorable in part because love notes I’d written got snatched up somehow by a teacher. When I consequently got taken to the principal, I knew I had to think fast. Believing myself to be the rather convincing sort, I pleaded with the principal not to read my notes in front of the whole student body. It took some effort but, on the promise that I would never do such a thing ever again, I managed to succeed. Such theatrics over the foolish musings of a boy and girl caught up in innocent puppy love!

    continued below

  154. Not so loving was the rivalry between Cree students and our more numerous Saulteaux / Ojibway classmates. (At my previous schools, conflict between the Cree and Dene children was less obvious.) Tensions never really escalated beyond the verbal at Assiniboia: the only scars that came out of it were hurt egos. When those negative comments did come our way, we Crees retaliated by outsmarting our Ojibway counterparts through other channels, such as games or academics.

    * * *

    By spring time, some of the girls would literally count the days until we were headed home. After ten straight months of forced separation from our families, we were deeply relieved to rejoin our families. The happiness I felt when the plane touched down and I could once again see the smiling faces of my waiting parents is something I’ll never forget.

    My mother would try to make a special meal to welcome us home. I remember one time she had cooked Kraft Dinner — not nearly so common then as it is now — attempting to stretch it so that we would all have some to enjoy. Simple as it was, to me the meal was fantastic. I understood that my parents did not have much, but they tried their best to let us know that we were special.

    These all-too-short summer holidays over, I dreaded the idea of going back to school and being away from my family for so many months. It never got easier. One year, I hid under a big wooden bed to avoid going back. When the parish priest and the Indian Agent first came for me, they told my parents that I had lots of potential and shouldn’t waste it. Then they said that it was against the law to hold back a school age child. Unable to win my parents over by persuasion, these officials turned to threats against my family to make me go back.

    * * *

    Not all of my troubles were confined to the grounds of the residential school. In fact, what I am about to tell you took place while I was at home on holidays. It is the story of my first experience of sexual abuse.

    That dreadful summer, I was about eleven years of age, maybe younger: I’m not entirely sure anymore. As we did every season, our family’s tradition was to either go camping or head to my father’s commercial fishing spot. Sometimes, this expedition would grow to include friends and extended family.

    At night, we’d all share a tent: sleeping arrangements consisted of me being sandwiched by my parents on one side, a man (one I’ve decided not to name here) on the other. As the evening wore on, he must have moved closer and closer into the space I was sleeping. I cannot say exactly what happened next because I don’t remember, but I do know with certainty that I had been sexually abused for, when I woke up, I was hurting and wet between my legs.

    I was scared to tell my mother about it because I thought she would not believe me: this man was someone my mother liked very much. For the longest time, I was angry at her for not hearing anything while I was being abused. I even came to believe that she did hear something but chose to say nothing. However, reasoning that such a thing would be too horrible to do to one’s young child, I let the notion drop.

    continued below

  155. While my mother was alive, I never had the courage to ask her about what took place. Making it worse was how this man subsequently tried to lay the blame on me for the abuse, ridiculing me and calling me names. I used to feel awful and mad but, again, did not have the courage to tell anyone about what he’d done to me.

    As I got older, I tried to forget. I even prayed for my mother and this man, right up until their deaths. With professional help, I have slowly come to terms with what happened, to the point where I can now share my story with you today. I do so knowing there are more and more revelations of such abuse, with media reports revealing its prevalence among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal families alike. I’ve also heard similar stories first-hand from people that I know well. And yet, due to a sense of shame and people’s tendency to somehow lay the blame on themselves, no one reports this abuse, leaving them to carry around this misplaced guilt alone for years.

    * * *

    At around 14, I got a job working summers at a fish plant; my starting wage was eighty cents an hour. I was part of a crew whose task it was to pick lice-like worms out from fish fillets. We’d clean the fillets on a glass table that was lit from below so we could better make out the worms. Thinking back, I am sure the boss was breaking some sort of labour laws by hiring underage girls. However, because I was finally earning some money to help the family, I didn’t ask questions.

    After I left the Assiniboia Residential School, the parish priest made arrangements for me to join Assumption House, an organization that trained lay missionaries up north in The Pas, Manitoba. I must admit that was never my ambition. It’s clear to me now that the priest had always wanted me to leave the reserve and, for him, this was a good reason for doing so.

    When I got to Assumption House, I was shocked to learn that I in fact had been slated to finish my grade 11 and 12 at none other than Guy Hill Indian Residential School! It had since been renovated to accommodate high schoolers, and I was left no choice but to start classes at a place I thought I’d never set foot in again. Though the surroundings were familiar, the teaching staff came from a different order of nuns. I felt invisible to them. I also felt trapped as I revisited my memories all over again. Most of all, I felt profoundly alone.

    Surrounded by nothing but white faces, I heard not a single word of kindness or encouragement from these nuns. Unable to stand this unkind, uncaring environment for more than a few months, I was done. Though I’m sure it disappointed a few people, I’d made up my mind: I would quit school and the missionary training in order to return home to my reserve.


  156. Inuvik man to be sentenced today for child sex crimes

    CBC News January 10, 2014

    An Inuvik, N.W.T., man will be sentenced today after pleading guilty to sexually abusing three children more than 25 years ago.

    John David Holman Sr., 67, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and one count of rape in relation to incidents in Inuvik between 1976 and 1985. The victims were children between the ages of 7 and 13.

    His sentencing hearing, initially scheduled for December, was delayed as Holman was in the midst of treatments for prostate cancer.

    The court heard that when Holman was charged with one of the offences, he confessed to the other two. Holman has previous convictions of sexually assaulting children around the same time.

    The Crown has asked for Holman to serve five and a half years in prison, that he be put on the national sex offender registry, and submit a sample of his DNA.

    The defence said Holman was sexually abused in residential school at the age of 13 then he spent 25 years drinking heavily. Holman says he's been sober since 1991 and is active in AA leadership meetings. He's also been receiving counselling.

    Holman apologized, telling the court he feels shame and that he's ready to pay the price for the crimes he's committed.

    The defence is asking for a sentence of three to four years in prison.

    Holman is a former employee of CBC North.


  157. Amid deportation fears, Indigenous Lost Canadian struggles to gain citizenship

    by Jenny Uechi, Vancouver Observer January 10, 2014

    In the cold northern town of Dawson City, Yukon, 59-year-old Donovan McGlaughlin speaks with a heavy voice as he describes what it's like to wake up each morning, wondering if the government will deport him. McLaughlin lacks identity papers, and can't prove he is a Canadian citizen.

    "Every day, it's just...living in fear," he said with a sigh. "I have two six-year old twins, a boy and girl, and a five-year old boy. I want to be able to enjoy life with my children without being taken away. They deserve to have their father."

    A life outside the system

    The thing is, McGlaughlin isn't an illegal immigrant. He has lived in Canada for 40 years, and is the son of a Canadian mother and Native American father. His wife is from Québec. But although he appears Canadian through and through, McGlaughlin is one of the extremely unusual cases of Lost Canadians who doesn't have citizenship, due to the unique circumstances of his birth.

    Citizenship papers aren't all he lacks. He also has no birth certificate, social insurance number, or even a health care card. Because his parents were anarchists who distrusted governments, McGlaughlin has spent his whole life outside of the system.

    "My mother was a very devout anarchist, and we moved around constantly, all over Canada and then Europe," he said. "But at 15, I'd had enough and came back to North America, then settled in Canada when I was 19 and have been here, ever since."

    As the son of an Aboriginal father, McGlaughlin should legally be able to travel anywhere around Canada and the U.S. without fear of being deported. The trouble is, it requires documented proof of his background, and McGlaughlin has none.

    "My parents never did anything more with the government than they absolutely had to, especially my father. He trusted no government official."

    A legacy of residential schools and colonialism

    McGlaughlin explained that given the history of his father's people, it was understandable for him to be suspicious.

    His father also was one of the last remaining Susquehannock, a tribe now broadly considered extinct. The Susquehannock were mostly massacred in the Northwest Indian War in 1792. The few who survived eventually lived with the Lakota and Cheyenne in South Dakota.

    His father, he said, met his Canadian mother in Rosebud Sioux Reservation, South Dakota, which he described as a "hellhole" during the 1950s for the people living there. The situation appears to have changed little since, with life expectancy for men there still at just 47.

    "The (U.S.) government didn't care about the people there. They didn't do anything for the First Nations there," he said.

    His parents were both acutely aware of the residential schools in Canada, and the rampant physical and sexual abuse going on in them. Thousands of Aboriginal children died in such schools, while others dealt with trauma and substance abuse in their adult years.

    If the Canadian government found out that McGlaughlin was half-Aboriginal, what was to prevent them from forcibly placing him into one of these schools?

    continued below

  158. Although McGlaughlin doesn't lay blame on his parents, whose desire to live without government resembles that of early Mennonites, their philosophy took an immense toll on his daily life.

    "I haven't ever been able to vote or had any rights as a citizen, access to health care or anything," he said. Lacking a SIN number, all of his work has been under the table, for cash.

    "I've done everything from logging, to auto mechanics, to building homes. And I've always managed my own health."

    His off-the-radar existence changed when met his wife, who he met while she was visiting Dawson City from Quebec.

    "She showed me that I was worth something," he said, and speaks fondly of the family he has built with her, with three young children.

    "I made sure they had birth certificates and were able to receive all the benefits of being a citizen. I don't ever want them to go through what I went through."

    Even though his children are now documented, McGlaughlin now needs to have his own citizenship and enter mainstream Canadian society. And no one seems to be able to help.

    Fear of deportation

    McGlaughlin says he has been talking to people at his MP's office, lawyers, and scouring endlessly on the internet to find out what people like him could do. Most times, he says, people are stumped when they hear his story.

    "It is indeed an unusual case, and our office is working closely with the Minister’s office to resolve it," said Kay Richter, chief of staff to Yukon MP Ryan Leef. She said she couldn't comment further, out of respect for privacy for his case.

    McGlaughlin hasn't gone to the federal government yet, out of a fear of being deported. Three years ago, authorities tried to deport him out of the blue, even though it was proven then that he was a Canadian.

    "The border guards came to speak to me in 2010. It was for a removal order," he said.

    Although he had a phone conference date set for October, he had a massive heart attack on the day before the interview, causing it to be postponed until February 2011. After a series of questions, they decided he would not be removed from Canada.

    "Basically, it was explained that I was not a citizen of any other country, ergo, I must be Canadian," he said. But he still had no citizenship papers to prove it, and the border authorities did not help resolve his status.

    "I'd asked what the next step was, but it was the same with every other government agency. They didn't know. Over the years I've tried many times, but one department wants me to talk to another department, and every politician I've ever spoken to says, 'Sorry, I can't help you.'"

    "What is going to happen to me? Nobody knows," he said, frustrated. He reached out to the Lost Canadians after reading about them online and realizing that he was not alone. All over the country, he learned there were Canadians who had lived in the country for decades, and who government did not recognize as citizens, due to outdated laws that discriminated based on race, marital status and gender. Some of them were even war veterans who had fought for Canada, yet had to later fight the government for citizenship rights.

    The Lost Canadians' ongoing legal battle with bureaucrats to obtain citizenship hasn't given him much cause for optimism, but McGlaughlin is determined to have his situation corrected for the sake of his children. His deepest fear is that the government will revoke their citizenship because of him.

    "The doctors told me I don't have many years left," he said, remembering the heart attack.

    "I do not want or need a passport," he said. "What I need is the right to be a person."


  159. Residential school documents will be released, Ottawa says

    Aboriginal affairs minister says government will comply with court ruling tied to St. Anne's school

    CBC News January 14, 2014

    About 60 residential school survivors have been successful in their bid to have files from the Ontario Provincial Police released in order to support their claims for compensation for abuse.

    In a written decision released Tuesday, Ontario Superior Court Judge Paul Perell ruled the documents from a five-year investigation at St. Anne's Indian Residential School in Fort Albany be turned over. The criminal investigation was conducted in the 1990s.

    The federal government confirmed Wednesday it would comply with the judge's ruling.

    "We are pleased that the court clarified we can disclose St. Anne’s Residential School documents, and, now that we have the court’s permission, we will do so," said a statement from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's office.

    "This ruling is the result of our government seeking direction from the court on whether we could disclose St. Anne’s Residential School documents that were provided to us by the Ontario Provincial Police."

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Justice Murray Sinclair applauded the decision.

    "The release of these records is critical not only to survivors who were badly abused, but to Canadians as a whole," he said in a written statement.

    "Reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples in Canada depends on a shared and complete understanding of the residential school experience."

    Lawyer Fay Brunning, who represents several former students, said Ottawa has been rebuked.

    "They're absolutely wrong at law and how they've conducted themselves," she said.

    "St. Anne's was, quite frankly, a house of horrors. It was awful — full of pedophiles and abusers. And that has not been reflected by the federal government in what it has told individual adjudicators."

    The federal government cited privacy concerns when arguing against disclosing the files, and argued evidence from investigations and trials pertaining to certain victims should not be used for claimants not involved in those cases.

    But Perell said in his decision that the government misinterpreted its disclosure obligations and should turn over the documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    "If truth and reconciliation is to be achieved … [and to be] a genuine expression of Canada's request for forgiveness for failing our aboriginal peoples so profoundly, the justness of the system for the compensation for the victims must be protected," he said.

    "The substantive and procedural access to justice of the [Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement], like any class action, must also be protected and vouched safe. The court has the jurisdiction to ensure that the IRSSA provides both procedural and substantive access to justice."

    Hundreds of aboriginal children from remote James Bay communities were sent to St. Anne's from 1904 to 1976.

    St. Anne's was the site of some of the worst cases of abuse in the country, including physical and sexual abuse. Survivors tell stories of children being forced to eat their own vomit and of the nuns and brothers shocking children as young as six in a homemade electric chair.


  160. Blackstock is Back in Ottawa Advocating for First Nations Children

    by GABRIELLE FAYANT, Urban Native Magazine January 7, 2014

    This week, a continuation of a historical case that could impact the future of First Nation’s children in care is set to continue at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal office in Canada’s Capital, Ottawa.

    Dating back to 2007, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) filed a human rights complaint against the Federal government for the lack of adequate and culturally appropriate social services and funding for First Nation’s children on-reserve. After several years of procedural delays, the human rights tribunal began hearing from witnesses in February 2013.

    If the Canadian Federal government is found in the wrong for lack of funding and adequate services, many believe that not only will this be beneficial for First Nations children in care today but it will also set a precedent for how many other Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) children and youth services and funding are delivered. As many first, second and third generations of residential school survivors heal from the pain and trauma experienced at residential schools, Aboriginal people in Canada face the harsh truth that today there are more Aboriginal children in care, without family and cultural support services, then at the peak of the residential school era.

    The most significant statement that will be made, if the government is found in the wrong, is that the government did discriminate against First Nations children based on race and ethnic origin therefore explaining the amount of money spent, effort and undermining attacks made to prevent this case from even beginning.

    To date, the Federal government has spent over 3 million dollars on lawyers and legal fees. Cindy Blackstock, CEO and founder of FNCFCS, has been spied on throughout the proceedings which was confirmed by the Privacy Commissioner in 2011. The most significant statement that will be made, if the government is found in the wrong, is that the government did discriminate against First Nations children based on race and ethnic origin therefore explaining the amount of money spent, effort and undermining attacks made to prevent this case from even beginning. This statement could have a domino effect with all Aboriginal relations with the Federal government from health services, social services to economic dealings.

    The hearings are set to continue Wednesday, January 8 at 9:30 AM EST, with testimony from Dr. Bombay, who will make the links between residential schools and the high rate of First Nations children in care. The hearings are open for public viewing as well being aired on APTN, the public is encouraged to observe to make an informed decision of their own.


    For more information on upcoming Hearings go to First Nations Child & Family Caring Society at:


  161. Residential school settlement offers $3K education credits

    Common Experience Payment recipients can use them or give them to family members

    CBC News January 24, 2014

    Thousands of people from across the north are now eligible to receive an education credit from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

    The settlement agreement stipulated that if more than $40 million was left in the trust fund after the Common Experience Payments were made, the leftover money was to be used for educational credits for CEP recipients.

    Crawford Class Action Services is now mailing applications to people who received the Common Experience Payment. They can use the one-time personal credit of up to $3,000 at universities, trades programs, or for courses.

    People can also transfer the credits to family members or they can choose to pool them to develop programs that promote traditional knowledge.

    Paul Andrew, who chaired an addictions forum in communities across the N.W.T. last year, said he heard people say again and again they want more on-the-land programs to help with healing.

    "While they're still feeling that, feeling fresh about that, I think we can talk about this — pooling their credits together and using it for the benefit of the community.

    "This is an opportunity for us to learn more from our own people. This is an opportunity to sit down with an elder out on the land, and get that education started."

    But Andrew worries it will be a challenge to fit that less formal teaching into the paperwork required, and the deadlines will come quickly.

    People have until Oct.31 to decide how to use the credit. Then the organization or school they chose has until Dec.1 to apply to redeem it.

    About 5,000 people in the Northwest Territories, 2,500 people in Nunavut and 1,400 people in Yukon are eligible for the credit.


  162. Residential Schools: Learning the fate of BCs missing children


    Jeffrey Point figures he was about 14 that day.

    He had joined a work party of men from the Skowkale First Nation in Chilliwack to restore a graveyard that had fallen into disuse.

    On that summer day more than 50 years ago, the men hacked through blackberry bushes and weeds to uncover mossy stone monuments and markers sunk deep in the ground.

    Point remembers the discovery of a giant wooden cross surrounded by a “little picket fence.” Inside the fence were dozens of smaller unmarked crosses.

    All work stopped.

    “I remember the elders, sitting for hours, almost the whole day, discussing: ‘What do we do?’”

    He didn’t understand their unease until someone explained: The crosses indicated the graves of “the kids from the school.”

    The monument was a vivid representation of the wounds left by Canada’s residential school system. From 1893 to 1941, Chilliwack was home to the Coqualeetza Residential School, one of British Columbia’s 18 residential schools.

    First Nations children from across B.C. were separated from their families and forced to attend. Many eventually returned home strangers to those who loved them.

    Some never returned home at all.

    The children who died while attending residential schools became known as the missing children. Their place of burial, cause of death and sometimes even their names are a mystery that has reverberated down through the decades.

    Now a raft of historical documents — including records recently released by B.C.’s Vital Statistics Agency — could finally shed light on the thousands of “little lives lost” during one of the most shameful chapters in Canada’s history.


    From the 1870s to mid-1990s, more than 150,000 First Nations children across ­Canada attended residential schools, often against their parents’ wishes. The government-­funded, church-run schools — where attendance was mandatory for a time — were established to isolate aboriginal children from their ­families and assimilate them into the dominant culture.

    A lawsuit launched in 2005 by First Nations against the federal government and churches resulted in a settlement that included the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008.

    Since then, the TRC has been holding public hearings across the country to allow those who attended residential schools to tell their stories.

    The TRC has also established The Missing Children Project to create a register of children who died while attending residential school. So far, researchers have confirmed the deaths of 4,100 children in the schools — a number that is expected to rise as newly released documents are reviewed.

    “The missing children have been our top priority in terms of obtaining documents,” said TRC executive director Kimberly Murray.

    In December, B.C. became the first province to release death certificates for all First Nations children, ages four to 19, who died between 1917 and 1956. After 1956, race was no longer noted on death certificates, although the B.C. Vital Statistics Agency is working to supply the TRC with documents from 1957 onward.

    In total, the agency handed over 4,200 death registration documents in response to a TRC request, said an agency spokeswoman.

    It is now up to the TRC to sift through the documents — which note name, age, location of death and, in some cases, location of ­burial and cause of death — to determine which children died while attending a residential school.

    “We’ve written to every province asking for similar records,” said Murray, adding B.C. is “way ahead” of others in terms of electronic information storage.

    The TRC will chronicle the fate of the missing children in its final report, due in spring 2015. The register of missing children will be kept at the TRC’s national research centre, where families will be able to access it.

    Some may find out for the very first time how their relatives died.

    continued below


    “It looks like the death rate in residential schools was definitely higher than it was for children who were not in them,” said Murray.

    It is particularly telling that the schools were often built with a cemetery on the grounds.

    Many students succumbed to disease, including tuberculosis and Spanish flu. Poor nutrition, badly ventilated housing and crowded living conditions made the children more vulnerable to illness.

    The buildings themselves were also a factor in several fatal fires. Instead of proper fire escapes, some schools had a pole for children to slide down. But the poles were useless when staff locked children into the dorms at night.

    “The doors and the windows would be locked to prevent escape, so when a fire broke out they’d be trapped,” said Murray.

    The TRC has also discovered records of children who committed suicide and several who died while trying to run away.

    On New Year’s Day 1937, as the temperature plummeted to -30 C, four boys ran away from the Lejac residential school in northern B.C. They were found frozen to death on an ice-covered lake.

    One boy had “no hat, one rubber missing and his foot bare,” his father recounted to investigators. Another boy was found lying face down with his coat under him.

    The children had travelled about eight miles “straight to the light that was at the village” and died less than half a mile from home, according to an account contained in John Milloy’s book A National Crime.

    But while some children died from a clear cause, the deaths of others remain unexplained. Murray said the TRC has been unable to find a cause of death for about 50 per cent of the children.

    It is hoped the documents provided by the B.C. Vital Statistics Agency, as well as records that have been requested from other provinces, church archives and Library and Archives Canada will provide further answers.

    Another part of the puzzle is determining where the children were buried.

    At Coqualeetza, it appears local children were returned home for burial, while those from distant communities were buried in the school’s cemetery, said Sto:lo historian ­Sonny Naxaxalhts’I McHalsie.

    Families from remote places may not have learned of their child’s death until summer, when he or she did not return with the other kids. Some families were never told how their children died.

    McHalsie said he has been contacted twice by families looking for information on kids who never returned home from Coqualeetza.

    He has been unable to help them.


    “The first thing I saw was a guy with a strap,” recalled Cyril Pierre of the moment he entered St. Mary’s Catholic Boarding School in Mission.

    Up until that day, Pierre, who was seven years old and one of 13 kids, had lived with his parents on Barnston Island.

    He had no idea what to expect at school, but it quickly became clear.

    “It was what you might call a silent violence,” said Joe Ginger, another St. Mary’s student who agreed to share his experience at a local school with the Sunday Province.

    “You learn to be quiet. You develop certain habits — of holding your breath, clenching your fists, of being always on guard.”

    Each morning, the children were woken by a prefect with a bell in one hand and a strap in the other.

    Kids who wet the bed would be hit. Pierre remembers watching them carry their dirty sheets on their shoulders to the laundry.

    The best food the boys ate was stolen from the orchard on the hill above the school.

    A few years after they arrived at the school, the sexual abuse began.

    continued below

  164. Sick boys, who were alone in the dorms during classes, were easy prey, said Pierre.

    In 2004, after an extensive RCMP investigation, a prefect named Gerald Moran was convicted of 12 sexual-abuse ­charges related to his time at St. Mary’s and another residential school in Kamloops. He was given a three-year sentence.

    The school held other dangers as well.

    Both Pierre and Ginger remember children who died. The ­students were never told what happened to their classmates.

    Ginger remembers a girl named Clara May. “We were in kindergarten ­together. We ate crayons together,” he added with a laugh.

    “In Grade 11 she passed. They sent her body home.”

    Pierre remembers a boy named Bradley. In the evening he was in the yard with the other boys, playing marbles.

    The next morning, he was dead.

    After graduation, Pierre returned to Barnston Island for good. He quickly fell into ­alcoholism.

    “I couldn’t face my people. I couldn’t face my family. The shame and disgust killed me time and time again.”

    Both men have mixed feelings about the TRC.

    “I can never reconcile to what happened,” said Pierre. “It’s a nightmare until the day I die.”

    But he has found meaning in his life.

    Although residential school forced him to grow up away from his family, Pierre is a dedicated father and grandfather.

    “I’m just now practising something I wish I’d learned from my father,” he said. “I tell my sons I love them every time I see them.”

    Pierre and Ginger have also found the courage to share their story with the world through a film made by First Nations educator Dallas Yellowfly, who works for the Surrey school district.

    Sometimes Pierre and Ginger accompany him to presentations.

    “When Cyril and Joe start talking, people just sit and listen,” said Yellowfly. “Kids might read about residential schools in a textbook, but to hear it from someone who was actually there is totally different.”

    Yellowfly said it’s important for students to understand how residential schools have had a lasting impact on families and communities.


    Half a century after it was restored, the Skowkale graveyard still feels like a wild place. The rows of sunken headstones are ­surrounded by a towering cedar hedge. Visitors are greeted by a racket of birds.

    On a recent day in January, Jeffrey Point and Sonny McHalsie walked among the stones to a large white cross. It is near the place where the work party, including the teenaged Point, encountered the residential school monument 50 years ago.

    When the elders found the old cross, they would have been very concerned, explained McHalsie. In First Nations culture, it is important for the dead to be buried in the place of their people.

    Many of the children buried in the Coqualeetza cemetery were not from Chilliwack. Years after the school’s closure in the 1940s, the bones were moved to First Nations graveyards in the area, including Skowkale, Tzeachten and Skwah.

    Point recalls the elders talking for hours about what should be done about the children’s graves.

    “They were still talking as we left.”

    When the work party returned the next morning, the monument, including the small white crosses, was gone.

    McHalsie interpreted this to mean the Skowkale elders decided to free the children’s spirits from the graveyard by removing the structures that bound them there.

    “They would then be able to return home.”

    For the TRC’s Murray, identifying and recognizing the missing children is driven by the desire to “right the wrongs” of the past, as well as to help families move forward.

    “We know that the information is very important to the families of those who died,” she said.

    “It’s about healing. As one of the commissioners says, it’s about ‘the little lives lost’ and giving them the respect that we should give to any child who dies.”


  165. Residential school survivors face adversarial government

    Lawyers say government attitude has 'shifted' as survivors wait for information

    By Angela Sterritt, CBC News February 04, 2014

    A number of lawyers from Northern Canada say the federal government's attitude towards residential school abuse claims has changed. Many lawyers say they are seeing more delays and are processing more appeals since the process began.

    Steven Cooper has represented hundreds of survivors who are filing claims of physical and sexual abuse. He says delays are beginning to take a toll on his clients. "My clients are phoning in saying 'I'm going to hang myself, I am going to kill myself, I can't stand this anymore," he says. "We are getting e-mails daily from a couple of clients saying 'where is the decision?'"

    Cooper says the way Ottawa is handling residential school Independent assessment claims is no longer being done in the spirit of truth and reconciliation or collaboration. "I have one [client] where we have waited 18 months for a decision. We were told that it was sent to the secretariat for review, then sent to the adjudicator, we don't know what's going on internally, all we know is that our clients are going through hell".

    The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement was established to right historical wrongs against Canada's aboriginal people. The Independent Assessment Process or IAP is a way for former students who were abused to settle out of court.

    Cooper says the Independent Assessment process has never been easy, but his frustration these days is multiplying. "It just seems to be that the whole approach by the government now is very mean spirited and very adversarial."

    Whitehorse based IAP lawyer Laura Cabot says over the last year and a half she has also seen a change in how Ottawa handles survivors' cases. She says the residential school survivors she represents are also confused. "It seems to be a shift with the federal government with how they are presenting and processing claims, it seems like if there's an opportunity to deny a claim or bring forward issues that would make a claim unsuccessful they are readily doing that," she says.

    ​Cabot points to a case where one person was compensated, but their family member who attended the same school was not. She says it's baffling and has made a number of her clients feel re-victimized and have lost trust in the system. Aboriginal Affairs told CBC News no one was available to comment, but provided a statement saying there is no staff shortage to process or hear individual IAP claims. "Our government has committed considerable resources to ensure that we meet our obligations under the IRSSA. We received more claims than anticipated and are working to resolve them as expeditiously as possible." the statement said.

    For his part the Chief Adjudicator for the Independent Assessment Secretariat, Dan Shapiro, says they are doing everything they can. "We are conscious of the fact that there some frustrations but it really has to be viewed as in terms of the context and the sheer volume of applications we received".

    Shapiro says the secretariat expected about 12,500 but has instead received almost 38,000 applications.

    He adds that almost 10,000 claims were filed very close to the government's deadline.

    Cooper says if the department is understaffed it's a federal responsibility to add more personnel. "I just think that's an excuse, it's a standard government excuse, 'shucks we're understaffed, God we are burnt out', well my clients are burned out and are sick and tired of being treated different than their colleagues, their fellow students, their family members from a few years ago," he said.

    The Secretariat says it expects to process 4,200 claims this year.


  166. Catholic Church withholding millions from victims, alleges government

    Court documents allege the church is pocketing money intended for former residential school students

    By Connie Walker, CBC News February 18, 2014

    Court documents obtained by CBC News allege that the Catholic Church is withholding millions from former students of Indian residential schools.

    The church was part of the Indian residential school settlement reached in 2006. While the government paid the lion’s share of the billion-dollar settlement, the churches were also required to make reparations.

    The Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches have met their obligations, but according to the federal government, the Catholic Church is shirking its responsibility.

    The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is one organization that was slated to receive funds from the Catholic Church.

    "We're trying to get blood from a stone," says Mike DeGagne, former head of the organization.

    He says the foundation was supposed to receive $29 million from the church.

    "But then, the Catholics were allowed to subtract a number of expenses they'd already incurred, so it got down to about $18 million and about $1.6 million is still outstanding."

    Ottawa claims those expenses should have gone directly to the foundation, and is critical of the church for claiming legal expenses as administrative costs.

    "The net effect of this accounting approach is to reduce the overall amounts that are paid to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and to give preference to the Corporation's administrative costs, including their lawyers' fees, at the expense of former students of Indian Residential Schools."

    Ottawa also points out the Catholic groups committed to fundraise $25 million as a part of the settlement, but so far have only raised a fraction of that.

    With funding from Ottawa, the Catholic Church ran more than 70 per cent of the residential schools, which operated from the late 1800s to the 1990s.

    Denise Guimond attended one of those schools for five years.

    "It's disheartening to know, because they're rich and there's no reason why they can't pay their portion or their part in supporting the survivors.… The churches should be paying actually to the organizations that are actually helping."
    Pierre Baribeau, a lawyer in Montreal and director of the Catholic Entities corporation, says the Catholic Church will fight these allegations in court.

    "The federal government has always adopted an aggressive attitude towards the Catholic Entities and we have offered reconciliation process to them and they firmly answered negatively, they don’t want to apply the agreement as negotiated in 2006, so we are going to present our arguments to the courts."

    But DeGagne says the legal dispute sends a bad message to survivors.

    "This is not about the person in the pews. Most Catholics have no idea their church isn't honouring their obligations and choosing to pay lawyers versus their obligations to survivors. If most Catholics knew this, they would be appalled."

    Today, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said, "Canada is committed to implementation of settlement agreement, as this matter is before the court, this will be the extent of my comment on it."

    The case is scheduled to be heard in a Saskatoon court in June.


  167. Alberta and NWT bishops apologize for residential school abuse

    CBC News February 24, 2014

    Roman Catholic bishops from Alberta and the Northwest Territories have made a formal apology to aboriginal people who were abused as children in Canadian residential schools.

    “We, the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and Northwest Territories, apologize to those who experienced sexual and physical abuse in residential schools under Catholic administration,” Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said at a news conference on Monday.

    “We also express our apology and regret for Catholic participation in government policies that resulted in children being separated from their families, and often suppressed Aboriginal culture and language at the residential schools.”

    Residential school survivor Jerry Wood said today was a day he never thought he'd see.

    "The Catholic Church has been dragging their feet about making their apology," said Wood who was only six years old when he was taken to a boarding school where he suffered loneliness and abuse.

    "That's what I wanted to hear," he said. "Say I'm sorry, you know. I thought I'd never hear that."

    Smith made the apology at Edmonton's Ben Calf Robe School, where students witnessed the historical and emotional event.

    The bishops’ statement comes in advance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to investigate the abuses in the residential school system, makes a stop in Alberta from March 27 to 30 at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton.


  168. Residential school survivors want government lawyers turfed

    St. Anne's former students say claims process tainted

    By Karina Roman, CBC News March 03, 2014

    A group of Indian residential school survivors are calling on the federal government to pull its lawyers from their abuse claim hearings.

    Former students of St. Anne's Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont., say that after the Department of Justice fought them in court to avoid releasing documents that would help survivors corroborate their claims, they no longer trust the independent assessment process, under the residential school settlement agreement.

    In January, an Ontario Superior Court judge slammed the government for withholding the documents, which are from an Ontario Provincial Police investigation and subsequent trials that led to the conviction of several former staff of St. Anne's.

    "The survivors of St. Anne's Residential School request that the attorney general of Canada no longer retain lawyers from the Department of Justice to handle the [independent assessment process] hearings pertaining to St. Anne's," said Edmund Metatawabin in a letter on behalf of survivors to Justice Minister Peter Mackay.

    "We have completely lost faith and trust in the DOJ lawyers whom [a judge] has found were the people in the federal government who withheld the documents about abuse of children at this school."

    But it's not just the withholding of documents that has angered survivors.

    The federal government is mandated to produce narratives for each residential school, which helps the adjudicator at the hearings determine the veracity of claims and spares the victims the burden of proving them as if they were in a criminal court. It's part of what is meant to make the process non-adversarial.

    The narrative is supposed to include criminal convictions and known cases of sexual abuse. But despite criminal trials and convictions of former staff, the narrative for St. Anne's said there were no known incidents of abuse. Instead, it highlighted two deaths from scurvy or consumption in 1912 and gave information about school committees and laundry and cafeteria services.

    "This benign history ... creates the impression for these adjudicators that this was a perfectly normal institution as opposed to the house of horrors that the federal government knew it really was," said NDP MP Charlie Angus in an interview with CBC News. Angus represents the riding where St. Anne's operated.

    continued below

  169. Former students of St. Anne's have recounted horrific experiences of sexual and physical abuse, electrocution in a homemade electric chair and being forced to eat their own vomit. And yet, in their hearings, the survivors say, without the support of a full narrative, their truthfulness was questioned by federal government lawyers.

    "Many times we are made to feel that we are committing the crime, rather than participating in a justice system correcting past abuse," wrote Metatawabin in the letter to Mackay.

    Fay Brunning, a lawyer for some of the survivors, said the process has been anything but non-adversarial. She said the government lawyers were unrelenting.

    "They fought me in each and every one of those hearings to the nth degree," she said in an interview with CBC News.

    Government changes narrative

    In July 2012, Brunning told the Justice Department about the police investigation and convictions in an effort to get the narrative amended.

    "And I gave them this information because I thought they didn't know. Because none of it was in the narrative," she said.

    But it turns out the government did know. It had had the court documents since 2003 when it had to defend itself against civil suits.

    In December 2013, when government lawyers fought survivors in court over the withholding of those documents, it blamed "human error" for the narrative being wrong when it was first produced in 2007. But the Justice Department did not fix the narrative until July 2013, a year after Brunning first contacted the government.

    An internal email obtained by Angus through access to information shows the Justice Department first proposed corrections to the narrative on July 26, 2013, less than a week after Angus wrote to the minister and just as the MP was going public with the story.

    The email's subject line reads: "amendments to St. Anne's IRS Narrative - Response to Charlie Angus." It goes on to list all the convictions of former St. Anne's staff to be part of a new narrative.

    "When they were caught out, they rewrote it in response to political pressure," said Angus. "Not in response to the fact that 'we made a mistake,' not in response to 'we have legal obligations.' If this were done in a normal court, there'd be a mistrial."

    Alvin Fiddler, the deputy chief of Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, which includes Fort Albany where St. Anne's was located, said it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that actions were deliberately taken by the federal government to not disclose all information to survivors and their families.

    When asked for comment, the justice minister's office referred CBC to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt.

    Valcourt's office did not answer specific questions about the St. Anne's case, but said in a written statement, "Our government takes our obligations under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement seriously and we continue to ensure that the government fulfils its obligations under the agreement."


  170. Spring 2016 set as target to settle school claims

    The number of claims from residential school survivors far exceeded expectations

    CBC News March 07, 2014

    Indian Residential School adjudicators have set spring of 2016, as the new target for completing the thousands of outstanding abuse claims across Canada.

    They say it will then take an additional two years to wrap up the process after the last claims are settled.

    The chief adjudicator of the Independent Assessment Process, Dan Shapiro, says the extra time is required because they've been flooded with three times as many applications as expected.

    He says 26,000 have been settled with at least 12,000 still to be resolved.

    "It really is a project of unprecedented and staggering magnitude so yes it is taking longer entirely due to the unanticipated number of applications,” says Shapiro.

    It’s the largest class action settlement in Canadian history, he says. Across Canada payouts for abuse claims are now approaching $2.8 billion.

    Payouts to former abuse victims in Yukon is now estimated around $45 million. An additional $33.6 million dollars has been paid out to Yukoners under the Common Experience compensation program.

    At least 450 Yukon abuse claims have been settled, with about 100 claims still to be resolved in the territory.


    The Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat


  171. Australia Is Again Stealing Its Indigenous Children

    By John Pilger, Truthout March 25, 2014

    The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because (as an Australian Aborigine) you're guilty before you're found innocent." The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again." A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."

    This happened to an Aboriginal family in outback New South Wales. It is happening across Australia in a scandalous and largely unrecognized abuse of human rights that evokes the infamous Stolen Generation of the last century. Up to the 1970s, thousands of mixed-race children were stolen from their mothers by welfare officials. The children were given to institutions as cheap or slave labor; many were abused.

    Described by a chief protector of Aborigines as "breeding out the color," the policy was known as assimilation. It was influenced by the same eugenics movement that inspired the Nazis. In 1997, a landmark report, "Bringing Them Home," disclosed that as many 50,000 children and their mothers had endured "the humiliation, the degradation and sheer brutality of the act of forced separation ... the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state." The report called this genocide.

    Assimilation remains Australian government policy in all but name. Euphemisms such as "reconciliation" and "Stronger Futures" cover similar social engineering and an enduring, insidious racism in the political elite, the bureaucracy and wider Australian society. When in 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized for the Stolen Generation, he added: "I want to be blunt about this. There will be no compensation." The Sydney Morning Herald congratulated Rudd on a "shrewd maneuver" that "cleared away a piece of political wreckage that responds to some of its supporters' emotional needs, but changes nothing."

    Today, the theft of Aboriginal children - including babies taken from the birth table - is now more widespread than at any time during the last century. As of June last year, almost 14,000 Aboriginal children had been "removed." This is five times the number when "Bringing Them Home" was written. More than a third of all removed children are Aboriginal - from 3% of the population. At the present rate, this mass removal of Aboriginal children will result in a stolen generation of more than 3,300 children in the Northern Territory alone.

    Pat (not her real name) is the mother whose anguish was secretly recorded on a phone as four Department of Child Services officials, and six police officers, descended on her home. On the tape an official claims they have come only for an "assessment." But two of the police officers, who knew Pat, told her they saw no risk to her child and warned her to "get out of here quick." Pat fled, cradling her infant, but the one-year-old was eventually seized without her knowing why. The next morning a police officer returned to apologize to her and said her baby should never have been taken away. Pat has no idea where her son is.

    Once, she was "invited" by officials to bring her children to "neutral" offices to discuss a "care plan." The doors were locked and officials seized the children, with one of the youngest dragging on a police officer's gun belt. Many indigenous mothers are unaware of their legal rights. A secretive Children's Court has become notorious for rubber-stamping removals.

    continued below

  172. Most Aboriginal families live on the edge. Their life expectancy in towns a short flight from Sydney is as low as 37. Dickensian diseases are rife; Australia is the only developed country not to have eradicated trachoma, which blinds Aboriginal children.

    Pat has both complied with and struggled bravely against a punitive bureaucracy that can remove children on hearsay. She has twice been acquitted of false charges, including "kidnapping" her own children. A psychologist has described her as a capable and good mother.

    Josie Crawshaw, the former director of a respected families' support organization in Darwin, told me, "In remote areas, officials will go in with a plane in the early hours and fly the child thousands of kilometers from their community. There'll be no explanation, no support, and the child may be gone forever."

    In 2012, Coordinator-General of Remote Services for the Northern Territory Olga Havnen was sacked when she revealed that almost $80 million was spent on the surveillance and removal of Aboriginal children, compared with only $500,000 on supporting the same impoverished families. She told me, "The primary reasons for removing children are welfare issues directly related to poverty and inequality. The impact on families is just horrendous because if they are not reunited within six months, it's likely they won't see each other again. If South Africa was doing this, there'd be an international outcry."

    She and others with long experience I have interviewed have echoed the "Bringing them Home" report, which described an official "attitude" in Australia that regarded all Aboriginal people as "morally deficient." A Department of Families and Community Services spokesman said that the majority of removed indigenous children in New South Wales were placed with indigenous caregivers. According to indigenous support networks, this is a smokescreen; it does not mean families and it is control by divisiveness that is the bureaucracy's real achievement.

    I met a group of Aboriginal grandmothers, all survivors of the first stolen generation, all now with stolen grandchildren. "We live in a state of fear, again," they said. David Shoebridge, a State Greens MP, told me, "The truth is, there is a market among whites for these kids, especially babies."

    The New South Wales parliament is soon to debate legislation that introduces forced adoption and "guardianship." Children under two will be liable - without the mother's consent - if "removed" for more than six months. For many Aboriginal mothers like Pat, it can take six months merely to make contact with their children. "It's setting up Aboriginal families to fail," said Shoebridge.

    I asked Josie Crawshaw why. "The willful ignorance in Australia about its first people has now become the kind of intolerance that gets to the point where you can smash an entire group of humanity and there is no fuss."


  173. Reconciliation: A new generation of aboriginal Canadians weighs in

    Reneltta Arluk believes Truth and Reconciliation Commission is helping indigenous people find their voice

    By Connie Walker, CBC March 25, 2014

    Reneltta Arluk is a writer and actor of Inuvialuit, Gwich’in and Chipewyan-Cree descent originally from the Northwest Territories. Raised by her grandparents on the trap-line until school age, Reneltta travelled with them across the North. In 2008, Reneltta founded Akpik Theatre in Yellowknife to help produce and tell northern indigenous stories.

    How have you been affected by the legacy of residential schools?

    My mother being a survivor and through the hardship that she’s encountered, I definitely carry a pain that she carries without the action being [done to] me … but in saying that she has also given me a strength to overcome things in my life.

    Because she survived, I feel like I can survive.

    Have you participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

    Yes, in Vancouver last year they had that amazing walk. It surprised me. I felt overwhelmed that so many people had come out and heard about the TRC that were non-aboriginal. ​There were so many mixed cultures that were part of that walk and it was so welcomed. ​

    Because when you’ve gone through something that you feel ashamed for, even though you don’t need to feel ashamed... to be so celebrated by the community was incredible to see.

    How do you think the TRC has had an impact?

    You’re surrounded by survivors, if you’re indigenous. They’re in your family, they’re your friends, they're your uncles, your aunts, so you can’t dismiss the impact that it has on the communities.

    The feeling [at a TRC event] is that you get permission to speak. We [indigenous people] are working on finding our voice and now our voice is getting stronger and we are uniting.

    And we are doing that in so many ways – through teaching, through the arts, through journalism, through being advocates in your communities.

    I feel that TRC is just a huge voice where people can go and share theirs and it’s so heartbreaking but it's so vital because we are not alone in that pain and that we share it is so necessary.

    What are the biggest challenges facing reconciliation?

    Acceptance. Acknowledgement. I am full of heart that the [media] coverage we are getting is so much better. We’re getting more specific, we’re getting actual recognition that is positive AND negative, not just negative and slanted.

    But I’m constantly discouraged by the comments on articles. When articles are so good and so interesting and intelligent and you read the comments at the bottom and you’re just like, really? I can’t read those comments.

    Canada needs to change its mind. I can only hope that if we keep growing and uniting and having a stronger voice that is positive and intelligent, then Canada will change its mind.


  174. Privacy watchdog investigates breach in residential school survivors' claims

    Adjudicator handling residential school survivor claims cites blackmail in police report

    By Susana Mas, CBC March 27, 2014

    Canada's privacy watchdog is investigating a possible breach of personal information belonging to residential school survivors, after an adjudicator working for the agency handling their compensation claims filed a police report citing blackmail.

    The Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat is the administrative body that manages the claims made by residential school survivors. It is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal established in 2007 under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

    Indian residential school survivors can seek compensation for suffering "sexual or serious physical abuse or another wrongful act" through an independent assessment process managed by the agency.

    A spokesperson for the agency told CBC News on Wednesday that "an individual contacted the Secretariat earlier this month" claiming to have information relating to claims made by residential school survivors.

    "We have not determined if he actually has any confidential information," said Michael Tansey, a senior communications officer with the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat, in an email to CBC News on Wednesday.

    "The adjudicator has made a report to the police, and indicated that blackmail was involved."

    The adjudicator, whose identity Tansey said can not be made public, is on a leave of absence for an undetermined period of time.

    The news of a possible privacy breach of information belonging to Indian residential school survivors comes just as The Truth and Reconciliation Commission begins to hold its final hearings in Edmonton on Thursday, before submitting its final report in 2015.

    Blackmailing reported to police

    The Mounties would not say whether an investigation had been launched into the reporting of blackmail, citing concerns over preserving the integrity of a possible investigation.

    "The RCMP can not confirm or deny investigations because to do so could jeopardize the integrity of any possible investigations," Laurence Trottier, a media relations officer for the RCMP told CBC News in an email Wednesday.

    While it is not clear where the adjudicator filed the police report, Tansey said the agency which is headquartered in Ottawa has not filed a complaint with police, but reported the matter to three other groups.

    "The Secretariat has not made a police report since we have not determined if anything has been stolen."

    Tansey said the Secretariat informed the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) "shortly after" the agency became aware of it, and that it referred the matter to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner "this week."

    The agency also reported the incident to its own Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) co-ordinator.

    The office for the federal privacy commissioner confirmed to CBC News on Wednesday that the matter was reported to them by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

    "Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada contacted our office this week to notify us about a possible breach of personal information involving Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat," said Valerie Lawton, a senior communications adviser with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

    More than 1 incident investigated

    This is not the first time the privacy watchdog has been asked to look into a possible data breach where the claims of residential school survivors are concerned.

    "We were notified about a separate incident last year," Lawton said.

    continued below

  175. While it is unclear whether last year's incident is in any way related to this month's event, Tansey confirmed that yet another possible data breach was investigated in 2012.

    "We can confirm that a possible security breach was identified in 2012 related to information that may have been stolen from an adjudicator in the IAP."

    "In 2012, it was determined that no breach had occurred," Tansey said.

    New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, who represents a northern Ontario riding where a residential school once operated, said a breach of residential school data would be "catastrophic" to the survivors.

    "I've been astonished to see this report that apparently confidential data from survivors of the residential schools was stolen, perhaps as far back as 2012, and that there may be criminal intent behind this," Angus said in a telephone interview with CBC News on Wednesday.

    "When you have a major data breach, it's incumbent to call the privacy commissioner and to inform the people whose information has been taken or stolen."

    Angus said he will be asking the privacy commissioner in a letter on Thursday to investigate the possible data breach. He wants to know if the incident happened earlier this month, why it is that the privacy watchdog was only informed about it this week.

    Angus said he will also send a letter to the Secretariat asking for clarification on the possible data breach.

    "Have they contacted the survivors? Because this is very, very sensitive information."

    Privacy first

    Angus asked Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt about the possible breach of privacy during question period in Ottawa on Tuesday.

    "There are now reports that medical records and case summaries of survivors abused in the residential school system were stolen and that the person who has stolen this information has threatened to go public with it," Angus said.

    "When was the the privacy commissioner informed of this breach and what steps have been taken to inform each and every one of those survivors that their personal histories have been stolen under the government's watch?"

    Valcourt said his office contacted the privacy watchdog on Monday, "when we were made aware of the allegation."

    The minister said the Secretariat is an independent organization for which the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development "is not responsible" for.

    A spokesperson for Valcourt told CBC News on Wednesday that the matter should be fully investigated.

    "Given that the Chief Adjudicator is independent, we have communicated with him, through our Deputy Minister, and expressed that he should investigate this matter fully," said Andrea Richer, the communications director for Valcourt, in an email.

    Dan Shapiro, a lawyer from Saskatoon, was appointed Chief Adjudicator in July 2013. He had been working as Deputy Chief Adjudicator for the Secretariat since 2007.

    Tansey said on Wednesday that no one was immediately available for an interview but that the need to protect the privacy of the claimants and others involved in the claims process was "constantly reinforced with all adjudicators."

    "Respecting the privacy of IAP claimants and the details of their claims, is one of the most important aspects of our work at the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat."

    "We will work closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to determine the appropriate course of action, if and when that is necessary, as more information becomes available to us," Tansay said.

    Both Valcourt and Tansay will be attending the final event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Edmonton on Thursday.


  176. First Nations must turn the page on residential schools

    by SHAWN ATLEO, Contributed to The Globe and Mail March 31 2014

    Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has held its final public event, and I was honoured to be there.

    The TRC was set up for former students of Indian residential schools to tell their stories, to raise awareness about the tragic reality of the schools and to help us all move toward reconciliation. But although the final event finished Sunday in Edmonton, this is not the end of our collective journey to reconciliation.

    Almost six years ago, I sat in the House of Commons as Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered the apology to former residential school students on Canada’s behalf. I remember his words. I remember the flood of words and emotions flowing from our people. I remember the words of then-national chief Phil Fontaine, responding to the apology and speaking of this “dreadful chapter in our shared history” and the need to face the “darkest moments.”

    And I remember the words of my grandmother, who sat next to me, holding my hand, and whispering: “Grandson, they are just beginning to see us.” She told me about a dream she had of trying to turn a dark page, a heavy page. Too heavy. She knew it would take many people to turn it, for it was a page in the same dark chapter Mr. Fontaine referred to.

    I have spoken many times about what is required for Canada to reconcile with First Nations, of the need to respect and recognize us as peoples and respect and implement our inherent rights, treaties and title.

    But at the final TRC event in Edmonton, my thoughts turned to what reconciliation means for and requires from First Nations. This work affects me in my role as National Chief but also as an individual. I know about abuse and experiments carried out on innocent children – some within my own family – and the resulting deep intergenerational trauma. I know that trauma.

    Through the pride of our culture and the strength of our ancestors, we can begin to move out from that embedded sense of trauma, move out from the darkness into the light of confidence in our future.

    Through the truth, we must free ourselves from the bonds of anger and hate. We will never forget. But we must not burden another generation with anger and pain. We can give them the strength of our spirit, our songs, our languages and our cultures.

    continued below

  177. Children are at the very centre of our cultures, our homes and families. We can once again capture that deep care and concern for children. It starts with forgiveness within our own families – forgiveness in order to stop holding on to the pain and the suffering, so that we do not pass this on any longer.

    Forgiveness is not forgetting. Those experiences and the pain they caused teach us about not being victimized again and about not victimizing others. This learning will help us heal and it’s needed to rebuild our families, our ways of knowing and learning and of education. This is not about absolving responsibility – rather, it is something internal, a sign of strength. It can free us and empower us to move forward. It begins with our commitment to break the cycle.

    We will take control of our lives, lands and governments. We will achieve First Nations control of First Nations education, a goal of our people ever since the first group of children were taken away to residential school – never again! We will take control not because of government, but because of our rights and our responsibilities, our support for one another and, most of all, because of our children. We will have the courage to do the hard work within our communities and with other governments. If our communities have been set up to fail, then we will push ourselves to answer: What will it take to succeed?

    This is our time to put the next generation first – to listen to them, to nurture them. And in their hands, our cultures, our languages and our well-being will flourish.

    All those things they tried to take from us in the past, we will gift to the next generation. That is our ultimate response to the residential schools, our ultimate act of truth-telling: to say, “We are still here.”

    The new dawn is here. It is in the eager eyes of young children who want to learn, who want to know who they are, who want to know their story, their songs, their spirituality, the beauty of their people. Each and every one of us must be ready to see this beauty so we can act and shape change now within our families and our communities.

    Just as my grandmother said: “They are just beginning to see us.” I believe she was also alluding to the truth that we, too, as a people are beginning to “see” again.


  178. Yukon working on release of residential school records

    CBC News April 03, 2014

    The Yukon government says it can provide much of the information the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is asking about deaths of residential school students in the territory.

    The Yukon legislature voted unanimously Wednesday to help the Truth and Reconciliation Commission find the answers to questions it has about the deaths of residential school students in the territory.

    The last school in Yukon closed in 1969. But Kim Murray, the commission's executive director says very little is known about the children who died in them over many decades of operation.

    Murray says there are still many questions about residential schools in Yukon.

    "Those questions are who died, how they died and where they're buried," she says.

    The spokeperson for the Yukon Cabinet Office, Elaine Schiman, says the government has been speaking with the commission this week and believes it can provide answers.

    She says the government can give the names of the students who died and when they died, as well as their burial place. Schiman says it can't provide the cause of death, but it will give aggregate totals such as what percentage of students died from what illness.

    Only family members in Yukon are allowed to inquire about the cause of death of residential school students. Researchers and others have to wait for 100 years before information about the death of a student will be released.

    Murray says the law is one of the most restrictive in the country. The wait in B.C. by comparison is 10 years.

    Opposition New Democrat MLA Kevin Barr brought forward the motion. He says it's important that the questions be answered.

    "It still amazes me with how many Canadians are unfamiliar with what happened in the schools, and still today do not know what happened to them. This is why we must proceed and finish this business for true healing to happen," Barr says.


    Related: At least 3,000 died in residential schools, research shows http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/at-least-3-000-died-in-residential-schools-research-shows-1.1310894

  179. Privacy laws stifle Yukon’s truth and reconciliation

    Information on exactly who died of what while at residential schools is subject to Yukon privacy laws

    CBC News April 07, 2014

    Yukon government officials are now sorting through hundreds of documents for information on how residential school students died in Yukon.

    It's for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but it won’t be easy to get the full picture.

    "We can give them the name, the date of birth and the date of death, the place of death and the place of burial,” says Pat Living, a government spokesperson.

    The government can also provide statistics about cause of death — for example, how many died of tuberculosis — but exactly who died of what is subject to Yukon privacy laws.

    "We'll be able to say, well 20 of those people died from accidental deaths, 30 per cent from tuberculosis, you know, that kind of thing,” Living says. “So, they will be able to determine the number and causes, but they won't be able to link a specific cause to a specific individual.”

    The TRC says it understands, and will be happy to take what it can get.

    But the issue has caught the attention of Yukon's Information and privacy commissioner.

    Diane McLeod-McKay says Yukon needs a provision to override privacy laws when there's a clear public interest.

    "I think it's something they should consider,” she says. “So they don't run into problems where there is clearly a compelling public interest to have access to information that would otherwise be exempted from disclosure."

    The government is reviewing the Commissioner's suggestion.

    But McLeod-Mckay says any change to the law would likely be too late for the TRC's needs.

    Government spokesperson Pat Living says it will take time to sift the information out of hundreds of documents and, without giving a timeline, said it is a priority.

    The Yukon Legislature voted last week to help the TRC find whatever information it needs.


  180. Reconciliation not opportunity to 'get over it': Justice Murray Sinclair

    By Murray Sinclair, special to CBC News April 18, 2014

    The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair is the chair of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

    Now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's seventh and final national event is over, some have asked, "What's next?"

    From the perspective of the commission, while our major public events are over, the mandate of the commission is not. The most significant item remaining has to do with reconciliation — and developing a process that engages aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in that dialogue, not just for the remaining year but on into the future as well.

    The commissioners have constantly reminded people that the achievement of reconciliation, however one defines it, within the lifetime of the commission was not a realistic ambition.

    We have pointed out that Indian residential schools were around for over 100 years, and that several generations of children went through the schools during their time. The damage that the schools inflicted on their lives and the lives of the members of their families and communities will take also generations to fix.

    The loss of language and culture, the impacts on family function, the devastation to self-identity, the loss of respect for education, and the loss of faith and trust in Canada's government will take many years to overcome, and will only be achieved with a focus on a vision for a new relationship and a commitment to behavioural change and positive action.

    Not an opportunity to convince aboriginal people to 'get over it'

    Engaging Canada in a commitment to that change will require Canadians to see and accept that this is not an aboriginal problem but is a Canadian one —​ partially because Canada has a reputation that needs fixing, but also because all Canadians have been taught to believe in the negative stereotypes of Canada's indigenous people in our public schools, and that long term racism needs to be brought to a halt.

    A commitment to change will also call upon Canadians to realize that reconciliation is not a new opportunity to convince aboriginal people to "get over it" and become like "everyone else." That is, after all, what residential schools were all about and look how that went.

    It is an opportunity for everyone to see that change is needed on both sides and that common ground must be found. We are, after all, talking about forging a new relationship, and both sides have to have a say in how that relationship develops or it isn't going to be new.

    Canada's unilateral use of law to define and limit that relationship is a vessel that can no longer hold water, so a discussion between equals must occur.

    True change will come in our daily interactions

    However, in addition to the grand dialogue about reconciliation that such an approach will entail, we also have to talk about reconciliation at the personal, and family and community level. That is where true change will occur, for it is in our daily lives where we seek and, hopefully, find peace.

    Our leaders need to show the way, but no matter how many deals and agreements they make, it is in our daily conversations and interactions that our success as a nation in forging a better place, will ultimately be measured. It is what we say to and about each other in public and in private that we need to look at changing.

    We're not going to change all that in the next year, but we plan on doing what we can to make people think about it.

    Because, when this commission ends, it's going to be all up to you.


  181. Huge number of records to land on Truth and Reconciliation Commission's doorstep

    Last year, federal government was ordered to compile and organize all relevant documents for review

    The Canadian Press April 22, 2014

    After nearly four years of public hearings and with the clock ticking on a final report into the legacy of physical and sexual abuse at Indian residential schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is about to get a pile of new documents.

    The development comes more than a year after an Ontario court ordered the federal government to hand over reams of material to the commission.

    The inquiry was supposed to end in July, but its mandate has been has been extended by a year.

    Even with the extra time, researchers are still under the gun to sort through the latest additions to the millions of documents the government has already provided. Early estimates have tens of thousands of boxes sitting in storage at four different Library and Archives Canada locations.

    "Preliminary estimates identify up to 60,000 boxes of material ... requiring review," says a procurement notice.

    "A significant portion of these documents are not available in a digitized and searchable format, which is a requirement for the disclosure of documents to the TRC."

    The contract to put the documents into such a format is expected to run until July 2015, when the commission comes to a close.

    The commission's executive director, Kimberly Murray, said she expects documents will still be coming in next summer.

    "All I know is, there will be documents still coming to the TRC probably until the day we're done," she said.

    Murray said she has some concerns about the way in which the work will unfold. For months, commission staff have worked at Library and Archives searching for key documents.

    That will change when researchers from an outside company take over the work this summer. Then the commission will no longer know what documents are being left behind, said Murray.

    According to the procurement notice, the hired researchers will only be required to look through half a box before moving on to the next one -- a guideline Murray finds troubling.

    "I think they're expecting too much from researchers to do in one day, but I also see they're not asking the researchers to review the entire box," she said.

    "What if they review 50 per cent of the box and they don't find any documents? (It) doesn't mean there isn't any in the other half."

    continued below

  182. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's office said an extra year is sufficient time for the work to be completed.

    "Our government has provided the TRC with close to $1.8 million to conduct research at Library and Archives Canada," Valcourt spokeswoman Erica Meekes wrote in an email.

    "In addition, we will be providing a further $1.8 million in funding to the TRC to ensure the continued flow of documents until the third-party contract is in place."
    Under Sinclair, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission visited more than 300 communities after it began its work in Winnipeg in June 2010. It held its seventh and final formal public hearing at the end of March.

    Over the years, the commission heard from thousands of survivors of the residential school system. About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were taken from their families and forced to attend the church-run schools over much of the last century. The last school, outside Regina, closed in 1996.

    The children, the commission heard, were sent hundreds or thousands of kilometres from home. Many were kept largely isolated from their families, sometimes for years.

    Siblings were separated and punished for showing any affection to one another. Survivors talked of constant hunger, beatings and whippings and sexual abuse. Many died of disease or unexplained causes. Some killed themselves.

    The damage done to those who did survive was often lasting. In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the churches that ran the schools and the federal government. The $1.9-billion settlement of that suit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the creation of the commission.

    But a dispute arose between Ottawa and the commission over millions of government documents the commission says it needs to fulfil its core mandate. The government maintained it had no obligation to provide the
    records in Library and Archives Canada.

    In January 2013, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered the federal government to compile and organize all relevant documents for review by the commission.


  183. Little justice available for jailed Indigenous population

    Canada's prison population is at an all-time high, and Aboriginal people make up a disproportionate number of people in jail. Former inmates spoke of discrimination against Indigenous peoples and the unresolved legacy of residential schools and colonization.

    by Aasim Raza, Vancouver Observer April 27th, 2014

    “I was homeless, and I needed money for dope, so I forced myself into a person's house," said Ailen Sigo, speaking of the break-in that landed her in jail when she was a teenager.

    Sitting in a chair at the halfway house, Sigo rocked her body side to side as she reminisced. She is a thin Aboriginal woman in her mid-forties, with sunken cheeks and emaciated fingers. Her body tells the story of years of suffering with heavy drug use and going for days on end without food.

    "I was found guilty on a technical basis, and given a choice to either go to the psych ward or the overnight holding cell."

    She chose, at the time, the overnight holding cell.

    "I did not want to be detained at the psych ward for any amount of time," she said. "I voluntarily admitted (to my crime) so that I could avoid any kind of police brutality that happens a lot with Native people.”

    Aboriginal people make up only 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population. Yet they form nearly a quarter of population in prison. According to a report released by the Canadian correctional system on March 7, 2013, the First Nation prison population in Canada has risen to 23 per cent, up from 14 per cent 10 years ago.

    Aboriginal levels of incarceration in Canadian prisons have never been higher. In fact, nation-wide rates of imprisonment are worse per capita for the native population than black Africans during apartheid South Africa.

    The stories of First Nations in Vancouver who have been incarcerated reveal the legacy of racism and colonization that continues to reverberate today.

    "The suppression of Aboriginal culture was a significant factor in causing me to feel marginalized from an early age," said Darryl Begay, a 60-year-old Aboriginal man who received a life sentence for second-degree murder.

    "I was never able to fit in, not being able to finish high school, and living a life of crime on the streets and getting involved in drugs," he said.

    At the young age of 16, Begay went to jail for the first time, and got life sentence for committing second-degree murder. Now 60, Begay is disabled, sickly and weak from the cancer he contracted while in prison.

    “I went to jail because I committed a crime for drugs," said recovering drug addict Donna Pratt. "I went for counselling for many years, but I still ended up committing a crime because no one wanted to hear me.”

    Apologies toward First Nations not backed up by funding

    In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took the step of apologizing to Canada's First Nations for this country's role in the Indian residential school system, which is believed to have played a major role in the high rate of aboriginal incarceration.

    "His apology at the time looked genuine, but the results are yet to be seen,” said Aiyana White, manager at the halfway house.

    Aiyana observers that in the six years after Harper's apology, little efforts have been made to bring justice to First Nations. What has happened instead is the justice system increasingly filling up with Aboriginal inmates.

    According to Mike Larsen, co-managing editor of the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons, Aboriginal people and Aboriginal women in particular are not only over-represented, but are also the fastest growing population sentenced to federal prisons. Among women offenders, the over-representation is even more drastic -- one in three women that receive federal sentencing are of aboriginal descent, according to Statistics Canada.

    continued below

  184. In a report published by the federal correctional investigator Howard Sapers in 2009, the federal government spends just 2 per cent of its federal prison budget on aboriginal programs. Due to the lack of funding to address the problem, some people doubt the sincerity of the Harper government's apology and intent to correct past historical injustices done to Aboriginal people.

    In some parts of the country, First Nations are vastly overrepresented. Despite making up just 11 per cent of the total population in Saskatchewan, Aboriginals made up nearly 80 per cent of the prison population in the province in 2009.

    Speaking of her own experience, Pratt said the situation would not improve until Canada committed to healing the social and psychological damage caused by residential schools, where children were abused and taken away from their families.

    “You are never going to have enough healing, especially for those people who want to deal with the traumas of residential school," Pratt said.

    In a move to provide equal justice under law to the Aboriginal people, the Supreme Court of Canada established the Gladue Court, not only to purge systemic racism, but also equip the judges with discretionary powers to address issues sensitive to the historical plight of aboriginal people.

    The overall response to the ruling has been sporadic and irregular, however.

    If a person of Aboriginal descent is incarcerated for a wrong reason, they have access to the Gladue Court to defend themselves, in theory. But in reality, many First Nations are being incarcerated for their crime without further consideration.

    “I was denied a Gladue," said Donna Pratt. She said her lawyer did not want the judge to know that she was Native because she was afraid that the judge would be harsher if that was found out. When Pratt requested for a review of judgement while waiting for her sentence, she was denied her rights to Gladue Court. "By the time I had them listen to me that was too late, the statute of limitation was up. It is a very common practice,” added Pratt.

    Larsen said some 60 per cent of prisoners in Manitoba's provincial jails are Aboriginal, while 70 per cent of women in provincial jails and 75 per cent of juveniles in Winnipeg's detention centres are of this group.

    The office of the correctional investigator detailed that, as of February 2013, 23.2 per cent of the federal inmate population is Aboriginal (First Nation, Métis or Inuit).

    But Larsen said the statistics do not tell the full story. Though statistics indicate that Aboriginal people have a high concentration in jails and higher tendency to get involved in crime, part of that is due to Canada's legacy of colonialism, Larsen said.

    Larsen believes that most of the problems increase because of the way Aboriginal people have been historically mistreated by Canada's justice system. "It's our lack of understanding of traditional values, and imposition of Canadian justice system on Aboriginal culture that was never embracing," Larsen said. "The use of retributive system, as opposed to restorative system process."

    Ahluwalia said the only way Canadian government can alleviate the problem is by creating meaningful dialogue with Aboriginal people, honouring their treaties and fiduciary responsibilities, which she said the Canadian state has unfortunately never met.

    "Unless the Canadian government chooses to deal with the Aboriginal peoples’ issue through a proper channel and not through the tribal politics, nothing will change for the better," added Ahluwalia.

    (Names of former inmates have been changed to protect individuals' privacy).


  185. Residential school memoir receives book award for social awareness

    Chief Bev Sellars won the 2014 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness for her book They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School.

    by Monica Miller, Vancouver Observer May 3rd, 2014

    Bev Sellars, chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake, authored They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School, a powerful memoir about abuse and recovery. Published last May, the book tells the story of Sellar's attendance at St. Joseph’s Mission, a Catholic-run residential school south of Williams Lake. Recently, the book received the 2014 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness.


    “This book took me a lifetime of experience to write, not all of it good times because of my residential school experiences,” stated Sellars at Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in September 2013. The publication of They Called Me Number One unintentionally coincided with the TRC where Sellars entered her book as part of the public archive.

    They Called Me Number One (Talonbooks, 2013) recounts the systemic abuse the children suffered, from hunger, forced labour, physical beatings, and “also of the demand for conformity in a culturally alien institution where children were confined and denigrated for failure to be White and Roman Catholic.” Soon after they arrived at residential school the children were assigned a number, which the nuns, priests, and staff used instead of their names. Sellars was number 1 on the girls’ side, and her grandmother and mother have never forgotten their numbers.

    Under school principal Hubert O’Conner, Sellars attended the school for five years, beginning at the age of seven in 1962. Sellars was the third generation to be forced to attend the residential school. Her grandmother, born in 1896, spent nine years at the school, and her mother spent ten years there, from 1931 at age six. St. Joseph’s Mission was active until 1981, and once closed, many survivors returned to smash windows, tear apart walls, and physically destroy anything they could. Bishop O’Conner was charged in 1996 with sex-related offenses in the 1960s on two young aboriginal women.

    “Through my book I also wanted to provide a voice for those who did not make it. Like my brother Bobby. Or for those who are still alive but yet to find their voice. I hope my book will encourage them to tell all the stories that need to be told.”

    Chief of the Xat’sull First Nation since 1987, Sellars is a former adviser for the BC Treaty Commission. She has a history degree from the University of Victoria and a law degree from the University of British Columbia.

    “Mine is one story and the sad reality is that my story is one of the better ones. I have survived and done very well in my later life. But many, and even those in my own family, have not.”

    The George Ryga Award for Social Awareness is one of the six annual book prizes presented by BC BookWorld in partnership with other associations. The other five awards are the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award, the Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Book on British Columbia, the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service award, and the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award. The 2014 awards were presented this spring.


  186. Residential school survivors fear testimony could be made public

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission wants to archive abuse stories, says it would protect the records

    CBC News May 15, 2014

    Survivors of Indian residential schools are furious that their personal stories of abuse might become public, despite having been guaranteed confidentiality.

    They shared excruciating details of their time at the schools in closed-door hearings as part of a claims process. Now, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is asking an Ontario Superior Court whether it can include those stories as part of its National Research Centre.

    Phil Gattensby went to a residential school and has worked as a support worker to other survivors in about 50 proceedings. For his part, he is comfortable telling his story to anyone as part of his healing. But he understands that others feel differently.

    "One of them said that if he knew ahead of time people would be putting his story out into a public domain, or whatever you want to call it, that he wouldn't have told his story," Gattensby told CBC News.

    The commission says the government doesn't intend to destroy the records, so the National Research Centre is "the safest and most respectful place to protect those records."

    "The government has decided to send some of these records to Library and Archives Canada, where they will be kept permanently and eventually made available to the public," Kimberly Murray, the commission's executive director, said in a statement.

    "The NRC has the governance structure to ensure aboriginal control over its own records. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission agrees with survivors that the private medical records of survivors submitted during the [process] should be rendered permanently inaccessible to anyone, including government officials."

    Confidentiality assured

    More than 20,000 people have gone before an adjudicator in a quasi-judicial private hearing, encouraged by the commission to meet the problem head-on by telling their stories.

    Many had no desire to go public with the harrowing details of abuse at Indian residential schools as part of a process to seek compensation for abuse and harm they suffered.

    Survivors, the lawyers, the adjudicator and any family or support workers in the hearings have to sign a confidentiality agreement. Hence the surprise when the commission — the body mandated to contribute to reconciliation — said it wanted those stories archived in its National Research Centre.

    "They are quite upset," said Peter Grant, a lawyer for survivors. "Every single person we talked to has said, 'No, this is my story. I don't want this story made public.'"

    The commission says it is simply trying to clarify how the records from the hearings should be treated. It argues that the research centre is the safest and most respectful place to protect those records.

    But Grant said that even if the commission promises to seal the documents in the archive, archives usually become public eventually. And if that happens, what little trust survivors have left will be gone.

    "All of the promises made to them would be, in effect, broken," Grant said.

    Gattensby said that if the commission wants to put the stories in an archive, they should have to get permission from each and every survivor.

    The court will hear the case in July.


  187. Residential schools adjudicator asks for crackdown on lawyers

    ‘It is just so sad and so disappointing and so wrong,' says northern lawyer Donna Oliver

    CBC News May 07, 2014

    Former residential school students in the North are being taken advantage of by some form filling companies and law firms, according to some Northern lawyers.

    Aboriginal people are eligible for payments under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement for serious abuses experienced at the schools.

    But lawyers say former students are losing thousands of dollars in exorbitant fees paid to companies that fill out the forms to help them apply for the money.

    "We have vulnerable people who are already victimized and for the most part lawyers are doing a really good job, and then you have these few lawyers that everyone is going to remember, and it is just so sad and so disappointing and so wrong, " said Donna Oliver, a lawyer who represents former students in the Northwest Territories.

    Dan Shapiro, chief adjudicator of the Residential Schools Settlement, has asked a judge to stop lawyers and other agencies collecting the excess fees.

    A hearing was held April 25 in Winnipeg.

    "It's a very serious concern for me because former students that were abused physically, sexually and emotionally in residential school... don't have a good understanding of the legal process that they are involved in," Shapiro told the CBC.

    "There are language barriers, and unfortunately some lawyers and form fillers sought to take advantage of these claimants for their own benefit."

    Some claimants were charged an additional 25 per cent of their claim, on top of any legal fees they may have had to pay. The average award in the process is $100,000, so the figures are significant.

    Shapiro said some of the stories from affidavits presented at the hearing were disturbing.

    "In one case the claimant was in very ill health, was getting chemotherapy treatment," he said.

    "When they got to their lawyer's office, after paying their lawyer bill, there was then someone there waiting from the form filling agency to demand payment of their bill and in fact to follow them to their bank and ensure they provided a bank draft while they were there. So, very disturbing and coercive practices were taking place where people felt that they didn't have any choice but to pay these additional fees."

    Federal rules state that if there are administrative fees for form filling, the lawyer is responsible for paying those fees — not the claimant.

    Oliver said she hopes these lawyers and form fillers will be prevented from dealing with former residential school students in the future.

    "If there are claimants out there who know that the lawyer who is representing them has hired form fillers or who has asked form fillers to meet with them, they need to get in contact with a reputable lawyer to get the right representation," she said.

    There is no word yet on when the judge will make his decision.


  188. Educational payouts to residential school survivors drawing criticism and sparking painful memories


    VANCOUVER — Carla Robinson’s mother was sexually abused as a child attending two Indian residential schools in British Columbia, but her father dodged that system and encouraged both his daughter and her children to pursue higher education.

    The decades-old torment for her mother, however, has resurfaced to produce fresh anger and suspicion after the Robinson family learned a $3,000 education credit offered as part of the residential schools settlement may not be used as tuition for her 12-year-old granddaughter’s private arts school.

    Many more survivors also fear they won’t be able to access the money.

    Robinson’s case is one among hundreds of wide-ranging complaints expressed by First Nations families across Canada since a January announcement that remaining compensation from the $1.9 billion settlement fund would be dispersed for educational purposes. A dedicated information line, set up to help survivors making their claim, has also received more than 9,300 calls to date.

    The notion that reconciliation could be fostered through education, when that was the source of so much trauma for her mother, further appals Robinson, who lives on the Six Nations reserve near Brantford, Ont.

    “It’s like in The (novel) Hunger Games, where you’re like ‘Haha, you win the opportunity because you’re a survivor to go fight the other survivors from previous Hunger Games.”’

    Just under $300 million remained after compensation cheques were sent to almost 80,000 former students aimed at resolving claims of abuse at more than 130 Canadian residential schools. Those students, many now elderly, are eligible for non-cash personal education credits that can be used or transferred to a spouse, sibling, child or grandchild.

    But the plan has raised the ire of many survivors, who’ve flooded an aboriginal advocacy group with upset telephone calls and condemned the dispersal at community gatherings and in online postings.

    Much of the outcry has been fielded by the Residential Indian School Survivors Society in North Vancouver, which has taken about a dozen emotional calls daily since the New Year.

    “We’ve had a lot of complaints because people have said, ‘Well, I don’t have grandchildren and my kids aren’t interested in going to school, so why can’t we just get the money?”’ said Maxine Windsor, with the society.

    “There’s all kinds of feedback, and it’s people just getting triggered (emotionally) one way or the other, due to the abuse at the schools.”

    Survivors are struggling through the multi-page application due to low literacy levels, are frustrated by a tight Oct. 31 deadline, and have suspicions of two trust funds where any remaining cash will be funnelled, Windsor said.

    She also said some people claim they were short-changed in the initial compensation, and then there are the concerns about the potential emotional toll of urging people to seek education when its institutions were the bedrock of trauma.

    continued below

  189. Even when survivors want to direct their credit to a school, some have found their institutions aren’t eligible.

    Robinson made that discovery when she attempted to transfer the credit from her 69-year-old mother, Winnie, who now lives in Kitimat, B.C., to her daughter Leenah. There’s an appeal process, but Robinson notes that means more paperwork without any guarantees.

    The credit was conceived as part of the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement negotiated by the federal government, Assembly of First Nations and Inuit representatives.

    More than $1.6 billion was distributed from the main settlement, leaving survivors up to $3,000 each to be sent directly to educational institutions. The B.C. Supreme Court approved the terms in October 2013, and application packages were mailed to survivors in January.

    “The important message is that’s a clause that everybody agreed on, it was determined a long time ago,” said Valerie Hache, spokeswoman for the federal Aboriginal Affairs Ministry.

    Hache said she has heard indirect word of unhappiness and confusion.

    “I just don’t quite understand where it’s coming from. I just think it’s too bad,” she said. “I’ve heard something similar like people saying they didn’t really know how that whole thing was working. I thought it was pretty clear.”

    Assembly of First Nations CEO Peter Dinsdale said the organization received mixed feedback, with positive responses including a fund-pooling proposal by the Gwich’in Tribal Council in the Nothwest Territories town of Inuvik for a culture camp.

    But people have also been requesting the money be made available more broadly and over a longer time period, he said.

    “We’re sympathetic to all those things, I think they’re very real challenges. We want to be sure survivors can use this to their maximum benefit,” he said. “But for our purposes where we are today, this is a part of the settlement agreement — we’re trying to implement it to the fullest range possible with the most options possible.”

    Unclaimed funds will be transferred in early 2015 to the National Indian Brotherhood Trust Fund and Inuvialuit Education Foundation, for educational purposes that have not been specified. Their executive boards will determine how it will be spent, Dinsdale said.

    Survivors may also pool credits for group learning activities, although the society’s executive director, Cindy Tom-Lindley, said they’ve heard no favourable response to the option while they had numerous requests for assistance workshops.

    Eight liaison officers have been hired between the AFN and Inuit organizers to help the credit administrator, Crawford Class Action Services. Almost 2,000 credit claims have been received so far.


  190. Form filling fees for residential school claims illegal: judge

    The Canadian Press June 09, 2014

    A Manitoba judge says extra fees charged to former residential school students by companies that fill out forms were in many cases illegal and in some cases unconscionable.

    The ruling by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Perry Schulman affects more than 30 lawyers and agencies across Canada and will result in some survivors reimbursed for fees they paid.

    "Given my view of the correct legal characterization of agreements between form-fillers and ... claimants, I have concluded that those agreements are presumptively void and unenforceable," Schulman wrote in his decision released last week.

    "Apart from considerations of illegality, agreements to pay form fillers in circumstances of unequal bargaining power and where an improvident deal was made, such as the two examples in the record before this court, are unconscionable."

    The case was brought before the court by the Independent Assessment Process, the organization that awards settlements in Indian residential school abuse cases. It said some victims were being overcharged.

    Lawyers are entitled to a maximum legal fee of 30 per cent of an award, with the claimant and the federal government each chipping in half. But many claimants were paying additional fees to agencies that helped complete their paperwork.

    Schulman ruled the bulk of that work should have been done by lawyers at no extra charge.

    "In short, many of the services performed by form-fillers as outlined in the evidentiary record before me are within the role of claimant's counsel."

    Schulman has declared null and void all agreements in which claimants are required to pay contingency fees to form-fillers, or to pay form-fillers through any means for legal work that should be done by lawyers.

    He has given companies 30 days to respond to a proposed further order that survivors can be charged nothing other than legal fees.

    Schulman has also ordered a review to establish a way to reimburse claimants for form-filling costs.

    The $5-billion residential schools settlement agreement is believed to be the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. It is designed to resolve claims of abuse at more than 130 residential schools across the country.


  191. Indian residential school claimants stalled by document search

    Requests for mandatory documents overwhelm hospitals, leave survivors in limbo

    By Martha Troian, CBC News June 09, 2014

    Thousands of former Indian residential school survivors are still waiting to begin the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) — an out-of-court procedure for those who experienced sexual, physical or other serious abuses at residential schools.

    According to the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat, which oversees the hearings, the collection of mandatory documents has been identified as the most significant barrier to scheduling more hearings.

    This process was set up in 2007. Currently there are 8,209 claims that are still waiting for a scheduled hearing. Over 50 per cent of these applications are being held up because they lack mandatory documents, the most common being medical records.

    John Edwards is one of many survivors who is unable to proceed with his IAP hearings because he is missing mandatory documents.

    When he was just a child, Edwards lost both his parents to tuberculosis. He was taken from his home on the Attawapiskat First Nation and forced to attend the notorious St. Anne's Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont.

    “It wasn’t only the missionaries that abused the students," Edwards recalled. “The abuse was rampant even among students.”

    Edwards spent six years at St. Anne's. Now at the age of 60, Edwards has waited nearly six years for compensation. His case is on hold because his file is still missing medical records​

    “They’re pretty slow around the James Bay area,” said Edwards.

    Hospitals swamped by requests

    Janice Soltys is the manager of health information services and chief privacy officer at Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, which provides services to six communities along the James Bay and Hudson Bay lowlands.
    “The struggle for us is that a high percentage of population from our communities went to residential schools,” said Soltys.

    According to an affidavit by Soltys, Weeneebayko Health has received over 1,000 IAP requests between 2010 and 2013.

    “We only have one full-time dedicated staff member to do all of the requests.”

    Already the health authority operates in a deficit, and the cost of photocopying and paying overtime or hiring new staff adds to the burden. No money was set aside in the settlement agreement for hospitals.​

    Some of the individual records involve thousands of pages, and some records dating back to the 1930s require extra time for photocopying.

    Weeneebayko Health is also struggling to find some of the necessary documents.

    Before the Weeneebayko Health centre opened in 1950, it was a tuberculosis sanatorium. Records from this time are sketchy. When a Moosonee hospital burned down in 1969, its records were lost. A Fort Albany hospital also burned down, and the status of its records is unknown.

    Edwards fears survivors won't see settlements

    Today, Edwards provides translation services for IAP lawyers and their clients, often hearing tragic stories from aging survivors that mirror his own.

    He fears that survivors are going to die before they receive their settlements.

    The adjudication secretariat has the power to schedule expedited hearings for survivors who are at risk of dying before their hearing. Approximately, 360 claims are being heard on an expedited basis.

    If a survivor dies after a hearing, but before a decision has been issued, the file may continue through the IAP estate claims process.

    But if a survivor passes away prior to a hearing, the claim will not go further.

    Edwards tries not to get frustrated while waiting for his hearing. In the meantime, Edwards can see the inter-generational effects of the residential school system in his community.

    “It’s crisis after crisis and nothing is being done,” said Edwards.


  192. Documents related to St Annes residential school to be released

    Edmund Metatawabin says files from federal government will help support his compensation claim

    CBC News June 11, 2014

    For the second time in the past year, Edmund Metatawabin was in a Toronto courtroom fighting for the documents that help tell his life story.

    Mr. Metatawabin is a survivor of the the St. Anne's Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario. Like many survivors, he's struggled to gather the documents required for his compensation claim.

    "We thought the IAP was a good opportunity, a good chance, a good forum for us to present our case, to educate our children, our grandchildren and Canadian public about what really happened in residential school." said Metatawabin in an interview with CBC's Carol Off.

    Yesterday, Metatawabin's lawyer Fay Brunning argued for the federal government to release documents related to the trial of Anna Wesley. Ms. Wesley was an employee at St. Anne's, and in 1999 she was convicted of administering a noxious substance to children.

    "Anna Wesley was our supervisor and she was there for the 8 years I was there. She was a very cruel woman." said Metatawabin. "She liked to inflict punishment. A slap on the side of the head with her right hand and then her left hand and then both hands over the years. She liked to inflict pain and one of them was forcing children to eat vomit."

    Late yesterday, Brunning said the federal government has now agreed to provide the transcripts in the Anna Wesley trial to the Department of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, where they can be requested by residential school survivors.

    "I find it funny that the federal government, the architect of the residential school have the power to release or keep documents hidden away from people." said Metatawabin.

    This is another chapter in a long fight for the release of documents related to this school. In January, an Ontario judge ordered Ottawa to hand over documents related to abuse at the school.

    Metatawabin is one of thousands of survivors that are still waiting for their Independent Assessment Process (IAP) claims to be processed. The IAP is an out-of-court procedure for those who experienced sexual, physical or other serious abuses at residential schools.

    "IAP process is supposed to be non adversarial but it’s been nothing but adversarial. We’ve been called liars and that we’re making things up and we’re imagining a lot of things." said Metatawabin. "We have no recourse but to go through the courts…which will take years."

    Although some fear that survivors may die before getting their settlements, Metatawabin says he is committed.

    "We have time. We've been here for 10,000 years. We can still be here for 10,000 more."


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

    David Blott and his firm accused of inadequately representing thousands of clients

    CBC News June 13, 2014

    The Law Society of Alberta says a Calgary lawyer revictimized his aboriginal clients and treated them like cattle.

    David Blott was representing about 4,600 people who were applying for compensation for the residential school settlement program.

    Today, those former clients applauded the decision to see Blott stripped of his right to practice law in Alberta.

    Blott offered up his resignation to the law society, avoiding a lengthy disciplinary hearing.

    Clients like Ernie Black Rabbit of the Blood Reserve say they never had a fair shot at compensation for years spent in residential schools.

    "I applied but I didn't get, what got me now is younger kids — way younger than me — they had quite a bit of money and they mentioned someone here got $180,000 — I didn't get any," said Black Rabbit.

    “I would really like him to help me like everybody else."

    Blott and his firm are accused of taking on thousands of clients and not properly serving them. The clients were described as treated "like cattle" on "an assembly line."

    Black Rabbit says he never spoke to a lawyer and never approved the application form submitted by Blott's law firm.

    He was denied compensation, despite 10 years in a residential school.

    A disappointment, since some settlements were as high as a quarter million dollars.

    Connie Calling Last did receive an award, but says she took home less than half of it.

    "Look what happened, who is rich? Him. I'm not rich, I'm still poor out of what he did."

    Class-action lawsuit

    Blott still faces a class-action lawsuit, which will be led by Erin Ippolito, a lawyer.

    "The Canadian residential school system was a terrible situation and the trauma that it inflicted on the clients was re-lived and Mr. Blott abused those clients and re-traumatized them," said Ippolito.

    The law society panel recommended the attorney general investigate.


  194. Fate of documents detailing abuse at residential schools undecided

    TRC researcher wants documents kept in national archive but IAP chief says records should be destroyed

    The Canadian Press June 19, 2014

    The head of Canada's national archive dedicated to Indian residential schools says the voices of 40,000 survivors would be silenced if a judge orders their testimony destroyed.

    Ry Moran, director of the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Manitoba, says thousands of survivors told their stories as part of the compensation process.

    The head of the secretariat that co-ordinates compensation claims is arguing that private testimony should be destroyed so it is never made public.

    Dan Shapiro is the chief adjudicator of the Independent Assessment Process (IAP). In a press release, he said, "Promises of confidentiality were properly made to claimants. These promises must be kept."

    "The only way that the confidentiality of participants can be respected and their dignity preserved is through the destruction of all IAP records after the conclusion of the compensation process.”

    Terri Brown is a residential school survivor and also serves on an advisory board for the TRC.

    She said, "I think it is wrong to destroy them... I know it's not an arbitrary process, Dan (Shapiro) has thought about this and of how it protects, but I'm of another mind. It's the true record of what happened to us, once it's destroyed, it's gone forever."

    Steven Cooper is a lawyer who has worked with hundreds of survivors. He is concerned that there could be serious consequences for survivors if the documents are not destroyed.
    "It is dishonest at best and abusive at worst. At the very least many will lose sleep and this will affect their healing. For some, it will re-open old wounds and old fears."

    Arguments over the fate of the emotional evidence are to be made before an Ontario judge next month.

    Moran says the commission has documents from churches and government, but he adds the oral history of aboriginal people is fundamental.

    He says if that testimony were housed in the national research centre, it would be treated with the utmost respect and no survivor would ever be unwillingly identified.


  195. Alberni residential school memorial vandalism shocks survivor

    by Wawmeesh G. Hamilton - Alberni Valley News July 17, 2014

    Police are on the lookout for whoever vandalized a memorial commemorating Alberni Indian Residential School survivors.

    The incident occurred on June 27 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., RCMP Cpl. Scott MacLeod said.

    Calls to the Tseshaht First Nation weren’t returned by deadline.

    One of the figures depicting a child was torn from its base, and some of the other figures were scratched. Dirt was strewn around the bottom of the memorial.

    The memorial was created by Tseshaht artist Connie Watts and was underwritten with a grant and money from the Tseshaht First Nation.

    The piece is located on the Tseshaht reserve on the site of the former Alberni Indian Residential School.

    The piece is circular with a roof and has a central pole with sub-poles supporting a winged roof meant to collect and channel away tears. The poles are adorned with steel child figures and the cement base has children’s handprints on the surface.

    AIRS opened in 1891. It burned down twice: in 1917 and 1937, and was rebuilt in 1920 and 1939. The school closed in 1973. Federal policy required that aboriginal children attend residential schools for 10 months out of the year.

    The vandalism shocked Huu-ay-aht First Nation member Benson Nookmis, 79, who attended AIRS from 1932-1947.

    “You’re kidding me – someone actually did that? That’s terrible,” Nookmis said.

    Nookmis said he wasn’t initially aware that a memorial had been created. “But I’m honoured to know that someone did something like that for us,” he said.

    The vandalism is senseless and resonates more so in survivors, Nookmis said. “I guess it’s because we experienced an awful thing.”

    The vandals might have had a change of heart if they read information on the memorial first. “If they read the plaque they’d have known what it was there for,” Nookmis said. “It’s too bad that people have to do things like this.”

    see a photo of the memorial at:


  196. NOTE: There are numerous articles above that discuss more details of nutrition and other unethical and immoral experiments on captive children.

    A survivor of nutrition experiments in BCs residential school system, Alvin Dixon has died

    CBC News July 21, 2014

    Alvin Dixon remembered being so hungry as a child that he had to steal food. Mr. Dixon was a survivor of the residential school school system, and a victim of a government-run malnutrition experiment. He died yesterday at the age of 77.
    In his first year at the residential school in Port Alberni, B.C, Alvin Dixon said he remembered finding it strange that he had to fill out a spreadsheet detailing his daily meals.

    Whatever he filled out on those forms, it was never enough.

    "We were never full when we left the dining room table," he told As It Happens guest host Rick MacInnes-Rae last year.

    Mr Dixon said he weighed 128 pounds when he graduated high school, about the same as he did decades later as a 76-year-old man recovering from cancer.

    Last year, food historian Ian Mosby published research revealing that Mr Dixon's experience as a child was part of a government run nutrition experiment in residential schools.The experiments involved at least 1,300 aboriginal people, most of them children.

    That it took so long for the experiments to come to light symbolized the wider Canadian public's attitude, Mr Dixon said.

    "Canadians turn a blind eye to all the things that have been done to First Nations people in this country."

    Mr Dixon played a key role in the Truth and Reconciliation hearings. He worked closely with other former students as a member of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society in B.C.

    Alvin Dixon died yesterday in Vancouver, surrounded by his family. He had been diagnosed with cancer several years ago.

    Our original interview with Alvin Dixon first aired on July 17th 2013.

    listen to the audio podcast at:


  197. Finding Hildas Grave A residential school survivors search for a lost sister


    In March 2014, 81-year-old Inez Dieter journeyed to Edmonton for the final national gathering of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). She had been to a number of regional and national events, but knew that this one would be different. This was a last chance to visit with the community that forms around these events, talk with archives staff, and find open hearts to listen to the story of her time in an Indian residential school.

    Inez’s story of truth and reconciliation reaches back more than seven decades. One of twelve children born to a Métis mother and First Nations father, Inez was all but orphaned at age four after her parents divorce and her mother’s death.

    In 1941, when she was eight, she was sent alone by train to St. Barnabas School in Onion Lake, Saskatchewan, where she would experience the trauma and abuse so tragically familiar in life at residential school.

    In between her mother’s death and her time at St. Barnabas, young Inez lived at a nearby Roman Catholic school. Even years later, she recalls the striking reactions of other children once they discovered her Indigenous identity. “They treated me all fairly until they found out that I was Indian,” she says, “One of the girls said ‘Dance powwow!’ and I didn’t even know the first thing about this, but of course she was a bigger girl so I pretended to dance and that made her keep quiet.”

    On her transition from the Roman Catholic school to Anglican-run St. Barnabas, Inez recalls particularly chilling—and particularly apt—words from a nun, “‘If you ever leave the Catholic church, you’re going to go to hell.’ And her prediction was true, in a way, because when I went to the residential school it was hell.”

    Inez’s account of her time in residential school is peppered with the words ‘mean’ and ‘cruel.’ “It was really terrible. We never had enough to eat . . . that’s where we learned to steal. In that residential school, we broke all of the Ten Commandments.”

    In 1943, St. Barnabas was destroyed by fire and children were sent back to their reserves. At 9-years-old, Inez Dieter entered a new and unfamiliar world. She was sent to live with her father, whom she had not seen since she was a toddler. Her relatives didn’t know about her. “People came around and they were hugging me and they spoke a different language. They spoke Cree. I didn’t understand.”

    continued below

  198. Young Inez settled in with her brother Eli and his wife Gladys. She had fun playing with her niece and enjoyed helping build a mud house on the farm. This reprieve was short-lived. Inez was soon sent back to residential school, this time in Prince Albert, where familiar sights and sounds enveloped her again. “I witnessed a lot of strappings, I witnessed a lot of kids crying,” she remembers.

    At night, Inez would strain to listen to other children speaking Cree. “I’d try to catch on,” she recalls, “because I knew that was my language.”

    As a teenager, Inez and three other girls made a plan to run away. “The situation was really bad,” she remembers, “We never had enough to eat. We were always on our knees, constantly praying.”

    Sneaking down the fire escape one night, the foursome fled. They were caught in short order, punished with a strapping, and told, “If you ever run away again, you’re going to go home in a wooden box.”

    Like many residential schools, boys and girls lived and were educated separately at St. Barnabas. Inez and a brother were on either side of this divide. She was not usually allowed to speak to him, however, she remembers meeting him in a parlour and that “he looked exactly like me.”

    The pair reconnected on a school outing where the children were piled onto a truck “like cattle.” They sat next to each other and he taught her how to say ‘stick’ in Cree.

    In listening to children crying at night, meeting her father’s family, and sacred times with her brother, Inez found fuel for a lifelong appetite to learn Cree. “I wanted that language so bad. I knew it that it was meant for me. My ear was always tuned to hear this Cree because it was such a beautiful, beautiful music.”

    She left St. Barnabas in her late teen years and went to work at a doctor’s office in Fort Qu’Appelle, continued her education, got married, and had six children.

    Today this soft spoken and good-humoured woman struggles with how her time at residential school made intergenerational survivors out of her children. She speaks with sorrow about the cruelty and bitterness and anger that she passed on to them as she tries to understand and heal from her life at St. Barnabas.

    Like many Indian residential school survivors, Inez has done a lot of work for the sake of her own healing and the healing of her family. As an adult, she returned to Indigenous spirituality and ceremonies and now feels at home on her healing path.

    Inez also carries with her a deep compassion for her former teachers at St. Barnabas. “They must have been having hard times and they took it out on us,” she says sympathetically, “They were mean because they had all this work. Probably they were under a lot of stress looking after us, so they stressed us out, too.”

    continued below

  199. Now generations after she left residential school Inez sits near the archive tables in Edmonton and is pensive, “My life has been pretty well fragmented. Now I’m just tying up the pieces . . . getting them together.”

    Two of significant pieces have yet to find their place in the story of Inez Dieter’s life. She is still missing her siblings Hilda and Edward. Like Inez, they attended St. Barnabas. Unlike Inez, they did not survive. They are among the upwards of 4,000 Indigenous children who died in residential schools in Canada. They were not returned to their families, nor has Inez been able to find their graves.


    Saskatchewan Anglicans Roger and Mary-Ann Assaily embody a deep commitment to right relationship, and through this commitment find their own story woven with Inez Dieter’s in providential ways.

    The Assailys first met Inez Dieter at a Regina TRC community hearing, where Inez gave testimony about her time in residential school and of her missing brother and sister. They felt a connection with her because she came from Red Pheasant First Nation, which was quite close to where they lived and worked for some time.

    Months later at the Onion Lake regional hearing, the Assailys remembered Inez and sought help in looking for the graves of Hilda and Edward. Through a few connections, they managed to find a fenced-in, abandoned graveyard nearby the ruins of St. Barnabas Indian residential school.

    In silence, they picked up decaying and knocked over crosses, and scraped thick moss off wooden grave markers revealing the first names of the Indigenous children who lay below.

    They prayed, took some photographs, and left.

    Two years passed. Regional hearings and national TRC events continued. At the last of these in Edmonton, Roger thought to bring photos from that day in the Onion Lake graveyard to Anglican archivist Nancy Hurn.

    While Roger was uploading pictures of the grave markers, Inez wandered by looking for records and photos from her time at St. Barnabas. Roger helped find a binder for her, and Inez shared with him that she had lost a sister and brother there. Since they died before Inez was even born, she was craving any kind of connection with them.

    Roger clicked through a few pictures and as he turned the laptop around said, “This is at the bottom of the hill from the school.” On the screen was a long-forgotten cross that said simply, “Hilda.”

    Inez broke down and began to weep. Roger joined her.

    A journey that began with a small child on a train going across the Prairies, now finds part of its end more than seventy years later in a bustling conference centre—Inez had finally found Hilda’s grave.

    The grave of brother Edward still has not been found. The Assailys plan to go back, keep tidying up graves, and finding more names.