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Canadians tend to be smug about the racial/religious discrimination they observe elsewhere. After all, Canadians never made niggers sit at the back of the bus. We never made kaffirs use separate sidewalks or washrooms. We never systematically exploited people with darker skins as servants or slaves.
They adopted European clothes. They farmed plots of land. They lived in houses. They ate with forks and spoons.
Naomi Ciesielski called her book on the subject, A National Vans Checkerboard Old Skool
Would Canada's aboriginal peoples have been better off, left alone as hunter/gatherers? No one knows, and we can't redo the past. What we can do is recognize the long term legacy of genocidal policies.
Milloy and others have documented how school administrators repeatedly pleaded for more funding from both government and church to improve food, clothing, shelter, textbooks. Over and over, national bureaucrats found higher priorities elsewhere.
Nope, we just tried to eliminate them.
And we did it without wars aside from one small skirmish at Mbt Women's Kisumu Sandal Batoche, in northern Saskatchewan. Instead, we made them invisible by banishing them to remote reserves, typically on land that white settlers considered worthless.
the province paid $642 per capita to the School for the Deaf."
They bought the whole package, in other words. Then, they found they were still not accepted into English society.
The system, wrote former United Church moderator Marion Best, "was designed to move all aboriginal peoples from their "helpless savage state" to "self reliant civilization." Education was deemed the best
These inequities persist. Last year, Maclean's magazine reported, "Aboriginal students on reserves receive about a quarter less funding for their primary school education than other Canadian children."
then, in a misguided attempt to assimilate a stone age culture into an industrial society, we forcibly abducted native children from their families and incarcerated them in concentration camps, euphemistically called "residential schools," where everything "Indian" about them could be extinguished.
Native life expectancy today is at least seven years lower than the national average; its suicide rate three times higher; teenage pregnancies nine times higher; prison incarceration also nine times higher.
"The children should adopt the values of the dominant society: cleanliness, obedience, respect, order, neatness, honesty, thrift, self maintenance, charity, and industry."
Best notes, "In 1938, the per capita grant to for (residential) schools was $180 while in Manitoba Vans Chukka Boot
Disgrace. John Milloy called it A National Crime.
By way of example, Chief Peguis, whose people lived where Winnipeg now stands, tried to help his people assimilate. George Ladd told their story in his book Shall We Gather At The River. Peguis and his people converted to Christianity.
solution. "Take the Indian out of the child" was the slogan.
Best continues, "Those who went home after completing the education that was offered found they did not fit in the aboriginal culture, and they experienced racism in the mainstream culture. They didn't fit in either world."
To our ears today, it sounds genocidal. But it was cultural genocide, not physical. Unlike Germany or Rwanda, there was no intention to slaughter an entire race. Rather, the intent was to assimilate aboriginal people into the only kind of society that religious and government leaders of the time could imagine white, English, and Christian.
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Duncan Campbell Scott, a senior government bureaucrat responsible for aboriginal concerns, identified the priorities of the time: "Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic."
I say that with no disrespect for hundreds of Canadians who did their best within the system. Inevitably, a few adults abused their power. But many others sacrificed their time, their families, and their health, to make life better for the children in their care.But the whole system was racist and ruthless.
The cultural genocide of our past
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