“...the darkest most troubling chapters in our collective history”
June 2, 2015 3:54 PM   Subscribe

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. [Toronto Star] [Autoplay Video]
A heart-wrenching and damning report culminates a six-year examination of residential schools that oversaw the ill-treatment of aboriginal children for more than a century. It pieces together a horrifying history that has been repeatedly dismissed or ignored.

The summary [Scribd] of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

- Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. [PDF] [Text]
- The Survivors Speak: A Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. [PDF] [Text]
- What We Have Learned: Principles of Truth and Reconciliation. [PDF] [Text]
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. [PDF] [Text]

11 key quotes and facts in the TRC final report. [Toronto Star]

Stephen Harper defends aboriginal affairs record in wake of residential schools report. [CBC]
"Canada is one of the very few countries in the world where aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized and that's one of the reasons why the government accepts the UN declaration as an aspirational document,"
For the record: Political leaders on residential schools. [Macleans]
The truth and reconciliation commission on residential schools officially presented 94 recommendations today at an event in Ottawa. Below we’ve posted responses to the commission’s report from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Green party leader Elizabeth May and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.
Commission offers 94 ways to redress ‘cultural genocide’ [Macleans]

Previously. Previously.
posted by Fizz (25 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Canada is one of the very few countries in the world where aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized...
I would recognize Harper in the street. And I'd ignore him, too.
posted by Etrigan at 4:10 PM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Silly Canada. You didn't need to get your own report. You could've just borrowed one of ours. It's not like we're using them.

Anyways, next you'll need some 'targets' so bureaucrats can look busy for a while. Make them 'generational' so you won't be around when you don't meet them. Every once in a while 'realign' some 'strategic priorities' so it looks like you're on top of things. Don't worry too much, though - you can always blame aboriginal people for not doing more to fix things themselves! No need to thank us, mates, we're all one big Commonwealth.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:17 PM on June 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

What a hard read. And what a worthwhile one.
posted by Fraxas at 4:22 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Glad to see the truth getting some attention, even if I don't have a great deal of faith in reconciliation in the immediate future.

My grandmother's brothers spent time in a residential school - one of whom came back one summer with such a severe brain injury that he had to live with my grandmother until he was a senior. Despite knowing this, even I didn't have a grasp on what the residential school system was and meant until I was an adult, because I never heard it acknowledged outside my community. Even now I'll talk to people my own age, early 30's, who'll say that aboriginal people need to stop being mad about things that happened "in the 1700s", because their education skipped straight from the first days of colonization to "Hey, let's watch a video of a pow-wow."
posted by northernish at 4:25 PM on June 2, 2015 [15 favorites]

All of us have a lot of reading to do.

At the very least, go through the Calls to Action link, and see what the commission asks for. Every last one seems fair to me. It's weird to have a document that in its same breath asks for institute training for medical professionals on cultural competency (24) AND for funding to inform families where their children are buried (73). But both of those are important parts of the healing process.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:32 PM on June 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

thank you for this excellent post. I agree, Lemurrhea.

I have been trying to read or listen a bit each day. I found this story on CBC Aboriginal about objects symbolizing reconciliation very touching. I also appreciate this effort to ring Anglican Church bells for the month to recognize all the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Sudbury and Saskatoon.
posted by chapps at 4:40 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I didn't seen it linked - it's worth reading (or watching) Romeo Saganash's remarks yesterday in the House before the TRC report was officially published. Specifically, it's worth noting that the House of Commons, like the house I'm sitting in, like a vast amount of Canada, is on unceded and unsurrendered land.

Not to make it partisan. Saganash is a survivor of the residential schools, so he's a pretty good person to listen to
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:41 PM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

The Survivors Speak document is incredibly wrenching to read, but it should be required reading.

Howard Stacy Jones said he was taken without his parents’ knowledge from a public
school in Port Renfrew, British Columbia, to the Kuper Island school.
"I was kidnapped from Port Renfrew’s elementary
school when I was around six years old, and this
happened right in the elementary schoolyard. And
my auntie witnessed this and another non-Native
witnessed this, and they are still alive as I speak.
These are two witnesses trying, saw me fighting,
trying to get away with, from the two rcmp officers
that threw me in the back seat of the car and drove
off with me...."

And others still to this day are not accounted for, and their families don't know where they're buried. From page 310 (pdf) of the Executive Summary:

Over the course of the Commission’s work, many Aboriginal people spoke to us about
the children who never came home from residential school. The question of what happened
to their loved ones and where they were laid to rest has haunted families and communities.

Throughout the history of Canada’s residential school system, there was no
effort to record across the entire system the number of students who died while attending
the schools each year. The National Residential School Student Death Register, established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, represents the first national effort
to record the names of the students who died at school.

The register is far from complete: there are, for example, many relevant documents that have yet to be received, collected, and reviewed.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:06 PM on June 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

even if I don't have a great deal of faith in reconciliation in the immediate future.

Before true reconciliation can begin we need stop with the genocide out west.
posted by srboisvert at 5:11 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Call to Action
41) We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations,
to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate
victimization of Aboriginal women and girls. The inquiry’s mandate would include:
i. Investigation into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
ii. Links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools.

I would be sadly unsurprised if a lot of these calls to action are met with inaction, but it's absolutely imperative that this one is followed through on.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:18 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

There is a pretty reasonable argument that comes at the MMIW issue from the other side and says that we know what the inquiry would say - we know the causes of the victimization, we know the solutions, we've had the inquiries, and making another one is just a way of delaying. It's a valid argument to be sure, and I'm not sure which side I fall on.

That's the only reasonable excuse for not doing #41, I think.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:32 PM on June 2, 2015

"Before true reconciliation can begin we need stop with the genocide out west."

Which takes us back around to truth.
posted by northernish at 5:41 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I never want to doubt that the genocidal quality of these places--they are our death camps. I was at Congress as this was being delivered, and there was much conversation. Some people who work with elders, noticed that conversations about day schools, un or underschooled aborgional children, and children who went to public schools are being under-represented, as the narrative of the residental school is so horrorific that everything collapses into a singular understanding. Being terribly white, I am not sure what to do about this.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:42 PM on June 2, 2015

I read today, Aboriginal children had a 1 in 25 chance of dying in a residential school.

Soldiers in the Canadian army had a 1 in 26 chance of dying in World War 2.
posted by Rumple at 6:25 PM on June 2, 2015 [12 favorites]

Being terribly white, I am not sure what to do about this.

I hear you and this feeling was anticipayed.

There is also a great Jon Borrows article about responding to the commission, I will try to find it.
posted by chapps at 6:31 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would recognize Harper in the street. And I'd ignore him, too.

Actually Harper is right. And First Nations land claims are impossible to ignore in Canada. Signing treaties is a different matter. Next to impossible, really.
posted by Nevin at 8:12 PM on June 2, 2015

Here is the Jon Borrows article I was thinking of. He talks about listening and learning from different legal traditions. (I have met him as he is a colleague of a friend. If it weren't for this I would have long ago posted his wonderful Ideas Lecture: Fragile Freedoms, which talks about law and love and the Canadian constitution and the possibility to learn from indigenous traditions... )
posted by chapps at 9:10 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

120 First Nations communities are currently under boil water advisories. So we still have a long way to go.

I find it hard to be proud of anything my country did in the first half of the 20th century, given that it also facilitated this barbarism.
posted by dry white toast at 10:35 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I suppose it's unsurprising considering the source (National Post), but check out these assholes if you want to read a hideous and dismissive response to the report.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2015

Thanks for posting this, Fizz. I have been making my way through the report and recommendations for the last day or so. It is a difficult read, but important.

@obiwanwasabi - I get where you are coming from with government inaction and the potential for reports to ignored. We've all seen it happen before. However, wanted to offer the counterpoint that there are bureaucrats that are hopeful that this report will help provide concrete ways forward that we help us be part of the solution and reconciliation efforts, rather than viewed simply as part of a power structure that wants to keep the status quo.
posted by Cyrie at 8:18 AM on June 3, 2015

And First Nations land claims are impossible to ignore in Canada.

In which Canada? They're ignored all the time. Courts rule on them and governments drag their feet.

"Canada is one of the very few countries in the world where aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized"

How about the Kelowna Accords, Harper?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:46 AM on June 3, 2015

The Russel Moses account is front page in the Globe this morning. Here's an excerpt from the Ottawa Citizen (reproduced as the OC tends to be douchebaggy about access):
The policy of the Mohawk Institute was that both girls and boys would attend school for half days and work the other half. This was Monday to Friday inclusive. No school on Saturday but generally we worked.

The normal work method was that the children under Grade V level worked in the market garden in which every type of vegetable was grown and in the main sold – the only vegetables which were stored for our use were potatoes, beans, turnips of the animal fodder variety. The work was supervised by white people who were employed by the Institute and beatings were administered at the slightest pretext. We were not treated as human beings – we were the Indian who had to become shining examples of Anglican Christianity.

I have seen Indian children having their faces rubbed in human excrement, this was done by a gentleman who has now gone to his just reward.

The normal punishment for bed wetters (usually one of the smaller boys) was to have his face rubbed in his own urine.

The senior boys worked on the farm – and I mean worked, we were underfed, ill clad and out in all types of weather – there is certainly something to be said for Indian stamina…

Religion was pumped into us at a fast rate, chapel every evening, church on Sundays (twice). For some years after leaving the Institute, I was under the impression that my tribal affiliation was “Anglican” rather than Delaware.

Our formal education was sadly neglected; when a child is tired, hungry, lice infested and treated as a sub-human, how in heaven’s name do you expect to make a decent citizen out of him or her, when the formal school curriculum is the most disregarded aspect of his whole background? I speak of lice, this was an accepted part of “being Indian” at the Mohawk – heads were shaved in late spring. We had no tooth brushes, no underwear was issued in the summer, no socks in the summer. Our clothing was a disgrace to his country. Our so called “Sunday clothes” were cut down First World War army uniforms. Cold showers were provided summer and winter in which we were herded en masse by some of the bigger boys and if you did not keep under the shower you would be struck by a brass studded belt…

It was our practice at the “Mohawk” to go begging at various homes throughout Brantford. There were certain homes that we knew that the people were good to us, we would rap on the door and our question was: “Anything extra”, whereupon if we were lucky, we would be rewarded with scraps from the household – survival of the fittest.

Many children tried to run away from the Institute and nearly all were caught and brought back to face the music — we had a form of running the gauntlet in which the offender had to go through the line, that is on his hands and knees, through widepread legs of all the boys and he would be struck with anything that was at hand – all this done under the fatherly supervision of the boys’ master. I have seen boys after going through a line of 50 to 70 boys lie crying in the most abject human misery and pain with not a soul to care – the dignity of man!

As I sit writing this paper, things that have been dormant in my mind for years come to the fore – we will sing Hymn No. 128!

This situation divides the shame amongst the Churches, the Indian Affairs Branch and the Canadian public.

I could write on and on — and some day I will tell of how things used to be — sadness, pain and misery were my legacy as an Indian.

The staff at the Mohawk lived very well, had a separate dining room where they were waited on by our Indian girls — the food, I am told, was excellent.

When I was asked to do this paper I had some misgivings, for if I were to be honest, I must tell of things as they were and really this is not my story, but yours.

Russ Moses attended the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School (“the Mush Hole”) in Brantford, Ontario which he attended from 1942 to 1947. He died in Ottawa in 2013.
posted by bonehead at 8:55 AM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

The federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs remained seated today at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when everyone else stood to recognize Canada's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Here's the Honourable Tom Mulcair throwing him some serious, and well-deserved, shade.Posted by Die Koenigin on Tuesday, 2 June 2015
Fuck Harper and all his fucking cronies.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:30 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thomas King weighs in with a nyt article.
posted by chapps at 6:24 PM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Have you seen the #ReadtheTRCReport youtube channel? I think this is a wonderful volunteer initiative -- not only does it require participants to read the report, it makes it accessible to those who cannot read, or who prefer to take in text by listening.
posted by chapps at 2:24 PM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

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