Approximately 150,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families and placed in Canada's residential school system from the late 1800s until the last one closed in 1996. At least 3,000 children -- possibly many more -- never got out of those schools alive. Telling their stories to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission helps survivors begin to heal.
I was at my childhood home on the reserve when I heard the news -- my father and uncles were likely part of one of these "nutritional experiments," and one with clearly adverse side-effects at that. I felt as though a little piece of history reached out and punched me in the gut. Some friends and I have put out a call to Canadians to shed some of this negativity by uniting across cultural and religious lines. We are calling our gatherings (to be held today at noon) "Honour The Apology." To be clear, the Residential School era is not just "Native history." It is Canadian history. It is OUR history.
Aboriginal children are the face of a homegrown, attempted genocide. And tehy are still starving -- many living in poverty without the basic necessities of life, because land and resources continue to be stolen from their territories, with just as many starving for meaning, their culture, their language and their land. The children of those that 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.
This week marks seven years since Stephen Harper was first elected Prime Minister of Canada. The Harper Administration has been described as a dark cloud, but it does boast a silver lining. A thin one. Perhaps the Prime Minister should reassess his criteria and/or consider these seven success stories as feathers in his conservative cap.
As a Canadian, as a Jew, I'm sickened to share with you that in 1928, Alberta's Sexual Sterilization Act was passed, allowing students of a residential school to be sterilized with the principal's approval. At least 3,500 young native females were sterilized this way. Knowing this, I can understand the feelings of young Germans today when dealing with aspects of their country's past.