Residential schools designed to eliminate indigenous culture

TEHRAN, Jul. 17 (MNA) – Questioning Trudeau's silence, Caesar-Chavannes says that residential schools were designed to eliminate indigenous culture, not just for land, but also for the belief that their culture was inferior to that of the Europeans.

Since May 28, more than 1,000 unmarked children's graves and remains have been identified at former Indigenous residential boarding schools in Canada. In addition to the Penelakut Island graves, unmarked burials at three more locations were detected by First Nations communities between May and July, using ground-penetrating radar scans at sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

For almost 150 years in Canada — from 1863 to as recently as 1998 — more than 130 residential schools such as Kamloops, Marieval, St. Eugene's and Kuper Island were funded by the Canadian government, and until 1969 many of the schools were operated by Christian churches. These schools forcibly separated Indigenous children from their families and isolated them from their communities and cultures, according to Indigenous Foundations, a website for the First Nations Studies Program at the University of British Columbia.

The children were abused, malnourished and raped in these schools, and 3,200 indigenous children were reportedly killed in these schools.

Many Indigenous peoples blame the residential boarding schools that have played a major role in the lives of generations in Canada for social problems such as alcoholism, domestic violence and high suicide rates.

In 2008, Ottawa formally apologized to the survivors of those who had spent the residential boarding schools. The country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 said they were victims of "cultural genocide."

To shed light on the issue, we reached out to Celina R. Caesar-Chavannes, a Canadian politician and former Member of Parliament for the riding of Whitby in the House of Commons of Canada from 2015 to 2019. 

Residential schools designed to eliminate indigenous culture
Pairs of children's shoes are seen at a memorial in front of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, May 31, 2021

Following is the text of the interview with her:

According to reports and assessments, one of the aims of Canada with establishing residential schools is said to be the elimination of the indigenous culture in order to make more land and resources available to settlers. What is your take on this?

The removal of native people from their land, source of energy and livelihood for the perpetuation of the idea of “white supremacy”There is no doubt that residential schools were designed to eliminate Indigenous culture, not just for land, but also for the belief that their culture was inferior to that of the European settlers on the land. It is the entire foundation on which colonialism is built. The removal of native people from their land, source of energy and livelihood for the perpetuation of the idea of “white supremacy”. This removal manifests in the form of genocide, sexual and gender-based violence, disease, enslavement, control (the Indian Act, in place since 1876, still governs First Nations, Metis and Inuit in Canada) and elimination of any trace of identity (residential schools in Canada or the renaming of enslaved people). Additionally, Treaties with Indigenous people were made in good faith, but broken in every encounter. 

Despite all the recent findings and earlier investigations, Canada has never charged any individual or institution with the crime against humanity or war crimes. What does this inaction imply? 

It is a cover-up of the highest order. These schools are not ancient history. Many survivors, who suffered through them, as well as the perpetrators, are still alive. Our government and the Catholic Church’s inaction demonstrates a lack of respect and value that is placed on the lives of Indigenous children. The Trudeau government has consistently said that their relationship with Indigenous people “is the most important relationship”. If this is the case, why is there no accountability?

Residential schools designed to eliminate indigenous culture
The paddle song is performed during a vigil in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada June 2, 2021

Some say the International Criminal Court should investigate the residential schools’ case. How far this case can go internationally? 

My hope is that the international criminal court will not be necessary – that the actors who participated in this, will own up to their roles and seek reconciliation with Indigenous communitiesThat is a very good question. My hope is that the international criminal court will not be necessary – that the actors who participated in this, will own up to their roles and seek reconciliation with Indigenous communities. The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions 94 Calls to Action outlined very specific steps that were required to build a relationship with Indigenous people. It is up to Canada to follow the calls related to 1) legacy which includes child welfare, education, language and culture, health and justice and 2) reconciliation which includes the adoption of UNDRIP, a royal proclamation and covenant of reconciliation, equity in the legal system (Indigenous and Black people make up the highest percentages of people in prisons in Canada - see https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-investigation-racial-bias-in-canadian-prison-risk-assessments/), a National Council for Reconciliation, professional development and training for public servants, sport, business and media reconciliation, commemoration, information for newcomers to Canada, museums and archives review, youth programs, an apology from the Church and missing children and burial information. The final report from the Commission was made public in 2015. Canada should ensure every call to action is honoured. 

What are Vatican’s responsibilities regarding the case? 

It begins with an apology to Indigenous communities for the Church’s role in the residential school system. Then full disclosure of all documents and materials pertinent to an investigation – should one be launched. The Church should also conduct its own internal investigation and hold accountable those individuals who played a role in these atrocities. Most importantly the Vatican should “establish permanent funding to Indigenous people. All of these requests are listed in Call to Action numbers 58-61.

Interview by Zahra Mirzafarjouyan

News Code 176211

Tags

Your Comment

You are replying to: .
  • 2 + 3 =