Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An apology to Canada's native people

I remember a conversation I had with my mother and sister more than twenty years ago. Conversation doesn't describe the heat; argument is a better term. My sister, AlaskaMarci was attacking historic government actions removing native American children from their families, while my mother and I took, not an opposing view exactly, but a counter view.

I felt that the government had done the wrong thing but simply wanted my sister to accept that they were not deliberately being evil.

In hearing the recent apology, I have to change my view. Some (I hope it was only some) authorities wanted to completely end the Native American way of life, culture and religion, creating, I guess, a nation with some variation in color but none in language or supposedly common history (alright, there would be two languages).

Our mother, who grew up in a small northern Ontario town with a reservation (or several) nearby and had many native American classmates, felt the government was wrong to remove children but there might have been a few defendable reasons for doing so. She noted that few Native Americans in her town completed high school (in town) and that even at public school (on the reservations) students had frequent absences for various hunting and fishing seasons. They did not put as much time into class as the other students in the community.

She told me that even a few Parry Sound (Ontario) Native children were sent to residential schools. We were both surprised; she hadnt heard about it when it was occurring.

When we had this argument, I was naive and less political than I am now. Now, I wonder how the 1950's government could imagine removing children from their parents could possibly have good long-term results.

I am late on commenting on this story but I am glad that the government has apologized:

aboriginal people packed Parliament to hear the prime minister say it for all Canadians: "We are sorry."

Stephen Harper made the historic apology Wednesday in the House of Commons for generations of racist policy meant to "kill the Indian in the child."

The apology is part of a massive compensation and healing package expected to top $4 billion.

No comments: