Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

CANADA 150: 150 PLUS YEARS OF COLONIALISM

Posted by strattof on June 30, 2017

The Scream, by Cree artist Kent Monkman, is part of an exhibition of paintings Monkman created especially for Canada 150. Called Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, it looks at 150 years of Indigenous experience in Canada. What does The Scream tell us?

  • In the foreground, terrified Indigenous children are being wrenched from the arms of their distraught mothers by red-clad Mounties and black-robed priests and nuns: agents of the Canadian state.
  • In the background, three children are running for the woods, escaping the gaze of a Mountie standing on a porch directing the operation.
  • The children are wearing clothes of today, indicating that the mass abduction of Indigenous children from their families and communities by the Canadian state is ongoing.
  • Black clouds hang ominously over the left-hand side of the scene. The sky brightens on the right—the direction the children are heading.

This is what the last 150 years have meant for Indigenous peoples in Canada: colonization, genocide, broken treaties, and resistance.

THE HISTORY OF CANADA: THE ABDUCTION OF INDIGENOUS CHILREN

The abduction of Indigenous children is a thread that runs through Canadian history, though it is usually hidden. Why bring up this inconvenient truth when we are supposed to be celebrating?

We need to know this history because nothing has changed. The abduction of Indigenous children is still going on.

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS: 1876 – 1996

Many Treaties with First Nations, including Treaty 4 which takes in most of southern Saskatchewan, promised to establish schools on reserves. Instead, the Canadian government implemented the residential school system.

  • John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, was a passionate advocate for residential schools. In his view “Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence,” for if they stay on the reserve they are “surrounded by savages.”
  • Established shortly after Confederation, Canada’s residential school system lasted for over a century—until 1996 when the last residential school, Gordon’s School in Punnichy SK, closed.
  • More than 150,000 children attended the schools, having endured, along with their parents, the brutality of forced separation.
  • At least 6,000 children died at the schools from malnutrition, disease, and abuse ‒ a higher death rate than that of Canadians who enlisted to fight in World War II. Many of the children were buried unceremoniously in unmarked graves.
  • In the words of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the residential school system was “an integral part of a conscious policy of cultural genocide.”

A PATTERN OF ABDUCTION

The genocidal policy of abducting Indigenous children from their families did not end with the residential school system. Rather, it carried on under a different guise. Indeed, it carries on today.

THE 60s SCOOP: EARLY 1960s – MID 1980s

In the 1950s, the federal government began to close residential schools, deemed too costly even though they were badly under-funded. In the early 1960s, provincial social workers, following on the heels of the Mounties and the priests, began to descend on Indigenous communities and to “scoop up” the children. The children were then placed in foster care or adopted out to white families.

  • An estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were scooped.
  • Incalculable damage was inflicted on the victims of this government policy, including loss of family, loss of language, loss of culture, and loss of community.

ABDUCTION OF INDIGENOUS CHILDREN: TODAY

  • Today, provincial governments continue with the disastrous policy of taking Indigenous children away from their families and communities.
  • Today, more Indigenous children are in state care than at the height of the residential school system.

TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first Call to Action is “Commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care.” Rather than implementing this recommendation, the Trudeau government has spent $707,000 in legal fees fighting a Human Rights Tribunal order to stop its discriminatory underfunding of First Nations child welfare.

While there has been lots of talk about reconciliation, little action has been taken to implement any of the TRC’s 94 calls to action.

CANADA DAY: TAKE ACTION FOR JUSTICE

  1. SIGN THE BROADBENT PETITION: The Government of Canada is Failing First Nations Children.
  2. TELL PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU you want his government to mark Canada 150 by implementing all 94 TRC calls to action: trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.
  3. LEARN THE TRUTH ABOUT CANADIAN HISTORY

ART

  • Visit online Kent Monkman’s exhibition Shame and Prejudice.
  • The Canada 150 art featured in this pamphlet is the work of Chippewar, also known as Jay Soule. Visit his website.
  • Visit the facebook page of Colonialism Skateboards.
  • Watch Gord Downie’s animated film The Secret Path.
  • Visit the Alex Janvier exhibition at the Mackenzie Art Gallery. 

BOOKS (Available at Regina Public Library)

  • Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King
  • Clearing the Plains, by James Daschuk
  • Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson
  • Children of the Broken Treaty, by Charlie Angus
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One Response to “CANADA 150: 150 PLUS YEARS OF COLONIALISM”

  1. Pokey said

    This artlcie went ahead and made my day.

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