Oh Canada :(

29 05 2021

By Cheryl Dobbie-Brown

Tears have been falling from my eyes and streaming down my face since I read the headline that was the story of the day yesterday. It appeared on the front pages of printed media and was the first headline that popped up on my social media and the online publications of every news agency I follow. The headline read” Remains of 215 children found at former Canadian school site”. How could anyone call this a school site? This wasn’t a school site. A school is supposed to nurture and teach our most precious little humans how to learn and grow. We are supposed to watch our babies make their way through school year by year and celebrate all of their accomplishments until we watch them graduate into what we hope to be well rounded individuals who are prepared to take on the next chapter of their lives.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School should never be referred to as a school ever again in fact no residential school should. This Catholic Church run and Canadian Governement funded facility was not nurturing children. First Nations parents did not choose to send their children to these institutions. The most precious part of their lives were stolen from them. I can’t even imagine the pain these parents felt in their heart having their children ripped from their arms and taken away. We know that 215 of them did not survive at this one location. Were parents led to believe that their children had run away when the truth was that they had been beaten and starved until the bright lights inside them were reduced to a flicker and then extinguished?

When I first read this abhorrent headline my mind went to our Canadian Anthem. I stood proud every morning in elementary school and sang

” O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!

From far and wide, O Canada,

We Stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee,

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

I firmly believe the children who were stolen from their parents had to sing this anthem every morning and for them this Anthem which has always been a source of pride for me was nothing but a massive massive lie. There were no glowing hearts pumping in their chests, or any first nations peoples chests. The true north that they barely existed in while they were alive in these institutions was anything but strong and free.

How could our Canadian Government and the Catholic Church think that it was ok to strip First Nations children of their culture and assimilate them into what they considered to be the correct way to live?.The government did not want the ORIGINAL people who lived, hunted and raised families on their land to maintain the culture and practices that they had honoured for generations and generations. They did not even want them to speak their language.

There were 139 residential facilities built across Canada. The abuse they suffered in order to strip them of everything they knew to try to turn them into what the government wanted them to be was abhorrent. No one has the right to strip anyone of their culture. They endured rape, were denied proper nourishment, slept in dirty cramped quarters, and were beaten. Please remember that these were children and 215 bodies have been found at just one of the 139 known Residential institutions. I do not believe that we will ever know the true number of deaths at the hands of nuns will ever be known because there will always be cover ups and they will always claim that children many of which died ran away to never be seen again. I have come to understand that the Government and the Catholic Church are masters of coverups and denial until they have been publicly outed.

There are 80,000 survivors currently alive today according to the latest published statistics I could find. Survivors who relive their experiences over and over constantly. They relive not only their abuse but the abuse of their friends and siblings. Can you imagine seeing your brother or sister every day and one day they are gone with no explanation. Parents who did not go through the abuse but lost their children did suffer because they had their children ripped out of their arms and taken to a life of abuse because in the Government and Catholic Churches eyes everything they knew was not to be accepted or tolerated. The Government and church were trying to eradicate an entire culture. That is so fucked up. I won’t apologize for my language because any other word would minimize what happened.

Deaths continue to happen today as a result of the abuse. Tragically many survivors turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of the memories that torment them leading to live ending conditions and overdose. Others choose to end their lives to make the memories stop permanently. I want to see the government post daily updates on how many lives have been lost due to the assimilation experiment they performed on the First Nations People. They are happy to share the recent covid numbers daily but I am sure they will never even consider publishing the deaths they and the Catholic Church are responsible for.

The mental health issues are not only realized by parents and survivors but also future generations. They are dramatically affected by the stories that will continue to be passed on from generation to generation and watching their loved ones struggle with their trauma. First Nations People are incredible story tellers and they keep their history and traditions alive through stories passed down. It is tragic that part of their history includes horrendous and inexcusable abuse.

Apologies and monetary settlements will never be enough. This needs to be taught in schools fully to prevent anything like this ever happening again. I was surprised at how many people have never even heard of residential schools. This is a part of Canadian history and everyone needs to hear this part of history. It happened and our children need to know the cruel history of our Country.

I am not a proud Canadian today and I don’t know I will never fully regain my pride.

Photo by Canadian Press