“Canada” — Dealing with the Hate Crime: Prime Minister’s Apology to Aboriginals this Wednesday (2.2)

Following up on the last post about “Canada,” there was news today that “Canadian” Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be making a formal apology to aboriginals this coming Wednesday, at 3:00pm, in the parliament in Ottawa. This apology is specifically for the treatment of aboriginals in the residential schools. Aboriginal leaders are asking the wider population to pause on that day and tune in to the apology from parliament.

The Globe and Mail ( “Nothing but the truth can give apology true substance” — June 9, 2008) reports the views of a Rev. Kevin Annett, singled out as an extremist by that newspaper (regardless, I think he is on the right track, and the newspaper is a notoriously smug, conservative outlet that panders to elite WASPs), and lists Annett’s demands as follows:

A full International War Crimes Tribunal with the powers to prosecute those who can be held responsible for crimes or cover-ups at the native schools.

A nationwide search for the remains of children – Mr. Annett estimates some 50,000 – who died at these schools, by neglect or abuse, and were never given proper burials.

The creation of a National Aboriginal Holocaust Museum so Canadians will never forget the crimes against humanity that took place in these schools.

An official nationwide “Day of Mourning” for all victims, both dead and living, of residential schools.

An end to any federal tax exemptions for churches that had any involvement in establishing and running such institutions.

The abolishment of the Indian Act, the winding down of the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs – and the return of all “stolen lands and resources” to Canada’s indigenous nations.

(Bravo Rev. Annett! But you may have just lost “Canadian” citizenship for that, which you can add to your defrocking. See Annett’s award-winning film, Unrepentant, at the bottom of this post, or in the OA videopod in the sidebar at right)

Then comes the dismissal:

He’s used to being dismissed. He’s been called a troublemaker. He’s been accused of exaggerating to the point of making things up entirely just to draw attention to himself.

This from the newspaper that repeated many of the same falsehoods about Iraq that were circulated in the master media in the U.S. The Globe and Mail, which moderates comments posted after news “stories”, has a tendency recognized by more and more people for allowing the most extreme anti-indigenous and racist remarks to be posted, including those calling for violence against aboriginals, while excluding messages critical of the government on these issues, or critical of other posters. Whatever “Canada’s” hate crime laws might state, they do not apply to aboriginals.

(Update: Since this was first posted, CBC news presented a short documentary on the residential school at Fort Resolution, on Great Slave Lake. A former altar boy showed where dozens of unmarked graves of little aboriginal children were to be found in the school cemetery, in stark contrast to the well marked and well kept graves of the Catholic Sisters who ran the school. He, and other survivors, noted that children were often kept underfed, under clothed, and without proper medical care, leaving them perfectly prepared for the onslaught of tuberculosis that killed so many of them. In other cases of children whose deaths were poorly explained — i.e., “burnt to death” — aboriginal families had actually tried to get their children back, only to be refused by the priests. The schools, which in this case was run by the Roman Catholic Church, received state funding for each child they maintained. You can see the CBC video here.)

(For more news see the CBC’s site dedicated to Indian residential schools and the site it dedicates to coverage of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission)

In the meantime, “safe opinion” looks like that of a Lorne Gunter writing in — what else — The Edmonton Journal, about “The Long and Risky Road to Reconciliation.” Long? Risky? Not very “Canadian” qualities, perhaps it is better to dump the whole idea. Indeed, Gunter is careful to remind us that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission –charged with looking into the atrocities committed during the long residential school era — will cost $60 million and last five years, in an appeal to the pocket books of sanctimonious taxpayers (and only conservatives pay taxes, so the myth goes) and to the impatience for anything longer than a two-minute wait in this drive-thru culture. Gunter is worried that the Commission could fuel First Nations’ “discontent” or amplify their “victimhood” (because, actually, they are the winners, conservatives seem to suggest). But we can forgive the past, Gunter argues, because the perpetrators of genocide “were viewed” as “socially enlightened” and really, they meant well. There is nothing like self-absolution, and there is much more if it in “Canada” than any “victimhood.” But such crass, anti-indigenous opinions are safe for the mainstream media.

What Gunter chooses to ignore, among many things, is that such a commission also helps to save face for the state, which would not have allowed such a commission if it were not an attempt to absorb the contradictions of “Canadian society” in attempt to defuse conflict. For some, this will have the benefit of whitewashing their consciences. It will also allow the selectively compassionate such as Gunter — I would love to see him write such an article about Jews and the holocaust — to say, “look at all we did for these aboriginals, why should they complain?” He might go further, like others, and ask, “Are they even really aboriginal anyway?”

Unfortunately he will be able to point to numerous anthropological writings that will stress their “invented” traditions and “invented” identities, while possibly laying claim to aboriginal remains for the purposes of “science.” One should note that the high point of publishing articles in anthropology disputing, dissecting, and deconstructing the veracity and authenticity of aboriginal identity claims came at the same time as the high point in challenges to the Native American Graves Protection Act, and as universities themselves came under challenge from aboriginals to return their ghastly treasures of aboriginal remains.

KEVIN ANNETT’S AWARD-WINNING FILM, “UNREPENTANT” AVAILABLE IN ITS ENTIRETY BELOW (starts at 00:22, allow time for it to load):

6 thoughts on ““Canada” — Dealing with the Hate Crime: Prime Minister’s Apology to Aboriginals this Wednesday (2.2)

  1. I just had a comment about what you said about the Globa and Mail comments pages. I do agree with you when you say that the paper allows hateful comments to be posted (be they about aboriginal issues, Quebec seperatism etc), but as one who has posted rebuttals to these comments, I don’t think it’s fair to say that they delete critical remarks, be they of governent positions or otherwise – I’ve written and read many. As an anthropology student, I am glad that they allow these comments to be posted, even though I find them offensive, as they allow one to realize how so-called debunked social theories are alive and well outside the confines of the university. This is only to say is that I’m not sure the answer lies more censorship. I would rather take my bigoted opponents notions seriously enough (within a certain limit, to be sure) to rebut with evidence, reason, and passion, then to simply enforce a gag order, and then act as if the problem didn’t exist. Anyhow, I’m enjoying your blog, although it’s distracting me from working on my thesis. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks Jeremy for taking the time to post your message.

    On past occasions I have taken students through the various comments appended to G&M stories surrounding the Six Nations reclamation in Caledonia, during the first four months. Though by no means exact and precise, we did note the overwhelming majority of posted comments were of an extreme, anti-aboriginal nature, and some called for retaliatory violence (I am not a lawyer, but I believe inciting violence may not be legal in Canada). Voices of moderation and opposition were very few, and what stood out for all of us was the one message where the writer exclaimed something like, “trying for three days to get my comment on one of these boards, I hope they allow this.” My own comments were far more moderate than anything I have posted on this blog — thank you WordPress — rather tepid perhaps, and not one was ever accepted. The CBC on the other hand has minimal moderation, and I believe it is automated rather than human-mediated.

    Anyway, I am sure that others, such as yourself, have had better experiences with the G&M, and I am very glad to hear that you managed to make headway there.

    You’re right, I would not enforce a gag order either, I would just make sure it is lifted from all parties.

  3. I am shocked to learn that Canada was involved in genocide, and how it was covered up for years. This one incident makes Canada a #1 historical story of human rights abuse. The government textbooks must reflect the truth about the religious persecution of the indians that happened so recently. I am shamed to be from Canada because I have always opposed any involvement in world wars, especially where someone may be hurt. These indian peoples must be compensated by the Government, possibly with money, foodstamps, better healthcare, community development, free college education, and land.

    The following steps must be done now:

    A full International War Crimes Tribunal with the powers to prosecute those who can be held responsible for crimes or cover-ups at the native schools.

    A nationwide search for the remains of children – Mr. Annett estimates some 50,000 – who died at these schools, by neglect or abuse, and were never given proper burials.

    The creation of a National Aboriginal Holocaust Museum so Canadians will never forget the crimes against humanity that took place in these schools.

    An official nationwide “Day of Mourning” for all victims, both dead and living, of residential schools.

    An end to any federal tax exemptions for churches that had any involvement in establishing and running such institutions.

    The abolishment of the Indian Act, the winding down of the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs – and the return of all “stolen lands and resources” to Canada’s indigenous nations.

  4. I came acroos an aboriginal during my visit to canada who was sittig across the table with his father and in a very cultured, polite and well behaved manner telling his father in a teary voice that he had been removed from his job because he was an aboriginal’s son and yet was consoling his father that he would be okay. From one of the most liberated nations in the world this was pathetic. I don’t know that aboriginal young boy’s name and I am not a canadian but whereever he is I pray for him and his success and I am glad on not being a canadian because in our third world countries we are atleast open and honest about our loyalties and are not HYPOCRITES like the so called honest westerners. God bless you aboriginal friend and hope I can meet you someday. I know this is not part of this forum but I felt the need to share with all of you who might read it that there are people in this world who care. I am a Hindu-sikh from India.

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