Aboriginal Community Fully Justified In Its Anger And Resentment Against Residential Schools

But Let's Do More Than Just Remove Statues Of One Of It's Architects Former Prime Minister John A. Macdonald!

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week that the federal government is moving forward with plans to add a new statutory holiday to mark the legacy of residential schools in Canada. While a date has not yet been decided for the holiday, it is meant to offer a solemn reminder of the thousands of Indigenous children who were taken from their families, forbidden to practice their culture and subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse in the schools. It’s something the Trudeau government pledged to do while accepting all the recommendations made in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report in 2015. The holiday is another way of remembrance of a horrible Canadian legacy.

By Balwant Sanghera – Special To DESIBUZZCanada

The Aboriginal community is fully justified in its anger and resentment against the residential schools. Thousands of children and youth were taken away from their parents and put in residential schools run by the church in order to “civilize”them.  Its adverse impacts are still being felt by the Aboriginal community. 

Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister (1867-1873,1878-1891) is being labelled as one of the architects of this policy. I fully empathise with the Aboriginal community about their feelings, hurts and damage inflicted on their culture and children as a result of the residential schools.  Their anger and resentment about Canadian leaders like Sir John A. Macdonald are fully justified.

Creation of residential schools and depriving thousands of Aboriginal children and youth of their heritage, language and culture was an ill –conceived h and misguided policy. However, removing statues of these historical figures as happened in Victoria recently, may not be very appropriate.In some places even some schools and other places of interest bearing such leaders names are being changed. We cannot change history by removing the symbols associated with our leaders of the past. In other words, history cannot be erased whether we like it or not. There is no denying the fact that Sir John A.Macdonald, despite his numerous flaws,shortcomings and prejudice, was one of the key people in creating the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. Macdonaldnot only helped to create Canada but also made a commendable contribution to its character. In polls, Macdonald has consistently been ranked as one of the greatest Prime Ministers of Canada.

Macdonald (1815-1891), the first Prime Minister of Canada was a dominant figure of Canadian Confederation. His political career spanned almost half a century. He was a visionary. Enabling and supporting the Canadian Pacific Railway to build the rail link from east to west that brought British Columbia into the Confederation in 1871 was due to Macdonald’s determination.This was also essential in building a nation. Not only that, a number of other initiatives under his leadership put Canadaon themap. As a matter of fact, a number of steps taken by Macdonald and his successors have made Canada unique in many ways. As such, one wrong/inappropriate policy should not deprive him of the honour and respect he deserves.

Canadian history, like that of many of the other countries, is full of instances where different communities were treated badly, unfairly and inappropriately. In many cases, the succeeding governments have apologised for the actions of previous governments. This is the first step towards reconciliation. Here in Canada, the federal governments under Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau have acknowledged wrongs of the past and have apologised to all of the affected communities. Apologising to the Aboriginal community and compensating the victims of residential schools was an appropriate and noble gesture by Ottawa.

Canada of 2018 is a symbol of inclusion. Its multiculturalism,respect for diversity and human rights has made it a shining example for others around the globe. Rather than removing statutes and other symbols of the past, we need to focus more on reconciliation and in making Canada even a better place to live.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week that the federal government is moving forward with plans to add a new statutory holiday to mark the legacy of residential schools in Canada. While a date has not yet been decided for the holiday, it is meant to offer a solemn reminder of the thousands of Indigenous children who were taken from their families, forbidden to practice their culture and subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse in the schools. It’s something the Trudeau government pledged to do while accepting all the recommendations made in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report in 2015. The holiday is another way of remembrance of a horrible Canadian legacy.

Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.

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