The Hidden Skeletons of Canadas Government
INDG 100 Section 061
November 11, 2015
The Hidden Skeletons of Canadas Government
Throughout Canada’s history, there has been little acknowledgment of the government’s destruction of First Nations' culture, and spiritual beliefs. Also, it wasn’t until the introduction of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1991 that the government started to take responsibility for their wrongdoings. Among many things, this commission gave the public a voice to speak out on the abuse encountered in residential schools and gave credence to their claims (Frideres 61-62). Before the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, the government had denied any accusations of residential school abuses and informed the public that any evidence was “minor, relative to the overall goal” (Frideres 77). The overall goal was intended to assimilate Aboriginal children into a civilized, French, or English-speaking race. The government’s decision to deny the existence of abuse happening in residential schools for First Nations children was made in an attempt to keep the harmful facts of the schools a secret part of Canada's history. Furthermore, the government and churches were fully aware of the physical and sexual abuse occurring in residential schools yet continued to fund and follow through with the system. These schools were detrimental to First Nations communities and by observing the reasoning behind the Canadas government's actions of secrecy we can see why they needed to keep it hidden from the nation of Canada.
The assimilation process of First Nations people into the European Community was a process which the government had put consolidated effort into. The introduction of residential schools was the main building block in the process that would most efficiently award their efforts. “Deputy Minister of Indian Aﬀairs Duncan Campbell Scott outlined the goals of that policy in 1920, when he told a parliamentary committee that “our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic” (Truth and Reconciliation of Canada 11). The government began removing children from their parents, took away their culture, beliefs, and community and converted them into a new and “improved” generation. Thus began the commonly heard term “killing the Indian in the child.” To eradicate the First Nations people as a whole was the government’s hidden agenda carried out by “fulfilling” their terms negotiated in the Indian Act to assist in the education of First Nations communities. The government’s intentions may have seemed pure and many Aboriginal People saw the value in schooling, but to their dismay, they couldn’t foresee what horrible development lay underneath the system for their children in the custody of the residential education system. “The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and ﬁnancial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources” (Truth and Reconciliation of Canada 11). The government wasn’t ashamed to hide the predictions of what the residential schools' actual outcome would be, but as we have seen as history prevails they didn’t think twice to hide the evidence, making excuses for the facts, and undoubtedly refusing to give justice to the Aboriginal survivors. Survivors of Indigenous people who they so openly aimed to alienate.
Before the 1990 Royal Commission launched in Canada to study the relationship between aboriginals, the government and Canada did not talk about the treatment of First Nations people. The Okah crisis initiated the first public response to the treatment of First Nations of Canada and put more of an inquisition on how the government had dealt with them in prior engagements. The Okah crisis gave strength to many weak or fearful residential school survivors to talk about what had happened to them in the past. Government before this event struck the media was able to come up with intelligent excuses and explanations of why the treatment of First Nations people was as it was. Furthermore, today in Canada people are still doing it. “Today some will argue that the abuses were not so significant, and others will claim that the schools benefited First Nations people” (Frideres 78). They argue that the majority of the school survivors were able to overcome the trauma and that all others who are still grieving and psychologically wounded from it are the “drunken, lazy, Indians” that we hear generalized today. Often people use the example of Phil Fontaine the National Chief of Assembly of First Nations to impact the description of a true survivor. Coupled with the fact that “he was able to overcome the adversities of sexual abuse and become a role model and leader in the community” (Frideres 78). Behind this particular comparison the government's hand is at play, “the government chose a practical strategy that allowed it to focus on the settlement of the claims and to sidestep the underlying issues that produced this legacy” (Frideres 78).
The government had put up strategic protective armor that was best suited to maintain the dignity and honor of what is Canada. The illusion of residential schools as a beneficial arrangement on the behalf of the government was maintained to keep Canada as the “peacekeeping” country. Helping the people in need and working with them to maintain a strong nation. The fact of the government’s negligence and treatment of First Nations being discovered would ruin the reputation of the benevolent people of Canada and make Canadians of today question the government’s authority and basis from where their values lie. Canadians' previous understanding of precolonial history was that they were the “heroes on a mythical quest to save Indians” (pg.34) (McCreary 1). It was in the government of Canada's pride to hide their injustices and to cover up the horrific events occurring in residential schools. The residential school survivors’ ability to share their stories and stop the silence put upon their people in our country is a significant transition to reconciling our faults as a nation. “Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one. (Truth and Reconciliation of Canada 8).
Frideres, James S. First Nations in the Twenty-First Century. n.d.
McCreary, Tyler. "Unsettling the settle within Indian residential schools, truth-telling, and reconciliation in Canada." The Canadian Geographer (2013): 38-39.
Rheault, D'Arcy. "Solving the "Indian Problem" Assimilation Laws, Practices, and Indian Residential Schools." 2011.
Truth and Reconciliation of Canada. Honoring the truth, reconciling for the future: summary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Winnipeg Manitoba: Truth and Reconciliation of Canada, 2015.