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Canada's Magdalene laundries


meda

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So it's not really new news that First Nations children were often taken from their families and forced to attend church run residential schools. About 60% of the schools were run by the Catholic church, most of the rest were run by the Anglican Church of Canada. In the past few years, hearings have been held about these schools, and the extent of the abuse suffered by children, including at one Catholic run school the use of the electric chair to discipline students. The last of these schools closed in the 1990's

http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/the-wild ... al-schools

In 2008, the Canadian government apologized. The Pope sort of expressed regret in 2009. The Anglican church has never apologized for what happened in those schools.

What is new is that they have begun uncovering the death toll in these places, and how the children died.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/201 ... eaths.html

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These schools were a terrible chapter in Canada's history, nothing short of an attempt to assimilate and, failing that, to wipe out, an entire race. And the worst part is that somehow, it is not widespread knowledge. At least, not the details.

The Anglican Church of Canada issued their first of many formal and public apologies, in 1993. You can read about it, and its reception, here. http://www.anglican.ca/relationships/trc/apology

An in-depth study of the history of residential schools is required curriculum in Anglican seminary in Canada. Required reading included J.R. Miller's 'Shingwauk's Vision', which I would strongly recommend. It should actually be mandatory high school history reading in every school in the country.

http://www.amazon.ca/Shingwauks-Vision- ... 445&sr=8-1

Other interesting reading is learning about the Truth and Reconciliation commission, which you can read about here.

http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=3

and here

http://www.anglican.ca/relationships/trc

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Your right, the Anglican Church did apologize. I know more about the Catholic run schools in Quebec than The Anglican ones, I should have checked.

Regarding the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission, it was only established because a 2007 class action settlement forced the government to do so. Further, the Commission has dealt with the refusal of the Federal and some Provincial governments to turn over documents regarding the schools. While it speaks well of the Anglican Church to be a part of the process, it's not as though clergy or staff who were a part of the abuse will have to face any ciminal consequences.

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I think we are in agreement on the terribleness of the story. On the abuses perpetuated by church and government officials, on the awful injustice. I don't think anybody would argue that somehow abuses were justified, or that clergy or staff should not have to face consequences (except perhaps for lawyers - I imagine if some of the abusers are still alive, they cannot be prosecuted due to some sort of statute of limitations...? I do not know).

However, I think the important thing with the story of the residential schools is that the way that First Nations communities have dealt with it have been a testament to their resilience as a people, to their graciousness and strength. The courage to speak out about such things - to continue to fight - and the ability of so many to forgive - should be the final chapter in this story, which is why I have a bit of an allergy to fatalistic headlines about those schools which only tell part of the story.

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This is a survivor of an industrial school run by the Catholic Church. This clip is from a current affairs show around the time the Ryan Report was published, revealing the extent of the horror of these places. There is a redress scheme in place for survivors.

This is quite upsetting for some.

9jHqndf9Kx4

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I was sitting at a bus stop when an older native woman sat down beside me and started a conversation. She asked where I was from, and after I told her she told me she'd been in one of these residential schools as a kid. I don't know why she'd want to tell me anytning, and yet she did - and she said that not only had abuse been endemic, but that no one who attended her school ever received a high school diploma (which was supposed to be one of the reasons for sending kids to those pissholes in the first place).

I went to the CBC News archives and found a film that disturbed me deeply enough that I still remember it long - 10 years? 15? - after having first seen it. Another clip involved how they had lost much of their language.

That woman at the bus stop - she likened the experience to a sort of genocide, and I couldn't help but to agree: There's more than one way to wipe out a culture.

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I grew up around survivors of residential schools as I lived on 5 different reservations throughout my life, all of them in Ontario. My best friend's mum spent part of her childhood in one. She never used to talk about it but after her kids were grown she went back to school. She now speaks to students across Canada educating them on both the residential schools, and in her native language.

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I think we are in agreement on the terribleness of the story. On the abuses perpetuated by church and government officials, on the awful injustice. I don't think anybody would argue that somehow abuses were justified, or that clergy or staff should not have to face consequences (except perhaps for lawyers - I imagine if some of the abusers are still alive, they cannot be prosecuted due to some sort of statute of limitations...? I do not know).

However, I think the important thing with the story of the residential schools is that the way that First Nations communities have dealt with it have been a testament to their resilience as a people, to their graciousness and strength. The courage to speak out about such things - to continue to fight - and the ability of so many to forgive - should be the final chapter in this story, which is why I have a bit of an allergy to fatalistic headlines about those schools which only tell part of the story.

That is a lovely sentiment, however, "first nations communities" are not a single monolith, they are a diverse group of people with very different experiences. My grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and my mother (briefly) were sent to these places, and while I admire them tremendously, particularly my grandmother, for living as normal a life as possible after such an experience, they come out with very little desire to forgive the nuns and staff who abused them.

You may have an allergy to "Fatalistic headlines", I have a bit of an allergy to a noble savage narrative that allows government and church organizations to feel good about themselves by giving a small platform to First Nations people to demonstrate "graciousness and strength" (within parameters carefully defined by the government) There are many First Nations people who would have liked some actual accountability.

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That is a lovely sentiment, however, "first nations communities" are not a single monolith, they are a diverse group of people with very different experiences. My grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and my mother (briefly) were sent to these places, and while I admire them tremendously, particularly my grandmother, for living as normal a life as possible after such an experience, they come out with very little desire to forgive the nuns and staff who abused them.

You may have an allergy to "Fatalistic headlines", I have a bit of an allergy to a noble savage narrative that allows government and church organizations to feel good about themselves by giving a small platform to First Nations people to demonstrate "graciousness and strength" (within parameters carefully defined by the government) There are many First Nations people who would have liked some actual accountability.

I hate to say it, Lynley, but Meda's right. A few years after I met the woman at the bus stop, I was hired to write about conditions in the deep North of Canada - especially for the Inuit (who are likewise varied among themselves). The damage done to their culture is...well, it's catastrophic, and a lot of people were pissed off and they had every right to be.

Some may be open to 'graciously forgiving,' but many are not - especially now that oil companies and diamond miners are trying to buy the Inuit off yet again.

They did not bounce back. They limped back, and lost a lot in the process. They have a right to be angry - really angry; to demand, and not merely ask for, reparations and for however much wholeness they can get through the courts. They have a right to see their treaties honored.

Some natives have overcome their pasts and now speak out – sometimes gracefully – but even their acts of kindness are being turned, by other people, into a salve for the collective guilt affecting everyone who was involved with the residential schools. It isn't right.

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Another thing I think a lot of people fail to realize about the situation is that these children were taken away at such a young age that they were denied a chance to see their parents be parents and to learn all of the other things children learn from older adults around them through observation. Then you have the children that make it back to the reserve after finishing their time in these schools and they can't speak the language of their parents, they barley know them but they were expected to make a life for themselves and raise families of their own. That kind of damage takes more than a generation to be undone.

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In same ways, this was worse then the Magdalene laundries. The government was trying to exterminate entire cultures.

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My dad was the senior metropolitan of the Anglican church of Canada at the time of the major settlements (late 90's/early 2000's). The church was in severe financial difficulty and we lost a couple of dioceses over it, but we managed to avoid total bankruptcy. I was very young, so can't recall many of the details of the actual negotiations, but I remember him being gone for weeks at a time and being wracked with guilt over the whole thing, both for what his church, his livelihood and career did, and for what happened in our own family. His father, my grandfather (now deceased) was an Anglican priest as well and principal of a residential school, and my dad lived on the grounds of the school for years as a little kid. Fortunately my grandfather was never implicated in direct abuse, and the students generally remember him as "one of the nice ones", but he was still part of a terrible system. He still contributed to horrendous things. I think my father's contribution to the settlements/apologies/everything else are his way of atoning, and I think he did try to ensure as much of a fair deal as possible without destroying his own job. It was a struggle and it went on for years. He attended plenty of hearings - he heard lots of testimonies. To know that his family was complicit must have been awful. I don't think my dad has ever gotten over it. Once we watched Rabbit Proof Fence (which is about similar treatment of native children in Australia) and he burst into tears and had to leave the room - a 60-something prairie boy who had seen it all.

Later on, my mother was selected as a lawyer for the government compensation hearings. Former students got a set amount for a) being in residential schools at all and b) the number of years they stayed there. My mother's cases went beyond that, to the most horrible abuses that were entitled to further compensation. The stories she heard were unbelievable, the effects on families and communities still tangible, and she spent most of her off time in bed crying about it. She had to go to a psychiatrist, was put on anti-depressants, and eventually left the job altogether, because even hearing about what happened left her in terrible shape. I think my parents both thought they were atoning, that they could help, when really, the shame of the past is beyond even the best intentions. They can't make up for it. No one can.

We are not of native descent, and no one in our family or among our good friends suffered under these schools. We are in no way victims of the residential school system, and in fact were among the perpetrators, both on a personal level and societal. But the effects are still with us, even though we are on the "bad side", and it's like a toxin contaminating our whole society. The treatment of those children and young adults and the communities they should have been part of is possibly Canada's greatest shame, and the ongoing issues are atrociously rotten. More attention should be paid. History should not be allowed to repeat. We think of ourselves as a great and culturally sensitive country, and sweep what's inconvenient under the rug while allowing racism to affect thousands of our people. I don't know how to overcome it. I only hope we can.

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Crazyforkate, thank you for your perspective. It may not have seemed so at the time, but I am sure your parents actions gave comfort and validation to at least a few survivors. Respect and an effort to understand go a long way. As mentioned upthread, I am most familiar with the actions of the Catholic Church and the Quebec government during the settlement and as half assed participants in the T&R process. My aunt testified in front of a Catholic bishop during the RCAP hearings in the 1990's, he just kept checking his watch during testimony, and would not engage with the survivors. As a result of this and other experiences, she and the rest of my family have little interest in the current process.

Since the current committee was established as a result of lawsuits and not from some societal interest in residential school abuses, I find it hard to believe that the official reports will do much to change the common perception that First Nations people should just "get over it" and somehow focus on the positive. For obvious reasons,it is difficult for me to be objective about any of this.

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Crazyforkate, thank you for your perspective. It may not have seemed so at the time, but I am sure your parents actions gave comfort and validation to at least a few survivors. Respect and an effort to understand go a long way. As mentioned upthread, I am most familiar with the actions of the Catholic Church and the Quebec government during the settlement and as half assed participants in the T&R process. My aunt testified in front of a Catholic bishop during the RCAP hearings in the 1990's, he just kept checking his watch during testimony, and would not engage with the survivors. As a result of this and other experiences, she and the rest of my family have little interest in the current process.

Since the current committee was established as a result of lawsuits and not from some societal interest in residential school abuses, I find it hard to believe that the official reports will do much to change the common perception that First Nations people should just "get over it" and somehow focus on the positive. For obvious reasons,it is difficult for me to be objective about any of this.

I have no words, I'm so angry right now.

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In same ways, this was worse then the Magdalene laundries. The government was trying to exterminate entire cultures.

I was about to say the same thing.

You have all these communities where ALL the kids were taken away to these schools, where all the parent/child relationships were disrupted, and where a large portion of those kids were abused. For far too many, it destroyed the possibility of normal family life and relationships.

Sure, some people are resilient....but many are not. Just look at rates of alcoholism, suicide, incarceration, etc. The scars run deep.

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I was about to say the same thing.

You have all these communities where ALL the kids were taken away to these schools, where all the parent/child relationships were disrupted, and where a large portion of those kids were abused. For far too many, it destroyed the possibility of normal family life and relationships.

Sure, some people are resilient....but many are not. Just look at rates of alcoholism, suicide, incarceration, etc. The scars run deep.

There was a book written a few years back, I think by a former Lt Governor (or similar high-up government official) of Ontario, telling the fictional story of a woman who went through that system, and the effects on her children, her parents, and many, many others. It's not particularly well-written in terms of style, but tells a very powerful story, and really sticks with the reader. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Canadian history (or for that matter, Canadian contemporary issues).

Here we go: As Long as the Rivers Flow (2011), written by James Bartleman, Lt Gov of Ontario from 2002-07.

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The Residential School issue hits close to home for me as my Grandmother, Aunts, and Uncles were sent to them. It destroyed the family. They were stolen and striped of any and all identity that they had. I am sick and tired of hearing "Get over it", it's not as though they/we could just forgotten the horrors that they were subjected to. We in my generation are working towards healing, it's a long and painful process for all involved. Not only should everyone be educated on the Residential School disaster but we cannot forget the 60's scoop either and when your family has been rocked by both forgiveness doesn't come easy.

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I was about to say the same thing.

You have all these communities where ALL the kids were taken away to these schools, where all the parent/child relationships were disrupted, and where a large portion of those kids were abused. For far too many, it destroyed the possibility of normal family life and relationships.

Sure, some people are resilient....but many are not. Just look at rates of alcoholism, suicide, incarceration, etc. The scars run deep.

Dont forget that the families were not allowed to speak their native language or participate in cultural events or even produce art that was common in their culture. They could be arrested for doing any of this.

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