The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) came into being in 2008 and lasted until 2015. The purpose was to document the history and the horrendous effects of the Canadian Indian residential school system on Indigenous children and their families.
We found out that they were not “schools” as we’ve come to experience them, but were institutions which removed at least 150,000 children from their indigenous parents and communities in order to cleanse them of their culture, language etc., and inculcate the culture of the European settlers.
The Public meetings were held across the country to give residential school survivors a chance to tell their stories to Canadians who, up to then, were kept in the dark about the places with the innocent-sounding name “Residential Schools.” It was in fact the final chapter of the process of both physical and cultural genocide. What was left of the indigenous people – reduced to 10 percent after the Europeans were through with them – the settlers ensured that the next generation, the children would reproduce more “Indians”.
Even so, the stories told at the TRC would have remained just tales while Canada continued denials, obfuscation and interminable delays for genuine reconciliation and reparations. But the unearthing of the corpses from (soon to number in the thousands) unmarked graves on the grounds of the residential schools, left no room for denial. Corpses do not lie. So the Truth finally put the lie to all the myths that Canada created for itself and its conscience.
Now that the corpses will ensure that reconciliation will happen one way or another, Canada, must now come to terms with its history of settler behavior among its fellow settler states.
When South Africa’s Nelson Mandela died following his decades long fight against Apartheid in the settler state, Canada took credit for helping to “lead the international fight against Apartheid”, and crowed that Canada … “helped bring freedom to South Africa”; forgetting that Canada did indeed support Aparthied in South Africa. “First,” according to Canadian writer Yves Engler, “by providing it with a model.’
South Africa patterned its policy towards Blacks after Canadian policy towards First Nations. ‘South African officials regularly came to Canada to examine reserves set aside for First Nations, following colleagues who had studied residential schools in earlier parts of the century.’”
When in 1964 Nelson Mandela and seven other activists were sentenced to life in prison our Prime Minister Lester Pearson commented that the “eight defendants … have been found guilty on charges of sabotage and conspiracy.” And since the matter is still before the courts no comment will be made of the verdict or the sentence.
Canada supported no sanctions on South Africa while Canadian companies remained heavily invested in South Africa, enjoying the benefits of cheap African labour.
Canada has been at the forefront of the founding of Israel, another settler state, and it has continued to be a prime supporter up to this day.
Seventy-five percent of mining companies are Canadian based; and the mines are spread all over the global south from Africa to South America, from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines, mostly on indigenous territories. Everywhere these mines have caused environmental devastation and death.
Canada has actively supported its senior settler state, the US, in all of its imperial adventures in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and has even been the prime mover in the overthrow of Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected President.
Despite this rather sorry history Canada has convinced itself and the world that it’s an honest broker in world affairs, fair and generous to the Third World, and a country ready to teach the world how to live. Those were myths repeated ad nauseam by a compliant mainstream media.
But the corpses have forced reconciliation and truth down Canada’s throat. Now we must put an end to those other myths about Canada being an honest broker, doing good around the world.
When we start admitting the truths obscured by the myths we’ve been fed for a lifetime, then the country can build a true history of a country that could be one of the best in which to live.
A boast that one day the indigenous people may be able to make.