751

I can barely write because my hands are shaking with rage. Content warnings – I’m talking about a genocide perpetrated against children in our lifetime. There will be mention of horrible crimes.

This morning my daughter announced at the breakfast table that she didn’t want me to walk her to the bus stop. The school bus stops a block away and she has freedom to roam on our block but I like walking with her to the bus stop, seeing her board, waving goodbye. But she was adamant that she wanted to go alone. We eventually came to the compromise that I could watch her from our lawn and wave to her bus in the distance.

My daughter is a bright child who enjoys school. She is doing well. She has a lot of friends. I know she’s going to come home every day happy, ready to look over homework, talk about activities. I know she’s going to come home every day.

As of the time I write this, the Cowessess First Nation has announced that they believe ground penetrating radar has shown 751 unmarked graves at the Marieval Indian Residential School; 751 children who were forced by Mounties and priests to attend one of the deceptively-named extermination camps and who were murdered. This so-called school operated until 1996. This facility of industrialized death was still operating while I (and much of my audience I suspect) was in school. A school we almost certainly entered and left freely. A school where we would never consider the possibility that the staff might drag us away in the night to disappear beneath the soil forever. The map below shows the location of other “residential schools” in Canada. How many graves are there at each of these? How many children murdered because they tried to cling to their language, because they resisted assimilation into Christianity, because they resisted when a priest tried to rape them, because a teacher felt disrespected by their affect, because of so many other non-reasons – excuses for blunt, stupid, brutal evil?

I’m furious. I can’t stand breathing the same air with the kind of people who would commit such crimes or with the kind of people who would try to make excuses for them. But certain things must be done:

  • Canada must immediately investigate these crimes against humanity and bring any living participants in this genocide to trial. In the process of doing so Canada must render any and all aid to First Nations communities involved in the investigation upon request and regardless of cost.
  • If Canada is unwilling to do so, the International Criminal Court must intervene and do it for Canada.
  • Canada must immediately cease all court challenges fighting First Nations children over compensation for discriminatory practices.
  • Canada must listen to First Nations advocates regarding the implementation of a comprehensive UNDRIP law that does not attempt to subordinate First Nations sovereignty into a municipalized hierarchy.
  • All Canadian jurisdictions with publicly funded Catholic schools must immediately and unilaterally defund them.
  • The RCMP must be disbanded.
  • The Catholic church must be removed from Canada and any wealth held by the Catholic Church in Canada must be disbursed to First Nations communities in recompense.
  • The Catholic church must, at the highest levels, be held legally responsible for the genocide it participated in – starting with the surviving Cardinals of Canada and going up from there.
  • All monuments to architects of the residential school system including, but not limited to, John A. Macdonald, Hector-Louis Langevin and Egerton Ryerson must be destroyed. Any buildings, organizations or locations named for the architects of the residential school system must be renamed. Curricula must be amended to situate these “fathers of confederation” as the genocides they were.

I am disgusted that my country still has not taken these actions. I am disgusted that my country smears the word “school” by associating it with these extermination facilities. I know that some of what I’ve said may be incendiary. But at this point, nothing short of the total dismantling of the legacy of residential schools both within the Canadian state and within the institution of the Catholic church will suffice. By making their priest and teachers into death camp wardens, the Catholic church has lost any right to operate in this jurisdiction in any form. There must be accountability for the guilty and for their institutions. There must be restitution for the victims. Nobody should ever have to see a school as an institution that disappears their children.