Archives for posts with tag: canada day

It would be nice to say that this began with the 215 dead kids found on the site of a Kamloops residential school, followed shortly thereafter by the 751 unmarked graves found in the grounds of the Cowessess residential school (unmarked likely due to being bulldozed by a spiteful priest), and then 182 more unmarked graves in the Kootenays. There will be more. While not all of the unmarked graves are children, dead Indigenous children have been a thing for a long time. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008 estimated about 4,100 children died in residential schools. Survivors and those who listen to them have known about the tragedies associated with residential schools since this shit was going on. Dead children in residential schools is not a surprise. These were schools that needed on-site graveyards to accommodate all the bodies that were piling up. It’s not a great look.

Colonization is way easier when you strip people of their connection to their land, culture, and people! Or their lives, I guess, for those who didn’t quite make it.

David Hume is famous for his philosophical guillotine that posits that what objectively is cannot prescribe what one ought to do – there exists an impenetrable barrier between reality and our moral compass. We look at the world and see thousands of kids that died under the direction of the state and at the hands of the church. What we do about it is unclear. The best example I can give on the is/ought divide is the coverage of this news from Breitbart which released a fairly uncontroversial article about the 215 children found in Kamloops. Where it gets fun is the comment section where there are only two replies:

“So they were democrat owner slaves like in the south here in America.”

Tip of the iceberg. Demonic, satan-worshiping people did that to innocent children. They must have really enjoyed what they did.

Bet you didn’t think this blog would be about QAnon when you clicked into it, did you?

Anyone who looks at the systemically-induced deaths of thousands of children is going to have an opinion on it. If your worldview doesn’t include an acknowledgement of the southern strategy or you believe that there is a global cabal of satan-worshipping child sex traffickers secretly trying to undermine Donald Trump, your opinion on these dead children will be shaped by that worldview. You might advocate for the American annexation of seemingly progressive Canada because progressivism is the real slavery, or perhaps you might champion Donald Trump becoming the God King of Earth because clearly the Satan worshippers are spread out across the globe. There is a fallacious belief on the left that once people catch a glimpse of the reality that oppressed groups endure, they will automatically adopt progressive idealism because how could they be so blind otherwise? It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of empathy. There is no greater reality-check than headlines screaming about the bodies of children as young as three years old being callously dumped into the ground and left to rot, and I’m not hearing Ezra Levant calling for a socialist utopia.

Are you telling me that individual context shapes our relationship and feelings toward the world? God dammit, we were so close! Ugh, I guess I’ll try making a compelling argument…

There are already some proposals for how to react to this news. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is fuming about how the left wants to ‘cancel’ Canada Day like employees will somehow have to give up their stat holiday pay or something. He is the only Canadian leader who actually loves Canada after all, and anyone who wants to reflect on the very present atrocities systemically perpetrated by Canada on this day is just siding with the terrorists. The thing is, there is no individual person to point to on this; responsibility lies symbolically in the entity of Canada itself. Celebrating ‘Canada’ while we’re still sifting through the bones of dead children killed by over a century and a half of Canadiana seems a little uncouth.

Personally, I don’t think wearing an orange shirt and teetotaling for a day, regardless of how symbolic that day might be, is going to accomplish much. It sets the limit on how much time we’re going to spend on these dead children to July 2nd. Certainly some Indigenous communities are calling for restraint as a means to pay respect to the present moment, and I can appreciate not wanting to mourn while people are next door loudly celebrating the colonial death of your cousin and aunty. I see this as an easy ‘thoughts and prayers’ moment for Canada that we’re somehow still bungling despite its very superficial and simple implementation. It’s nice to have, but it’s not a solution to the actual problem. This really didn’t need to become part of the culture war, but it has and that focus concerns me because now we’re talking about a culture war instead of what we actually do about thousands of dead children.

Solid rhyme, though!

The next proposal that is also gaining some traction is to follow the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC didn’t rely on people’s empathic progressivism to solve the problem; they actually put forward some guidelines on how to address it. The news has tended to focus on Calls to Action 71 through 76 because those are the ones that focus on the missing and dead children covered up by the residential school system, and boy howdy are governments going to town on that one! The federal Liberals are promising $27 million; Alberta is pledging $8 million; Saskatchewan is at $2 million; Ontario, $10 million; BC, $12 million. It’s not a contest. Don’t get excited.

The thing is, the laser focus on actions 71 through 76 ignores the 88 other Calls to Action that exist on that list. It’s important to note that these children weren’t killed in Holocaust-style gas chambers, despite residential schools being part of Canada’s “final solution” to the “Indian problem.” “Kill the Indian, and Save the Man” seems like a philosophy that doesn’t particularly care whether the man dies in the process, but its goal is still not mass murder. These children died of neglect, loneliness, unequal health conditions, and obviously the physical and sexual abuse didn’t help. However, it’s crucial to recognize that it wasn’t systematic murder. If we appreciate that fact, then we can see that the conditions that led to all these dead kids are still ongoing. There are still brutally unequal health outcomes; there is still inequality in services; there is still marginalization; there is still explicit and implicit forces pushing to disconnect Indigenous people from their land and culture. Canada as a system is still killing Indigenous people, including Indigenous children, and because it’s not overtly a mass murder with bodies hanging from the steeples, we don’t seem to care. We are impacted by this current news because it has the feel of a mass murder due to the vast number of bodies being found. People are having to go on the record to explain that these are not mass graves, but simply unmarked ones, because that is the feeling people are getting from these revelations. The reality may not be as sexy as people want it to be, but we still have to deal with it. That’s why it’s important to focus on more than just the Calls to Action that address where the bodies are buried.

“The Israeli court psychiatrist who examined Eichmann found him a “completely normal man, more normal, at any rate, than I am after examining him,” the implication being that the coexistence of normality and bottomless cruelty explodes our ordinary conceptions and present the true enigma of the trial.” Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

The 94 Calls to Action begin by looking at the legacy of residential schools. They expose the child welfare system as still perpetuating colonialism and requiring significant adjustments. They demand better educational and employment opportunities for Indigenous people. They demand the promotion of Indigenous languages that were stolen from them. They demand an acknowledgement that the health disparities existing in Indigenous communities resulted from Canadian policies, and then obviously demand steps to address them. They call for reevaluating the relationship of police and the justice system toward Indigenous communities and populations. The impacts on health, education, employment, and the detriments imposed by ongoing discrimination within the justice system are all held to be a part of the legacy of residential schools and other colonial policies.

The second half seeks to address how reconciliation could be possible, given the, you know, genocide. They call on the government to work together with Indigenous communities to figure out a game plan. They call for recognition of Indigenous title rights. They want a national council of reconciliation. They call for the training and education of public servants on the history of Canadian colonialism. They want an apology from the churches responsible, especially the Pope. They want this shit to be taught in schools in an effective way. They want youth programs and museums, a national centre for Truth and Reconciliation, commemoration of Indigenous sites, and acknowledgement of Indigenous athletes. They demand media support from government-funded media to provide Indigenous programming. They call on the corporate sector to follow these similar principles. They want Canada’s real history to be a part of the welcoming of immigrants into this nation.

This is what the Erin O’Toole’s of the world don’t seem to get: nobody is cancelling Canada. They want Canada to be more honest and to work toward addressing and moving past the historical injustices of colonialism. Maybe that means that you can’t blindly celebrate the Canadian heroes of the past with statues and universities, but like, if you murdered somebody, and all you had to do to move on from that was to get rid of some statues, that’s a pretty damned good deal! The demands of reconciliation are things that no individual would receive in any Canadian court of law if they committed these crimes in any other context. I did not list out all 94 Calls to Action. Go and read my hyperlink there. Criminal negligence resulting in death can get you up to life sentence in Canada. Kidnapping a child is also a life sentence. See if there is anything resembling that in the Calls to Action.

When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal!

Given my use of Hume’s relativism, I feel I should justify why following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action is any better than putting Trump in a position of global leadership. It comes down to sovereignty. Indigenous people aren’t calling for Donald Trump to fly in on a golden chariot to save them. Saying “We know what’s best for Indigenous people!” is what got us trying to kill the Indian within them to begin with. What are Indigenous people asking for?

Canada has been disproportionately underfunding child welfare services in Indigenous jurisdictions despite being told repeatedly by the Human Rights Council that they should probably fund all services equally. Indigenous people are in court trying to fix that – as good a place to start as any. Indigenous people would like to be able to lobster fish through the year because they’ve been doing that for millennia, but they’re facing a whole whack of violence and pushback for doing so – this is despite this exception being legally implemented way back in 1999. The police, the alleged enforcers of the law, did nothing. Indigenous people would like clean drinking water and a society that doesn’t bully their children into suicide with racism and systematic neglect. Indigenous people would like Canada to stop building random shit on their land – like a housing development or a golf course or a pipeline. Keep in mind a good chunk of Canada is unceded, in that we never actually came to an agreement with the Indigenous people who were already living here. We just came to this country and started building – fun fact, my family personally benefited from the Dominion Lands Act when the Canadian government encouraged European immigrants to expand westward by providing them with free land which was then defended violently by the RCMP against reasonably confused and angry Indigenous people. Canada is still basically building shit without Indigenous consent.

I have painted with very broad strokes here, and I am fully aware of the dangers of utilizing a pan-Indigenous approach to reconciliation. Indigenous people are not a monolith; for example, there are some Indigenous people who do want pipelines – it’s a thing. However, the whole argument of this entire post is that the same behaviours that resulted in the horrifying stories that we’re hearing in the news are on-going, and the very least we could do is stop those behaviours.

Even in those areas with treaties, I wonder how often those treaties are actually respected by current day policies?

Now I know that Critical Race Theory says that every single white person is an evil racist who should be ashamed of themselves. The only solution possible is for white people to surrender to the judgment of the BIPOC Marxist authorities and embrace their summary execution. Oh wait, nobody seriously says that. Not even Critical Race Theory says that. I’ve already addressed that the Calls to Action are about reconciliation – people living in peace, love, and harmony, man! The 94 Calls to Action are not an exhaustive list, and do not lay out guidelines for the practical implementations that might be required given we live in a practical world. They don’t say anything on how to react when the Canadian government says that they know residential schools were meant to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children, but that there is no evidence that they “sought to destroy the ability … to speak their Indigenous language or to lose the customs or traditions of their culture.” I mean, I don’t know if the TRC explicitly defines what ‘assimilate’ means, but surely the Canadian government has access to a dictionary.

Thousands of dead Indigenous children cannot be undone. What we do for the future matters. There are plenty of avenues to follow when addressing Indigenous issues in Canada, but some are better than others. Governments need to work with Indigenous communities and leadership to reconcile atrocious Canadian history. Canada isn’t all bad – we live in a democracy; we can hold governments accountable to this. When we say Canada did a bad thing, it only means we want justice for that, not annihilation. Let’s work for justice. You’d think that with thousands of dead Indigenous children, that much would be obvious.

Today is Canada day. Allegedly, Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday, since that was the point when anything worth mentioning started happening here in this vast expanse of land. But what happened 150 years ago that was worth celebrating? What exact event took place? What was its context? What were the consequences of that event, and given those consequences, do we really want that event to define us as a nation?

As is commonly known, Europeans came to this land, and took it from its native inhabitants; some might say stole. The method of acquisition is a bit hazy, since most of British Columbia, large parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and a number of other spots are areas of land that were never actually added to Canadian confederation. These are lands that were never signed away in treaty or annexed through conquest. Even beyond the ambiguities of treaties ceding ownership from a people who had no notion of land ownership in the first place, and the barbarity of stealing land from a murdered people via conquest, throughout a large portion of Canada, Europeans, now calling themselves Canadians, just “took” ownership of the land. The Canadian Supreme Court recently ruled that Aboriginal people in theory do still own the right to that land that they never actually gave up, which Canadian governments are now doing their utmost to circumvent. A most telling example is BC’s former-premier Christy Clark referring to the people “up there” (demarcating them as an Other from the predominantly non-indigenous southerners) as being the “forces of no” who are simply too unreasonable to blindly follow the economic fancies of the Liberal party’s oil and gas lobbyists. Ignoring the environmental concerns of a gas pipeline sullying First Nation’s traditional fishing grounds, what about simple respect for a sovereign people dictating their own affairs in their own land?

I don’t think most people would wish to celebrate 150 years of ongoing land theft, so what else has Canada been up to otherwise if we wish to only acknowledge 150 years? I mean, we all sort of know that white people used to be terrible to “Indians” back in the day, with terms casually thrown around like “genocide” without really appreciating that the term is one we commonly use in conjunction with atrocities like the holocaust: a great way to start the birth of a nation! However, we tend to ignore that. Stephen Harper infamously stated that Canada does not have a history of colonialism. If the Prime Minister of the country succumbs to the idea that Canada is just super polite and never does anything wrong, then I guess willful ignorance is one of those “Canadian Values” that people keep clamoring to demand of our immigrants.

Did you know that Aboriginal people did not get the vote in Canada until 1960? For comparison, black people in the United States, that horrible place with slavery and endless racism, got the vote in 1870 when the 15th amendment was added to the constitution (yes, voter suppression precluded black people from voting at the time, and is still ongoing). Women got the vote in 1918. What this all means is that if we want to celebrate 150 years of Canadian history, a good portion of that 150 years is an apartheid state.

Perhaps that is a bit extreme. Sure Canada isn’t actually Canadian land and we’ve excluded Aboriginal people from any kind of political participation, but we must have at least been polite about it! We’re Canadian, after all! Well, except that the head of Indian Affairs in the early 20th century said shit like this in regard to kids dying in Residential Schools:

“It is readily acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance to illness by habitating so closely in these schools, and that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is being geared towards the final solution of our Indian Problem.” [emphasis added]

The emphasis wasn’t added by me, but by the source from where I got the quotation. I decided to keep it because as far as final solutions go to ethnic-based problems, there aren’t many positive comparisons, and me choosing to use the term ‘apartheid’ seems more reasonable over other options I could have chosen, now doesn’t it?

But yeah! Residential Schools! They sound so benign, but you gotta remember that they were places where Aboriginal children were raped and tortured until they acted as white as they possibly could. Children were abducted from their families to be placed in these (well, we’re avoiding a certain comparison so I won’t say death camps even though more than 3000 children died, so we’ll stick with school) schools from the 1830s to 1996. Have some graphic imagery:

Girls were sexually abused and raped. Boys were forced to masturbate while wearing plastic skirts and showering together. Children were stropped, beaten with all manner of objects and were put in the electric chair; for punishment, for no reason at all and for simple entertainment. Children were forced to eat their own days old vomit.

Canada also had Indian Hospitals, which served a similar function to the Residential Schools, where segregated health services were delivered to abducted Aboriginals of all ages. Again the goal was to eliminate their culture, more so than any physical disease. The natives would become “civilized” whether they wanted it or not.

Canada never actually got tired of abducting Aboriginal children, however. During the 1960s, Canada’s intrepid social workers would venture into the Reserves and take children; ‘scoop’ them up, as it were, and now we have the delightful term “Sixties Scoop” to refer to this time period. Rather than place them in frightful Residential Schools, the government placed the children into white foster homes for even more “civilizing” missions against these savage people. Foster care is of course marginally less abusive than the Residential School system, so at least some degree of progress was made on that front. Still though, it ain’t great even today and abuses were (and are) abundant.

When I said Canada never got tired of abducting Aboriginal children, it should be noted that there is now what is referred to as the “Millennium Scoop” since there are more Aboriginal children under government care today than there was during the height of the Residential School period. In 2011, 85% of children in Manitoba’s foster care were Aboriginal. Another “Canadian Value” ought to be persistence, since we haven’t given up on that Final Solution during our much-celebrated 150 years. Aboriginal communities live in Third World conditions in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Their drinking water is undrinkable. Their health, infant mortality rate, and life expectancy is comparatively abysmal. Suicide rates are described in epidemic terms.

I mean, I guess you could be racist and say that Aboriginal people are just biologically determined to live garbage lives, but their livelihood prior to those 150 years shows otherwise. We now use terms like “intergenerational trauma” to described the impact the last 150 years have had on Aboriginal people, and I mean if you really want to celebrate that, enjoy being a shit person, I guess.

Perhaps you’re wondering that someone could in theory celebrate other aspects of Canadian life this Canada Day. Not everything is terrible. Insulin was invented in Canada. That’s pretty neat! We also invented basketball and Trivial Pursuit. Hooray for us! But by labeling Canada 150 years old, what we’re doing is saying that the Aboriginal People who have lived here a lot longer than that don’t fall into the Canadian narrative. We’re saying that we’re just going to ignore the legacy of what started 150 years ago, that Final Solution, and pretend that we never participated in colonialism. If we’re going to mark our calendars for an acknowledgement of 150 years, it should not be a day of celebration, but one of remorse. You don’t celebrate the beginning of genocide.

Why not acknowledge that the First Peoples of this country helped found the nation that we now call Canada? Why not say that the history of Canada is a history of all Canadians? We’d be a lot older than 150 years if we did that! We would see that the tragedy of Aboriginal life is not a permanent fixture, and we would see that their sovereign power is a right imbued in the history of our vast and diverse nation.

I am a patriot. I love my country. I just see my country as a collection of its people, rather than the illusion created by the public narrative. I celebrate Canada by celebrating Canadians, every single one of them, which means I celebrate too those who have been here since time immemorial.

Canada_150

Party on, Canada!