National Residential School Survivors' Society: Greetings, Your Majesty
SAULT STE MARIE, ONTARIO--(April 18, 2007) -
On behalf of the National Residential School Survivors Society, we implore your awareness as our Head of State. There has been enormous development with regards to the relationship of Indigenous peoples in relation to mainstream Canada. However, we wish to convey our deep disappointment and regret for the refusal of the current Federal government to issue an apology to those Indigenous children of Canada who were subjected to the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) system in Canada.
Historically, Indian Residential Schools were created to educate the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, presumably the English language, law and commerce. However, in promoting the interests of the British Empire, Indian Residential Schools became a government funded and church operated establishment which advanced a severely exploitative and maltreating assimilation policy. The echo of this depraved policy lingers still throughout the halls of our parliament from the time when Indian Affairs Deputy Superintendent Duncan Campbell Scott declared:
"I want to get rid of the Indian problem. ...Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question."
Canada's efforts to succeed the IRS system cultivated a policy which fostered insensitive, callous and ruthless means in the name of progression and civilization. Children were forcibly removed and displaced from their homes, disconnected from their family structure and made to attend Christian institutions, whereby they were forbidden to speak or practice their own noble languages, spirituality and culture.
The intergenerational-impacts of the IRS legacy have stanchioned the intentions of D.C. Scott and were the primordial buttresses for the crown of colonialism in Canada. These impacts also created a loss of dignity, respect, and identity amongst the children and their offspring of this ghastly legacy. These losses in turn created many of the underlying dysfunctions within the people who live with this everlasting burden, their families and communities.
Recently, legal action was engaged against the Government of Canada and the appropriate Church entities which operated the schools. Former students sought out compensation and redress for these ill-fated injustices committed in the Indian Residential Schools. After a number of supporting court decisions and the onslaught of a pending National Class Action Case, a negotiated out of court settlement was achieved by all parties involved. The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) will provide former students with individual financial compensation. More so, the IRSSA is set to impart Truth and Reconciliation and Commemoration as the world has seen with other colonial nations in the past.
Although, the most important and noticeable element absent from the Settlement Agreement is a sincere and unequivocal apology at the community, regional and national levels by Canada. In recent news, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs has stated publicly that his government sees no reason why it should issue an apology to the former IRS students for the manner in which they were treated while attending these schools and that the governments motive was to provide these Indian children with an education. It would appear that the current Federal government of Canada refuses to accept the responsibility of the historic damage inflicted upon the children who had attended the Indian Residential Schools.
In order, to assert true reconciliation and redress within our communities, families and individuals the parties involved must predispose the foundations of these injustices. The impropriety of colonialisms imposition must be countered with a compassionate reparation and execute a genuine attempt to re-build trust and respect amongst the grassroots Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada. The beginning of this restoration must inhabit Canada and the Church entities' unadulterated responsibility of educating mainstream Canada of this horrendous history.
To advance the veritable spirit and intent of Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement is to ensure a sincere sense of closure and reconciliation for all who had participated in these schools. This will require an elevated form of etiquette, ethical behaviours and spiritual intervention needed to provide the direction towards redemption and closure.
One of the central components of the Settlement Agreement is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is within this forum where truth and honesty were to be the prevailing forces that would serve as the catalyst for an environment conducive to beginning the processes of well-being and bona fide reconciliation of the Indigenous people and mainstream Canada.
Further, we value the knowledge that the times which have created our present day societies were without the identification and knowledge of equality as is today. The single minded move towards progression of a century ago did not act with the same laws and behaviours as does today. As we wish to progress the well-being of our families and communities we have relinquished the need for an apology. Intrinsically our spirituality has always encumbered and correlates with the genuine teachings of Jesus Christ which transcends cultures and predates the arrival of the Europeans. In saying this and in the spirit of our people and the integrity of our collective compassion it would be prudent to offer forgiveness from the Survivors of Indian Residential Schools to Canada, the Church entities and their descendants.
The act of forgiveness is based upon and anchored in a spiritual realm no matter the denomination of religion or culture. While an apology can serve as an opening for reconciliation, we believe that true forgiveness is the spiritual connection that will provide a lasting bond for former students, their families and communities within the context of Canada. To quote Alexander Pope, "to err is human but to forgive is divine"
We truly believe the demonstration of this sentiment would bequeath the Indigenous peoples of Canada with renewal of spirit and vigour and offer a substantial pillar in re-claiming dignity and the rectifying of this ugly chapter in Canada's history. The spiritual, social, political and economical benefit to forwarding this noble endeavour is immeasurable and will commence and perpetuate a positive future for our children, grandchildren and the generations to follow.
Michael Cachagee, Chairperson NRSSS
National Residential School Survivors' Society
Grassy Narrows gets visit from Amnesty International
By Mike Aiken - Miner and News - Wednesday April 18, 2007
Investigators from Amnesty International visited Grassy Narrows earlier this week, where they hoped to examine the effects of industrial development on the community.
According to Canadian Press, the team also wanted to look into the ongoing opposition to logging in the Whiskey Jack Forest, because band members say half of their traditional lands have been deforested.
“The government of Ontario has made decisions impacting the community’s use of the land with little or no meaningful consultation with Grassy Narrows,” the group said in a prepared statement released over the weekend.
Community members and their supporters have protested clear cutting in the area for many years, including a permanent blockade at Slant Lake created four years ago and temporary roadblocks of local highways last summer.
For its part, the province has said there have been ongoing discussions with Treaty 3 and the First Nation on a wide range of issues, including natural resources.
During his most recent visit to Kenora, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay said staff “were in constant communications” with First Nations, as the ministry hoped to provide “certainty of supply” for the wood rights in the area.
The discussions are also related to $30-million expansion plans for Kenora Forest Products, which could provide up to 250 jobs.
Treaty 3 staff confirmed the talks were taking place, noting the minister was trying to ensure progress on the negotiations.
MNR’s area spokesman, Shawn Stevenson, was able to confirm the ongoing talks, but noted he wasn’t able to elaborate since he wasn’t at the table.
The traditional way of life at Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations -- including fishing and wild rice harvesting -- was devastated by mercury contamination between 1962 and 1970.
Clearcutting in the Whiskey Jack Forest has also affected trapping and hunting in the area.
The California-based environmental group, Rainforest Action Network, supported the work of the human rights activists.
“The presence of Amnesty International in Grassy Narrows is a wake-up call to North Americans, who think that human rights abuses on the homefront are a thing of the past,” said spokesman Brant Olson.
The environmentalists have partnered with band members on the temporary blockades, as well as protests near Weyerhaeuser headquarters in Washington state.