Challenging Canadians to learn their true history of genocide and colonialism against First Nations


Anishinaabe comedian Don Kelly's e-mail response to the CBC Aboriginal editors choice of the Top 5 Aboriginal related stories for 2013:

"I think it's a great idea and a solid list (by the way, wouldn't CBC's creation of "CBC Aboriginal" be noteworthy?). I would take issue with the Brazeau story as an "Aboriginal" story, let alone a "Top 5" story. It's a story of political scandal that ensnared a few other notable senators, none of whom are Aboriginal. But my intention here is not to quibble with the list. Instead, I want to put forward two other notable stories from 2013.

First, the reports of nutritional experiments conducted on young First Nations children in residential schools. These experiments included withholding necessary nutrition and care to children so they could be used as a "baseline" reading. The story was first reported in a little-noticed article in the Anglican Observer in 2000 but it slammed into the nation's consciousness as a result of more detailed research and reporting by the University of Guelph's Ian Mosby.

This story is important because it helps drive a stake through the long held myth that the residential schools were simply a misguided attempt to "help" First Nations adjust to changing times. The pernicious objective of the schools is laid bare. The experiments were not the result of rogue research gone mad - they were officially sanctioned by the government of the day. Anyone willing to make half an effort already knows the residential schools were one vast experiment to violently amputate culture from First Nations people but this story was a granular, graphic illustration of casual cruelty by the state on its most vulnerable members.

Second, another sad piece of research that revealed an untold but essential and profoundly disturbing, tragic chapter of Canadian history: the official policy of forced starvation of thousands of First Nations men, women and children by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald's government. Unknown and probably unbelievable to most Canadians, James Daschuk's book "Clearing the Plains" is no bleeding heart polemic or historically revisionist propaganda. It's a Ph.D dissertation. Its recitation of ruthlessness in at-times dry, clinical detail makes it all the more chilling.

Taken together, I believe these stories represent the stuttering, shuddering death of the Canadian Dream. By "Canadian Dream" I don't mean the ideals we aspire to; I mean the collective consensus around who we are and what we are. Most Canadians want to believe their country is fair and just, a beacon of human rights and Indigenous rights, a land that welcomes and embraces all peoples and creeds; that we are, in essence, the best place in the world to live.

These stories explode that myth and the sharp shards pierce our conscience. They show in stark relief the decades long, ongoing assault to eradicate Indigenous identity in our own land by force of power and policy. First Nations cast a shadow over every claim of Canadian righteousness and light. And Canadians, frankly, don't like it. To be fair, they never learn it in school and it's an affront to their sensibility.

But Canada is slowly, reluctantly kicking and stamping its way to confront the death of its dream. This is not a bad thing. Let's move through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and right into acceptance.

We can open our eyes to a new horizon of promise and potential. We can look back to our original relationship of respect, recognition and sharing and see that it's the path we must follow forward.

Dreams are beautiful, fantastical things. But ultimately as thinking, feeling, responsible people we need to rouse ourselves from our collective slumber and face the challenges, possibilities and astonishing promise of the Canada that could be. Together, we can create a new reality and a new day.

It's time to wake up.