One thought on “Canada’s Dark Secrets

  1. It was mentioned in this documentary that it is now difficult for a Canadian to say that “I didn’t know,” about residential schools. Honestly, prior to my grade 11 year of secondary school (2018), I did not know much about residential schools. Prior, I did hear a bit of the Truth and Reconciliation report and the 94 calls to action. At my alma mater, grade 11 English was dedicated to Indigenous studies. While I did study William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, there was an emphasis on studying Indigenous culture of Canada. I recall doing a presentation on Indigenous clothing and music, reading an Indigenous novel, “Three Day Road,” by Joseph Boyden. However, probably the biggest takeaway was a viewing of the movie, “Indian Horse.” A good chunk of the film, based on the actual novel, spoke to the realities of residential schools.

    A thread that really went through the documentary above and the movie “Indian Horse” was the notion of *identity*, how via residential schools, not only did Indigenous students lose their Indigenous culture, but also the core of who they are a human beings. They were alienated from who they are, from their family, from culture, from their homeland so to be assimilated into white European culture. I think it is important to reflect upon this damaging aspect of residential schools. As a visible minority myself, a Vietnamese-Canadian, I think of how often I and many of my peers take our chances to celebrate our traditions such as the Lunar New Year (Tết) or as a Catholic to gather and partake in the celebration of Mass in Vietnamese. Just up the street where I live, there is a Vietnamese Buddhist temple with monks residing in the residence and from time to time I would hear the chanting of Buddhist prayers in Vietnamese with the smell of burning incense. Many other cultures and religions can freely express their own cultures, forming a “mosaic” of diversity. It is perhaps what we see in Canada now in terms of multiculturalism and diversity that makes it so difficult for us to embrace the reality of residential schools – how a country that today prides itself with multiculturalism at one point in history tried to erase Indigenous culture and people.

    Upon the discovery of the mass grave in Kamloops (and other similar graves are being discovered), what was disturbing was the pointing of fingers, among leaders, rather than speaking and addressing the realities of the damages of residential schools, particularly addressing how to better support and reconcile with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Gerri Butler, one of the speakers in the above documentary spoke of the need of less talk – more action when it comes to truth and reconciliation. She is right, it is only when we stop pointing fingers at each other and seeking out mere words from various sides of the table, and instead vouch for action, accompaniment and sincere reconciliation and then can we really move towards restoration of what was lost. We cannot change the past, but we must look recognize the faults and rather spend time on talk and statements, take action and move towards reconciliation.

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