Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: We Must Break the Cycle

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: We Must Break the Cycle

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: We must break the cycle


An editorial from the Red Deer Advocate, published Feb. 27:

"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

-- Sir Winston Churchill

The Indian residential schools system is a uniquely Canadian wound that will be very slow to heal.

Beginning as early as the 1870s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were taken from their families and forced to attend federally run residential schools far from home.

The goal of this mass institutionalization was simple: eradicate the First Nation in the child. Children were forbidden to speak their own language or practise their own culture. Those who disobeyed faced severe punishment. Others endured terrible emotional and sexual abuse.

New research conducted under the Missing Children Project suggests at least 3,000 students died in the system.

Officials believed that, given enough time, "aggressive assimilation" would persuade First Nations children to speak English, practise Christianity and adopt Canadian customs.

A monumental failure, the Indian residential schools system caused untold grief to First Nations families and produced generations of First Nations men and women ill-equipped to function in society, First Nation or otherwise.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologized to residential school students in Parliament on June 11, 2008.

Compensation, called Common Experience Payments, was made available to surviving residential school students, and Ottawa established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine the system's legacy.

But has the federal government learned from the mistakes of the past?

Shawn Atleo doesn't think so.

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations told the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on Monday that First Nations children are still being sent into institutional care by the thousands due to systematic under-funding of child-welfare services on reserves.

"It's a pattern that looks a lot like the pattern under residential schools," he added later in an interview. …

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