Looking at and really seeing ourselves


My new hero: Justice Murray  Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

My new hero: Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

As a journalist in Canada and Asia I met many indigenous people, and I wrote numerous articles about their issues. I am far from ignorant about their realities.

Yet I realized this week that somehow I had still been denying the reality of how really really horrendously my ancestors had treated Canada’s indigenous people. And how that treatment continues today.

It happened when I read this article in IPS News, about the ‘stolen generations’ of aboriginal people in Australia. While they make up barely 5% of the country’s population, 35% of children taken from homes by the state are aboriginal. Shocking how Australia, that far-off country, can do such things, I thought.

But very quickly, thanks to all the information generated around the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I realized that Canada is just like Australia. 

For instance, in British Columbia, aboriginal children make up only 8 per cent of the total child and youth population, yet they account for more than half of the 8,000-plus children and youth in care, says the province’s Representative for Children and Youth.

There are innumerable other ways that Canada, and Canadians, continue to treat indigenous people without respect, compassion and fairness. I think this week I finally felt that sad reality in my heart; I didn’t just understand it in my head. Canada has become that ‘place over there’, which treats its own people abominably.

The question now is: can we change?

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2 thoughts on “Looking at and really seeing ourselves

  1. Certain socio-economic groups have more problems/issues than others. Aboriginals are more likely to be in those socio-economic groups (although we can agree it’s not their fault). In my opinion it would be surprising if the percentage of aboriginal families with children and youth in care wasn’t higher than average.

    I’m sure there are additional reasons for the higher numbers, but to the extent we’re talking about dysfunctional families I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to let children stay there. Maybe we should start in the other end; with the parents.

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    • Thanks Bjorn. I agree we shouldn’t let children remain in unsafe situations, but I think a lot of assumptions are likely being made about aboriginal households without the necessary analysis being done before action is taken.

      And yes: healing should be inter-generational.

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