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?