I am astounded. One of the first items I posted on this blog, in 2010, was about girls’ toilets in schools in Nepal and other ‘developing’ countries. It described how the lack of designated toilets for girls in many schools meant that once they reached the age of menstruation, girls would stay home when they had their periods.
Today I read that in Canada’s province of Saskatchewan, girls in some northern communities are staying home from school because they can’t afford sanitary pads or medicine when they are menstruating. The CBC article lacks details, but I’m assuming that some, or all, of those communities are “reserves” where many of Canada’s Indigenous People live. (The article does mention “First Nations” communities).
Let me put this another way: girls in Canada are missing school when they have their periods because they can’t afford pads or medicine. Does that sound like the Canada you know, the country with the swashbuckling progressive prime minister, the place that consistently ranks in the Top 10 globally for its social development?
Erased from the “family photo”
As I’ve written many many times before in this blog, that Canada, the country where Syrian refugees are embraced and progressive politics reign supreme, is a place where Indigenous People are quietly erased from the family photo. The reality is that there is a suicide epidemic among young people in Indigenous communities, that families are still being destroyed by physical and sexual violence and substance abuse that are legacies of a residential school system established by the Canadian government in the 19th century to “kill the Indian in the child”.
I could list many other indicators of how Indigenous People are second-class citizens in Canada (or you could read other posts in this blog) but instead I’ll quote a coroner in the province of Quebec who recently investigated yet another series of suicides of Indigenous People, this time in the Innu community. In his report he described residential schools as “only one product, one beast among many others, of the apartheid system that was introduced by our ancestors and that has been preserved to our day,” reported The Canadian Press.
A model for South Africa’s apartheid
This is not the first time the reserve system has been described this way, and it has been widely reported that Canada’s Indian Act was a model for South Africa’s apartheid system.
What is my point here? Am I merely trying to smear the good name of my home country? No. My aim is to raise awareness about how Canada treats indigenous people in the hope that pressure will build from the international community pushing the government to act. High hopes, I know.
My other goal is for Canadians to recognise that they have racist attitudes towards Indigenous people, and that those must change. Until that happens, government after government will continue to ignore the issues that I’ve described above, and many others. And apt comparisons will continue to be made between one of the richest countries in the world and the so-called “developing world”.