Village gets electricity – in Canada

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The ceremony to announce the connection of Pikangikum to the Ontario power grid, in Dec. 2019. Photo: TBNewsWatch.com

These days I live in Nepal, where every once in a while a celebratory report appears in the news that a remote village has just been connected to the energy grid or road system. But it’s fairly rare to see such a headline in the media about Canada.

Well, here’s one — from 21 Dec. 2018!: Pikangikum, Ont., 1st remote community connected to provincial power grid. 

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Senator Lynn Beyak meet Justice David S. Gibson – and learn something

Report of Canada's TRC.

Report of Canada’s TRC, at the 2-year point of its 5-year mandate.

Two Canadians in powerful positions with totally divergent views about the impact of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples: thankfully the one with the decision-making power has taken the time to understand the painful history, and legacy, of this atrocious system.

In January, Justice David Gibson of the Ontario Court of Justice wrote an insightful commentary on the history of Pikangikum, a First Nation community in northern Ontario.

(I’ve written about Pikangikum before, including in this post.) Continue reading

Menstruating girls forced to skip school in Nepal, and Canada

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).  Continue reading

World’s largest residential school plays a positive role – researcher

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Morning assembly at KISS. Photo (c) Pulitzer Center.

I’m amazed to learn that 22,500 students attend a single residential school for indigenous children, in eastern India.

Anthropologist Christine Finnan spent six months at the Kalinga Institute for Social Sciences and as you’ll read, she was extremely conscious of the history of residential schools in places like Canada and the US when she started her research.  Continue reading

Ontario’s apology for residential schools positive but “so much is broken”

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Broadcaster Jesse Wente discusses Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s apology, on 30 May, for the province’s residential schools system for First Nations children. (c) CBC

Yesterday, 30 May, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne apologized for the treatment meted out to First Nations children in the province’s residential schools and for the racism that underpinned the schools system.

The apology felt anti-climactic following last year’s release of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but it should be welcomed as a sign that follow-up to the report continues. Continue reading

Dozens of suicide attempts by indigenous youth: what the f!*? is going on in ‘sunny ways’ Canada?

Walking near Attawapiskat high school

People walk near the high school in Attawapiskat. (c) CBC.ca

The Canada brand has been trending everywhere since the election of a Liberal government led by photogenic Justin Trudeau on Oct 19, 2015. This resurgence has featured Trudeau’s ‘bromance’ with US President Barack Obama and the prime minister’s declaration to the Paris climate summit in November that, “Canada is back” to assume its historical role as a nation that punches above its weight in engaging in global issues.

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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. Continue reading

Time to START the discussion on residential schools

TRC_closing_image_200415Now that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has scheduled the release of its final report, the real work must begin: getting all Canadians to recognise that the residential school system was only a symptom of how society in general mistreated aboriginal people historically, that the effects of that abuse are still being felt, and that it will take an effort by all of us to overcome them.

I was happy to see the TRC’s Chairman, Justice Murray Sinclair, say that he wants to kick-start a national debate on how to bridge the gap between aboriginal Canadians and the rest of us. One very public way to engage would be to participate in the Walk for Reconciliation in Ottawa on May 31. I hope to see you there!

“Love is something I don’t know”

(c) Indigenous Foundations, UBC

(c) Indigenous Foundations, UBC

In my previous post I explained why I wanted to publish accounts from some survivors of Canada’s residential school system.

These are the words of Pearl Achneepineskum who attended residential school for 8 years. She spoke at the TRC national event in Winnipeg in June 2010 and in a 2012 report by CBC Radio.

“I lost my brother CJ at the residential school in Kenora,” says Achneepineskum. “His name was Charlie Wenjack. He was only 12.*

My life has been not as good as it should be… Love is something I don’t know. I don’t know what that is.”

It was lonely: all I wanted to do was go home. Getting beaten up, and picked on, and sexually abused … that was the stuff I wanted to run from.

I’ve got 4 children, 1 daughter and 3 sons … and I treat them as if they were in residential school – that’s all I know.”

*Charlie Wenjack’s body was found a week after he ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora. CBC Radio News did a special report on his death, and broader issues linked to it.

‘About 500 of the victims remain nameless’

Residential schools across Canada

Residential schools across Canada. (c) Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

In March 2014, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission held its seventh and final national event concerning the residential school system. In the 19th and 20th centuries about 150,000 indigenous children were seized from their families by authorities and forced to attend such schools across Canada.

At least 3,000 of those children died and, as of February 2013, around 500 of those victims remained unidentified.

Those are just two of many statistics that illustrate the devastation wrought by a system that was designed by the Canadian government to ‘kill the Indian in the child’.

Why then does it seem so hard for many of us living in this country today to accept that many of the problems facing indigenous people today are a legacy of that brutality? Continue reading