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

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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.

Continue reading

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!