April 28th, 2017

Comments on residential schools were a slap in the face


By Medicine Hat News Opinon on March 14, 2017.

There’s good reason why we don’t parse through the horror that was the Holocaust, to try to find the bright side to it. There is no bright side. Nothing was worth the brutal slaughter of over six million people, and the devastation that the Nazi regime caused.

As New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash, a residential school survivor, said last week “There’s never a good side to genocide.”

He said this in response to comments made last week by Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak who lamented on how all the negative stories about residential schools have overshadowed what good that the schools did. Saganash has called for Beyak to resign.

Beyak sits on the Senate’s aboriginal peoples committee. She also is a Senator from northern Ontario, whose population includes large numbers of First Nations people who had generations of children torn away from their language, culture and identity to be put through those schools.

Some who attended the schools had experiences that weren’t completely horrific. If there was good, then it is up to each individual survivor to choose what that was for them. And any good can in no way offset the devastating, long-term impact residential schools have had on survivors’ lives, families and communities.

It was genocide. Cultural genocide, plain and simple. This is abundantly outlined and articulated in the report issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This report, and its recommendations should be read by every Canadian.

It doesn’t matter that those involved in running residential schools meant well and were trying to be good people. Sometimes the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And the harm caused wasn’t just a case of a few bad apples. This was a planned decision by the Canadian government to systematically destroy First Nations communities and peoples.

Saying there was “good” in the residential school system is defending the indefensible — akin to saying there was some good within the Holocaust, in South Africa’s Apartheid, or any other dark moment in human history.

Beyak’s words are a slap in the face to all those who came forward to give their testimony, to the survivors, their families, and to those working to right the wrongs of Canadian history.

We can’t get to reconciliation, if we aren’t even willing to face the ugly truth.

(Peggy Revell is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to http://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)

6 Responses to “Comments on residential schools were a slap in the face”

  1. Lana says:

    While no good came out of residential schools I refuse to believe that they were set up for EVIL purposes like liberals and Natives want us to feel guilt for. Yes, we have to remember and learn from this, but to keep blaming and pointing fingers does not get us anywhere and that is exactly what keeps happening, white man is evil and is always going to be evil. (Sarcasm)

    These SCHOOLS were run wrong, they were run by religious beliefs that has shown its cruelty through hundreds of years. They were financially supported by a government that was too trusting of said religion.

    What happened to these people was disgraceful, but was not my fault nor my children’s fault.

    It is an evil that these people had to live through, it is a trial in their lives. Like many people have had to live through as you have mentioned. I do not see the Jewish community wanting to live off of the German people because of what Nazism did to their parents and grandparents. It is NOT a trial in their children’s lives or their grandchildrens lives and these are the people who are actually benefiting from the struggles of those who were in residential schools.

    Natives who had never been in a residential school are getting away with crimes because their parents and grandparents were in residential schools. This was not their burden, it was not one of their challenges to overcome in life.

    I have had burdens in my life that I have had to overcome, I would never allow my children to use those as an excuse to get away with crimes.

    This started with the British government and was allowed to continue afterwards by our liberal and conservative governments. Have the Natives gotten an apology/monetary reimbursement from the largest religion in the world?

    It is time to heal and move on, not keep blaming.

    I would not allow my daughter to cry in front of a judge saying she did something wrong because her mother is sick with a mental illness and she had to grow up in that environment. We do the best we can and a child who grows up has choices to make, they do bad things or they do good things. THEY CHOOSE, not because mommy or daddy or granny was in a residential school but because they pick which path is theirs, Easy or Hard.

  2. Lana says:

    Another Liberal bleeding heart calling names…not surprising when NOT once in my spiel did I call names, rant, become racist or a bigot.

    Once again, someone who is trying to pretend to be someone they are not AND are too scared to say who they actually are…If you cannot be constructive and OWN your thoughts that you are willing to put out there…don’t. They are not worth hearing.

    • Lana says:

      Your entire spiel is at best extremely ignorant, and that’s being generous. The last residential school closed just over twenty years ago. It’s not ancient history, and the effects are real and lasting to this day. You’re making up hypotheticals and saying you’d be just fine in those situations, and using that to justify atrocities.

  3. Lana says:

    So “Lana”, I was sexually molested as a child by a trusted family member, I was teased and abused by my fellow students for YEARS, I lost 2 fathers in horrid accidents…one caused by a drunk driver another caused by negligence on the part of a oil patch company…nothing much I could do as a child, not much my mother could do either, as the families of these men were adamant that she do nothing. I am Bi-polar, I have anxiety, my paternal side of the family all but abandoned me after my father was horridly killed by a drunk driver playing chicken on the #1 highway before it was even twinned.

    Would my horrid background give my children the right to drink and drive? Rob from farmers? Break our laws? No, it wouldn’t. Even if I had abused them because of my horrid background it would not give them the right to do bad things.

    It is their PATH in life to learn from the past and move forward…not get angry and abuse others who had NOTHING to do with what happened to them.

    I do not attack old white men because an old white man sexually molested me. I do not attack young men because young men were drinking and driving and killed my father, I do not attack oil companies because 1 irresponsible boss sent my step father to do a job he was not qualified to do. I moved on, but I guess that is because I am WHITE and that is only a white persons responsibility.

    • Llama says:

      That’s terrible and good for you for moving on. However, the thing you’re missing is that the exact same thing hadn’t happened over the course of a century to your entire community. The reason these remarks are terrible is because they downplay not only the severity of what happened to individuals, but refuse to acknowledge the harm that government-sanctioned abuse on a nationwide scale can cause.

      It’s not just that individuals were abused, it’s that any safety net they could have had was also destroyed.


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