Canada, as a colonial country, has a shamefully racist past with Indigenous peoples.
French and then English colonists massacred, cheated, and infected the original people here, taking their land in the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries. But long after the bloody early days of wars and displacements, well into living memory, the Government of Canada conducted systematic cultural genocide in the form of Residential Schools.
From the Canadian Encyclopedia:
Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools established to assimilate Aboriginal children into Euro-Canadian culture. Although the first residential facilities were established in New France, the term usually refers to the custodial schools established after 1880. Originally conceived by Christian churches and the Canadian government as an attempt to both educate and convert Aboriginal youth and to integrate them into Canadian society, residential schools disrupted lives and communities, causing long-term problems among Aboriginal peoples. Since the last residential school closed in 1996, former students have pressed for recognition and restitution, resulting in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in 2007 and a formal public apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008. In total, an estimated 150,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis children attended residential schools.
Since then, Canada has been rewriting its mainstream history to acknowledge and atone for the past, such as when our first Prime Minister, credited as Father of Confederation said, in 1883: “When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages. Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence.”
To start this national conversation and penitence, Canada’s federal government launched a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008. It issued its final report in 2015, and new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that he would see its recommendations implemented.
It is in this environment that Historica Canada, an independent organization devoted to enhancing awareness of Canadian history and citizenship, launched a new episode of its iconic “Heritage Minutes” series dealing with the shame of Residential Schools:
Heritage Minutes attempt to interest Canadians in their own history. The program began in 1991, with some of the early episodes becoming embedded as memes in Canadian popular culture. But while many early episodes dealt with proud moments of genius or heroism, this new “Minute,” released on National Aboriginal Day, is one of the darkest.
Here it is in French:
As a Canadian, and a parent, I think it’s important that we all take some time to think about how institutionalized racism has made our world what it is today.