After six years of research, the Truth and Reconciliation reports were released in Ottawa this week by the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).
Conferences were held from the first to the third of June, not nearly enough time it seems to address each momentous finding. Countless troubling accounts, statistics and very personal testimony was given by survivors as well as those who participated in administrating the schools. Witnesses and community members shared and spoke candidly about their understanding and experience of the impact of the residential school system on First Nations communities in Canada.
ABOUT RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS
Lasting one hundred and twenty-five years, residential schools were used as an instrument for the genocide of First Nations people in Canada. The story of residential schools is one of forcible extraction of First Nation children from their families and communities. Once removed from their family, they were isolated to the boarding schools funded by the Canadian government and administered by the Church representatives, both Catholic and Anglican, who taught them that their culture and way of life was inferior. The schools mark an attempt by the Canadian government to erase First Nations people, a dark time in history Justice Murray Sinclair states- a period of time where Canada clearly engaged in the practice of cultural genocide .
The TRC report indicated that the death rate at residential schools exceeds 50% though the exact number is not known, as those participating in the genocide did not choose to keep ready documents of it, but unmarked graves exist by the thousands at residential schools across Canada; a graveyard for a playground. A lump in your throat. I continue.
Isolation from familial ties was another; siblings would be kept apart, even parents who tried to see their children, remove them, or visit were not allowed to talk to their children.
Any cultural practices were punished severely. Speaking their language was strictly prohibited. Ancestral languages that exist today preserved by children lying awake at night whispering to themselves in their native language so as not to forget. Regular incidents of both physical and sexual abuse are recorded as well as rampant diseases do to conditions.
The legacy of these residential schools lasted more than a century, 125 years in fact, the last closing in ’96, these schools impacted four generations of First Nations communities and continue to shape Canada today. Justice Sinclair spoke at the University of Ottawa with regards to significance of multigenerational impact the residential schools had on First Nations communities- had the schools only lasted for some odd twenty or thirty years, he said, these children may have been able to be taken back to their communities and rehabilitated through the support of community and spiritual leadership, but cultural genocide is designed as such, that the survivors lose touch with community, sense of self. Survivors of such gross violation express the impacts carrying this pain has had on their lives and relationships today. In his talk the day before the Truth and Reconciliation meeting, Justice Sinclair showed an example of a survivors testimony. I encourage you to listen to the whole talk here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVFGj-nCUdU
Support for First Nations communities is growing under the Idle No More movement. Mi’kmaq mother, leader, activist, lawyer, professor and Chair of Indigenous Studies at the Ryerson, Univeristy, Dr. Pam Palmater spoke to Democracy Now’s, Amy Goodman about the findings noting that it would be a mistake to think of residential schools are just something that happened before in history.
“There’s no more residential schools, but the policies we have today accomplish the same things,” explains Pam.
These objective continued to carried out through the child welfare system that continues to disproportionately remove First Nations children from their families at alarming rates. Today, First Nations youth represent half of the children in the child welfare systems.
First Nations have reported over 1,500 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada, Reports of racism in health care, lower life expectancy, higher rates of poverty, incarceration and suicide continue to effect First Nations communities across Canada. Corporate exploitation from oil companies subsidized by the government bring environmental racism and consistent failure to honour treaty rights.
Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has made clear that First Nation’s women are not a priority and has even publicly denied any systemic nature to the continuity of violence facing Indigenous women.
In March, 2015, the United Nations formally declared that Canada government has not succeeded in its treatment of the First Nation people and called for a National Inquiry into the thousand missing and murdered First Nations women.
The United Nations Findings
The “well-being gap” between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada is not improving.
Treaty and aboriginal claims remain “persistently” unresolved.
Indigenous women and girls “remain vulnerable to abuse.
“There appear to be “high levels of distrust” among aboriginal people toward all levels of government.
While awareness in Ottawa is heightened, a call for action is clear.
READ The Truth and Reconciliation call for Action
When it comes to genocide, it could not be more understated that a simple apology will not suffice- action is called for. A result of this systemic racism is lack of representation of First Nations women in media. Which is why, as a women’s film collective, I would like to offer you an opportunity to support women who are still here resisting and educating through the art of film. First Nations documentary film maker, Colleen Cardinal is creating a film that exposes a legacy of genocide here in Canada, promoting understanding at such a crucial time in the political climate between here in North America between Canadian government and First Nations people. With over 1,500 indigenous women reported missing or murdered with no national inquiry, countless actionable suits First Nation families have taken up over foster care conditions and abuse, Colleen is one woman stepping up to the plate to tackle some of these current affairs.
Colleen was adopted during the sixties scoop and her sister and mother are both tragically missing and murdered First Nations women in Canada whose numbers reach a staggering and unaccounted 1,600 that go unaccounted for. Colleen not only undertakes one of the most important topics of our time, but allows the audience into her personal journey with her son, Sage in her new documentary film. Their film is a physical and spiritual journey as they travel from Ottawa to Edmonton visiting reservations, sharing stories of the past and providing a distinct opportunity to share an understanding essential for of all Canadians.
I caught up with Sage at the Youth Services Bureau in conjunction with MASC, Sketch and the Trillium Foundation where Sage works with underprivileged kids in the Ottawa area as an Art Messenger.Sage and Colleen are working to raise awareness around the violence and systemic racism facing First Nations communities today through the documentary film,
“HiddenGenerations,” which explores the connection between the residential schools, the sixties scoop and current crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.
Women in View provides annual reports and research on women’s advancement in the film and television industry here in Canada. The first chart I came across – said- everything.
First Nation women face even more barriers when it comes to achievement within the film and television industry. With so many voices lost, lets not miss another opportunity. Help support this First Nation’s documentary filmmaker. Take Action- Fund Colleen
Help support Colleen Cardinal – “Hidden Generation” Film.
Fund her film. Suggested donation $10.00.
Check out her website and read more HERE: : https://vimeo.com/125737860