After news came out of Kamloops a few weeks ago that what are believed to be the remains of 215 young Indigenous children were found under the old site of a residential school, there has been much discussion about Canada’s dark history.
We as Canadians have always been known to the outside world as being generous and friendly people. Nothing goes wrong here – we just play hockey, drink beer and say ‘sorry!’ a lot.
But look a little deeper and you’ll find we have some serious issues that contradict our international reputation.
The news of these 215 buried children has stoked conversation nationwide about Indigenous relations in this country. The discovery means we as a nation have no choice but to truly confront what happened in our past, with regard to the residential school system. The discussion is never easy, as you are talking about taking people away from their homes and putting them into boarding schools, to assimilate them to a certain way of life. How can that be possible? Why did this happen? How did we let this happen?
Children disappeared from these schools all the time, and families were never given an explanation. Imagine in today’s world that your child was taken from you, never to be returned home, and no one told you why.
I grew up in a family with Indigenous roots. I am a part of the Métis Nation of Alberta, but it wasn’t until I was older that I really started to realize what that means.
My grandfather, who grew up in Carmen, Manitoba, used to tell me horror stories of growing up as an Indigenous person. He would tell me that a chore as simple as walking home from school could end in beatings due to his family’s red skin. He should have never faced what he had to just because of his background.
It took me a long time to understand, and I don’t know if I will ever fully grasp why relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people has been so bad for so long.
Looking forward, we still don’t know how to reconcile. If there is one positive outcome from the news that broke in Kamloops, it’s that there is no longer anywhere to run or hide. The need for reconciliation must be tackled head on.
We have advanced way too far as a civilization to still not understand and respect our fellow people, regardless of their backgrounds. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters should not have to live in fear or live in a society where they don’t believe the next person understands or cares about their struggles.
If there was ever a time to stand up in a united front, it is now, for the people who were here long before us.