Wednesday April 18, 2012

Native News

'Government A Lousy Parent'

Colonialism alive and well in BC

Released by the BC Green Party


he Truth and Reconciliation Commission Regional event held in Victoria on April 13th and 14th was attended by First Nations groups and concerned citizens including members of the Green Party of BC.

TRC is shedding light on one of the greatest tragedies in Canadian history - the abuse of Aboriginal children under the guise of education and assimilation. The event provided an important forum for those affected by the Indian Residential School system to share their experiences, connect with other survivors, educate the Canadian public about ongoing issues, and propose further action to ensure a just and healthy society.

Since European contact, Aboriginal people have been deprived of learning about their own culture, language, and history within Residential School systems. These schools were used to assimilate children by replacing their identities and customs so that future generations would not pass on Aboriginal teachings, including spiritual beliefs. Children were seen as the easiest targets to "Europeanize" in order to ensure they would no longer relate to their ancestors.

"The stories we heard were heart wrenching and I felt profoundly ashamed of Canada, Canadians, the churches, the sexual and physical abusers who perpetrated unspeakable acts on young aboriginal children and the province and police who didn't see or ignored what was going on," said Jane Sterk, leader of the Green Party of BC. "The damage to the individuals, to First Nations families and to communities continues to this day. Some survivors used the words 'genocide' and 'holocaust' to describe the consequences of Residential Schools, a pretty powerful indictment.

"Today, Aboriginal students continue to be deprived of the opportunity to learn their culture, history, values and worldview and non-Aboriginal children are being taught a sanitized version of Canadian history that fails to acknowledge the implementation of a deliberate policy to rob First Nations of their identities, culture and language and to systematically weaken their families and communities."

The Commission was set up to force Canada to confront the legacy of the residential school system. The "truth" part involves collecting thousands of stories from individuals directly and indirectly affected by residential schools.

Reconciliation will be the job of Canadians today and for generations to come. Until each First Nations' child develops a positive self-identity as an Aboriginal person, reconciliation will not be complete. Until languages and cultures are regained, reconciliation will be delayed. Until Canada and Canadians move beyond apology to action to right the wrongs, reconciliation is not possible.

"Even though Residential Schools have closed, we continue to marginalize individuals and to impede the success of Aboriginal families," continued Sterk. "First Nations children are still being taken away from families through our child welfare practices.

"Too often BC's Ministry of Children and Family Development has become the new residential school system. Aboriginal children are the majority of children in care in BC and parents have to fight against overwhelming odds to get their kids back. Instead of helping families stay together or to reunite quickly if children must be removed for their own protection, the response seems to be apprehending and presuming the parents will never be capable of parenting their kids.

"The government is a lousy parent," said Sterk. "One woman presented the case of her recent separation from her son Nolan, who was taken without warning 16 months ago. She has been asking why ever since and trying to dispute this action in the courts. Meanwhile her son suffers from nightmares and is being medicated against his parents wishes. She is also quietly helping the parents of 400 other kids in care who are fighting similar battles to get their kids back. She asked us to read "Walking This Path Together", a book that challenges the current Anglo-American child welfare paradigm.

"The province of BC seems to have reinvented and perpetuated a new expression of the policies that led to the residential school system. Child welfare, the lack of progress on treaties and the hostility toward First Nations opposing Enbridge and other industrial projects in their territories suggest we continue our colonial ways," concluded Sterk.

Copyright (c) 2012 The Valley Voice