What does justice mean for Indigenous survivors of the genocide in Canada?

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Imagine if your child was torn from your arms by the police who enforced the laws of your oppressors; if the devil in the form of forced assimilation and colonization, under the guise of church-run institutions, stole your children – and your flesh and blood were beaten, sexually raped, humiliated and stripped of their identity; or if your child – or aunt, uncle, brother or sister – died of malnutrition, unhealthy living conditions or was murdered by his attackers.

Imagine that your beating heart is ripped from your chest.

The spirits of lost Indigenous children demand justice. Finally, the world seems to be paying attention.

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Last month discovered in Saskatchewan a burial site containing thousands of bones – the remains of 751 people, including many innocent children who were forced to attend one of the homes of horrors known as “Indian Residential Schools” – sparked a global shock wave. This occurs just a few weeks after a similar discovery, in British Columbia, the remains of 215 children in anonymous graves at another former residential school. Then last week a third of these discoveries was made up of 182 anonymous graves in another school in British Columbia.

Too often, the world sees Canada as a leader in peace and equality, as well as a place of vast expanses of stunning natural beauty. This facade has collapsed for good.

The “Indian Residential Schools” were compulsory boarding schools with the official mission of “assimilating” Aboriginal children, funded by the Canadian government and largely administered by the Catholic Church. They have existed for over 100 years, the last one having closed in 1997. For decades, the terrors of these places went unchallenged and survivors had to stifle their tears and live the rest of their lives without complaint. . “Just get over it” seemed to be the dominant attitude.

Past and present colonial violence

Children were systematically and forcibly taken from their families and imprisoned in these institutions. Survivors have testified in truth and reconciliation hearings to witness the murder of their friends. Some children died from malnutrition, others from diseases such as tuberculosis, which raged in unsanitary living conditions. There aren’t many “schools” with cemeteries.

I don’t expect to see real justice for the murders of our children in my lifetime. But healing is possible. Indeed, the Indigenous peoples of Canada are already beginning to heal. Our young generations are on fire, resuscitating our cultures and gaining strength. We are rising in power as indigenous peoples and we are reclaiming what has been stolen from us.

I, and many indigenous peoples, lose patience with people who argue that our context is not genocide. This is what we experienced: the theft of land and resources, and the oppression of First Peoples.

This did not end with the closing of the last residential school in 1997. Colonial violence is alive and well now, in the form of what the Prime Minister Justin trudeau also recognized as the current genocide missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls – who experience violence 12 times more than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Unsafe, unsanitary water systems and living conditions exist in many First Nations communities. Suicide rate have reached epidemic proportions. Indigenous men and women are vastly over-represented in the prison system, and much more likely to undergo police brutality.

More than half of the children placed in foster care are indigenous. This means, ironically enough, that more Indigenous children are being raised by the state right now than they were during the heyday of the residential school system. In addition, the federal government currently refuses to follow Supreme Court decisions to pay restitution children in native foster families.

Our families continue to bear the brunt of the intergenerational trauma of the atrocious abuse of residential schools. How can you expect people to function normally after being humiliated, humiliated and abused – physically, sexually, verbally and spiritually?

These evil times, along with colonialism in general, almost wiped us out. The survivors were cast into the white world, broken and defiled. For too many, the consequences of these experiences have included addiction, dysfunction, abuse, violence and other forms of devastation.


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