Good memorials, bad memorials of residential schools

First Nations show the way to reconciliation. Protestors with other agendas should pay heed.

Tk’emlúps residential school. Image: APTN News

In a transformative move, Indigenous Canadians have designated the residential schools that robbed them of their language, art and culture into historic sites.

Not just the school buildings themselves but the whole residential school system has been designated as an historic significance.

The recent move was a collaboration of The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) and its survivors circle, Parks Canada, and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

So far, just two schools have been named historic sites but more are expected.

Senator Murray Sinclair, former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said that recognition of schools in Nova Scotia and Manitoba as national historic sites is a good starting point. He intends to push to have others recognized as well (Globe and Mail, September 1, 2020).

The Tk’emlúps residential school in Kamloops seems like a good candidate to be next.

The goal of the Tk’emlúps school is to educating Canadians. Their website states:

“Our goal is to make ourselves more accessible to the public and certainly to our membership. Throughout your visit you will have access to information in various departments and corporations as well as gain a better understanding of the complexity of our organization.”

A visit to the residential school made an impression on my son when he visited the reserve while attending elementary school.

Lorraine Daniels, who attended three different residential schools in Manitoba over the span of seven years, said the designation will be historic for survivors of the schools and recognition of their pain.

“It is a victory,” she said. “It is a milestone in our journey because everyone is on a journey towards healing. … It is very encouraging that the government is taking this step to acknowledge the residential schools and the system. As a residential school survivor, that gives me hope.”

Recognition of the residential schools by Canada’s indigenous peoples is both painful and refreshing. While indigenous peoples still bear the scars of being taken from their parents and being abused by the operators of the schools, their approach is superior to that of the vandalism of monuments to John A. Macdonald.

Statues of Macdonald are seen as bad memorials, at least seen by groups who have highjacked the healing and reconciliation process. As a promoter of residential school system, you would think would think that Macdonald would be a target of indigenous people. Not so.

Most recently, on August 29, 2020, a  statue of John A. Macdonald was toppled in Montreal. The vandals wanted to defund the police. What does the statue have to with defunding the police? It was simple a convenient target sure to get media attention.

Before that, on July 18, Black Lives Matter protestors poured paint on a Macdonald statue in Toronto. Macdonald, no saint, had nothing to do with discrimination of Black people in Canada.

Senator Sinclair, while still chair of Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairman, told The Canadian Press in 2017 that tearing down tributes to historical figures would be “counterproductive” to reconciliation efforts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

As demonstrators of all stripes target public memorials, Indigenous Canadians show what true reconciliation looks like.

 

 

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