In Canada: Truth, first, then Reconciliation

Posted 06.05.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC |As every person in Canada must know, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission has released its final report. The word & quot;final& quot; refers only to that Commission's years of work; the T & R process itself is just getting underway, and the big step next is our own, the non-Native section.

Prime Minister Harper has refused the characterization of & quot;cultural genocide& quot; now used for those shameful years, although our Chief Justice, Mme Beverley McLaughlin, had no problem with the term. And elsewhere, in Rwanda or Bosnia or even the American West, that would have been its official subtitle.

So why refuse to call a spade a spade? Compensation claims? Does that explain, too, why the Catholic Church still refuses an apology for its role in the Residential Schools. Mr. Harper has apologized, at least, so why not our & quot;new& quot; Pope, the man who claims to be bringing a conscience back to Rome? He lectures the world on eliminating poverty and fixing climate change, fine, but the Church was one of the three principal players in the Schools and it does claim a general moral high road.

And what about us all?

Most of us, of course, were either not alive or had no idea what was going on there, under the guise of & quot;charity work& quot; by & quot;spiritual& quot; orders. Yet it was our society which allowed these practices, and most of us, young or ignorant of the truth, most of us today benefit from all aspects and features of this, our guilty society. Can our society, founded as an extension of a colonial empire, with no therapeutic break, not bear some responsibility for crimes committed in its name and by its trusted clergy?

It's hard to avoid the fact that we each individually bear some responsibility for what happened, even if that means no more than to bow our heads, feel some shame, make our personal apology to neighbours of ours, and to pledge that this society of ours will move on from the laws, attitudes, and smugness which nurtured such sins. No breast-beating, no tears.

And no more smugness, either.

Any immigrant, and likely most travelers, to our homeland, our country, would confide that smugness seems a near-national trait among Canadians. Happily, the Truth & amp; Reconciliation Commission's final report makes moral and racial smugness impossible to support any longer! If true, what a bonus.

One hundred and fifty thousand children went through the Resident Schools, with at least four generations affected, plus today's. This is a purely Canadian story, Chief Phil Fontaine told the CBC last week. He was the person, largely him, who launched this whole investigation by revealing his own abuse at his School.

That this abused kid went on to lead his people from our continent's highest political office — in terms of history -- shows how great our apologies must be, to match our great, unavoidable national shame.


Copyright © 2015 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/06.15