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Records of Horrific Abuse at Indigenous Residential Schools Must Be Destroyed, Rules Court

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A monumental unanimous decision on Friday from the Supreme Court of Canada states that records of horrific abuses in the nation’s baneful Indigenous residential schools must be kept confidential — and, in fact, should be destroyed.

In effect, however, the Canadian court seemed to rule in favor of erasing genocide — including the kidnapping and detention of thousands upon thousands of Indigenous and First Nations Peoples — entirely from the books.

Indigenous claimants against the government — of whom there are 38,000, if not far more — will have access to their files, and ability to request their preservation, for just 15 more years. After that, all documentation will be destroyed — erased.

“While this order may be inconsistent with the wishes of deceased claimants who were never given the option to preserve their records, the destruction of records that some claimants would have preferred to have preserved works a lesser injustice than the disclosure of records that most expected never to be shared,” the ruling states.

Proposals from the government to delete any identifying details and remove all information too personal as to be identifying did not satisfy the top court’s contention the accounts would be too fraught to divulge publicly.

But this latest development in Canada’s profound abuse of human rights glosses over the inimical history of Indigenous residential schools. Worse, the ruling does so under the premise of protecting victims’ identities — while, in actuality, it appears intended to guard from public perusal the names of the many abusers and perpetrators.

Canada’s 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, CBC notes, was intended “to promote healing, education, truth and reconciliation, and commemoration by, in part, financially compensating former students” — former students who had no choice but to attend the Christian-centric, government-funded assimilation schools: Attendance was mandatory for all Indigenous children.

Per the agreement, CBC explains,

“There were two types of compensation; one based on the amount of time spent at the schools ($10,000 for the first year and $3,000 for each year after) and a second based on abuse that resulted in serious psychological consequences, claimed through the independent assessment process.

“Applications required survivors to provide ‘the most private and most intimate personal information’ and each person attending the hearing was required to sign a confidentiality agreement.”

Interestingly, the Government of Canada had not sought to destroy the tens of thousands of accounts of the horrors of forced cultural assimilation and worse — it was the highest court’s feeling the families of victims or of deceased victims would take issue with raw details. Indeed, the aforementioned confidentiality decree comprised the heft of the court’s reasoning.

“As a matter of contractual interpretation, destruction is what the parties had bargained for,” the court wrote of the accounts. “The independent assessment process was intended to be a confidential process, and both claimants and alleged perpetrators had relied on that assurance of confidentiality in deciding to participate.”

In contrast, the government pursued the retention of those records with Library and Archives Canada, with Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett lamenting she was “very disappointed” with the ruling.

An understandable sentiment from the perspective of atonement and recognition on the part of the Canadian government for unspeakable crimes committed against peoples whose only transgression was the geographical happenstance of their ancestral lands. Although tone has plainly shifted, personal accounts of what happened behind the doors of these ‘residential schools’ occasionally freeze the public spotlight — despite the court’s apparent moralism in citing victims’ interests.

“I was thrown into a cold shower every night, sometimes after being raped,” then-fifty-year-old Sue Caribou — who suffers chronic, annual pneumonia as a tangible reminder of the abuse — matter-of-factly told the Guardian in June 2015.

At the time, First Nations and Indigenous Peoples had just received vindication — the government of Canada conceded the abominable assimilation program, in essence, disguised as legitimate education had effected nothing less than genocide.

“Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide,” Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, declared without condition to thunderous applause and palpable emotion from the audience of survivors and supporters in Ottawa, as the Guardian reported then.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Catholic Church previously offered apologies for the schools’ abhorrent treatment, in 2008 and 2009, respectively — yet, neither they nor any officials had ever conceded the transgressions amounted to genocide.

“It feels like our story is validated at last and is out there for the world to see,” Cindy Tom-Lindley, executive director of the Indian Residential School Survivor Society in British Columbia, explained after the historic declaration. “We were too scared as children to speak out. So to give our testimonies to the commission was liberating and emotional.”

That sentiment was shared by many Indigenous women and men who sought both recognition from the government of inexcusable abuse and a platform from which to recount the horrors without fear of retribution — or, possibly worse, disbelief.

But the platform and rhetoric of apology represented mere formalities for some, including Perry Bellegarde, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 2015, who admonished,

“If Stephen Harper’s apology for residential schools is not followed by actions, it will prove to be meaningless.”

In the ensuing period, Canada began the process of monetary compensation as described earlier in this article. Whether or not the program and its conditional hush agreement could ever reckon the unspeakable terror occurring for decades upon decades unchecked must be the decision of each victim.

“I didn’t learn anything at the Guy Hill school except the ‘Our Father’ prayer and the national anthem,” opined Caribou, suggesting the noun, school, should be left open to interpretation. “My children taught me how to read and write. I’ve been a housekeeper all my life because of my lack of education and poor health.”

Caribou, a mother of six, managed to survive the draconian assimilation agenda — but many did not. Lowball tallies from the horse’s mouth surmise no less than 6,000 children died in these institutional hells — a figure shamefully contrary to collective anecdotal accounts — but the number may never be assessed since the Canadian government simply ceased keeping records in 1920.

Then, mass graves consumed the State’s shame — or so the culpable must have hoped — as Caribou remembered, “Remains were found all over the fields. But numbers do not reflect the reality. Many of my friends committed suicide after their release.”

“I vowed to myself that if I ever get out alive of that horrible place, I would speak up and fight for our rights,” Caribou asserted of the Guy Hill institution in Manitoba, where she resided as an effective prisoner until 1979 — the entire stint, enduring sexual and physical abuse in many forms, from so-called instructors. She recalled having been forced to consume rotten vegetables and a prohibition on speaking her native language of Cree — but speaking about the past, making known the sordid acts of a cruel and unforgivably ignorant state is catharsis.

Victims of genocidal crimes unquestionably have the right to demand and receive privacy, as much as they do to shout every detail into a megaphone for the world to understand.

Without the horrors of abuse on record, the excruciating testimonies will be lost to time, perhaps followed by knowledge of the genocide years after.

But then, it’s almost as if that had been the hope all along.


Image: Public Domain.

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UK Queen’s Statues Torn Down Amid Anger Over Mass Graves for Indigenous Children

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This year may have had one of the most muted Canada Day celebrations, but this didn’t stop Indigenous protesters from making their anger felt – especially in the wake of the discovery of over 1,000 children’s bodies near the residential schools run by the Canadian state and church authorities.

And with churches being likely targeted by arsonists for the crimes of Catholic clergy, protesters are now attacking the symbols of Anglo colonialism – namely, statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.

More than 200 children’s bodies were discovered buried in a mass grave in May, with several hundreds more being discovered in June at unmarked gravesites near Indian residential schools in June.

About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.

Former students have testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad children died from preventable diseases, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”

The discoveries have churned up deep-seated anguish and memories of the suffering visited upon First Nations peoples, with many lashing out at the symbols of colonialism.

At least seven churches, all but one of which were Catholic, have also come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks.

In June, a statue of the late Pope John Paul II at a Catholic church in Edmonton was splattered with red paint and red handprints.

On Thursday, July 1, residents in Canada also held organized protests and pulled down the statues of the top figurehead of British colonialism: Queen Elizabeth II, as well as that of her great grandmother, Queen Victoria. Sky News reports that the toppling of the statues was accompanied by the chant, “No Pride in Genocide!”

In Ottawa, protestors gathered en masse at Parliament Hill chanting ”Cancel Canada Day” and ”shame on Canada,” urging an end to the national holiday over the deaths of Indigenous people.

Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. The event could take place by year’s end, according to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

However, it remains unlikely that the British crown will offer the same amends to Canada’s Indigenous nations who, like many across the globe, suffered greatly in British Colonialism’s worldwide search for riches and glory.

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3 Reasons Why Introverts Are Undervalued in Today’s Society

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It’s undeniable that our society favors assertive extroverted personalities with strong communication skills and underestimates the quiet ones. If you are an introvert, you have probably learned it the hard way.

It could be that you felt unseen in the classroom as a child or teen. Or you may have watched your less competent co-workers get a promotion thanks to their social skills.

It feels unfair, but if you think about our society, it makes perfect sense. The consumerist mindset that has become our second nature inevitably affects the way we treat other people. It seems that everything, including our personal qualities and worth as human beings, is translated into some kind of market value.

In other words, to make other people see your worth in personal or professional life, you need to be able to ‘sell yourself’. Yes, this expression alone tells it all.

You need to know how to make a good first impression, say the right things, and be assertive. If you can’t do it, you are perceived as incapable and uninteresting – whether we are talking about a job interview or an informal social gathering.

But it’s not the only reason why introverts are undervalued in our society. Here are a few more:

1. They are less efficient in teamwork

Communication and teamwork skills are required for all kinds of jobs. It seems that without being able to work in a team, it’s impossible to do your job even if your duties don’t involve interaction with clients.

Introverts are much more efficient when they work on their own and are given a certain extent of independence. They thrive in quiet environments with few distractions and interactions. This is when a quiet person gets the chance to unleash their creative self and make good use of their analytical skills.

Most office jobs don’t give employees this opportunity. Office meetings, group projects, phone calls and all the other attributes of a 9-to-5 job make it almost impossible for an introvert to be productive.

2. They don’t like to be in the spotlight

Sometimes it feels like we are living in a society of attention seekers. Today, you are expected to go public about the most personal matters, such as your relationship and family life.

People share their most intimate thoughts and feelings on social media, post updates about the most trivial events, such as what they had for dinner, and upload countless selfies.

Introverts are among those who still value privacy. They are less likely to showcase their lives online or share the details of their personal affairs with the whole world.

At the same time, the quiet ones don’t like to be in the spotlight at social events. An introvert will never interrupt you. They will listen to you and talk only when they have something important to say. This tendency to avoid attention can be mistaken for insecurity and even a lack of intelligence.

3. They prefer to be real than to be ‘nice’

If you want to make a good impression on others, you are expected to be nice. But what does it mean to be ‘nice’ anyway?

In an introvert’s mind, it equals saying things you don’t mean. Quiet personalities will never bombard you with compliments or say meaningless social pleasantries just to win your fondness. But if an introvert said something nice to you, then be sure that they truly meant it.

Small talk is another component of social relationships most introverts struggle with. To them, it embodies utterly dull, uncomfortable, and pointless conversations they can perfectly do without. For this reason, introverts are often mistakenly believed to hate people.

The truth is that they don’t – they just crave stimulating, meaningful conversations and choose their social circle more carefully than extroverts.

In my book, The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In, I write about the reasons why so many introverts feel inadequate and alienated from other people in today’s society. It all goes down to social expectations this personality type has to deal with from a very early age.

But the good news is that every introvert can overcome the negative effects of these expectations and find the right path in this loud, extroverted world.

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