Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Sorry State Of Affairs

(Photo: Tom Hanson/CP)
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, addressing one of the darkest chapters in its history, formally apologized on Wednesday for forcing 150,000 aboriginal children into grim residential schools ... Many survivors say they were abused mentally, physically and sexually. Children were beaten for speaking their own languages and told they would be damned unless they converted to Christianity.

Of course, some survivors say it's too late for apologies and that, furthermore, another one is owed to them :

"I don't blame Stephen Harper for what happened. It's the religious program that done the job, that's how I look at it," Albert Bernard said. "I think the bishop in Halifax should apologize, and the sisters."

Just to clarify Bernard's statement, in one of the most stomach-turning examples of religion and politics crawling into bed together, the residential schools were funded by the government but run by the religious orders. The United Church apologized 10 years ago for its inhuman role in this program but the reactionary and retrograde Catholic Church refuses to do so. Should we be surprised? Not at all : the Catholic Church has been in Canada far longer than the United. To wit : last year, after 22 years of debate, the UN "adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples." Guess which country refused to sign?

It would be nice to suppose the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will provide Canada with some incentive for following a more sensible, humane and ethical code of conduct. But don't bet on it.


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