I write in response to the July 4th letter entitled “True reconciliation with First Nations,” wherein the writer asks the excellent question: “When will Canadians be able to look forward to true reconciliation with First Nation peoples?”
Part of the answer is when white men make an effort to understand what actually happened to the First Nations (FN).
For example, we know Europeans intentionally gave smallpox blankets to FN families hoping to infect them. We know Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was proud of an official Canadian policy of starving FN people into submission before offering disastrous treaty terms. We know, following government sanction, the Beothuk nation was hunted into total extinction. We know the purpose of residential schools was, in Macdonald’s words, to “take the Indian out of the child,” which could not be done on the reserves because “the child lives with his parents who are savages; he is surrounded by savages.” We know that FN women and girls were sterilized under government edict. We know, even after treaties were signed, bounties were posted for the scalps of FN men, women and children.
We know thousands of FN children died in residential schools and many of them were physically and sexually assaulted, experimented on, starved and tortured — usually by a fine Christian man or woman trying to “civilize” what they called “the savages.”
With a little effort and some intellectual curiosity, the letter writer could easily discover what compassionate, fair minded Canadians already know: FN Canadians have suffered through a government-orchestrated and church-implemented genocide. (I would argue that FN continue to endure atrocious conditions and policies that are genocidal but perhaps that’s for another letter).
Hopefully the writer’s friends will take their brother in hand and help him to see men and women of goodwill must seek and tell the truth, while taking responsibility for their mistakes and that a good start on the journey toward reconciliation is the giving of a heartfelt apology. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knows that much.