EDITORIAL: In the face of recent attacks on Catholic churches it’s urgent to communicate a central pair of truths about the residential schools of Canada.
HERE ARE SOME SOUND BYTES:
First, the creation of Canada’s residential-school system was a historical injustice, based upon prevailing assumptions about Indigenous peoples that tragically failed to recognize their personal and collective dignity and respect their existing cultural practices.
And second, the primary responsibility for this assimilationist system of schooling rests overwhelmingly with the Canadian government, not with the Catholic Church or the other Christian denominations who were contracted by the government to operate individual schools.
The government set up the system, funded the schools (or, more accurately, underfunded them), and mandated that Indigenous students attend them. As a result of this political initiative, Indigenous children were uprooted from their families and communities in order to be schooled by the dominant Eurocentric culture. They were housed in substandard facilities that were breeding grounds for the infectious diseases that caused the deaths of the vast majority of former students whose bodies now lie buried in nearby graves.
THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT AND HER PEOPLE HAD ITS OWN VERSION OF RACIST ATTITUDES TOWARD AMERICAN OR NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS. FORTUNATELY OUR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE DID NOT INVOLVE RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS TO DO THE WORK OF THE STATE AS IN CANADA: