In 2008 the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established. Stephen Harper apologized to First Nations for the Canadian Government’s role in the forcible assimilation that destroyed generations of First Nations families. Harper’s apology meant nothing. The Auditor General’s Report, issued at the end of April, accused the Tories of stonewalling the Commission’s access to records and documents outlining the horrors of the residential schools.
An estimated 150,000 children were taken from their families and placed in church-run, government supported schools. Subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse, the children were to be stripped of their culture, language and identity. Many thousands–the actual number probably hidden in government documents and correspondence–died.
The shameful practice can only be described as cultural genocide.
Most media outlets focused on the $3.1 billion spending unaccounted for in the Tory “war on terror”. Almost none reported on AG Michael Ferguson’s exposure of Harper’s Residential School hypocrisy: “We are concerned that the lack of cooperation, delays and looming deadline stand in the way of creating the historical record of Indian residential schools as it was originally intended.”
Attempts by the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development ministry to block and delay the release of documents forced the Commission to take the Harper government to court. In January of this year Ontario Justice Stephen Goudge issued a clear ruling against the Tories: “The plain meaning of the language is straightforward. It is to provide all relevant documents to the TRC.”
The Tories complain that accessing and providing digital copies of the estimated one million documents is too expensive. Yet they were quick to find the money to try and defeat the TRC in a long legal battle.
Even after the court ruling the delays and deception continue. The Commission complains that the scanning quality of many of the documents that have been provided is so bad that they are useless. The government counters that the TRC mandate doesn’t say anything about the quality of provided records.
The Harper government is launching a review of Canadian history and how it is taught. Their desperate attempts to hide the historical truth of the residential schools reveal two things: their racist contempt for First Nations has not evolved one iota beyond that of those who founded the residential schools; and their cynical approach to history reveals their intent to lie to and manipulate all of us.
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