Yet another thing I've posted first on Facebook, but am re-posting here. Not really caring about writing about pop culture lately - have another project in the works, maybe, dealing with this (AFTER I clear John Wright). It was a bit of an ugly week for me on Facebook - I got annoyed with a trivial meme that called for "arresting teachers, priests and nuns" who worked at residential schools - hardly "the next step," here, and not even something that I think should be done. Had a couple of idiots describe me as a Nazi sympathizer because I don't think having been a priest or teacher or nun at one of these schools is ALONE enough to warrant "arresting" people, but whoever wrote the meme - it was posted by Chris Walter - probably wasn't really seriously thinking about what the next step should be; the point was that the next step SHOULDn't be "lowering flags," which is kind of useless symbolism where there is a need for action, and more what you might think would come of the Liberals. (That part I agree with).
Anyhow, after some ugliness on FB and one person being unfriended/ blocked, I've posted this - about all I've got right now, but there might be more to come on the topic, once I get John Wright squared away:
(Commence verbatim Facebook post):
Been accused of being "tone deaf" for a comment on a thread. Going to try to be careful here - not wanting to give offense or hurt anyone. Talking about the 215 children. Mostly I've been reading. Some people might be interested in the following; even if you're not interested in my opinions, there are links to websites I didn't know about that other people might profit from visiting.
What the discovery at Kamloops mostly brings home is that there are apparently THOUSANDS MORE undocumented/ unmarked graves of indigenous children across Canada, on the sites of former residential schools. In 1914, apparently a department official said, "Fifty per cent of the children who passed through these schools did not live to benefit from the education which they had received therein." The Liberal minister quoting that, Gary Merasty, characterized the residential schools as "places of disease, hunger, overcrowding, and despair." That's on page 4 of the Missing Children and Unmarked Burials volume of the TRC report
While not disputing that abuse happened at these schools, some of the burials would seem to be due to large outbreaks of tuberculosis and influenza in the early 20th century. I am still unclear if what was found in Kamloops was a "mass grave" or an "unmarked cemetery;" the two terms have been used interchangeably in the media, but it's a distinction that newspapers don't seem to be being careful about. A mass grave suggests many people dying in a short time and being buried in a very undignified fashion, especially by a church that places a lot of ritual and import on what happens to someone after they die. There is, it turns out, some precedent for this, a mass grave mentioned in the TRC report - as many as 78 bodies in Ft. St. James. From page 119 of the report:
Several of the schools were overwhelmed by the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. All but two of the children and all of the staff were stricken with influenza at the Fort St. James, British Columbia, school and surrounding community in 1918. Seventy-eight people, including students, died. Initially, Father Joseph Allard, the school principal, conducted funeral services at the mission cemetery. But, as he wrote in his diary, the 'others were brought in two or three at a time, but I could not go to the graveyard with all of them. In fact, several bodies were piled up in an empty cabin because there was no grave ready. A large common grave was dug for them.'
There's not many other mentions of common graves in the report - only one other that I can find, again tied to an outbreak of disease, roughly in that same section of the report. That's why the language around mass graves is so disturbing (and the lack of media distinction between mass graves and unmarked burials is so annoying, since the latter suggests people dying over a much longer period, as part of a business-as-usual secret practice; that may actually be the more horrifying scenario, and the one that seems more likely to correlate with deaths from abuse). But whether mass graves or unmarked burials, if there are an estimated 4000-5000 burial sites out there - they need to be found, and there needs to be some urgency around it, because - does anyone out there, at this point, trust Justin Trudeau to do more than SAY the right thing?
That raises the question: what IS being done? The government of Canada, it turns out, has a "Missing children and burial information
" page. It lists the Calls to Action in the TRC report around locating these sites. Almost every call to action has the same language in the answer - variations on the following paragraph:
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada has begun discussions with various partners, internal and external to the federal government, towards collaborating on an engagement strategy to gain a better understanding of the range of Indigenous family and community needs and interests and about how best to move forward in a comprehensive manner on all of the calls to actions regarding children who died or went missing while attending Indian residential schools (Calls to Action 72 to 76).
As one expects, the language is vague and prompting of skepticism, suggesting a slow process with many politicians talking, but apparently things ARE being done. Budget 2019 apparently "announced $33.8 million over 3 years, starting in fiscal year 2019 to 2020, to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register and work with parties to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries." That website is here: https://nctr.ca/memorial/
I am no sort of activist. I don't know what to do to impress upon the federal government how imperative it seems to locate other sites like the one in Kamloops (there are residential school sites all over BC, including one in North Vancouver and one in Mission. There is an interactive map online to see if you live near one: https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/beyond-94-residential-school-map/ ). I don't really even know how "ground penetrating radar" works, let alone how to pressure the government to make sure every community has the resources to access it. If people have suggestions, I'm all there - mostly all I'm going to be good for is reading and writing, but... there seems some urgency here. It's going to be a tough year or two, though, because - if there are anywhere between 3300 and 5000 other burial sites across Canada... what percentage of that is 215? (Not very good at math, either, but it's not a very large percent).