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Jan Advocate 2017

24 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE • Residential schools prohibited children from speaking their own languages and Aboriginal spiritual practices were banned. • Residential schools’ mission was the cultural transformation of Aboriginal children. • Residential schools were closely tied to colonization and missionary crusades. • Residential schools were dangerous and harsh institutions, and many Aboriginal children experienced corporal punishment, public humiliation and physical and sexual abuse. • Between five and seven per cent of the children who attended the schools died from tuberculosis, malnutrition and other diseases resulting from poor living conditions. In making these findings, the commissioners observed that Canada’s approach to dealing with Aboriginal people had the characteristics of cultural genocide: States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next. In its dealing with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things.2 Chief Justice McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada made a similar observation a few days before the TRC released its findings. In the annual Pluralism Lecture, she claimed that Canada’s attempt to commit cultural genocide against Aboriginal peoples was the worst stain on Canada’s human rights record.3 Nevertheless, despite all of the coercive measures adopted by the government, despite its violent attempts to eradicate Aboriginal peoples as a group, the commissioners note that it failed to achieve its ultimate policy goal. Aboriginal people have refused to surrender their identity and they continue to assert rights to self-government. RECONCILING FOR THE FUTURE The commissioners made it clear that reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one, and virtually all aspects of Canadian society may need to be reconsidered. To this end, the TRC made 94 far-reaching calls to action. The calls to action are meant to redress past wrongs and


Jan Advocate 2017
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