Sunday, I dragged myself to the gym. My weight is down to 97 kg (114 lbs). In between sets, Mike had lots of questions about trans issues, as I'm the only LGBT person he knows, and transfolk are in the news a lot right now. I tried to answer them the best I could.
When I got home, I downloaded the newly-released reports from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (http://www.trc.ca). This is the group that was collecting evidence from the survivors of the Canadian residential schools. Until 1996, many First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were taken away from their families and forced into boarding schools. The actual education was substandard, if it existed at all. The children were forced to perform hard manual labour, were punished for speaking their own languages or using their true names, were fed substandard food, and were beaten and abused. At some schools more than three-quarters of the children were sexually assaulted. Some children went more than a decade without seeing their parents. Other children never went home, and were tossed into unmarked mass graves. More than 4000 children are known to have died in government-mandated, church-run residential schools. Recorded mortality rates at some schools exceeded 60% over a five-year period. The total may be much greater, as officials first didn't care enough to keep good records, and then later began to destroy records that could be used as evidence against them.
I knew it was bad, but I didn't know the report would be THAT bad. I had to stop reading.
Our county is putrid at the core. Such evil, carried out for so long, causing such harm to so many, cannot have come from the country I thought I lived in.
I went to my tutoring session. We warmed up with a newspaper article about how clerks at a local hospital had been stealing the personal information of new mothers to sell to telemarketers. My student then wrote a fierce, scathing essay inspired by that. We then read a brief summary of the history of the residential schools.
My student, who came to Canada after the atrocities, was shocked. She said that she'd expect to hear such things about a Soviet Gulag, or something during the Holocaust, but not from a country that smugly viewed itself as a haven of peace, order, and good government. I felt like someone who had been living in a town next to a Nazi death camp, explaining after the war to visitors that we knew something bad was going on, but didn't investigate or act on it until too late.
My student then wrote a firm essay on how the perpetrators of this genocide must be hunted down and brought to justice, even if they are long retired, just as how Nazi war criminals were hunted down long after WWII to be brought to trial even a half-century later.
But all Canadians who were adults before the last residential schools closed in 1996 share the guilt. I had heard bits and pieces, and had even learned about some of the mistreatment in high school. But I and millions of other Canadians did not immediately spring up, mob the offices of our elected officials, and demand that the abuses be stopped.