The Genocide Question

A genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. When I look at the this definition and reflect about the knowledge I have about residential schools, what John A Macdonald did to first nations people can and should be classified as a genocide. As recently talked about in the news, Canada’s new Human Rights Museum in Ottawa has refused to refer to use the word genocide in relation to the way Aboriginal Peoples were treated in residential schools. Herald Opinions states, “No such apology has been afforded the First Nations, except an insincere one about residential schools offered – but never acted on”. What has been done cannot be changed; however, acknowledging our wrong and working to try and build a better relationship with the people that own the land we walk on should not only be expected but should have happened years ago. Macdonald committed a genocide and what has been done to try and fix that has been close to nothing. As citizens of our country they are required to have equal rights and our country as a whole should have the common decency to grant those rights respectfully and whole heartedly.

With this being said, there are still many people and leaders in Canada that believe the opposite. The Canadian government believed that it was their responsibility  to educate and take care of the aboriginal peoples. The government thought that the best thing to do for the indigenous peoples were to teach them English or French and allow them to adopt the religion, Christianity. So what went wrong? Children were taught English or French and if caught speaking their heritage language they were severely punished. The idea was to completely deminsh the aboriginal culture and “kill the Indian in the child”. Furthermore, the severe punishment lead to killing children and severely abusing them both mentally and physically. This lead to trying to completely wipe away the aboriginal culture and nation. After all this, Canada still believes that what they did should not be classified as a genocide. However, Adam Muller, a genocide expert from the University of Manitoba from Popular Resistance states “It’s a shame. I think the museum needs to be a leader, not a follower on this,” you look at colonial activity in the Americas and it seems clear to me, at the end of the day, they were trying to destroy a group and way of life.” How do we come together as a nation and as citizen when our leaders can’t see the damage our country created for hundreds of Aboriginal Peoples. Will we ever?

With the last school closing in 1996, about 150 000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children had been taken away from their homes and put into residential schools. The students lived in very poor conditions and were abused physically and emotionally. A child that young deserves to live a life where they can experience and enjoy their childhood; however, children at residential schools were rarely exposed to a “normal life”. They were in school for at least 10 months of the year with no contact with their parents. Letters written to parents were scribed in English so the parents couldn’t understand them as well as, siblings in the same school were also separated since all activities were segregated by gender. To live and be apart of such traumatizing experiences as a child is completely unfair and wrong. Why should someone be faulted for their beliefs and religion? We live in a society today where citizens of the earth are still beaten and punished for not believing the “right” thing. For example, ISIS has constructed religious views and beliefs that they impose on people. They force people of different religions who are living in the Islamic State to adopt and believe their religious views. Like the residential schools, ISIS imposes their views in a very violent way where their abuse is evident to those who refuse to follow their views. I am aware that ISIS is a much more extreme case and although these cases aren’t identical, ISIS still resembles the way the residential schools functioned and worked. By striping people of their religion and beliefs and forcing their own religious views on many citizens as well as physically and emotionally abusing them in implemnting the “right” views and beliefs. In my opinion, there are no right or wrong views. Religion is a personal belief and should not be the reason of punishment or death because no where in the bible, Qur’an, or any other religious script states that using religion for a reason to kill is acceptable. Will this hatred ever end? Will equality ever fully exist? It is unfortunate that these questions and thoughts are still brought up in our lives today; however, it is the sad reality that we live in and will just have to accept for years to come.

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