Shortly before the release of its final version of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report, former judge and senator Murray Sinclair told me about one of the biggest surprises – and deepest regrets – of his years traveling across Canada for hundreds of public and private meetings. He heard thousands of testimonies from residential school survivors, their children and families, as well as Indigenous officials and leaders.

But very rarely, during these consultations, someone came to see him in public or in private and confessed his role, or said: “I taught in this school. Their children or families also did not testify as to what they knew of what had happened. The victims offered painful evidence; the authors provided almost none.

Now that will change, as a full investigation will surely be launched to determine how, why and under whose supervision these thousands of children died. He will name many perpetrators, as well as their victims. It will divide communities and families when some of the stories come to light in gruesome detail. Perhaps that is why Stephen Harper was reluctant to allow one of Canada’s great jurists to conduct such an investigation.

Among the most shocking accounts will be the willful blindness of the army of “Indian agents” – the all-powerful government officials in charge of the lives of every native – and the complicity of officials, politicians and entire communities. in the disappearances that have been committed. widely whispered but ignored. It will be devastating. The Anglican and Catholic churches will find it difficult to explain their roles. (In Ireland, the church – already grappling with pedophilia scandals – never fully recovered from the nation’s grief over the similar discovery of mass graves near the homes of single mothers.)

Governor General’s Award-winning author Michelle Good delivered a scathing response to the crowd’s “Let’s Go Forward and Overcome It,” her novel “Five Little Indians,” which blames the whole system across the lives of the victims. She said this week that the goal of schools is never integration or even assimilation; it was still genocide. The unearth of new mass graves in the coming months will lay bare this reality.

The way governments and politicians respond to this coming tidal wave of grief and horror will make – and destroy – careers. Those whose instinct is to play gas lighting games – thinking of you, Jason Kenney – will bear our revulsion head-on. Those who continue to believe that tear gas can replace swift, directed and transparent action will also pay.

Today we find ourselves once again at a crossroads of true reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians. If we finally embark on the journey Murray Sinclair so comprehensively detailed for the country almost six years ago, we may be successfully taking the next difficult steps towards rebuilding trust and strengthening faith.

Or we will just blink our eyes in horror, offer to write another check, and refuse to truly honor the memory of these lost children. If we do not demand disclosure, apologies and reparations from those responsible, we are simply passing this heartbreaking task on to our own children to make an attempt – when many witnesses, perpetrators and victims are gone.

Nothing better to paint this painful chapter to come as well as the austere lines of William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It didn’t even happen. It is amazing to remember that the Kamloops school was open until 1978, and other schools still later. Teachers in their twenties will now be in their 70s. Some of those who buried these children will have quiet retreats in communities across Canada. Many will have spent their lives bearing heavy guilt and deep regret for the things they saw and remained silent about.

Perhaps we could hope that some of those who attended the hearing before Judge Sinclair – or watched the often angry coverage of the testimony from home – and have since maintained their lifelong codes. omertà will now see that it is time to join the fight for truth and hopefully reconciliation.

It will be a moral, cultural and political moment as trying as any Canada has ever known. Hopefully we will do it well, together.



Robin V. Sears was an NDP strategist for 20 years and then served as a communications advisor to businesses and governments on three continents. He is a freelance columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robinvsears

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.