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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Reader's Comment: Systemic Racism Against First Nations' Peoples

We've been taking a bit of time away from the blog, but we hope to be back soon with a few updates and articles. However, we thought we would share a comment left behind by one of our readers who left the comment on our article, "Jody Issel, Soldiers of Odin Moose Jaw President, Isn't Even Trying Anymore" perhaps responding to a screen shot included in the article in which Michele Tittler take shots at First Nations peoples. We hope that the anonymous poster doesn't mind us doing this, but we really did think that it warranted more eyes that it would have garnered as simple a comment left on an article:
As a political conservative with some First Nations ancestry and many friends (from all political persuasions) from local First Nations communities, I would like to address the canard that First Nations peoples do nothing for this country. Especially since I hear it from wider audiences than just the tiny minority of racists in Canada. 
First, we need to recognize the horrific impact of the Residential School System upon the First Nations family. As Canadians we often point the finger at America over blacks and slavery, but we are just as guilty when it comes to First Nations Peoples and the Residential School System. I dare say the impact of Residential School System among Canada's First Nations was as destructive as slavery among African-Americans in the U.S. 
Second, for generations Canada's First Nations people were not permitted to advance themselves in society. The amount of red tape and bureaucracy they needed to circumvent to establish businesses and engage in other professions was triple that of other people in Canada (whether black, white or Asian). So it's not that they didn't want to do anything for themselves or for Canada. It's that they were actively discouraged from doing so through government policy and bureaucracy that imposed burdens upon First Nations people to which others were not subject. 
An extremely eye-opening example for me is the story of Douglas Cardinal, probably one of Canada's most renown architects who designed the Canadian Museum of History. He is First Nations. Blackfoot, if I recall correctly. I remember watching a documentary on his work and how he was forced to go to Texas to study architecture because no Canadian school would accept him because he was First Nations. Additionally, even after he graduated he found it difficult to find work in Canada because his ideas incorporated First Nations influence. 
I find it appalling that a man who would become one of Canada's greatest architects would be treated in such discriminatory fashion as a young man. To contribute to Canada, he basically had to overcome rejection from every professional school in Canada, go to the United States, earn his degree down there, face more rejection from Canada during the early part of his career while looking for work, and only once his genius was recognized by Americans was he then deemed acceptable to return to Canada. 
I'm sorry, but had I been a young First Nations professional in Mr Cardinal's position I would have given up on Canada after being on the receiving end of such poor (and I would argue racist) treatment. I would have stayed in the United States where my talent and hard work was recognized. How many more young First Nations people did Canada miss out on because they simply gave up after having their dreams crushed, or stayed in the United States where they were treated more fairly? 
I get what you guys at ARC are trying to do in combating racism. And we may sometimes disagree on political issues. But I believe that there is an inherent racism in Canada against First Nations peoples that runs much deeper than the tiny of minority who make up various hate groups.
Not really anything we need to add, is there?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

1 - As the anonymous poster who originated this comment, I appreciate you giving this wider attention. The impact of the Residential School System on our First Nations brothers and sisters needs to be made known to the wider Canadian community. Especially as its effects are still felt within Canadian society today, particularly among First Nations peoples.

2 - Yes I was responding to Michele Tittler.

3 - Over the past 25 years I have been a member of the Reform Party, Alliance, and Conservative Party. So my politics are decidedly conservative. I am also a devout Christian who attends church every week.

I have visited the archives at the college in Sault Ste Marie where records are kept of the Residential School System, and I have visited the graveyard behind the college where First Nations children as young as five and six (if I recall correctly) are buried. Some in unmarked graves. It is not a pleasant experience as a mostly white Canadian and a devout Christian (given that the churches were complicit with the government).

Before judging our First Nations brothers and sisters because of the extra challenges they have faced historically within Canadian society, and I would argue still face today, I would invite anyone, regardless or race or religion or political persuasion, to spend a day in Sault Ste Marie going through all the photos and stories as well as visiting the largely forgotten graveyard of young children torn from the arms of their parents and community by government officials and shipped off to government schools administered by the national churches. All for the reason of culturally whitewashing these young, innocent children.

It's horrible.

No disrespect toward my African-American brothers and sisters or what they suffered, but we as Canadians have no business judging Americans over slavery given what we inflicted upon First Nations peoples through Canada's Residential School system. Or the latent racism toward First Nations people that we continue to tolerate in Canada today (whereas Canadians generally don't tolerate racism against other minority groups in my personal opinion).

Again, thank-you for this opportunity to shed some light on this subject. If you would permit me one more kindness, I would invite ARC readers interested in discovering more to visit the Shingwauk Archive Project at Algoma University: