Wednesday, 26 August 2015

What Not to Do In Election 2015: Using Residential School Atrocities for Political Gain

Today marks day 25 of Canada's longest election since the 1870s. And, as many in the Canadian political world knew it would happen - this election may become the most vicious one on Canadian record.

However, today I am writing this post not based as a Liberal supporter - but rather as someone who is a descendent of those who survived the imprisonment, abuse, and despair of being forced into Canada's infamous residential school system; As someone who is a part of the big group of us who are generational survivors of the effects of Residential Schools and the continued/ongoing colonization of ourselves, families, communities, rights, and nations.

To begin - yes, I support Justin Trudeau - and for the most part I support the vast majority of the Liberal candidates that have put their names forward for Election 2015. I support them because of the many hours and amount of effort I and other good Indigenous peoples put into revamping the party and moving it forward on Indigenous/LPC relations, Indigenous/Canadian relations, as well as a developing and furthered understanding of Indigenous peoples, theories, knowledge, and ways of thinking.  However, this does not mean I would not chastised the Liberals for mistakes (I have been clear I do not support Bill C51 - and an important caveat I keep hope in is the fact that Trudeau at the AFN AGA this past July stated that there are issues with the legislation and that the Liberal Party would rescind the sections that impact us as Indigenous peoples. He then followed up this point with stating: "Indigenous peoples fighting for their rights are not terrorists." I also give kudos to him for not shying away from the criticism - for meeting with those angry at him and the party over the stance on C51 - He hasn't deflected, shied away from the discussion and animosity around it, nor has he avoided it.

This makes me feel comfortable with supporting the LPC still and highlights to me a willingness to deal with the political poison pills the Conservatives utilize to score political points and meeting with those who disagree with an LPC stance face-to-face. Unfortunately, my experience in asking for clarity and answers from the NDP and Thomas Mulcair have not witnessed similar standing.

Whether it has been clarity on the Sherbrooke Declaration and Quebec's right to separate and be a self-determining entity trumps Indigenous rights and nationhoods; To why they utilize provincial jurisdiction to avoid supporting all TRC recommendations; to ignoring calls on Mulcair to apologize for endorsing Harper's working relationship with our nations in January 2013; to avoiding debates; and so on - No answers have been received. Instead, I and others (many of whom aren't even partisan - are not Liberals and who won't even participate in the Canadian political system) are attacked by some of the NDP's hardcore partisans as being fascists, Harper-like, being jealous of the NDP doing well in the polls, or (in one case in my experience) for being racist towards those of European-Descent (despite the fact I clearly am a mixture of Anishinaabe and European background).

I had been dealing with this in an ok manner - I have continuously reposted and re-asked my questions (my ability to block people on twitter and Facebook has also saw a major increase in being utilized since August 2nd) and so on. However, the actions of one NDP hardliner today (alongside the NDP's subtle blame of the #UpForDebate2015 organization for why Mulcair didn't end up participating in a debate on Womens' Rights and Issues) was the lowest I have personally witnessed someone do in looking to score political points.

Enter Debate on Someone's Facebook Wall:

Today, while reviewing comments posted to someones wall (a blogger and active person in relation to Canada's Federal election, I noticed a specific post (not from the person who's wall it was posted to) being used to target an Indigenous person whom supports the Liberals. The post was a picture of Indigenous peoples with the quote: 

"The biggest genocide in human history didnt occur in Nazi German, but on American soil. 100 million Native Americans were slaughtered and lost their homeland. Historical Fact: Most of the people doing the slaughtering were Christians. Sorry if you can't handle the truth."

I dont disagree with this meme - it is truthful in my mind, but it was the following quote with its post that sparked the issue by poster Thomas Dowswell: "For Frank from Peggy Peterson, who is ok with my questions! So Frank, yes or no, did the Federal Liberal Party ever see suffering of First Nations kids while they were in power?" (This was followed by a back-and-forth between Thomas and Frank - Note: many of the words choices used in the discussion I do not condone).

First Question I am left with is: Who is Peggy Peterson - I don't have much information to offer on the individual other then the Thomas' claim the question comes from her first.

Where and who poised the question isn't of importance to me - rather who shared it and then who used it to try to paint only one political party as the sole creator of the continued colonization of Indigenous peoples and nations - while completely ignoring the reality: All of the political parties (Liberal, Conservative, NDP, and Bloc (and whatever previous names they went by) have had a hand in the colonial mentality that has dominated Canada, and in many cases, continues to dominate Canada's political, social, legal, and governing institutions - whether federally with the most seats, as opposition, or third party (lets remember - In Canada, the government is those who are sitting in the HOC); or provincially (whether governing, opposition or third party). This is especially true with Residential schools - all caveats of Canada's society had some part in it - including Liberals, PCs, NDP (and its predecessors such as the CCF, Progressives and Labour), and so on.

Do I honestly believe that those in the House of Commons new the torture, abuse, and murder that was occurring in the Residential Schools? Perhaps - but people in all the parties would know - whether provincial or federal; whether governing, opposition, or third party. Studies and visits most likely would have been done by party representatives throughout the 1900s, and including post-1960s. However, this does not mean some knew first hand what was actually occurring within them - this could be because of bureaucracy, deputy ministers - such as Duncan Campbell Scott - only relaying certain caveats of the Residential School situation to them, and so on. Again, this is all hypothetical - but to state and try to pinpoint the murder, abuse, molestation, and pain that was inflicted on Indigenous peoples as being only from one party is PURELY pespostorous. They all have a place in the guilt of Canada's colonial mentality and continued ignorance towards Indigenous understandings (such as Quebec's right to self determination and separation potentially over Indigenous nations and rights).

But, what was the most infuriating of all for me was the utilization of the murder of Indigenous peoples - the abuse, murder, slander, and attack on Indigenous peopels via the residential school system that for me equates a new form of low in this election campaign. And for that I say shame on you Thomas Dowswell. It made me absolutey livid - and thus I responded to his (and I guess Peggy Peterson's) comment to Frank (mind you my response was mainly to Thomas).

My Reply:

"Thomas - how dare you try and use the abuse my great grandfather and others who survived residential school to score political points - let alone the generational trauma my grandfather, aunts, uncles, mother; my cousins, myself, and my sister have suffered because of all of this. YOU ARE a part of the problem when understanding Indigenous contexts and the colonial history of Canada. You owe an apology for your sickening display. Absolutely disgusted with this. Your actions are extremely ignorant. The Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP have all made tremendous mistakes in the past - whether government, opposition or third party. They all had been complacent in some way. I am thankful, as an Anishinaabe Inini, that the Liberals have admitted to their past mistakes and been learning from them (such as, under Martin, rejecting the First Nations Governance Act, Bringing forth Kelowna, Bringing forth a plan for National Childcare and Kyoto being moved forward between 2004-2006 - all destroyed for the NDP wanting an additional 10 seats; For Officially rejecting the White Paper of 1969; For being the party to push for the national apology on residential schools (via Liberal MP Gary Majesty in 2008); For standing up for First Nations peoples and their rights against the Conservatives MRP legislation (which the NDP supported on second reading in order to not let the Liberals look good when they introduced a motion to effectively kill the legislation - a motion the NDP were supposed to support but didnt because they didnt get to introduce the motion). This doesn't even include actions of NDP/CCF governments provincially in Saskatchewan (which is where the push for provincialization of some of our jurisdictions as Indigenous peoples came from - the Saskatchewan CCF wanted control over Indigenous peoples in that province) or the NDP in Manitoba (who participated heavily in the post 1960s of removal of Indigenous Children from their families, homes, and communities - not to mention the flooding of Indigenous communities in 2011) and so on."

I will also add - Thomas's actions shows the inherent problem of colonial mentality and 'privilege' that sometimes consumes the left side of the political spectrum whilst many pretend to not recognize it or the western constructs within the idea of 'social justice.'

Moral of The Story:

Dont use the atrocities of the residential schools to try and make it seem like one party is better then another: AKA: Dont use Residential Schools as a way to score cheap points in this election - it is absolutely disgusting. The actions of this individual are that - the actions of this one hardlined-supporter (potentially two as two names are mentioned in the discussion). Thus I will give the NDP as a party the benefit that they know better as an organization and political entity to ever try and utilize it in such a way that Thomas Dowswell did.

I will also remind Thomas Dowswell that the NDP's past is just as guilty and riddled with colonial thought as the other parties:

 In 1946, at the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons, hearings on revisions to the Indian Act, the CCF pushed for integration of Indigenous peoples. They believed that such integration was only achievable through education. These suggested changes by the CCF were introduced in 1950 and obtained the support of the CCF in passing these amendments. Interestingly, Indigenous peoples expressed heavy opposition to these changes but were ignored.
 In 1951, CCF MP William Bryce expresses “I think education is the crux of the question. Indian children should be educated in the same manner as white children, so that they will look at things the same way that we do.”
 CCF Leader MJ Coldwell: “I hope that in the administration of the new act, every attempt will be made to … enable [Indians] to make a contribution to the cultural life of our country and which will gradually bring about integration of the Indian Population.”
- CCF MP Joe Noseworth stated: “If we are aiming to educate these people, to teach them to assume responsibility, we must give them some responsibility and not place these matters entirely in the hands of the minister or the governor in council.”

In the meantime, I still hope the NDP will offer clarity on the following questions I have been asking (some for a few months - others for two years).

For More Info and sources:

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