Friday, 27 May 2016

Part Three of Three: Why I Think Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Parallelism or Assimilation: More People Need to be Involved With Indigenous Policy Decision Making

Disclaimer: My references to the writings of other people--both indigenous and non-indigenous--do not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.  The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily represent those of my family, friends or associates.

Note 1: In this post, I will primarily be focussing on First Nations people living on- and off-reserves.  For brevity's sake, I will not be covering Inuit- and Metis-related issues.  But when I include information about indigenous people generally, e.g., statistics, it sometimes incorporates Inuit and Metis.

Note 2: The nature photos, which I took during walks in my neighbourhood, have nothing to do with the content of this post.  I found working on this entry so mentally challenging, that I sometimes recharged by playing slideshows of these images.

Part Three - A       "Ordinary Canadians" Are Frequently Left Out of Decisions Regarding Aboriginal Policy

Although I do not agree with Sudbury lawyer, Peter Best, that all aboriginal rights should be eliminated, I concur with the point he made in his There is No Difference essay (2016)--available at decisions regarding indigenous issues are not, for the most part, being made in consultation with ordinary Canadians.

Best's definition of "ordinary Canadians" is anyone who is not part of the "Indian industry."  In the industry category, he includes "Indian band elites. . .politicians, civil service elites" and many in academia, particularly those in "native studies departments."  Non-indigenous professional people who provide services to this industry are also on his list.  However, he acknowledges he is generalizing about a complex topic.

I agree with him that it is difficult to make sweeping statements regarding who makes up the industry.  This is because there are many people, who fall into the categories he lists, who are helping to improve the situation.  But, as I explained in the "Personal Journey" section of Part One, I have found there are individuals who promote the parallelism narrative, even when it does not make sense to do so, and these parallelists can often be found in the groups Best cites.

I also concur with Best that a lot of indigenous policy decision making is an "essentially private conversation amongst our courts, governments, governing classes, Indian elites and the Indian industry generally."  Ordinary Canadians are not consulted about what is going on, but they need to be because they are affected by these decisions.

For instance, Supreme Court decisions regarding indigenous rights and resource development are causing many companies to not pursue projects in contentious areas.  This has negatively impacted thousands of people, including aboriginals working in the resources industry.

(See "Part Three - F       Indigenous Rights, Resource Development and Environmental Stewardship" for an expanded discussion of the above paragraph.)

I believe most ordinary Canadians agree it is best for the country to remain unified.  I also think the majority of citizens uphold the humanist and social democratic values this nation was founded on, which include freedom of speech and the rule of law.  Of course, there are many aspects of this country's history that were detrimental to indigenous people, but this does not mean the fundamental principles are lacking in merit.  If anything, these principles, such as peace, order and good government, should be lauded.

There also has to be a greater emphasis on social democratic values such as equality and the rights of the individual, instead of the current stress on collective rights, when it comes to indigenous issues.  This is because when aboriginal lobby groups negotiate with their federal, provincial and territorial counterparts, grassroots aboriginals are sometimes left out of the conversation.

And when aboriginal lobby groups negotiate with government leaders, many non-aboriginal Canadians are left out of the conversation as well.  In fact, the last time Canadians had a say regarding indigenous policy was during the 1992 referendum following the failed Charlottetown Accord.  At that time, Canadians rejected the self-government concept, which was based on parallelism.

October shrubbery, October 11, 2015
Despite this rejection, the federal government ignored Canadians' wishes and stated, in 1995, that an "inherent right" to self-government was now government policy.  Nevertheless, both the 1980s entrenchment of aboriginal rights in the Constitution and the 1995 statement still saw indigenous governments operating within the Canadian legal framework.

The federal government's May 2016 support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) underscores their commitment to increased aboriginal autonomy.  Fortunately, a number of analysts are recommending that UNDRIP's adoption include provisions to ensure that Canadian laws and policies are still adhered to.

The federal government is also planning to do away with the Indian Act and change the focus to Section 35 of the Constitution and UNDRIP.  This could end up being OK if indigenous groups do not want to separate from Canada.  But if some groups decide they want to break away, I think the federal government should have a referendum to get Canadian feedback on this.  In my opinion, separating from Canada is unacceptable, particularly if these groups still expect to get government funding.

Conrad Black made an important point when he said that Canadians have demonstrated respect for other cultures, but are "achingly slow to defend" their own.  He also said many radical activists promote a "process of self-hate" that demands almost all aspects of our past be renounced and rebuked.

This self-hate has got to stop or it will literally destroy this country and everything it stands for.  It is perfectly acceptable to reach compromises that will contribute to both indigenous and non-indigenous well-being.  But Canadians should not forget the many sound principles this country was founded on, and if these views are challenged, they should make their opinions known.

Part Three - B       Scapegoating/Betrayal of Some Non-Aboriginals

Since 2007, I have been networking with non-aboriginals who are concerned with some aspects of the way that indigenous policy is being handled in this country.  For the most part, those of us who feel this way are not part of the decision-making apparatus of this country.  But we still want to publicly express our views on what we see is wrong with the way the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments often respond to indigenous issues.

Earlier in our lives, we were very much involved with the aboriginal situation for one reason or another.  In some instances, this commitment extended back one or two generations in our immediate families.  As previously mentioned, my primary involvement was working in aboriginal organizations.  Others were connected with the residential schools in some way.  Still others are professional people whose employment intersected with the indigenous community.

But around the late 1980s/early 1990s, many of us felt scapegoated and/or betrayed.  Some of us spoke out initially, but later backed off, due to the harsh criticisms we received.  However, now quite a few of us are semi-retired or retired, and are advocating once again that our side of the story gets more attention.

I saw what I consider to be scapegoating occur with some non-aboriginal residents of Caledonia, Ontario.  They were in the wrong place at the wrong time when a land claims dispute ignited in 2006.  Although the situation there has been comparatively better since 2014, there are still many unresolved differences between some non-aboriginal residents and aboriginal occupiers involved with the land claims dispute.  For more information regarding my views on Caledonia, click on the "Caledonia" label in the right sidebar.

Wildflower, March 9, 2016
Those who worked at residential schools have had a particularly troubling plight.  Although there is no doubt that abuses happened at some schools, this was not the case with them all.  There were many staff members, including aboriginal ones, who did the best they could under the circumstances.  And up until the early 1990s, it was quite common for numerous residential school attendees to praise the support they got at the schools.  But since then, it has become politically incorrect for most attendees to do so.  Consequently, since the late 1980s, most people who worked at the schools have been reticent about even acknowledging their role.

I suspect why some of the scapegoating/betrayals occurred in the late 1980s/early 1990s, was because aboriginal rights were entrenched in the Constitution in the early 1980s.  In my opinion, this caused some aboriginals and their supporters to develop too much of a cavalier attitude towards anyone whose lifestyle or views did not advance their "cause."  This was the case even if the falsely accused had tried to do their best to support aboriginals in the past.  In other words, some people became expendable for political reasons.

But I contend that, if indigenous leaders want to ensure justice really happens, they should acknowledge those who helped them along the way, rather than regularly throwing them under the bus.

Part Three - C       "Hemispatial Neglect" = One-Sided Analysis of Aboriginal Issues

There has to be more attention given to the entire story, rather than the current emphasis on blaming everything on colonization and the residential schools.  As National Post columnist, Barbara Kay, noted, some radical leftists (she called them "blind progressives"), particularly on Western campuses, frequently oppose any Western icons, "especially if they are dead white males of European provenance."  Kay provided the example of Wilfrid Laurier University's February 2016 decision to abandon a privately funded Canadian prime ministers statue project.  Their pronouncement was based on opposition from some people on campus, who thought the project would offend indigenous and other groups.

Kay said that those opposed showed signs of having a neurological condition called "hemispatial neglect."  This condition made them think that any argument from what they perceived as the "right" should be suppressed.

But, as Naomi Lakritz of the Calgary Herald pointed out, former prime minister, Paul Martin, has championed aboriginal causes since his retirement.  He would have been one of the former prime ministers included.  This is just one of many arguments for why disapproval of the project lacked objectivity.

Because radical leftists often judge the past by today's standards, their analysis of historical events should be challenged.  Yet their "hemispatial neglect" dominates most of the discussions about aboriginal issues.  It frequently contends that all indigenous people suffered cultural genocide.  In other words, it takes a very complex situation and reduces it to collectivist rhetoric.

Part Three - D       Need for More Administrative Fairness

Am grateful to a colleague who made me aware of administrative fairness guidelines, specifically the ones assembled by the Alberta Ombudsman.  I suspect many "ordinary Canadians" would agree that indigenous policy does not always adhere to these guidelines.

For instance, Guideline #6 is "Reasonable Apprehension of Bias."  This means that the process must demonstrate the "impartiality and independence" of the decision maker.  My view, and that of others, is that some of the policy makers in this area have demonstrated a distinct bias towards the parallelism position, at the expense of other options.

One example of this is the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), which was established in August 1991, and which tabled its final report in 1996.  The original RCAP composition was four aboriginal and three non-aboriginal commissioners, one of whom was Allan Blakeney, the former NDP premier of Saskatchewan.  Jeffrey Simpson described Blakeney as the only non-aboriginal who had "hands-on experience" with the topic, "not as some abstract idea or legal theory."  But in April 1993, Blakeney resigned because he felt the other commissioners were "dreaming up unworkable non-solutions."

Mallard Duck, May 9, 2016
The RCAP report is frequently held up by some aboriginal spokespeople as the "blueprint" for how to "fix" the "relationship."  In a December 8, 2015 CBC Radio/Unreserved interview, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Chair, Murray Sinclair, acknowledged that quite a few of the "calls to action" were "echoed" in other reports, such as RCAP.  I think this underscores why the TRC executive summary, which was released in June 2015, often falls into the same rut as the RCAP report.  This is because the RCAP recommendations, which revolved around parallelism, did not always apply to the 42 per cent of aboriginals who lived off-reserve 20 years ago.

Now, 20 years later, the number of aboriginals living off-reserve has increased to 56 per cent (although some indigenous spokespeople say it is more like 70 per cent).  Since parallelism primarily addresses the reserve situation, this means it should not be trumpeted as a blanket solution to native woes.

Part Three - E        Governance and Accountability on Reserves

Many aboriginal leaders contend that on-reserve poverty is the result of misguided government policies.  This is certainly the case in quite a few instances.  But there are just too many reports of mismanagement, resulting from poor governance, for it to be blamed solely on non-aboriginals.  John Reilly said in Bad Judgment he had been told by a source he considered reliable that "aboriginal policing had evidence of millions of dollars going into offshore accounts."

In Dances With Dependency, Calvin Helin lamented "Aboriginals' unhealthy focus on the federal government," which had contributed to a deeply engrained "'culture of expectancy.'"

Phyllis Sutherland is a Peguis Band member who supports better accountability on reserves.  In 2012, she said that attempts to get financial information from her band leadership were ignored, and members were "subjected to intimidation tactics, such as fearmongering, public attacks and attempts to destroy a person's credibility."

Reilly's, Helin's and Sutherland's accounts are just a few of the ones I have read that address lack of accountability in some aboriginal governance systems.  Despite many indigenous leaders' protests to the contrary, there does seem to be a pattern here that I do not think can be solely blamed on colonization and the residential schools.

As mentioned earlier in Part Three, Peter Best thinks that "ordinary Canadians" need to participate more in indigenous policy decision making.  I agree with him that these ordinary Canadians are often grassroots aboriginals who are negatively impacted by poor reserve governance.

Autumn tress and shrubs, October 16, 2015
Part Three - F       Indigenous Rights, Resource Development and Environmental Stewardship

I am all for sustainable resource development that will preserve the environment, but I think some "green initiatives" are being implemented too hastily, without enough concern for the burden they are placing on, not only the economy, but the individual ratepayer.

I have been astounded by the steady increases in my Ontario hydro bills over the past few years, and am consequently not surprised the province has reportedly the highest rate on the continent.  It concerns me that one of the main reasons for these increases is the Ontario government's environmental stewardship program.

I contend that some environmentalists are going overboard in their push to get Canadians off fossil fuels.  Considerable work has been done and is being done to make fossil fuel extraction, transport and manufacture safer and more environmentally sound.  It would be better to slow down many of the green programs, so they are more economically sustainable, rather than implementing them too fast, as is happening in Ontario.

Part Three - G       Conclusion

I agree with Jeffrey Simpson that parallelism is a "re-creation of a long-ago past in modern idiom," which has not met with much success.  I do not believe it is entirely the fault of the non-aboriginal community that this has occurred.

In my "Caledonia and Six Nations. . ." post, May 21, 2012, I observed that "many of the best recommendations for improving the aboriginal situation originate with natives who recognize that changing things for the better is a two-way street.  They acknowledge that all the blame cannot be placed on non-natives' shoulders."

The "two-way street" individuals are helping to make Canada stronger, each in their own unique way.  Some of these talented people may not see themselves as integrationists, or, indeed, want to be classified that way.  But their multi-faceted, creative approaches to moving the dialogue forward are a huge improvement over the parallelist spin that frequently shuts down constructive discussion.


Alberta Ombudsman (2016).  Administrative Fairness Guidelines.

Bains, R. (2015, December 28).  First Nations chiefs rewarded for lack of transparency.  Toronto Sun:

Best, P. (2016).  There is No Difference.

Black, C. (2016, March 16).  Conrad Black: Canada admirably respects other cultures, but we are achingly slow to defend our own.  National Post:

Cairns, A. C. (2000).  Citizens Plus.  Vancouver: UBC Press.

CBC Radio/Unreserved (2015, December 6).  Will truth bring reconciliation? Justice Murray Sinclair says not without education.

Coates, K., & Favel, B (2016, May 19).  Embrace of UNDRIP can bring aboriginal Canada and Ottawa closer together.  Macdonald-Laurier Institute:

Cuthand, D. (2016, May 16).  UN Declaration helps forge new relationship.  London Free Press:

Daro, I. N. (2016, March 26).  Ontario cuts hydro rates for low-income residents, but most households will pay about $137 more per year.  National Post:

Favel, B., & Coates, K. S. (2016, May).  Understanding UNDRIP.  Macdonald-Laurier Institute:

Gibson, G. (2009).  A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy.  Fraser Institute.

Helin, C. (2006).  Dances With Dependency.  Vancouver: Orca Spirit.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (2013, August 15).  Fact Sheet: 2011 National Household Survey: Aboriginal Demographics, Educational Attainment and Labour Market Outcomes.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (2013, October 21).  First Nations in Canada.

Isaak, A. (2015, October 7).  Forcing Indigenous Issues to the Federal Forefront.  The Manitoban:

Kay, B. (2016, March 15).  Barbara Kay: Only blind progressives would think naming a scholarship after Mao is a good idea.  National Post:

Lakritz, N. (2015, October 24).  Lakritz: Statues the latest victims of political correctness.  Calgary Herald:

Libin, K. (2016, May 16).  Kevin Libin: Ontario's big green assisted suicide plan.  National Post:

MacKay, T. (2016, January 27).  Todd MacKey: All politicians must disclose financial information - including First Nations.  National Post:

Murphy, R. (2016, May 20).  Leap comes to Ontario with Wynne's new climate change plan.  National Post:

Reilly, J. (2014).  Bad Judgment.  Alberta: Rocky Mountain Books.

Simpson, J. (2015, April 8).  Jeffrey Simpson on Indian Policy: Progress for Aboriginal Peoples Still Haunted by the Past.  Macdonald-Laurier Institute:

Steele, D. (2016).  CAP to IPAC: What's in a name?  Windspeaker:

Travato, F., Abada, T., & Price, J.A. (2015 March 4).  Urban migration of Aboriginal Peoples.  Canadian Encyclopedia:

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Part Two of Three: Why I Think Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Parallelism or Assimilation - Integration is Already Happening in Many Places

Disclaimer: My references to the writings of other people--both indigenous and non-indigenous--do not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.  The opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my family, friends or associates.

Note One:  In this post, I will primarily be focussing on First Nations people living on- and off-reserves.  For brevity's sake, I will not be covering Inuit- and Metis-related issues.  But when I include information about indigenous people generally, e.g., statistics, it sometimes incorporates Inuit and Metis.

Note Two:  The nature photos, which I took during walks in my neighbourhood, have nothing to do with the contents of this post.  I found working on this entry so mentally challenging that I sometimes recharged by playing slideshows of these images.

Part Two - A       Integration is Already Happening in Many Places - Overview

Many indigenous people have had no trouble maintaining their identity, while at the same time participating in Canadian society.  This involvement has included working in mainstream institutions in the cities and intermarrying with non-aboriginals.  So, despite what many parallelists would have the public believe, integration is already happening in many places.

Part Two - B       Problems Rooted in Society as a Whole

One of the common reasons cited by the parallelists as to why they do not want to join the mainstream is because they find it profoundly messed up.  And, quite frankly, they have a point.  But, as I have said elsewhere on this blog, traditional indigenous societies were not perfect either.  Consequently, the parallelists should not claim that replacing one society's values with another's is going to resolve all dysfunction.  I think a more effective approach would be to examine what it is about the mainstream that is counterproductive, and then work to change it for the better.

As I explained in my February 11, 2014 review of Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian (2012), "I believe in maintaining a unifying Canadian culture that respects the rights of the individual and upholds the rule of law."  But I do think there is some validity to King's contention that North Americans need to find a way to overcome their "irrational addiction to profit."

Sun Tree, October 11, 2015
Calvin Helin also expressed concerns about this irrational addiction to profit in his Dances With Spirits (2014).  My February 10, 2015 review of his book can be found elsewhere on this blog, so I will not elaborate here.  But, to summarize, he shows how we can transform our society into a more productive one by "finding common ground."  I think Helin's approach is more constructive than Thomas King's because Helin explains how we can work together to resolve global issues, rather than playing the "us and them" game that King frequently employs.

As I have explained in other posts on this blog, I have personally witnessed aboriginals being treated in an exploitative and demeaning manner.  I know that a lot of this behaviour has to do with preconceived and erroneous attitudes that some non-aboriginals have.  But I do not think the answer to dealing with prejudicial attitudes is to play the victim card.  More is accomplished when indigenous people educate other races as to how and why these attitudes have occurred, so that they are better informed, rather than blaming everything on colonization.

Part Two - C       More Than Half of Indigenous People Live in Urban Areas

Statistics Canada's 2011 National Household Survey found that 56 per cent of aboriginals resided in urban areas.  And, according to the 2011 Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study (UAPS), 71 per cent considered the city "home," and 65 per cent really liked living there.  In addition, the UAPS found that city-dwelling aboriginals did not feel well-represented by any aboriginal or mainstream organization.  Therefore, it is a misnomer for some indigenous spokespeople to give the impression that their demographic is primarily based on reserves.

Moreover, aboriginals generally do better educationally when they live in the city.  In January 2016, the C.D. Howe Institute released a study that found only four in 10 on-reserve First Nations youth, in the 20 to 24 age range, had completed high school, compared to seven out of 10 off-reserve.  By comparison, nine out of 10 non-aboriginals had done so.

Many aboriginal leaders would argue that the education gap between on-reserve and off-reserve is because of lack of funding for reserve schools, but the study authors, Anderson and Richards, said that was not the only reason.  Although the authors agreed that funding had to be improved due to the higher cost of delivering services on-reserve, they contend that other factors also had to be addressed.

Thistles, September 20, 2015
Maclean's columnist, Scott Gilmore, got criticized by some indigenous groups and their supporters when he said reserve isolation frequently contributed to dysfunction.  Although he did not advocate the elimination of reserves, he recommended that more funding be allocated to those who choose to leave.  He pointed to Statistics Canada data that showed aboriginal people frequently did better if they relocated.

However, another Statistics Canada study found that 62 per cent of non-aboriginals were in good health, compared to 49 per cent of urban aboriginals.  Other variables such as housing and mental health also showed that non-aboriginals fared better.

Outcomes in the urban environment clearly need improvement, but the fact remains that city-dwelling indigenous people often do better overall.  Regardless of what the statistics tell us, it is up to individual aboriginals to decide what is best for them.

Part Two - D       Aboriginals Who Advocate Self-Sufficiency Get Relatively Little Media Attention

There are indigenous people who have made practical recommendations as to how their people can become more self-sufficient.  Although considerable progress has been made on some reserves, there is still a lot more that needs to be done.

My view is that progress has mainly been stymied by the relentless factionalism and feuding among aboriginal groups.  Prior to European contact, many tribes were in constant conflict with each other.  They raided each other's villages and turned captives into slaves.  Sometimes one tribe completely annihilated another.  But it is politically incorrect to mention this now, even though there is indisputable proof that it happened.  Now aboriginal spokespeople often blame the government for any misfortune they encounter.  But if some aboriginal leaders spent more time examining what traditionally worked and what did not, they would probably achieve more positive results.

Of course, government policy has substantially contributed to the dysfunction.  But even since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office in October 2015, with his push to improve the aboriginal situation, the feuding and factionalism continues.

This political bickering also contributes to less one-on-one with successful aboriginals.  Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Band in British Columbia, has been a tireless advocate of economic development and the work ethic.  Because his prosperous reserve has more work than band members, it employs aboriginals from 30 different First Nations in other parts of the country.  But Louie prefers to stick with the business side of his leadership because he said indigenous politics is rife with "jealousy, hatred and bitterness."

Although Louie has got some media attention, the lion's share of it still goes to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).  It is good that AFN National Chief, Perry Bellegarde, sometimes speaks about the importance of sustainable economic development.  But unfortunately, Bellegarde's viewpoint is not always shared by some of the chiefs, who are opposed to most types of development.  It is therefore not surprising that Chief Louie rarely attends AFN functions because he thinks the chiefs do not focus enough on economic development.

I am not saying that Chief Louie is promoting integration, but what I am saying is that he has figured out ways to make the mainstream system work in tandem with his reserve.  He realized economic development had to come before social and cultural programs, and now all three elements are working well in his community.  

Squirrel, October 11, 2015
Part Two - E       Intermarriage

The high rate of intermarriage (a.k.a. "marrying out" or out marriage) between aboriginals and non-aboriginals is another factor that needs to be taken into consideration regarding integration.  In his book, Citizens Plus, Alan Cairns cited Clatsworthy and Smith's 1992 report in which they estimated that 34 per cent of Status Indians intermarried.  For off-reserve Status, they calculated 65 per cent.  I agree with Cairns's conclusion that the high rate of intermarriage has led to many shared values.

It was difficult for me to find statistics on intermarriage rates after 1992.  But around 2008, Maclean's was able to access an unpublished Indian Affairs document entitled "Registered Indian Population Projections for Canada and Regions, 2004-2029," which found that the rates had increased.  Between 1985 and 2004, on-reserve registered Indians had an out marriage rate of 35 per cent, and 70 per cent of registered off-reserve had non-status partners.

Despite my inability to find information on current intermarriage rates, it is nevertheless true that a sizeable percentage of aboriginal leaders and role models have spouses who are non-aboriginal and/or are the offspring of an interracial couple.  For instance, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Carey Price are married to non-aboriginals.  Wab Kinew and Wilson-Raybould have non-indigenous mothers.  Carey Price's father is not indigenous.

Part Two - F       Use of Mainstream Services a Reality

Although some aboriginals who follow the parallelism approach believe that only a return to their traditional ways is the route to go, I question how easily they could accomplish this.

My favourite example can be found in a report on a gathering of aboriginal Christians, which took place around 2006.  Although those in attendance agreed it was important to recognize the positive aspects of indigenous culture, some of them complained this could be overemphasized.  One of the unidentified participants said an "Elder" had told him that everything to do with "European" influence should be done away with.  However, the attendee countered he would not want to give up the toilet.  As I explained in the "Personal Journey" section of Part One, I had to use a "honey bucket" when I lived in Yellowknife's Old Town in the mid-1970s.  You can rest assured I share the participant's view that I would not want to give up the toilet either.

Part Two - G       Residential Schools Helped Many Aboriginals to Integrate Better Into Canadian Society

Up until the 1990s, media reporting on the residential schools topic was, in my opinion, much more balanced than it is now.  Journalists would interview aboriginals with positive, negative or mixed experiences and report on all three.  But now media coverage tends to focus only on the negative.

Dene columnist, Cece Hodgson-McCauley, is one of the few residential school attendees who addresses both the positive and the negative aspects.  In a number of her columns for News/North, she has explained the ways her 10 years at the "convent" in Fort Providence benefited her, e.g., she learned knitting, beading, quill work, cooking and baking.  She recalled "one nun who was very strict" and another "who made us pray too much."  She said during her sister, Muriel Foers's, time at the school, there were problems when the nuns put an older aboriginal girl in charge.

Autumn Trees, October 8, 2015
In her December 21, 2015 column, Hodgson-McCauley complained about the "one-sided" nature of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report, and said the "real truth" had to "come out."  She said the elders "are afraid to speak up and tell the truth," but that the "truth will come out because people are not dumb."

In her May 16, 2016 column, she noted that more people wanted to hear about the good side of the residential schools because there are "two sides to every story."  She said she had been getting calls from people "investigating" the good side.

The people who have been investigating the good side have amassed a lot of primary and secondary source material.  This material proves the schools frequently helped some attendees to become successful community leaders.  They learned self-discipline and how to communicate better with non-aboriginals.  They often retained their language and culture.  In other words, the residential schools helped some of them to integrate into Canadian society.


Adams, M. & Gosnell-Myers, G. (2013, January 22).  Don't forget Canada's urban aboriginals.  They're not just passing through.  Globe and Mail:

Akin, D. (2015, June 17).  Top chief says focus on job creation.  Toronto Sun:

C.D. Howe Institute (2016, January 28).  Reform Agenda Needed for Failing First Nations Schools.  C.D. Howe Institute:

Cairns, A.C. (2000).  Citizens Plus: Aboriginal People and the Canadian State.  Vancouver: UBC Press.

Donnelly, P. (1998, January 26).  Scapegoating the Indian residential schools.  Alberta Report.  Ebsco.

Friesen, J. (2010, April 6).  Canada's urban aboriginals feel politically unrepresented, poll finds.  Globe and Mail:

Geddes, J. (2008, July 7).  Who are you calling Indian?  Maclean's.  Canadian Reference Centre.

Gignac, J. (2016, April 12).  Study highlights health challenges faced by urban First Nations people.  Globe and Mail:

Gilmore, S. (2016, February 9).  Scott Gilmore: the hard truth about remote communities.  Maclean's:

Helin, H. (2014).  Dances With Spirits: Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World.  Los Angeles: Primer Digital.

Hodgson-McCauley, C. (2016, May 16).  Lawyers pushed bad side of residential schools.  Northern News Services:

Hodgson-McCauley, C. (2015, December 21).  Make Daryl Dolynny NWT ombudsman!  Northern News Services:

Hodgson-McCauley, C. (2012, December 3).  Positive stories from residential school.  Northern News Services:

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (2013, October 21).  First Nations in Canada.  Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada:

King, T. (2012).  The Inconvenient Indian.  Doubleday Canada.

Morin, B. (2014, August 19).  Chief Clarence Louie: The key to the future is building a strong economy.  Alberta Native News:

Public Safety Canada (2006).  A Matter of Faith: a Gathering of Aboriginal Canadians.  Public Safety Canada:

Simpson, J. (2016, February 12).  It takes more than money to close the education gap.  Globe and Mail:

Statistics Canada (2008, January 15).  Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Metis and First Nations, 2006 Census.  Statistics Canada:

Monday, 23 May 2016

Part One of Three: Why I Think Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Parallelism or Assimilation - Overview

Disclaimer: My references to the writings of other people--both indigenous and non-indigenous--do not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.  The opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my family, friends or associates.

Note One:  In this post, I will primarily be focussing on First Nations people living on- and off-reserves.  For brevity's sake, I will not be covering Inuit- and Metis-related issues.  But when I include information about indigenous people generally, e.g., statistics, it sometimes incorporates Inuit and Metis.

Note Two:  The nature photos, which I took during walks in my neighbourhood, have nothing to do with the contents of this post.  I found working on this entry so mentally challenging that I sometimes recharged by playing slideshows of these images.

Part One - A         Introduction

I realize there are a number of interpretations of aboriginal integration, so I am clarifying at the outset that my recommended version is not the type that advocates assimilation.  As I explained in my "Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Assimilation or Parallelism" post, August 7, 2011, I am in favour of aboriginals maintaining their rights, but also their Canadian citizenship.  However, I believe that any rights maintained should not harm aboriginals or non-aboriginals.  In other words, I recommend a selective retention of rights.  Will explain more about what I mean by "selective retention" in the "Integration" section of Part One.

I also think that any rights upheld should not erode Canadian sovereignty.  Will have more to say about this in the "Ordinary Canadians" section of Part Three.

Am dividing up this topic into three separate posts as follows:

• Part One of Three - Why I Think Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Parallelism or Assimilation - Overview

• Part Two of Three - Why I Think Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Parallelism or Assimilation - Integration is Already Happening in Many Places

• Part Three of Three - Why I Think Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Parallelism or Assimilation - More People Need to be Involved With Indigenous Policy Decision Making

Part One - B        Three Main Policy Viewpoints - My Interpretation

In a number of other posts on this blog, I said I think Canadian aboriginal integration is better than parallelism or assimilation.  I agree with a reader of my blog that I need to elaborate on what I mean by this.

Below are my interpretations of the three main policy viewpoints.

Part One - B.1       Parallelism

The Liberal government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau tried to implement the 1969 White Paper, which advocated assimilation, but this concept was rejected by many of the country's aboriginal leaders.  Consequently, the White Paper was shelved.  For further information on the events before, during and after the White Paper, see my "Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Assimilation or Parallelism Post," August 7, 2011.

Alan Cairns was the first to use the term parallelism, which he described as "Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities travelling side-by-side coexisting but not getting in each other's way."  But Cairns is not a proponent of the term that he coined.  Parallelism is sometimes portrayed as a two-row wampum, that is, aboriginal and non-aboriginal collectives following separate cultural paths.  The preservation of indigenous knowledge is one of the principal self-determining aims of the aboriginal route.

Parallelism is also depicted as either "nation-to-nation" constitutionalism or a third order of government.  The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) advocated parallelism, as did the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada final report executive summary.

Aboriginal leaders frequently talk about sovereignty in connection with their wish for "nation-to-nation" relations with Canada, the provinces and territories, but it is sometimes not clear what they mean by these terms.  Are they talking about nation as in operating as a self-sufficient entity within the Canadian federation, or as in operating outside of it?  Do they mean sovereignty as in good governance, or as in separate "nations" from Canada?

As I explained in my review of Cherokee/Greek Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian, February 11, 2014, "sovereignty has various interpretations amongst aboriginal groups."  I have no problem with aboriginal communities being directly involved with decisions that affect them, but I do not agree with these communities operating outside of the federal, provincial and territorial framework.

Creek from bridge, May 22, 2015
Part One - B.2       Integration

Generally speaking, integration proponents believe it is best for aboriginals to maintain their Canadian citizenship, and to be actively engaged in national discourse.  Although many integrationists want to see aboriginal culture preserved, they recognize that sometimes there has to be a partnership or overlap with mainstream Canadian federal, provincial and/or territorial jurisdictions.

Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard summarize integrationism as "inclusion, universality and progress," and contend there are two main versions:  liberalism and political economy.  They see the liberalism branch as valuing individualism over collectivism.  Political economists believe that goods and services should be available to all equally, not just to those with tribal affiliations.

Some analysts believe that assimilation is an extension of the integrationist position, but I see it as distinct.  This is because some integrationists think aboriginals have rights over and above other Canadians, such as those enshrined in the Constitution.  My view is what separates integrationists from assimilationists is the special rights issue.  So I think assimilation needs to be a separate category.

I am of the view that aboriginals should maintain their Constitutional rights, but there needs to be a review of cultural practices that may harm aboriginals or non-aboriginals.  If cultural practices are detrimental to either race, then natives should not be able to argue that they have a right to practice for traditional reasons.  Two examples of this are bad medicine and the historically negative treatment of women by some tribes.  So that is what I mean by selective retention of rights.

In addition, I do not think that indigenous rights should infringe on Canadian constitutional sovereignty.  That is why I was concerned with what Gordon Gibson had to say in his analysis of Section 25 of the Charter.  He said "if parts of the Charter offend traditional aboriginal practices, those parts of the Charter are not enforceable as against Indian governments."  This section needs to be revised to make it clearer that any practices that might infringe on Canadian sovereignty cannot be upheld as constitutionally protected.

Duck spreading wings, October 11, 2015

Part One - B.3       Assimilation

The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Report described assimilation as colonial and Canadian authorities asserting that "European ideas about progress and development were self-evidently correct," and stated that these ideas should not be imposed on aboriginals.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada labelled the 1820-1927 era as "Legislated Assimilation" and 1914-1982 one as "New Perspectives."  Even though there were quite a few improvements to aboriginal policy during the latter period, it still included the 1969 White Paper, which many aboriginal leaders considered assimilationist.  As previously mentioned, the White Paper was shelved.

It is rarely noted that a third of aboriginals do not identify themselves as such in the federal census.  But this needs to be factored into any discussion on aboriginal policy.  Yes, it is true that some of these people likely assimilated because of colonial polices, but others felt they were better off joining the mainstream.

In Bad Judgment, John Reilly said that his friend, Austin Tootoosis, a Cree healer, described five levels to assimilation.  The first is when aboriginals follow their traditional ways, and are usually in good shape psychologically.  Level five is completely assimilated individuals who are usually well mentally.  It is levels two through four where difficulties can occur because people have "no real identity or sense of direction."

I agree with Tootoosis that problems can occur as he described.  But there are many different outcomes that can result in levels two through four, and some of them may be favourable.  For instance, integration can fall into this range.

Part One - C        Why My Personal Journey Has Led Me to Conclude That Integration is the Best Option

As I have explained in other posts on this blog, my parents got involved with indigenous issues when I was six, so I grew up with this matter constantly around me.  My work in aboriginal organizations, in Southern and Northern Ontario and the Northwest Territories, primarily during the 1975 to 1987 period, has given me a perspective that a lot of people do not share.

My views on this issue have been influenced by four factors.  The first is that I felt pressured to carry on my mother's aboriginal involvement after she passed away in 1976.  The time period before and after her passing was when some indigenous groups and their "native support" partners were establishing a national presence, e.g., voicing opposition to the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, due to unsettled land claims.  Many of the people my mother had aligned herself with naturally hoped I would carry on where she left off.

But I had numerous concerns about this.  In fact, these misgivings were so strong that I told a native support representative that my mother was a "hard act to follow."  When I realized that my apprehensions were mostly falling on deaf ears, I tried to mask my self-doubts with an outward "crusader zeal."  But this crusader mask only made things worse in the long run.

The second factor was that it was the 1970s, when attitudes were different than they are now.  I thought it was better for me to go with the flow, rather than challenge other people's agenda setting for me.  I realize now that, in the eyes of some people involved with the "cause," taking this on was a lifetime commitment, but I did not see it that way.

The third is that my personality is totally unsuited to working in the indigenous rights field.  I have always been a very opinionated person, and this trait alone increased the odds of my having difficulties.  In addition, I have very strong convictions, which frequently put me at loggerheads with some equally strong-willed indigenous people.

Fourth: despite the fact that I had more than a decade of background with aboriginal issues before I started working in the organizations, I now realize it would have been better if I had known more about the historical aspects of the indigenous situation beforehand.  If I had known this, it would have been easier for me to comprehend all that I went through.  This is why I agree that indigenous history should be included in the K-12 curriculum.  But this information needs to be taught in a balanced manner, presenting all sides, not the all-too-common "aboriginals are always right and non-aboriginals are always wrong" narrative.

Nevertheless, I do not want to give the impression my experiences were entirely negative.  I have lots of happy memories, such as attending drum dances and stage plays.  I also know that many of my late parents' interactions were uplifting for them.

Autumn splendour October 8, 2015

One of the highlights of my work in this area was travelling to remote communities in the Northwest Territories and Northern Ontario, e.g., to provide advice and assistance on band library development.  Because airplanes usually only fly in and out of these places once or twice a week, I sometimes stayed for a few days, either in lodges set aside for visitors, or in tents, or in the homes of band librarians who requested my visit.  Will never forget the spectacular scenery I saw from bush plane windows.  However, I also had some more harrowing adventures, such as a helicopter ride through a blizzard, and a water taxi trip across a turbulent bay.

In addition, I know what it is like to live with few amenities.  When my ex-partner and I were in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, during the 1975-1976 period, we lived in a tent on Long Lake Beach, a few kilometres outside of the city limits.  He did not want to pay for a campsite, so we were up on the rocks.  Then for about ten months, we lived in a house in Yellowknife's Old Town with no running water, no plumbing, and, for the first three months or so, only plastic covering the windows.  Have not forgotten the hassles of using a "honey bucket" for a toilet, and hauling in oil from the road to heat the furnace.  Because water was poured into a barrel inside our front door once a week at varying times, we could not lock the door.  I really hated having to boil water on the stove to have a sponge bath.

I also realize that reserve water problems are not limited to Canada's north.  After taking a shower at one reserve house south of the 60th parallel, I was covered with a rash for quite a few days.

The most profound aspect of my involvement was that a Slavey (Dene) woman contributed substantially to saving my life in 1972.  I was suffering from a severe infection that a Toronto doctor claimed was all in my mind.  As a result, I regularly popped 292s, and became more and more frail.  I was staying with this Slavey woman in Yellowknife, and was supposed to board a plane to the remote community of Fort Simpson.  When the taxi driver came to take me to the airport, she took the suitcase out of my hand and gave it to the driver.  She said "you're not taking her anywhere but the hospital."  I spent three weeks in Yellowknife hospital and almost died.  In the early 1980s, I learned this woman had passed away under tragic circumstances.

So, by the mid-1980s, I had learned first-hand (albeit temporarily) how difficult and challenging life can be for indigenous people.  But the memories that have been permanently etched in my psyche are those that involve indigenous people reaching out across the racial divide, like the selfless act of the Slavey (Dene) woman in 1972.  The memories I would often rather forget were the frequent wranglings over what made us different from each other.

During my years with the organizations, I frequently advocated for separate systems for aboriginal people  But even at that time, I harboured inner doubts about this route.  These fears were heightened after aboriginal rights were enshrined in the Constitution in the 1980s.  From the mid-1980s onwards, I became increasingly disillusioned with the "cause," and I think that constitutional entrenchment played a role in this.  It seemed to give some of my aboriginal associates the view that they were racially superior to me.

What also contributed to my angst was that the residential schools issue became more and more the focus of scrutiny from the mid-1980s onwards.  I am very much aware of the damage done to many former students by the schools because I worked with quite a few "survivors."  But I also found that it occasionally became an excuse for questionable behaviour.  For instance, one "survivor," who I had known since the mid-1960s, viciously betrayed me in the late 1980s.  When I confronted her about this, she blamed her behaviour on her time at a residential school.  But I think her main motivation was that she was angry with me over a political difference of opinion, and consequently spread the falsehood to get revenge.

During the 1976 to 1982 period, I was employed by, or a volunteer for, a number of what at the time were referred to as "native support" programs.  This sometimes involved arranging for aboriginal leaders from the north to speak to groups in the south.  Frequently the churches initiated and funded these projects.  For instance, there was an inter-church group called Project North (Anglican, Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United Church) that lobbied in support of land claims.  In fact, Project North is mentioned in Volume 1 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada final report as a "concrete expression" of the churches demonstrating cooperation and involvement on aboriginal issues.

That is why it bothers me so much when many residential school "survivors" make it sound like the churches were always their adversaries, when the truth is the churches were sometimes the ones that lobbied the hardest for aboriginal rights to be preserved.  For further information on my views about the residential school controversy, see my September 7 and November 6, 2015 posts elsewhere on this blog.

As mentioned earlier, I harboured doubts about the "separate systems" approach to dealing with aboriginal issues.  But I did not realize the extent to which national indigenous groups were lobbying to ensure this concept became enshrined in federal government policy.

One of the most prominent examples of this "separate systems" advocacy was the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) Report.  I did not really analyze this report until the early 2000s.  But I realize, now that I have, its overemphasis on parallelism, and under-emphasis on the interconnectedness between aboriginal and non-aboriginal societies, was likely one of the main driving forces behind my increased disillusionment.

Tsimshian author Calvin Helin's Dances With Dependency (2006) helped me to come to grips with another aspect of my discouragement: that many aboriginal communities were overly dependent on government assistance, and that this was negatively impacting community cohesiveness.  For more information about Helin's book, and other books by him that had an impact on me, see my February 10, 2015 post.

My reading of Australian anthropologist and linguist, Peter Sutton's, The Politics of Suffering (2011) further cemented my view that some aspects of aboriginal traditions, such as bad medicine, and the abuse of women by some tribes, were best forgotten.  See the "Peter Sutton" label in the right sidebar for more information on this.

I realize there were and are many positive developments that have resulted from indigenous people asserting their rights, and exposing the harm done by many aspects of the residential schools.  But I feel the attention has swung too far from personal responsibility to identity politics.

Fortunately, there are indigenous people who share a lot of my concerns, and who I keep in touch with.  I realize the risks they take are often far greater than mine, because there is so much pressure on them to "toe the party line."  But they speak out anyway--kudos to them.

Robin, March 16, 2016

Part One - D       Too Much Emphasis Being Placed on the Parallelism Viewpoint

My contention is that all levels of government--federal, provincial, territorial and municipal--frequently place too much emphasis on communicating with the three main indigenous organizations, that is, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Metis National Council (MNC) and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).  This top-level communication means that the focus tends to be on the parallelist viewpoint, particularly in the case of the AFN and the MNC.  This post will be concentrating on the AFN's version of parallelism, e.g., when AFN spokespeople talk about "nation-to-nation" dialogue.  My overall point is that some on-reserve and urban aboriginals may not agree with this viewpoint.

In my September 5, 2011 post entitled "Aboriginal Issues During the 'Culpability Era,'" I explained that only the chiefs elect the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).  This is the equivalent of the mayors of cities choosing the prime minister.  So it should not be assumed that all reserve residents support what the national chief is doing.

Differences of opinion can also occur regarding on-reserve governance.  For instance, some reserve residents have brought public attention to band mismanagement, and have frequently been severely reprimanded for doing so.  But as Ojibway writer, Richard Wagamese, rightly pointed out, "there is no colonialism inherent in accountability. . .and there is no besmirching a people's integrity by asking their leadership for honesty."

Another factor to bear in mind is that the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) only represents those First Nations living on-reserve.  Yet more than half of aboriginals live in urban areas.  Moreover, these city-dwellers may not be as keen on parallelism as their reserve counterparts.  The 2010 Urban Aboriginal Peoples Survey (UAPS), found that seven out of 10 were comfortable with their Canadian citizenship.  Although these nationalists may not see themselves as integrationists, that may be essentially what they are doing, if they agree with Canada's rights and responsibilities as citizens.

And, as previously mentioned, a third of aboriginals do not self-identify as such in the federal census.  So they have chosen the assimilation route.  Although I am not necessarily advocating assimiliation, I think this factor has to be taken into consideration.

Consequently, the aboriginals who advocate parallelism may represent less than half of the national indigenous demographic.  Despite this, the parallelists receive a disproportionate amount of the media attention.  I think the non-parallelist perspectives of the integrationists and assimilationists should be given more weight.


Adams, M. & Gosnell-Myers, G. (2013, January 22).   Don't forget Canada's urban aboriginals.  They're not just passing through.  Globe and Mail:

Cairns, A.C. (2000).  Citizens Plus: Aboriginal People and the Canadian State.  Vancouver: UBC Press.

Cairns, A.C. (2005).  First Nations and the Canadian State.  Kingston: Queen's University.

Gibson, G. (2009).  A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy.  Fraser Institute.

Government of Canada (2014, July 23).  The rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Helin, C. (2006).  Dances With Dependency: Indigenous Success Through Self-Reliance.  Vancouver: Orca Spirit.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (2013, October 21).  First Nations in Canada.

King, T. (2012).  The Inconvenient Indian.  Doubleday Canada.

Liebsman, H. (2005).  In Search of a Postcolonial Theory of Normative Integration: Reflections on A.C. Cairns' Theory of Citizens Plus. 38 (4), 955-976.

Reilly, J. (2014).  Bad Judgment.  Alberta: Rocky Mountain Books.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996).  Highlights from the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.  Retrieved October 15, 2015 from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada:

Sutton, P. (2011).  The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the end of the liberal consensus (2nd ed).  Melbourne University.

Travato, F, Abada, R & Price, J.A. (2015, March 4).  Urban Migration of Aboriginal Peoples.  From Canadian Encyclopedia:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015, December).  Final Report: Canada's Residential Schools: The History, Part 2, 1939-2000. (archived)

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015, June 2).  Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report. (archived)

Wagamese, R. (2015, October 9).  Accountability and Band Finances.  From First Nations Drum:

Widdowson, F, & Howard, A. (2013).  Approaches to Aboriginal Education in Canada.  (Widdowson, F, & Howard, A., ed).  Brush Education.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Canadian Indigenous Residential Schools - Counter-Narratives

Disclaimer: my references to the writings of other people--both indigenous and non-indigenous--do not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.  The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily represent those of my family, friends or associates.

Note: my definition of counter-narrative is a point of view that challenges what many believe to be true.  I contend that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) final report executive summary, which was released June 2, 2015, almost invariably promotes the narrative that "aboriginals are always right, and non-aboriginals are always wrong."  But even though this view is widely held by many apologists in Canadian society, I believe it is a fabrication that needs to be questioned.  This post is my counter-narrative to this fabrication.

A.        Background Information

About a third of Canadian indigenous children attended government-funded and church-run residential schools from the mid-19th century to 1996.  Since the early 1990s, the Canadian public has become increasingly aware of the negative effects these schools had on many of these children.  On June 2, 2015, public awareness was heightened yet again by the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) final report executive summary.  My September 7, 2015 post is a critique of this summary.

As I explained in my critique, I am very much aware of the harm that resulted from numerous aspects of the residential schools, due to my late parents' and my interactions with quite a few survivors.  However, I contend that TRC summary overemphasizes the negative and under-reports the positive.  There are aboriginals who graduated from these schools, who went on to lead productive and successful lives, but their stories frequently do not get the attention they deserve in the summary.  Most of the accounts mentioned in section B were not included in the summary.

In addition, the media has concentrated on relaying the damaging aspects of the schools.  This has reinforced in the minds of the general public that it was an entirely hurtful experience for all the children, even though this was not the case.  Yes, it is true that a lot of the material listed below appeared in the media, but these positive or counter-narrative accounts make up a very small percentage of what is disseminated by the press.

There are many non-aboriginal and aboriginal people who worked at the schools, who did the best they could under the circumstances, and who know they are not responsible for any abuses.  My compilation includes their stories as well.

I hope that what I have provided serves as a warning to non-aboriginal apologists who think that caving in to every indigenous demand is the way to go.  Hundreds of people devoted a great deal of their lives to doing the best they could for the aboriginal children in their care.  Despite this, a great percentage of them are being scapegoated.

Until the late 1980s, I was in many respects an apologist for the aboriginal "cause."  But then I was falsely accused of having views that I did not.  As a result of this devastating experience, I concluded it is better to be honest with indigenous people about the positive and the negative, rather than going along with whatever they want.  If one gives in too easily, then he or she could easily get scapegoated, like what happened to me.

Even though I had nothing directly to do with the schools, I understand the frustration being experienced by those who have found their positive accounts are not being given enough attention.

Someone recently told me that he thought emotions were too high to deal with the positive aspects now, and that we would have to endure the "over-heated rhetoric and anger for at least a generation."  I disagree with him.  The general public has been hearing about the negative aspects of the schools for more than 25 years, yet the rhetoric and anger have not abated very much.  I believe this is likely because, as some commentators have pointed out, there is more money to be made from complaining about the residential schools than not.

Have assembled below what I consider to be significant articles that have appeared in the news from 1996 until recently, but it is far from an exhaustive list.  Counter-narrative material that is included in my September 7, 2015 post, or in other posts on this blog, is not repeated here.

B.        Counter-Narrative Compilation

B.1      1996, December 5.  Field, J. Fraser, "The Other Side of the Residential School Question," Catholic Education:  Originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun on the same date.

- Field presents a lot of compelling arguments why people should not generalize about the residential schools era.

B.2      1997, February 24.  British Columbia Report, "So sorry for abuse, but so reluctant to see success: the Indian industry capitalizes on residential school problems while ignoring achievements," British Columbia Report, 8, 10.  Retrieved from ProQuest.

-"[S]ome British Columbians" acknowledge there were abuses at the schools, but contend that Indians are over-stating the abuse issue in order to further their land-claim demands."

B.3      1998, November 2.  McFeely, T., "The great white guilt trip: Fontaine seeks national forum and papal apology to boost residential school abuse payouts," British Columbia Report, 9, 17.  Retrieved from ProQuest.

- Roman Catholic priest recognizes there were abuses at the schools, but said the "silent majority" of aboriginals "had positive experiences."

B.4      2006, November.  Krotz, Larry, "Who's sorry now? inside the culture of apology," United Church Observer:

- [A] "substantial number of. . .people view institutionalized and national apologies with skepticism."

B.5      2007, February 19.  Krotz, Larry, "Separate and Unequal," The Walrus:

- "Money for crimes committed at residential schools may be forthcoming, but problems with the reserve system remain."

B.6      2007, December 13.  Greenberg, L., "Residential school cheques fuel envy, acrimony on Alberta reserve," CanWest News.  Retrieved from ProQuest.

- ". . .the sudden influx of cash payments to former residential school students has prompted a wave of bitterness and recrimination."

B.7      2008, May 7.  Wagamese, Richard, "The value of residential schools," Ottawa Citizen.  Retrieved from

- Wagamese recognizes the "horrendous experiences" at the residential schools "need to see the light of day," so there can be "nationwide healing."  But he wants the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to also relate the positive stories.

B.8      2008, June 11.  de Souza, Father Raymond J., "Two sides to the story," National Post:

- "To recognize what was wrong does not require ignoring what was right."

B.9      2008, June 11.  Sandberg, Don, "Residential Schools Propaganda?" Frontier Centre for Public Policy:

- ". . .even those who did not actually attend residential schools blame all of their social ills on the aboriginal residential school era."

B.10     2009.  Sutton, Peter, The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the end of the liberal consensus.  Victoria, Australia: Melbourne University Press.  New edition published in 2011.

- Since 1969, Sutton has worked as an anthropologist and linguist with Australian Aborigines.  I share many of the concerns he raises in this book.  In his chapter entitled, "On Feeling Reconciled," he questions the value of "formal, legal, bureaucratized Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians."  He thinks that reconciliation is more effective when it is a "personal and interpretive journey."

B.11     2009.  Gibson, Gordon, A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy: Respect the Collective--Promote the Individual.  Fraser Institute.

- On pages 145-147 of this book, Gibson critiques many of the articles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) final report executive summary promotes the implementation of UNDRIP, but I share many of the concerns that Gibson raises about it.

B.12     2009, March 3.  Winnipeg Free Press, "Residential school survivor hikes mission donation to $50,000,"

- William Woodford donated $50,000 of his residential school settlement money to the Siloam Mission, a Winnipeg homeless shelter.

B.13     2009, June 17.  White, Patrick, "Healing comes full circle," Globe and Mail:

- Residential school survivor, Edward Gamblin, thanked his Grade 3 residential school teacher, Florence Kaefer.  He said her class was "place of refuge" and that "[s]he was a good teacher."

- This positive account is included in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) final report executive summary.

B.14     2009, October 1.  Hill, Angela, "Remembering and healing," Prince Albert Daily Herald:

- Mental-health expert, Austin Tootoosis, feels survivors need to let go of their anger and work for the benefit of the "community at large."

B.15     2010, July 9.  Sandberg, Don, "It's Time to Focus on Healing," Frontier Centre for Public Policy:  This article also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on the same date.

- "Promotion of the negative through the past 20-some years has led many aboriginals to blame the residential schools for all of life's hardships and miseries. . .but we are responsible for who we ultimately become."

B.16     2010, November.  Narine, Shari, "TRC takes criticism on the chin," Windspeaker:  Retrieved from ProQuest.

- Conservative Senator Carolyn Stewart-Olsen said an "international approach" was not included in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) mandate, so the TRC should be spending less time on that and more on "this particular initiative."

B.17     2010, December 21.  Williams, Garrett, "Woman honoured for positive impact on residential school," Kenora Daily Miner and News:

- Rena Martinson and her reverend husband John were in charge of an Anglican residential school in Fort George, Quebec, for six years in the 1950s.  Martinson "left a positive and lasting impression" on the community.

B.18     2011, May 19.  Clifton, Rodney, "Some Other Truths about Indian Residential Schools," C2C Journal:

- Clifton worked at a residential school, and his Blackfoot wife attended one for 10 years.  "[N]either she nor her parents lost their language. . ."

B.19     2011, July 14.  Sison, Marites N.  "Mixed experiences at Indian residential school," Anglican Journal: anglicanjournalcom.

- Anglican Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, attended the Poplar Hill School in northwestern Ontario, where she had "more good than bad" experiences.

B.20     2012, June 21.  Sims, Jane, "Sharing a sombre legacy," London Free Press:

- Article includes statements by eight residential school students who attended Mount Elgin School, in southwestern Ontario.  Four of the eight reported having more positive than negative memories.

B.21     2013.  Wagamese, Richard, "Returning to Harmony,"

- Wagamese describes himself as "an intergenerational victim" whose immediate and extended family all attended residential schools.  In his 2008 Ottawa Citizen article, he wrote about his mother's positive experiences.  However, in this essay, he said she still "carried wounds that she could not voice."  In his 40s, Wagamese decided to stop blaming the schools for his addiction and anger.  For "many weeks," he attended a United Church service, and "found peace with churches, and, in turn, residential schools, with Canada."  He said he hoped the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada hears more stories like his.

B.22     2013, September 30.  DeLaurentiis Johnson, Julia, "In conversation with Tomson Highway," Maclean's:

- Highway said he was "part of the first wave of native writers" who had political correctness forced upon them.  But he thinks the "next wave of native playwrights should be afforded the freedom to let their imaginations fly."  He contends that being politically incorrect is "essential for art."  Although Highway was not addressing the residential schools issue directly in this quote, I think any creative person would be wise to heed his advice.

B.23     2014, January 11.  Russell, Paul, "Paul Russell: Could it be that residential schools weren't all bad?" National Post:

- Russell said that most of the letters to the editor received by the National Post "argue that the schools have been unfairly portrayed in the media."

B.24     2014, February 28.  Argan, Glen, "Oblates, TRC offer radically different views of history," Western Catholic Reporter:

- In October 2013, Ronald Niezen published a book about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) entitled Truth and Indignation.  He said the TRC focussed on "emotional trauma," which tended to draw attention away from "survivors' stories which do not stir emotional responses."  It also tended to exclude testimony from religious staff who worked at the schools.

B.25     2014, March 27.  Wittmeir, Brent, "Hearings to 'lay bare the soul of the nation,' truth and reconciliation chairman says," Edmonton Journal:

- Truth and Indignation author, Ron Niezen, worries that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada "will deepen the chasm between sufferer and perpetrator, accuser and accused, affirmed and excluded."

B.26     2015, June 7.  McKay, Donald, "Unworkable demands," [Letter to editor], Calgary Sun:

- McKay said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) summary "missed a great opportunity to make meaningful recommendations. . ."  He thinks the TRC should have recommended that aboriginals separate their governance structure into two organizations: one responsible for preserving the culture, and the other for operating institutions such as health and education.

B.27     2015, July 8.  Cooper, Barry, "Cooper: Residential school report won't bring reconciliation," Calgary Herald:

- Cooper complains that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) summary is "[b]adly deficient in terms of evidence, context and logic, riddled with cliches and factual errors, the result brims with half-truths."

B.28     2015, July 10.  Meadows, Lea, "Honour the truth about schools," [Letter to editor], Calgary Herald:

- This letter was in response to Cooper's July 8, 2015 opinion piece listed above.  She said "I agree with Barry Cooper that the TRC report does not honour the truth because it does not reflect all residential school students' experiences--like my mother's and grandmother's."

 B.29     2015, November 1.  CBC Radio/Unreserved, "Tomson Highway finds inspiration in one woman's musical laugh,"

- Highway talks about his autobiography, which is coming out in 15-year instalments.  His first 15 years is scheduled to be released first, and will discuss the beneficial aspects of his nine years at a residential school.

B.30     2015, November 5.  Globe and Mail [editorial], "A pitfall or two on the road to reconciliation with First Nations,"

- This editorial raises concerns about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) final report executive summary's push to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  I agree with this editorial that it would be problematic if the Canadian government allowed UNDRIP to become a legally binding document.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Final Report Executive Summary, 2015 - Critique

Disclaimer: my references to the writings of other people--both indigenous and non-indigenous--do not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.  The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily represent those of my family, friends of associates.

Note 1: the page numbers in square brackets refer to page numbers in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) executive summary.  If "Rec." and a number follow a page number, it refers to a specific TRC summary recommendation.

Note 2: the nature photos, which I took during walks in my neighbourhood, have nothing to do with the content of this post.  I found working on this post to be so mentally exhausting, that I sometimes recharged by playing slideshows of these images.

A.      Introduction

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)'s "Frequently Asked Questions" section of their website (, the commission's mandate "is to inform Canadians about what happened at the Indian Residential Schools (IRS).  The Commission will document the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience."  The 382-page executive summary of the final report was released on June 2, 2015 (the multi-volume final report is supposed to follow around December 2015).  This post is my critique of the summary.

Metis Chelsea Vowel and other aboriginals have complained that some who have written about the TRC summary have not taken the time to examine it thoroughly.  But I can confirm that I reviewed every page, took voluminous notes, and did extensive research before I started working on this post.

My heart goes out to those who suffered abuse at the schools, who lost the connection to their culture, and whose families were torn apart by the experience.  I have witnessed natives being treated in a demeaning and exploitative manner, so I have some idea how terrible it must have been.  It is good that, through the TRC, survivors have had an opportunity to inform non-aboriginal Canadians about what happened to them, and why many aspects of the residential schools experience (1849-1996) were counterproductive.

Nevertheless, I find the TRC summary overemphasizes the negative and under-reports the positive.  It sometimes goes into detail about constructive outcomes for students in terms of the arts, music and sports, but pays very little attention to the academic and leadership accomplishments of quite a few graduates.

Branch near creek, London, Ontario, May 29, 2015

B.      My Background With Indigenous Issues

From 1975 to 1987, I worked primarily in native organizations in Southern and Northern Ontario and the Northwest Territories.  Quite a few of the people I worked with were residential school survivors, and I sometimes heard stories from them about the abuse they had suffered.

I was, however, also aware of this issue much earlier, due to the fact that my parents, Jay Peterson (1920-1976), and Charles T. Peterson (1913-2007), got involved with aboriginal issues in 1958, when I was six.  From the mid-1960s onwards, survivors sometimes told me harrowing anecdotes, such as getting the hair on their heads shaved off if they spoke in their native language.

I have a one-page university program admission questionnaire, across which an aboriginal woman wrote that she refused "to be part of an apparatus" that was damaging her people  She closed with what she thought the program really thought of her: the number she had been assigned at residential school.  Although it is undated, I believe she wrote it in the late 1960s.  Am assuming because it is in my mother's files that she gave it to my mother.

But a greater percentage of my mother's aboriginal files contain positive material, such as photos and news clippings of craftspeople either displaying their artistry, or of the crafts themselves.  This is because my mother was impressed by the creative ability of many indigenous peoples.  She frequently visited reserves, and I sometimes accompanied her.  She bought crafts, brought the items back to town, sold them, returned to the reserve, and gave the money to the creators.  A Chippewa woman, now deceased, recounted how my mother would arrive on the reserve "with the grease from the roads in her hair."

In addition, my mother arranged for artisans to come to London, Ontario, to demonstrate or sell their crafts, e.g., when she was on the board of the Western Fair Association.  As a result of her enthusiasm, I developed a deep appreciation for native people's creative abilities.  I treasure the many types of aboriginal art I have in my home, some of which originally belonged to her.

It is therefore not surprising that the parts of the TRC summary that upset me the most were the ones that chronicled how aboriginal clothing and other cultural symbols were thrown in the garbage or otherwise disparaged [e.g., p. 44, 86].  In fact, there were numerous times when I broke down and wept in horror.  Of course, I was also upset by the many other examples of mistreatment.  But I sense the actual destruction of cultural property must have dealt a particularly disastrous blow.

Horse Chestnut flowers, May 29, 2015

C.      Maria Campbell's Input Not Covered in Summary

Although there are a number of references in the report to the 2014 Traditional Keepers Forum, which was held at the University of Manitoba, there is no mention of input from Metis author Maria Campbell.  She had recently done research regarding violence against aboriginal women going back to the 1600s (Trudeau Fellow, 2010).  She contended it was the "role of the commission" to look into the way aboriginal men have contributed to the violence.  She recommended that men take action at the community level, and there be less focus on expecting government to solve the problems.

One of the TRC commissioners, Marie Wilson, told Campbell that she honoured her outrage and the challenge it presented to the men.

I was really glad to read this, and was looking forward to seeing Campbell's views covered in the summary.  Alas, there was no mention of what she said at all.  Indeed, there is no discussion of any traditional factors that might lead some aboriginal men to become violent towards women, even though it is well-documented that a few tribes historically did not always treat their women with respect.  Since one of the recommendations is for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls [p. 224; Rec. 41 i)], I found this omission particularly disasppointing.

The TRC report gives the impression that life before colonization was idyllic, when the truth is that, yes, it was better in many ways than modern times, but there was inter-tribal warfare, even the annihilation of one tribe by another.  It think it is important for aboriginals to consider how their occasionally violent past might be contributing to some of their difficulties.  For instance, some regional conflicts stem from historical battles.  Fortunately, many tribes recognize this and are addressing the matter.

A lot of aboriginals are asking non-aboriginals to stretch their way of looking at the world, to accommodate a broader range of possibilities, and I suggest the reverse should also take place.  Although it was certainly wrong that some non-natives banned native cultural practices, perhaps there are a few that are best forgotten.

D.      TRC Recommendations Worth Implementing

I agree with Macdonald-Laurier Institute Senior Fellow, Ken Coates, that a lot of the TRC recommendations hinge too much on "a government-driven system of new programs," and that more focus should be placed on "aboriginal-led solutions."  I also concur with him that there needs to be more focus on aboriginal groups and governments looking at which recommendations are the most urgent, and then moving forward to implement them.

Some of the 94 (frequently multi-part) recommendations are reasonable, such as bringing on-reserve education funding up to the equivalent spent on non-aboriginals [p. 193-196; Rec. 8].

Incorporating "age-appropriate" information on the history of the residential schools into Kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum is also a good idea [p. 285-290; Rec. 62 i)].  But this information needs to be balanced, presenting both the positive and negative of the schools.

Waiving the costs for those survivors who were forced to change their names [p. 205; Rec. 17], and the chief coroners releasing the records for children who died while at the schools [p. 309-310; Rec. 71] are excellent recommendations.

In addition, it is admirable that the TRC held a number of National Event Education Days and Youth Dialogues, and that some of the participants produced materials, like a documentary video, that can be used for educational purposes.  It is also encouraging that there is a recommendation for regular federal funding for "community-based youth organizations" [p. 294-296; Rec. 66].

Nevertheless, aboriginal youth leaders have complained that some indigenous organizations do not take them seriously, and that funding allocated to them is often the first to go.  So the question is, could this happen to "Youth Programs - Recommendation 66" in the TRC summary?

Horse Chestnut, London, Ontario, May 29, 2015

E.      Positive Accounts That Are Not Covered in the Summary

One aboriginal who is not mentioned in the summary, although she has written about her residential schools experiences for decades, is 93-year old, honorary lifetime Dene chief, Cece Hodgson-McCauley.  This feisty News/North columnist has described her 10 years at the Catholic convent in Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, as the best years of her life.

In her July 13, 2015 column, she said a youth group is "questioning this whole residential school thing.  You can't fool everybody."

On August 3, 2015, she added that the "silent majority" is "waking up and asking questions.  Not only the majority at large, but elders who went through residential school but were afraid to speak during the seven years the [TRC] was researching. . .You just watch.  If the government thinks the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a done deal, it will have a rude awakening!"

Cree playwright, Tomson Highway's novel, Kiss of the Fur Queen (1998), which deals with his time at a residential school, is referred to on p. 329 of the summary.  But there is no mention of the fact, that when questioned about that time of his life during a 2013 interview, he said he believed in dwelling in the present and the future.  He also said he became trilingiual and learned to play the piano because of the school.

In addition, there is no mention of Highway's website (, on which he says he will speak about "'memoirs of a successful Native residential school survivor.'  Or how I learned to stop complaining and celebrate my life."

Gwich'in PhD candidate, Crystal Fraser and Ian Mosby, a McMaster University Postdoctoral fellow, contend that most survivors did well "in spite of," not because of, the schools.  They believe further research is required regarding this topic.  I agree that further study is required, but more focus needs to be placed on why quite a few survivors have done so well, and/or have positive memories of the schools.

Dandelion seed head, London, Ontario, May 29, 2015

F.      The Residential Schools Era Was Complex

The late Rev. James Edward (Ted) DeWolf was Principal of the St. Paul's Indian Residential School at the Kainai First Nation on the Blood Reserve in Southern Alberta, from 1953 to 1963.  His wife, two daughters and son accompanied him, and the children attended the school.  St. Paul's classes only went up to Grade 6.

Starting in Grade 7, son, Mark DeWolf, rode the bus every school day with the other Kainai students into Cardston, to attend the junior high there.  The rest of his family relocated, in 1963, to LaTuque, Quebec, where his father took over administration of another residential school.  Mark lived with a family in Cardston, in 1964, while completing his secondary education.

In 2011, Mark made a submission to the TRC [excerpt on p. 324-325] regarding the ways he interacted as a "little white boy," from the age of six to 16, with his aboriginal comrades (classes, lunchtimes, recesses, sports and recreation).  He learned from the native students how their land and life had been "taken away from them."  But he also explained some of the ways his father "worked within the system to try and make it a better one."

DeWolf is now a retired Halifax educator, who is writing a memoir about his childhood on the reserve.  Although he is very aware of the failings of the IRS system and the harm it inflicted, he thinks people have to better understand how complex it was.  He said:

"There is nothing simple about the story of Canada's Indian Residential Schools (IRS).  For one thing, the IRS system underwent considerable change during its 147-year history, with fluctuations in its size and influence.  Beginning as a collection of industrial schools and later transformed to a residential school model, it began as one solitary school in 1849, grew to a maximum of 80 schools in the 1930s, then shrank again until the last one closed in 1996.  At different times, the system operated under quite different mandates, policies and funding practices.

Different religious organizations from a number of Christian denominations provided staffing and funding, and the schools served many different native communities in quite different ways.  Individual schools saw very different teachers, counsellors, and administrators come and go, and Canadian attitudes towards aboriginal people evolved.  Over time, some schools came to resemble less the Dickensian workhouse and more the regular boarding school. . .

But. . .the general public knows little of this complexity.  Long, complicated stories, filled with details that confuse rather than inform, do not easily attract readers.  What finds its way into the public consciousness is an encapsulated version, often focusing on the more sensational aspects: helpless young people tormented physically and sexually, the sometimes brutal repression of vital native culture, and the misery of children torn from the arms of their parents by Indian agents or RCMP constables. . .The frequent repetition of such sensational stories. . .builds a belief in the minds of Canadians that they are plain and simple fact.

Simple, yes.  Fact, not so much. . .The facts show that [abuses] happened much less frequently than is commonly believed, and arguably had much less effect on First Nations communities than has been confidently stated.  The "accepted facts" routinely included in widely disseminated media reports are helping to create a convenient myth.

. . .Far more significant factors have created--and perpetuate--the many problems facing First Nations people today [such as]. . .underfunding of native education generally, the government's repeated failure to observe treaty obligations, and a variety of misguided federal policies."

One of the "convenient myths" is that aboriginal people lost their language because of the schools.  However, the 2002-2003 First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey found that 69.7% of residential school survivors spoke one or more aboriginal languages, and 74.8% could understand one or more.

The survey authors thought this might be partly due to the resilience of the students, e.g., speaking secretly to each other in their language.  This resilience factor gives weight to the Fraser/Mosby contention that survivors did well in spite of, not because of, the schools.

Tree stump, London, Ontario, August 7, 2015
However, historian J.R. Miller, has concluded from his research that "well into the twentieth century, most missionary bodies did not agree with the government's desire for a complete ban on the use of Native languages."  Church officials frequently disobeyed what the government was trying to impose.  Miller points out that "it was in the praying and working areas of the schools, rather than the classrooms, that Native languages were most likely to be heard, especially when the supervisors themselves were Native people."

In addition, Miller has found that English was frequently the "linguistic common denominator" language for schools that had "ethnically diverse" students from tribes who spoke different dialects.

Further, DeWolf has determined from his research that a "surprisingly large percentage of native people received no formal education at all" during the 1849-1996 period.  Two of the reasons for this were a shortage of schools and high rates of absenteeism.  Miller has arrived at similar conclusions.

Miller has also concluded that "the conventional role of the residential school fails to note that the system never reached more than a minority of young Indians and Inuit."  It is estimated that approximately one-third of aboriginal children attended residential schools.  Others attended day schools, provincial schools, or no schools at all.

Branch across path, London, Ontario, May 22, 2015

G.      Information About Deceased People Sometimes Presented in a Misleading Way

Sometimes information about a deceased person is presented in a misleading way.  For instance, the summary quotes what Oblate priest, Father Andre Renaud (1919-1988), said in a 1958 article, about separating aboriginal students from their culture [p. 5].  But it fails to note that Renaud's opinion changed just a few years later.  In 1961, he launched a summer course to help Indian teachers promote cultural pride in their children.  In addition, he helped the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians secure a location for the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College.

Furthermore, the "estate and friends" of Renaud established a scholarship.  Eligibility involves aboriginal education and "applicants should have experience with indigenous languages."  Renaud is described in the online scholarship information as an individual who "dedicated his life to the education of indigenous people in Canada and throughout the world."  He is also remembered in glowing terms in the entry for him on the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan website, which notes he was "invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1973."

There is no personal reason why I am highlighting the TRC's coverage of Renaud here.  I do not believe I ever met him.  However, my mother was a member of the Indian-Eskimo Association (IEA) at the same time he was also involved (ca. 1964-1968), so she likely knew him.  In fact, I have some of my mother's IEA files, which include a 1964 presentation he made to the IEA Ontario Division, regarding curriculum development for Saskatchewan aboriginals.

Misleading information in the summary also includes not acknowledging non-aboriginal contributions to cultural practices.  On p. 85, there is a reference to a student being punished for writing in "Cree syllabics at the Fort Albany school."  But it is not mentioned that a Methodist missionary named James Evans (1801-1846) helped popularize the use of this writing method.  Some Crees believe Evans did not invent syllabics, as is widely claimed.  They contend that syllabics were around long before Evans got involved, and his contribution was to turn the symbols into a writing system.  Nevertheless, "many Cree people" believe "Evans deserves credit" for increasing Cree literacy through his translating and printing initiatives.

Selwyn Dewdney (1909-1979) "pioneered the study of Amerindian rock paintings and carvings in Canada. . .[He] came to know and respect the native peoples of Canada."  When he was a teenager, Dewdney accompanied his Anglican priest father on a portage through remote Northern Ontario communities.  Three Cree "veteran canoemen" and "devout churchmen" each carried "a dog-eared prayer book in Cree syllabics."  Every evening, the travellers held a brief prayer session, which included Selwyn's father reading the Lord's Prayer in Cree.

Sumac, London, Ontario, August 7, 2015

H.      TRC Authors Favour Parallelism Approach, But I Think Integration is Better

I contend there are three major positions on aboriginal policy: parallelist, integrationist and assimilationist.  I am in favour of the integrationist approach.  For further information on my views on this, you can refer to my August 7, 2011 post entitled "Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Assimilation or Parallelism," which can be found elsewhere on this blog.

Alan Cairns was the first to use the term parallelism, which he described as "Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, travelling side by side coexisting but not getting in each other's way."  But Cairns is not a proponent of the term that he coined.

The TRC authors are clearly proponents of parallelism, as were the authors of the 1996 report they frequently cite: the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP).  RCAP advised that aboriginals be allowed to establish a third order of government.

I totally understand why many aboriginal reserve leaders want more control over what they do at the community level.  For more information on my views on this, see Sections D.2 and E.2 of my February 11, 2014 post on Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian, which can be found elsewhere on this blog.  However, I think it is a gross generalization for the TRC authors to give the impression that all aboriginals agree with the parallelist viewpoint.

The TRC authors also frequently make sweeping generalizations about what aboriginal people think and feel.  For instance, they say "[d]espite being subjected to aggressive assimilation policies for nearly 200 years, Aboriginal people have maintained their identity and communities" [p. 134].  But they, as did the RCAP authors, fail to note that a third of aboriginals do not even identify themselves as such in the federal census.  Yes, it is very true that some aboriginal people assimilated because of colonial policies, but others have willingly chosen to blend into Canadian society as a whole.

I.      Conclusion: "Caring Measures" More Important Than "Stratospheric Rights"

The report's overarching agenda is to justify why aboriginal and treaty rights need to be strengthened, including in terms of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  But I am not convinced that, even if all these rights were implemented, that the aboriginal situation would substantially improve.

Australian anthropologist and linguist, Peter Sutton, has more than 40 years experience with the Aborigines in Australia.  His book, The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the end of the liberal consensus (2009, 2011), is filled with many insights that I share.  Marcia Langton, the Aborigine scholar who penned a foreword to the book, echoes his concerns.

Sutton complains that too many politicians, lawyers and activists insist that Aborigines will not be truly happy and fulfilled until all outstanding issues, such as social justice, treaty and reconciliation, have been met.  He responds with "[t]his unscientific mumbo-jumbo beggars belief. . .Caring measures. . .rather than documentary measures based on increasingly stratospheric rights. . .lie at the effective end of realistic processes for improvement."

In my opinion, the TRC summary spends too much time on documentary measures, and not enough on caring ones.  Yes, it was caring for the commission to hear the testimonies of thousands of survivors.  But the lessons from these frequently painful accounts need to be translated into more than a blueprint for "stratospheric rights," particularly since not all Canadian aboriginals, and not all those who were involved with the schools, are on the same page as the TRC.


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