Today is a historic day. At some point today Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who I normally cannot stand, is making me and other Canadians proud for owning up to the abuses and victimization of the First Nations of Canada through our so-called “residential schools” of old.
A lot of who I am stems from my parents teaching me about the ills against Natives and blacks when I was a child. I was raised on books about things like the Underground Railway and atrocities at Wounded Knee. I was taught that our forebears could make mistakes, but that it was our responsibility to learn from them and to always be better.
Here in Canada, our residential school system destroyed entire generations of Natives, and spawned more than 160 years of social abuses against those least able to fight them: children.
I believe we are too new to the science of psychology to really understand the generational repercussions, the legacy of our systematic ill treatment of others, and we may never understand the true toll taken on Canadian Natives through our schools.
And I believe today’s monster apology, which is expected to be more far-reaching than Australia’s was last year, and has been building up anticipation in the media for days, is a first step toward an entire people healing just a little more.
I love Canadian First Nations’ beliefs and culture, and was lucky enough to have a Nootka Chief, Nick, once carve two totem poles in my basement over the course of a summer, when I was 7, and learned much through that sage old man. With the beauty I saw in their beliefs, I have never understood the venom with which Canadian and American authorities sought to eradicate Native ways.
Today I am more proud to be Canadian, and I too am sorry for the sins of my ancestors.