Editorial for Saturday, June 13, 2015–The Least He Could Do

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recently delivered its final report about Canada’s Indian residential schools. Briefly in the news, it was quickly shoved so far in the back of the bus as to almost be on another bus entirely.
Justice Murray Sinclair, the TRC chair, and SCOC Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, acknowledged the true nature of the crime against aboriginal people in Canada, calling it “cultural genocide”.
For the sake of informing the argument, it’s helpful to review what happened.
Little kids were kidnapped by the state and packed off to boarding schools—sometimes hundreds of miles away—where they were routinely beaten, starved, exploited, sexually abused, experimented on, psychologically tortured and, in the case of at least 6,000 little kids, killed—by disease, neglect and, even though no one wants to say the words out loud, by design.
Their parents were powerless to prevent the abductions. And when their little kids never came home, they had no recourse. They didn’t speak the language, they didn’t know how to negotiate the endless bureaucracy, and they were prohibited by law from having any money of their own to hire a lawyer to do it for them.
Most of the non-aboriginal people alive today had little to do with any decisions about residential schools. The mentality that invented the scheme to assassinate Indian society, culture, heritage and hope for the future was a product of bigoted 19th century savages, imbued with European imperial superiority, and bolstered by the absolute conviction that they were entitled to rid the world of all influences but their own. Modern Canadians can hardly assume responsibility for those guys. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
We’re told that we can’t judge yesterday’s actions by today’s morality. But that’s an aromatic lie to excuse the perpetration of injustice by governments who can’t be bothered to address tough problems. If we stay silent about these ones, we should feel very guilty indeed.
Here’s just one:
Today—in the 21st Century, in our fully developed nation—there are Boil Water Advisories and Do Not Consume Orders on more than 94 First Nations communities across Canada. No body who lives in these communities can get a drink from their own tap. In some places, the water is so polluted that they can’t even wash in it.
According to the government’s own 2013 figures, it takes a million dollars a year to operate and maintain an average-sized water treatment plant serving 26,000 people. The construction price for a new plant varies, of course, but the Duteau Creek plant near Vernon, meant to serve 60% of the water needs of 50,000 people, rang in at about $30m. If a plant one-quarter that size was needed for each community (many have just a few hundred inhabitants), it would take about $700 million to build each of these communities its own water treatment plant, and a further $94 million/year to run them all.
Why do the math? Because a billion dollars budgeted for aboriginal communities lapsed under the Harper Conservatives. And Tony Clement called it “good financial management”…but he doesn’t have to boil his water.
With good will and honest effort, the Harper Conservatives could fix this one thing. But it’s a big one. It would be the best thing they could do.
As ever, though, they did the least they could do. Rather than work on the hard problems, they went for the cheap, empty and easy. Years ago, they apologized. They avoided any comment on the TRC report. They refused to address substandard education, missing women and horrible living conditions.
They even tried to deflect attention and get someone else to admit fault. Stephen Harper saw the Pope and hinted that another useless, empty apology—this time about paedophilic priests and abusive nuns—was in order.
It was the least he could do. And he did it.


Editorial for Saturday, June 13, 2015–The Least He Could Do — 2 Comments

  1. I want to send this to the “Idle No More” women… they seem to be mostly women. If that’s ok.

    It is my favorite so far!!

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