By Ismail Salami
10 October, 2012
In June 2008, Canada officially apologized for forcing 150,000 aboriginal children into ghastly residential schools where they were abused sexually, psychologically and physically.
Residential schools were set up with the assumption that aboriginal culture failed to adapt to the dominant modern society. They thought native children could be successful if they assimilated into the Canadian society by adopting Christianity and speaking either English or French. Resident students were shunned from speaking their mother tongue and if they had, they would have gone through the worst conceivable form of punishment. Sexual and mental abuse was the common experience among the indigenous students who were forced to attend the so-called religious schools by the government. For most of the year, they were away from their parents. The concept of assimilation was a big lie and the children eventually left schools with a broken spirit and an amputated soul.
There are reports and tales of horrendous abuse at the hands of residential school staff: physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological. The education they received at schools was infernally inferior: their training was basically focused on manual labor in agriculture, and light industry. Instances and forms of abuse at such schools were legion: physical abuse was tantamount to corporeal punishment; sexual abuse was a common practice and psychological abuse was what the staff members were good at. Students were beaten, strapped, and shackled to their beds. Their tongues were pierced with needles as a punishment for speaking their native language.
This was how the Indian in the aborigines was executed by the government and how the residential schools had turned into a safe haven for the colonizing pedophiles. Arthur Plint, a dorm supervisor, who was accused of 18 counts of sexual assaults (children aged 6 to sixteen), was an egregious instance of this ethical decadence.
Willy Blackwater is a victim of Plint’s inhumanity. He was the first aboriginal person in Canada to win a medical claim for post-traumatic stress disorder. A survivor of the Alberni Indian Residential School, Blackwater speaks of his tormentor at school:
“Arthur Henry Plint was the dorm supervisor for the younger boys, boys my age. My first week there, he woke me up in the middle of the night. He told me to come into his office because there was an emergency phone call from my father. . . . He had a door from the office right into his bedroom. He took me there and dropped his robe and faced me, naked. . . . I started to get sick and tried to puke. He laughed and told me that if I puked on his bed, I’d get hurt. . . . After that, Plint raped me. . .about once a month for the next three years. I finally got up my nerve to tell Mr. Butler what Plint was doing to me. . . . Butler gave me a severe strapping and called me a dirty, lying Indian.
Known as a sexual terrorist, Plint continued to torment native children for twenty years. This torment was “condoned by the authorities, by our society. We talk about equality; we talk about the rights of society. These young men had no rights; their childhood was stolen from them.”
Plint is only a microcosm of state-sponsored cultural abuse in Canada.
As the church was seen to be partly responsible for the sexual maltreatment of the school children, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his “sorrow” on April 29, 2009 to a delegation from Canada’s Assembly of First Nations for the abuse and “deplorable” treatment that aboriginal students had received at Church-run residential schools. The United Church of Canada formally apologized to Canada’s First Nations people in 1986.
“To those individuals who were physically, sexually, and mentally abused as students of the Indian Residential Schools in which the United Church of Canada was involved, I offer you our most sincere apology,” the statement by the church’s General Council Executive said.
By way of soothing internal concerns, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said, “The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly. We are sorry.”
These emotional moments of Mr. Harper’s were soon forgotten and the violation of the rights of the aborigines continued systematically.
The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) says Canada is ignoring the basic human rights of the poorest and most vulnerable Canadian women. FAFIA spokesperson Sharon McIvor says, “Canada is the home of serious violations of the human rights of Aboriginal women and girls.”
Phenomenally, aboriginal women and young girls have long started to vanish. So far, more than 600 of them are missing. Many of them have been reportedly raped, mutilated and murdered. Unfortunately, the Canadian law enforcement forces have not taken any practical steps to discover the whereabouts of these female victims or find the culprits.
Canada has a long history of violence and human rights abuse.
The UN’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, has included Canada in a list of the world’s worst on human rights, and criticized Quebec’s Bill 78 for restricting freedom of assembly.
Amnesty International’s secretary general Salil Shetty has scathingly criticized the Canadian government for its serious human rights violations.
“There is a real shrinking of democratic spaces in this country… Many organizations have lost their funding for raising inconvenient questions,” AFP quoted Shetty as saying.
Canada is a land of broken promises; a country where the first dwellers are so agonizingly deprived of their basic rights; a country where the dignity of man/woman is brazenly cast to dust.
A country, which so barefacedly pontificates about human rights violations elsewhere, is for its part dismally landed in a morass of abysmal hypocrisy.
Dr. Ismail Salami