Canada’s 3rd National Day of Reconciliation


Yesterday Christiane and I were a bit lazy. Earlier in the week we had celebrated Reconciliation Week with our local Seniors group. Yesterday, we spent an afternoon watching on television the ceremonies and programs from Ottawa on Parliament Hill.

When Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair, the Chair of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commissions of Canada delivered the report to the Canadian Parliament he made the following statement: “We have delivered to you a mountain. We have shown a way to the top, but we call upon you to do the climbing.

As always, he was wise.

Last year, after the 2nd National Day of Reconciliation I was filled with the spirit.  When I saw the Seniors’ Centre in Steinbach filled with white seniors wearing orange shirts,   I was shocked by how far we had come as a country. I was proud. I am still proud. Steinbach has come a long way. This year there were not as many participants. Perhaps there has been some compassion fatigue. That is too bad, though it is understandable. We must remember we have only made a start on the way to reconciliation. We have just started a long journey. We must not quit now.  We still have a long way to go.  We can’t stop now. We are nowhere near the summit.

I really enjoyed the performance from Ottawa of Ry Moran’s song “Feel you.” This song was played as a large group of indigenous people carried a very long banner that listed every known person who died in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. There were approximately 4, 100 names on that list. Many more died but the names are not known. This was our history in this country. It  was deeply moving.

I also really enjoyed the performance of a Mítchif  singer song writer Willows. The song was called, ‘T’wé chu-il. Another highlight, was Mi’Kmaq singer song writer  Emma Stone who performed her song was “Honour Song” which she sang in her own native language. Each year I attend such a national holiday I am impressed at how many indigenous people are trying to reclaim their native language. Each year there seems to be more.  Finally, Oji-Cree performer sang his song “We were here,’ and was joined by other performers as he sang.

I also saw a sign a listener carried: “Indigenous children desire to become indigenous adults.”

A Residential School Survivor told us this about her residential school: “It was a very scary place filled with sadness…but we were there for one another…we had no words…but today I see change.”

One of the participants read part of a letter from Bishop Grandin of Winnipeg to the government of Canada about the Roman Catholic Residential schools in Manitoba:

“If you bring us 100 Indians and half-breeds to the mission convent, when they leave they will no longer be Indians. They will be become good citizens, earn a just living,  and be useful to the country.”

It really was an inspiring day. I wish more Canadians participated, but I was happy to see so many who did.


Raised by Psychopaths


As one of the survivors of Kuper Island Residential school told Duncan McCue of the CBC, “we were raised by psychopaths.”  The children were actually taught by religious leaders in the school to inflict violence on each other. Boys in particular were taught to be bullies against their younger cohorts. They were taught by example and they were separated from their parents (called savages by John A. MacDonald) so no one could teach them that what their religious leaders in the school were teaching them was wicked.

The children were raised in very aggressive and violent places and learned to become aggressive and violent in turn.  In fact, the priests or other religious leaders taught the students how to be aggressive towards other students. The older children were taught to be bullies. That is how they were often raised. And many of those children had been ripped out of their parents’ homes often without genuine consent. Those children were also taught that their parents were incompetent parents who did not deserve respect.

Can you imagine what those students learned in that school? Can you imagine what those children were like when they became parents. Can you imagine what the children of their children were like?


A School they Called Alcatraz


Kuper Island was an island, surrounded by ocean. Yet children tried to escape. And like Alcatraz it was very difficult to escape. One of those children, Emil William escaped in 1907 but drowned in the ocean as a result. This really was a case of ‘sink or swim’.

CBC reporter Duncan McCue reported in his podcast about Kuper Island as follows: “By the 1940s and 50s, school officials were writing about an epidemic of violence. One case threatened to expose the depth of the problem.”

Then there was  the  case involving two  indigenous girls, Patricia and Beverley Joseph who untied a boat and sailed for freedom. Sadly, they never made it. The body of one of the girls was found in the ocean. The other disappeared completely. An inquest was held but the jury did not  ask why girls would try to flee by boat in the night and dead of winter.   What made it so bad there that they would take such a chance? After 15 minutes of deliberation, they ruled the deaths accidental. It was the fault of the young girls. The victims were blamed. Pretty simple right?

The girls were Belvie’s cousins. McCue interviewed her for the series. Belvie, like her cousin,  did not like the food at the school. Now I know students often don’t like the food at their schools.  But the complaints at Residential Schools were in a class of their own. If you don’t believe me  read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. It was eye-opening.  She was fed bowls of raw, sour, lumpy porridge. She said she was always hungry. This was a very common complaint at residential schools. One time when government inspectors were coming they each got 2 pork chops. When the inspectors failed to arrive, they had to give their pork chops back. But did the girls take such dangerous chances because of bad food? Probably not.

Other girls in the school warned Belvie that there were dangerous people in and around the school. When she was 11 years old, she was told to bring the towels down to the laundry room. While there she heard a sound near the laundry that scared her. So, she ran, but fell down and hit her head. When she came to, she was naked lying on the towels and she felt like she had been riding a bike and had fallen down on the bicycle bar. She didn’t know what happened. We can guess what happened. But we don’t know.

Belvie  said pretty well every girl who was more than 10 years old was sent to bring towels to the laundry room. In time they all learned what happened there. She said, “This brother was raping them all.”

Can you blame young girls for trying to escape?  Is it their fault if they drown? Or it perhaps, more complicated than that? The School was called Alcatraz.

2023 Reconciliation Day

Today was Reconciliation Day.  Many of us still don’t know what that means. We want to  support reconciliation but don’t know how to do it. I am not saying I do. I remember though what Niigaan Sinclair  a well-known indigenous spokesman in Manitoba told me af few years ago when I asked what an old white guy could to to participate in a small way towards reconciliation.  He said it was not up to him to tell  an old white guy from Steinbach what he should do to. He said it was not his business to tell me that. It was up to me to offer something. It was not up to the offended to tell me what to do.

Sinclair though did give a hint. He said I could talk to white friends.  Many of those, he said, would not listen to him, or read his articles in the paper, but the white guys might listen to me. I assured him not many would, but I thought then, and do now, that this made sense.  I should reach out to white guys and women and just offer my point of view.  For what its worth (I know not much as I am certainly not an influencer) but I might reach a couple of people. Maybe not convince them but to engage them. That is one of the reasons I have continued to blog about some of these issues.

Today I accepted an invitation to the Seniors club in town to attend a dinner in recognition of truth and reconciliation. We were entertained first by 2 young indigenous hoop dancing girls Kimberley and Charisma Mason. The girls were 14 and 15-years-old.  They were descendants of residential school survivors. Trauma from such schools, one of them said, had changed the lives of the student. For example, it disconnected them from the love of their parents, kin, and communities. That was not surprising. Until fairly recently, indigenous people were not even allowed to practice or share their ceremonies, including dancing or potlucks. Who ever though such a prohibition was a good idea?

They explained how pleased they were to present to us Steinbachers as for many years indigenous people were not allowed to perform their own dances or ceremonies. They also explained that the dancing “told a story.”  For example, with the hoops they made images of an eagle fledging from a nest. Or a hunter firing a bow.

Later Lorne, an indigenous  male dancer also performed in full regalia. He said he was a professional dancer who was paid a lot of money to dance.  As well he had spoken to music students at Yale University to explain his form of dancing and how it was related to music. He said he had used the example of a baby at a powwow falling asleep to the beat of loud drums, because the baby felt it like the mother’s heart beat in the womb.

The most interesting thing for me was seeing how thrilled the performers were to share their culture.  They were very proud to do it and were very happy to have us old white people from a seniors club in Steinbach see them perform.

Reconciliation, no doubt, will take generations. Probably as long as the abuse took, which is about 150 years. But it was nice to participate, even in a very small way.


Kuper Island Residential School: A School with a Graveyard



On the CBC podcast about Kuper Island, Right off the bat, Duncan McCue had a question for us listeners: “They called it a school, but what sort of school has a graveyard?

The first school I attended in Steinbach after kindergarten was affectionately (or not) called “Miss Kornelsen’s school”. It was named after the longtime spinster principal of many years. Frankly, I always thought Miss Kornelsen was a bit deranged, but she was not sociopathic. That school was in Steinbach for more many years, but it did not have a graveyard. I never heard of any school that had a graveyard. Have your? There were no rumors circulating that it did. Kuper Island Residential School had a graveyard! Why? That is a pretty good question.

160 unmarked graves were found at that school located in a community of about 300 people. Why so many graves?

The school operated from 1889 to 1997. That is 108 years which is a long time, but why 160 graves? Doesn’t that seem like a lot?  How many children died at your elementary school?

Of course, in the last couple of years that many Indian Residential Schools (as they were called) had graveyards.  How many schools with mainly white children had graveyards?

Kuper Island Indian Residential School  was a school that was meant to “kill the Indian in the Child” since that was the deliberate policy of the Canadian government. If you don’t believe, that read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. It is eye-opening. You will be confronted with some uncomfortable truths. See how much truth you can stand. But these schools killed more than “the Indian in the child.”

This is CBC series is the story mainly about 3 children from that school. 2 of them were survivors. 1 was not. It is also about a small community that is haunted by what happened there. It is a story about children who were wrenched away from their family, their language and their culture to be raised in an uncaring (by and large) institution. It was done because Canada thought this would be for the good of the children.

One of the survivors was much more blunt. He said “the children there were sent to be raised by psychopaths.” It was a chilling thought. How was that? Waht happened there?

The series of podcasts uncovered truths that had been buried—pun intended—for too long.

The school was burned to the ground in 1980 because the community could not stand having it around after it was closed. It housed too many awful memories.


Canada’s Alcatraz: Kuper Island Residential School


Penelakut Island, formerly known as Kuper Island and renamed in 2010 in honour of the Penelakut First Nation people, is located in the southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada.  The Penelakut First Nation people are part of a larger group called Hul’qumi’num people. The island has a population of about 300 members of the Penelakut Band. It is not a large community, but it has suffered largely. Through no fault of its own.

The island and the Indian Residential School were the subject of a CBC radio series turned into podcasts. It is worth listening to it.


The host of the show, Duncan McCue travelled to Penelakut where the Kuper Island Residential School was located.  Some people called the school “Alcatraz.”  Think about that for a moment. A school supported by a church and the government of Canada was called Alcatraz. Canada’s Alcatraz.


Long after the Kuper Island Residential School was torn down, the survivors are still haunted by what happened there. Investigative reporter Duncan McCue of the CBC  exposed buried police investigations, confronted perpetrators of abuse as well as victims of abuse.  He also witnessed a community trying to rebuild — literally on top of the old school’s ruins and the unmarked graves of Indigenous children. The podcast he helped produce is well worth listening to as long as you can stand uncomfortable truths. I know that many of us can’t while others are tired of hearing about them. Some of these say, ‘Why can’t we get over it?’

That is a good question. Others say that their people also suffered abuse. Mennonites, for example, in some cases make such claims too. And they are right. But I don’t want to get into a suffering Olympics.  The point is not who suffered worse. I just want to point out it is difficult for survivors of residential schools, and even their descendants who have suffered inter-generational trauma, to  “get over it.”  We should learn about what happened to them first. The rest of us should be sympathetic before we become critical. Not many people in Canada had inflicted upon them schools where they had to attend even though they were designed to disparage their parents, inflict physical, emotional, and sexual abuse upon the children.  These schools were part of a Canadian system of oppression. Some even called it genocide. Who knows how we would react to such a situation.


The rest of us are lucky sit didn’t happen to them. Even though this happened for many decades, it was kept secret. I went to school in Canada for 20 years, including 7 years at university, and never heard of it once until after I had left that university. When I first heard about residential schools  found it hard to believe and later I thought it was a case of a few bad apples. It was more than that. More than 130 residential schools operated across Canada. As the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has described them, “The schools were a deliberate attempt to destroy Indigenous communities and ways of life. They were part of a broader process of colonization and genocide.”

I have read the executive summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I recommend all Canadians do the same. This history was hidden from us. I want to learn about that history. I think it is important for us to know that history.

Right now, I ust want to look at what happened in one residential school.  1 school out of 130. It was Kuper Island Residential School.


Hysteria Rides (and falls) Again



It is hardly surprising, but hysteria has failed again. That is because hysteria rarely leads to encouraging solutions to real problems. Hysteria interferes with critical thinking.

Many Winnipeggers learned this lesson on Friday. As Maggie Macintosh reported in the Winnipeg Free Press,

More than 1,000 students — including nearly half of one elementary school’s population — were absent from classes in one Winnipeg school district Wednesday as misinformation spread online about its teachers distributing graphic sexual content.


Many Winnipeggers believed the nonsense they read about on social media that teachers planned to suddenly expose children to explicit and inappropriate information. That is typical of the stuff social media spreads, and unfortunately, many parents are inclined to believe such claims. People who are addicted to conspiracy theories believe stuff like this no matter how incredible it is. People living in what Kurt Anderson called “FantasyLand” are addicted to such absurdities.

 Superintendent Brian O’Leary said We had a lot of information circulating on social media, particularly within the South Asian community, telling parents that the schools were planning to hand out books with graphic sexual material to all students.”

As Macintosh reported, the Superintendent  said,

 “false and malicious fearmongering” on social media prompted hundreds of families in the Seven Oaks School Division to keep their elementary-aged children home from classes Sept. 20.


He also said the posts in Punjabi, Hindi and Arabic were “deliberately concocted to scare parents,” and were circulating on Facebook. The problem is that far too many parents, and others, believe everything they hear on social media, particularly if it aligns with their anti-government ideology. The problem is not gender ideology, it is the ideology of automatic distrust in government. Adherents to this ideology would much rather believe nonsense on the internet than government sources.  And this is a big problem for society.

As Macintosh said,

“About 50 per cent of students enrolled at Arthur E. Wright Community School did not show up Wednesday. The absenteeism rate dropped to five per cent Thursday. The abnormal attendance levels were recorded on the same day as the “1MillionMarch4Children” — a protest organized by a conservative group that is “against gender ideology” and claims schools are sharing “sexually explicit content” with students — played out across the country.”


When hysterical parents hear lies this, particularly if they have a sexual element,  they immediately move into high gear before they have a chance to think things through rationally. Hysteria is the mortal enemy of critical thinking.

I don’t think it is a coincidence either that this happened as hundreds of protesters showed up at the Manitoba Legislative Building the day before to call for more parental rights, even though they already have ample parental rights they rarely use.  When parents are haunted by fantastical visions of children being sexually abused, their reactions are on hair-trigger mode.

The president of the Manitoba Teacher’s Society Nathanial Martindale was disappointed that parents had believed such nonsense that  Manitoba teachers are out to harm children. As he said, “nothing could be further from the truth… Educators want the best for all learners and will never be onside with homophobic or transphobic hate.” But reasonable ordinary truth like that  just does not cut it on the Internet when there are salacious lies instead.

Lies and Hate travel at warp speed on the internet compared to dull truth.




I have heard friends, good friends, say they wished the LGBTQ* community were less flamboyant. Particularly they think trans queens are outrageously over the top. Why do they have to be so ‘in your face’ all the time they ask? Or they say,’ Don’t they know they are not winning support with their actions?’ Or, “Why do they act so we see them all the time?’


I used to feel that way. I think it was the residue of homophobia that makes the straight community feel that way. This is our liberation fatigue speaking and we must dissolve it. Members of the LGBTQ* community have always been forced into the dark cracks of society where they could hide.  They had no choice, they thought, because they would be hit hard when they ‘came out.’


Naturally, they don’t want to be forced back into those dark societal cracks. They want to be out in the open as they are entitled to be. I think flamboyance is their way of saying, ‘I am not going back into those cracks again. I am out and I am staying out, get used to it.’ And that is exactly what we should do—get used to it. Let then be. If they want to be flamboyant, so be it.


I think the LGBTQ* community is entitled to do exactly that. The rest of us just have to get used to it. Our discomfort with the flamboyance is only disguised homophobia and we in the dominant group need to get rid of all of that phobia. we don’t even recognize what it is. We need to get rid of it, not just for the sake of the LGBTQ*, but for ourselves. We must cleanse ourselves of all homophobia.  None of it does us well. That is our job in the face of injustice. This will liberate us! Flamboyance fatigue, or justice fatigue, or reconciliation fatigue are all unbecoming. We can do better.

Why do Christians Hate so many Vulnerable People?


It seems odd to me—very odd—that Christians seem to be spearheading every charge against every minority group: women, blacks, lesbians, gays, trans, queer, Muslims, immigrants, and others? Is this what the party of Christ has come to?

Is it because there is something nasty about their religion?  After all the Bible, their Holy Book, does seem to have a lot of hatred for minority groups, particularly sexual minorities.

Yet Christians cheerfully without fuss or muss, easily discard inconvenient Bible prescriptions when they choose to. They don’t think being rich will prevent them from entering heaven no matter what the Bible says. They don’t stone adulterers like the Bible orders. So why do they pick on vulnerable lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer?  Why do they religiously follow the prescriptions against these vulnerable people while ignoring so many other divine orders?

I think the answer lies in the word I have been repeating: “vulnerable.”  There seems to be something about the vulnerable that attracts the attention  of  Christians, at least evangelical Christians, and their will to dominate.  It even attracts their hate, though often they deny it. In fact, now that gays and lesbians seem to be increasing in numbers or at least visibility, and hence power,  it seems to me they have eased up on their harassment of them.  Instead,  evangelical Christians are now concentrating more on bi-sexuals and trans. In my view, they are attracted to the easier and less powerful targets! They want to trample on the weak. And are fearful of the stronger.

If this is true it does not speak well of Christians.  If any readers feel I am being unfair to Christians, I ask them to speak up and set me straight. I don’t want to slander Christians if I am wrong.


Chief Seattle: An Old Attitude to nature can provide a New Attitude to Nature


A few years ago, in New Zealand I purchased a poster containing the complete text of the response by Chief Seattle to the President of United States to his offer to purchase land from his tribe, which I posted about yesterday.  I had only read part of it before.  It was one of the most eloquent statements I have ever heard about a genuine approach to nature that was, to some extent, the position of  many North American indigenous people.  It was radically different from the approach of the arriving Europeans.

I recognize that there is controversy over the extent to which this version or any other version accurately records what Chief Seattle said to the President, but I believe the general tenor of the letter records a profound philosophy which I am content to ascribe to Chief Seattle as I don’t know who better deserves the credit for it. I certainly think the thoughts deserve our attention.

The renowned English philosopher A. N. Whitehead once said, “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” I think the same things can be said about Chief Seattle. At least as far as environmental philosophy goes. And to think I learned absolutely nothing of it in 4 years of university studying philosophy, proving how deficient my education was at that time, nearly 50 years ago.

Chief Seattle was a Suquamish and Duwamish chief in what we now call western North America. The city of Seattle, in the U.S. state of Washington, was named after him.

As Chief Seattle said,


“We are part of the earth and it is part of us.

The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers.

The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man—all belong to the same family.”


Another way of saying is to say we are all kin. All people and all creatures of the natural world are kin. This basic premise has profound philosophical consequences. For if we recognize that we are all kin we ought to treat each other, and other creatures too, with respect.  I will get to Darwin later, for he gave the scientific basis for this view. I cherish the idea that indigenous philosophy and western science are deeply interwoven. Realizing that also has profound consequences.

To many of the First Nations of North America, they saw themselves as a part of their world.  Their philosophies vary from tribe to tribe, but a common thread, is the recognition that the Earth is our Mother and we are all together. We are all connected. We are all part of Mother Earth. Earth is not separate and apart from us. We are woven together.  This is profound fellow feeling. This philosophy recognizes that what we do to nature we do to ourselves. That is what I call affinity.


This idea also has profound significance in the history of religious thought.  The Indo-European word “religio , which is the root of the word religion, means “linkage” or “connection” and is in my view the basis of all major religions. In fact, it is the core of all religions. More on this later.

I never learned any indigenous philosophy while I pursued a 4 year Honours Arts program in philosophy and English literature. I never even heard of indigenous philosophy. I did not even think such a thing was possible.

This philosophy echoes or even sums up much of what I have learned over the years, starting with German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s concept of being-in-the-world.  Only Chief Seattle was much more clear and easier to understand, without being any less profound than Martin Heidegger.  The natives of North America often felt a deep connection to the land.  They felt that they were a part of it.  To the Europeans on the other hand, nature was a resource ready to be exploited.  And from these two disparate attitudes springs much that is wrong with western society.

This is an old attitude to nature, which I am proposing as a new attitude to nature. It owuld be a worthy replacement for the old western attitude,.

Chief Seattle’s statement is a stunning statement about humans and nature, and all the more amazing because a “savage” (as he was wrongly called made it in 1854. Who was the savage?