The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (‘TRC’) found that Canada was guilty of cultural genocide. Because of legal constraints, it was not allowed to say that Canadians were guilty of genocide. What does that mean? How did it reach that conclusion?
First of all, the TRC had meetings and events around the country. It gathered mountains of information. Anyone who wants to deny its conclusions had better come with mountains of data too.
The TRC pointed out that Canada ignoring the fact it had no such legal authority,
“Canada asserted control over aboriginal land. In some locations, Canada negotiated Treaties with First Nations; in others the land was simply occupied or seized. The negotiation of Treaties, while seemingly honourable and legal, was often marked by fraud and coercion, and Canada was, and remains, slow to implement their provisions and intent. On occasion, Canada forced First Nations to relocate their reserves from agriculturally valuable or resource-rich land onto remote and economically marginal reserves.”
For example, in Manitoba, at the behest of white farmers, moved a First Nation from rich farmland to much less desirable land One of the things that Canada did that attracted the attention of racists from as far away as South Africa and Nazi Germany was the “pass system.” Under that system indigenous people were not allowed to leave the reserve without permission from the federal government representatives—i.e. the Indian agent.
Canada also did its best to eliminate indigenous systems of government. They were so successful at this that many Canadians never realized that indigenous people had systems of government and law before Europeans arrived. Canada did that because it wanted to control indigenous people. As the TRC said, “Canada replaced existing forms of Aboriginal government with relatively powerless band councils whose decisions it could override and whose leaders it could depose.” It did all that even though no mention of this was made when Canada negotiated treaties with First Nations. In fact, in many cases, as soon as treaties were signed Canada actively tried to get around those treaties. Where was the supposed “good intent” of Canada? The answer is clear—it was absent.
At the same, Canada “disempowered Aboriginal women, who had held significant influence and powerful roles in many First Nations, including the Mohawks, the Carrier, and Tlingit.” Canada preferred white male supremacy. After it emasculated aboriginal government, “Canada denied the right to participate fully in Canadian political, economic, and social life to those Aboriginal people who refused to abandon their Aboriginal identity.”
Of course, most horrendously Canada took brutal measures to separate children from their parents and family and sent them to foreign schools, often in distant places, where they were forbidden to speak their language, wear their favoured clothes, while they were falsely taught that their parents were ignorant and uncultured brutes. Only ignorant and uncultured brutes would do that!
Then those schools turned out to be places of horrendous physical, sexual, and emotional abuse where the law protected the abusers and disregarded the abused. As the TRC concluded, “This was not done to educate them, but primarily to break their link to their culture and identity.
That was what the residential school system was all about.