Retired Manitoba Provincial Court Judge recently wrote an article in the Winnipeg Sun recently in which he advised as follows
“The dead should be appropriately honoured, but we should be mindful that some opportunists will exploit these dead children for financial and political gain. The residential school story has now been exhaustively told. Canadians have heard it — and we get it. We have sympathized, and billions of dollars have been paid by people, most of whom weren’t alive then, to people who mostly weren’t either. It is time to move on.”
This is wrong in so many ways it is difficult to count them. First, he is wrong. Canadians don’t “get it.” That is the problem. If they did get it, then we would not be in a situation where so many of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (‘TRC’) would have gone unheeded.
It depends on how you count. According to the National Post:
“In June 2015, members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) presented 94 Calls to Action that would help “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation” with Indigenous peoples. Months later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed his government’s commitment to implement every single one. Six years later, how many of those Calls to Action have been fully implemented? Based on information in government documents, CBC’s Beyond 94 and research done by the Yellowhead Institute of Ryerson University, the National Post’s Christopher Nardi compiled a list of all the recommendations that have been completely enacted (13), those for which the government has taken some steps (60) and those where no real steps have been made.”
In the opinion of others, the total is much lower. How many people have you talked to about how Canada is doing? Or me? I suspect not many. Why? Let’s be honest. Few care. Contrary to what Judge Giesbrecht says, few have sympathized. If they did, the government would have acted.
What is most egregious about these remarks from Judge Giesbrecht is the statement, “It is time to move on.” That is the one I have heard over and over again. That is because it such an easy comment for those insulated from the harms to make. It costs them or us nothing. Judges from their lofty benches or comfortable pews far from the pain and suffering don’t see the hurt. It is not real to them.
It is time for white male privilege to move on. White male privilege blinds even people like Judge Giesbrecht. As a result of undeniable residential school trauma indigenous people have suffered effects that have cascaded through the generations. For privileged white men to suggest they should “get over it” or “move on”, is either incredibly wooden-headed, or wooden-hearted. Or both!