The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (‘TRC’) , after looking at all the evidence, not conspiracy theories, as Judge Giesbrecht would have us believe, concluded that “the badly built and poorly maintained schools constituted serious fire hazards. Defective fire fighting equipment exacerbated the risk and the schools were fitted with dangerous and inadequate fire escapes.” Not a good place to send children, but many indigenous parents were left with no choice. They had to send their children there.
The TRC determined that “at least fifty-three schools were destroyed by fire. There were at least 170 additional fires. At least forty students died in residential school fires.” The schools were no place to send children.
Here is an excerpt from the TRC report on physical conditions in residential schools:
” Well into the twentieth century, recommendations for improvements went unheeded, and dangerous and forbidden practices were widespread and entrenched. In the interests of cost containment, the Canadian government placed the lives of students and staff at risk for 130 years.
The buildings were not only fire traps. They were incubators of disease. Rather than helping combat the tuberculosis crisis in the broader Aboriginal community, the poor condition of the schools served to intensify it. The 1906 annual report of Dr. Peter Bryce, the chief medical officer for Indian Affairs, observed that “the Indian population of Canada has a mortality rate of more than double that of the whole population, and in some provinces, more than three times.” Tuberculosis was the prevalent cause of death.”
As a result for Judge Brian Giesbrecht to say, as he did in his Winnipeg Sun article, that the cause of so many people dying in residential schools was the fault of a disease, and not the people in Canada who created and maintained that system that lead directly to great harm on indigenous children is not disingenuous, it is pathetic. And then to suggest as Judge Giesbrecht did, “We should take a look at the history,” is to demonstrate colossal condescension coupled with ignorance. Not a very good combination. As if he knows history that others don’t.
The fact is As Dr. Pryce reported to the government of Canada, the death rate of children in residential schools far exceeded that of the general population. Why is that? I think the answer is obvious—Canada just did not care about the indigenous children. They were not worth the expense of proper care.