This week (May 2021) the southern B.C. First Nation of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc near Kamloops B.C. announced that the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of what used to be the site of Canada’s largest residential school. The school was closed in 1969 the year I attended first and second year university at the University of Manitoba. I just want to put this into context for me. I don’t think I am that old and this was not that long ago.
What I want to emphasize right now is that these were children taken from their homes to be “educated.” We Canadians often think of ourselves as a kinder gentler version of our more powerful neighbours to the south. Many of us think that we took these children from their homes and into these schools to be educated for their own good. Sometimes white people say that we sent indigenous children to residential schools for good reasons. We had good intentions we say and sometimes even believe. We wanted them to get a good education. We wanted them to become like us because we were better than them. Assimilation we called it. White supremacy was what it was all about.
Children shouldn’t often die in schools should they? My wife Christiane had a very wise question for me when we heard this news. When we now learn that this Indian residential school had 215 bodies of children buried outside it, what possible explanation is consistent with a good intention? I could not think of one. Can you? Those who think our intentions are good must answer that.