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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

1st Session, 42nd Parliament, Volume 150, Issue 106

​Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, March 21 was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This year's theme is "Learning from historical tragedies to combat racial discrimination today." One such historical tragedy was the establishment of Indian residential schools.

Honourable senators, let's remember that in June 2008, former Prime Minister Harper delivered a historic apology for the Indian residential schools system.

Two primary objectives of the residential schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture.

These objectives were based on the assumption that aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, "to kill the Indian in the child."

Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country. . . .

. . . The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language.

While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools - these stories are far overshadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children and their separation from powerless families and communities.

Honourable senators, in June 2015, the TRC delivered its initial summary report which documented the tragic legacy of Indian residential schools and outlined 94 calls to action to reconcile and to move forward positively. While many Canadians and many educational institutions have embraced the report, there is some resistance.

Honourable senators, as an example of such resistance, I will read into the record excerpts from an email sent to me 11 days ago:

The Truth and Reconciliation committee was more of a monkey-donkey show, an excuse to raise hell and hold a pow wow on TV, and Trojan horse, and a vehicle to screw and hold ransom and extort the government.

Beyak is right.

The residential school idea was a good intention gone bad.

The main trouble was that the teachers did not have the knowledge and skills to handle all the mental illness and behaviour problems and emotional problems of the children already caused by the insane and incompetent parents.

The government gives the Indians and half breeds, millions of dollars.

The majority of you do not even know how to look after a house.

Everything that is given to you people turns to shit in short order.

Colleagues, I believe that a small minority of Canadians think this way. While we have a right to free speech, as senators, we have a responsibility to our country. Perpetrating misinformation about these schools harms all Canadians. Ignorance leads to prejudice and prejudice feeds racism.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

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