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The elegant Aboriginal Peoples

Avrum Rosensweig, The CJN, WednesCanadian Jewish News logo-2014-300x116day, June 17, 2015

Edwin Metatawabin was seven and ill when forced by nuns to eat his own vomit in his porridge at the St Anne residential school in Fort Albany, Ont.

This sickening piece of Canadian history was uncovered at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and documented in its report found at TRC.ca.

Edwin’s testimonial also stated he was strapped to an electric chair in the school by clergy for a punishment and their entertainment. He was a little guy so his legs dangled in front of him. He said he heard the priests laughing as the electricity surged through him. I believe this is defined as torture, and their behaviour as psychosis.

Most Jews, most Canadians I have spoken to say they did not know about the 130 government-sponsored residential schools that ran from the mid-1800s until 1996 or the 150,000 First Nations and Métis students who went through them, nor that they were administered by Catholic, Presbyterian, United and Anglican church “educators.”

Rarely a word was uttered by our community or others calling for a halt to this attempt at cultural genocide levied at the Aboriginal Peoples. We, the Jewish people, did not draw upon our expertise to uncover the brutality the indigenous people of this country were exposed to. They were “drunken Indians” and we were the people fighting for acceptance.  Yet something didn’t seem right and we remained quiet. I was no different.

But now, as of June 2, we do know and we can no longer remain silent!

In black and white, the TRC report, overseen by Judge Murray Sinclair, reflects the memories of 7,000 survivors of the brutal beatings they incurred and the unmarked graves where dead bodies of fractured, unprotected children lie, murdered by Canadians who were supposed to protect them.

Fellow Jews, fellow Canadians, we can no longer hide from the documented reality that nutrition research and human biomedical experimentation was done in residential schools between 1942 and 1952 – something that smells putridly similar to the work of Dr. Josef Mengele.

We must now accept that prime minister John A. Macdonald was a savage man, a racist, who, together with leaders then and now, sought to “kill the Indian in the child.” How else should we describe men and women who stole children from their mothers’ arms, cut their sacred hair, sexually abused them, incarcerated them in spooky basements for speaking their language and humiliated them by forcing them to wear soiled underwear on their heads while marching through the dining halls of these sub-human places?

There is no excuse for behaviour that left a people hopeless. There is no argument to be made that bashing the skull of children against school walls, as the clergy often did, was a thing of the time. This has always been called thuggery. We’ve always known it was wrong.

Each one of us, Jew and non-Jew, should read the report at TRC.ca, digest its content and teach it to our children through the filter of “v’ahavta l’recha kamocha” (love thy neighbour). We should apologize for what Canadians did to the original people of this land. For if we are to be a complete people, we must embrace the beauty and successes of this nation and accept our ugliness as well.

Reconciliation has begun. The spilled blood of native children, the tears of their parents, are ours to own. This is our legacy. We must do tshuvah – seek healing for our brokenness – for the Native community, ourselves and Canada.

And it is now time for Canadians to see the gift of the very elegant indigenous peoples who want and deserve their portion of this land, seek to share their rich stories of Turtle Island and desire the opportunity to listen to our narrative in a circle of equality, acceptance and compassion.

Edwin, we are deeply sorry. Please forgive us.

 

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