Choisissez votre langue

Search

Renseignements

Aucune correspondance

Services

Aucune correspondance

Secteurs d’activité

Aucune correspondance

Personnes

Aucune correspondance

Renseignements

Aucune correspondance

Services

Aucune correspondance

Personnes

Aucune correspondance

Secteurs d’activité

Aucune correspondance

Comprendre la Journée nationale de la vérité et de la réconciliation

Sustainability Leaders 14 septembre 2021
Sustainability Leaders 14 septembre 2021

 

« Pour les communautés autochtones, la découverte de tombes anonymes, les disparitions d’enfants et les meurtres qui ont été commis dans les pensionnats n’ont rien d’une nouvelle. En fait, toutes les communautés autochtones connaissent des cas d’enfants qui ont été emmenés de force dans un pensionnat et qui n’en sont jamais revenus », affirme Niigaan Sinclair, professeur en études autochtones et chef du Département d’études autochtones de l’Université du Manitoba, invité du balado Leaders et durabilité.

Joignez-vous à Kona Goulet, de BMO, qui parlera avec Dr. Sinclair de l’histoire des communautés autochtones et du système des pensionnats.

Dans cet épisode :

  • L’importance de la Journée nationale de la vérité et de la réconciliation

  • Comment les survivants ont mis sur pied et financé la Commission de vérité et réconciliation

  • Réactions à la découverte des tombes anonymes

  • Incidence de ces découvertes sur le processus de réconciliation

  • Taux de mortalité dans les pensionnats autochtones supérieurs à ceux des soldats durant la Première Guerre mondiale

  • Histoire des pensionnats autochtones et façon dont les enfants y étaient traités

  • Pourquoi un des impacts les plus profonds des pensionnats autochtones a été le silence


Écoutez la discussion complète

Le balado Sustainability Leaders est diffusé en direct sur toutes les grandes plateformes, dont AppleGoogle and Spotify.

Ce balado est en anglais seulement.


 

LIRE LA SUITE

Disponible en anglais seulement

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And we still have that story today. That story today is still very much one that came from residential schools, which is that indigenous peoples don't matter. So that may be shocking for Canadians, but it's something that people need to hear in order to get to the truth, because we cannot get to reconciliation without understanding what's happened.

Michael Torrance:

Welcome to Sustainability Leaders. I'm Michael Torrance, Chief Sustainability Officer with BMO Financial Group. On this show, we will talk with leading sustainability practitioners from the corporate, investor, academic, and NGO communities to explore how this rapidly evolving field of sustainability is impacting global investment, business practices, and our world.

Disclosure:

The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, it's affiliates, or subsidiaries.

Kona Goulet:

Kona, [foreign language]. This is Kona Goulet- Head, Indigenous Equity & Inclusion at BMO Financial Group. And today I am speaking with Dr. Niigaan Sinclair, professor in Native Studies and Head of the Native Studies Department at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Sinclair is from Peguis First Nation, was raised in Selkirk, Manitoba, and today lives in Winnipeg. As we approach the first National day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th. Today, I will speak with Dr. Sinclair about what this day means, the history of how it came to be, and what advice he would provide to Canadians who wish to recognize the day. To WOW, and [Nuninascoman], welcome and thank you for joining us.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

[foreign language], Kona. Thanks so much for having me. [Foreign language]. It's a pleasure to be here.

Kona Goulet:

To set the stage, I thought perhaps, you might tell our listeners a little about yourself, your role at the University of Manitoba, and the path that brought you here.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

So my name's Niigaan, a lot of people call me James as well, which is my middle name. I grew up in Selkirk, Manitoba, which is the former site, of course, we recognize it as still the site of Peguis First Nation, the original site. My family has been there for, geez, over 150 years. And my family originally comes from Manigotagan, which is on the east side of lake Winnipeg, that's an edge of white community. And then also Norway House Cree Nation, which is on the top of lake Winnipeg. And so my great grandparents came from those two communities and Anishinaabe. I also have Cree ancestry, but we were self-identify as Anishinaabe. We have a long history here in Manitoba. I'm now a professor at the University of Manitoba after making several pit stops throughout the world. I got to witness Nelson Mandela's election as an exchange student when I was 17 years old, which was probably the most profound experience of my life.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And then a few other pit stops across the world, Oklahoma, Sri Lanka, and working for the Canadian International Development Agency. Now I'm a professor at the University of Manitoba. I'm the acting Head of Native Studies there, soon to be Indigenous Studies. We're the second oldest program in the country. So we started in 1974, when it was really not cool to talk about indigenous peoples and indigenous histories. And much of our history was talked about by other peoples, mostly non-native researchers, anthropologists, archeologists, and so on. I'm very proud to be head of the second oldest program in the country. Before that, I was a high school teacher. I taught grade nine through 12 at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, one of the largest public schools, one of the oldest public schools in Manitoba. And so what's brought me here today is I work on issues of reconciliation in lots of different venues and places.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

I work as a curator, as a historian at places like the Forks National Historical Site here in Winnipeg. I also work for the Rural Aviation Museum. I work for a place called FortWhyte Alive, which is a nature conservatory here in the city. I also am a columnist with the Winnipeg Free Press. So I have lots of different hats that I wear. I'm also of course, a father. I'm a father of a young Cree girl who is my world. And I co-parent with a incredible professor friend of mine from University of Winnipeg. Of course, I'm also the son of Senator Murray Sinclair, which was the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I'm very proud of my father and all of his accomplishments, probably most proud of my sisters who put up with us and my mother who also put up with us. So I'm very honored that I have these incredible women who are surrounding me, and take care of me, and also hold me to account.

Kona Goulet:

Great. Thank you. Many Canadians are learning today about residential school history for the first time, following the discoveries of unmarked graves at previous residential school sites across the country. Can you say a little about your own reaction and about the reactions you have seen to these findings, both from indigenous communities and those of Canadians more broadly?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Yeah, there is no surprise in indigenous communities when it comes to unmarked graves and lost children, and the murders that happened at residential schools. The fact is, every indigenous community has a story of stolen children, children who were taken away to residential school and never returned home. They are some of the hardest stories in our communities and they're the ones that bring some of those pain, and some of the most pain for today because we don't know what happened to them. And so the story of what has occurred is mostly in stories of other survivors who witnessed what happened, or rumors, or stories of farmers or police officers, in records in the Catholic church, for example, telling small little snippets of what happened to our nieces and nephews who went to those schools and never came home.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

So it's been a very painful journey, but it's also been a journey that indigenous peoples aren't afraid to talk about, aren't afraid to speak and when necessary, stand up for the stories that have been lacking in this country surrounding residential schools. For Canadians, on the meantime, most Canadians have been withheld, or mis-educated, or have been denied the history of their own country. For many Canadians who are just now waking up to the reality that Canada is built on a foundation of genocide, and that genocide was perpetrated against the most marginalized, the most oppressed, and that the most vulnerable, which are children, and that Canada was built on that violence. It's perhaps not the story that Canadians have been sold, which is that Canada is a maple syrupy sweetness that you see on the flag. That can be upsetting and quite traumatizing for Canadians because they have not been prepared for this dialogue. They haven't been supported. They haven't been given the appropriate stories, and texts, and research to explain to them that you live in a country where, yes, really incredible things have happened.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

People winning gold medals, for example, or Romeo Dallaire standing up against genocide in Rwanda overseas, or really remarkable things involving indigenous rights over this current time. But it's also a country that has been built off the murder of children. And the murder of children that happened in those schools by starvation, by children running away, by priests and nuns sexually abusing those children, also people who worked in the schools. By the mere sake that there was so much disease in those schools, you were more likely to die by attending residential schools than attending world wars, tells you a lot about the foundation that Canada has been built upon to make the economy, to make the political society, the cultural society that we live within. And we still have that story today. That story today is still very much one that came from residential schools, which is that indigenous peoples don't matter. That may be shocking for Canadians, but it's something that people need to hear in order to get to the truth. Because we cannot get to reconciliation without understanding what's happened.

Kona Goulet:

How do you see these discoveries impacting the reconciliation process in Canada?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

One of the hardest things about this recent discovery of unmarked graves, this should not surprise Canadians because it's something that has been talked about since 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented around 3,500 unmarked graves already within the report where they knew that children had died within the schools. It's only recently that we're finding thousands more at sites where ground penetrating radar by researchers who are asked by first nations to go and investigate the sites of former residential schools. So what does this mean? This means that we are still uncovering a story that is yet to be told, because there are still tens of thousands of children who we don't know what happened to. We don't know whether they died at the schools, whether they survived the schools, maybe their names were changed, maybe they had one of the many tuberculosis epidemics, or died from one of those.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Because oftentimes when schools were in situations with tuberculosis epidemics, they were in emergency situations, and they weren't keeping records particularly well. There's many different reasons why those children have not been documented appropriately, but there's also many reasons as equal about of reasons for institutions like the Catholic church, the government, the Departments of Agriculture, and police to have records of what happened to those children. And the First Nations communities deserve to know. They deserve to know what happened to their nieces and their nephews to answer the questions of what happened to our children. I think anyone from any community, I don't care what city, what class, what race you are, you want to know what happened to your relatives. So this is something that is a national tragedy, and it's also something that every Canadian should care about in trying to find out a story of helping Canada understand what it did to the most vulnerable,

Kona Goulet:

To provide some more background for our listeners, can you say more about the history of Indian residential schools in Canada, such as, when were they founded, how many were there, and how many children attended.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Over the span of about the mid 18th century, starting in about 1830s is the first real boarding schools that are held for indigenous young people. Many of them were negotiated by indigenous leaders for the mere sake that colonization went quite brutal for many indigenous communities, particularly the Anishinaabe in Southern Ontario after the war of 1812, our lands had been flooded out. And I say our lands, meaning that those are my cousins as Anishinaabe cousins. And the fact is that colonization did not go well because many populations, many communities had a 90% population loss, because starvation happens when settlers come in and envelop you. Deer don't come around anymore. It's hard to fish. So starvation sets in, and when starvation sets in, that's where smallpox comes in. There's this ongoing lie that's been perpetrated in health researchers and textbooks to say indigenous peoples had susceptibility to European disease.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

That's not true at all. They had susceptibility to starvation. So starvation leads to weakness, which leads to sickness. So what indigenous leaders were seeking through schooling was the survival of their children. And what does that mean? That meant the feeding of children, the ability of children to go to school and have an adequate meal, a safe place to sleep for certain elements of the year in which harsh climates would take place. And so boarding schools in some communities, particularly in the east, were negotiated by leaders like Shingwauk or Kahkewāquonāby, also known as Peter Jones. People would organize and negotiate for those schools and advocate for those schools, not for the purposes of assimilation or the eradication of culture and language, but for the purposes of feeding children in a time in which starvation was taking place, and an incredible violence was taking place, in which indigenous peoples were having squatters on their own territories and interruptions to food lines and et cetera, et cetera.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

So that's where the first residential schools really begin, but Canada took those ideas and then operated in partnership with the churches, shortly after Confederation, to really step up the residential school policy, to be able to eradicate and so-called civilize indigenous communities, and shepherd them into civilization. And whatever that meant, that meant learning English, being indoctrinated into Christianity, being taught how to become farmers. And so residential schools became the method in which Canada sought to settle the land question, because that's why it always came during treaty. So as indigenous peoples removed off the lands, their traditional homelands, they'd be put onto reserves and then their children would be removed, put into residential school. That began in the 1870s, really aggressively in the 1870s, into the 19th century. 150,000 children attended those residential schools for the first 150 years of Confederation until 1996.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And in 1996 was the last residential school that was in Saskatchewan. That's the Gordon residential school, which, if you know the history of the Gordon residential school, some of the most brutal experiences of children who were forcibly removed from their homes, starting in the 1920s, the federal law stated that indigenous parents could not opt out of residential school. Why were they opting out of residential school? Because parents knew within the first two decades of residential schools, that they were violent places.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

That there was corporal punishment, that there was physical sexual abuse going on, and the most important thing of all, which is that children were not learning anything. They were often in situations that have been compared to, and quite convincingly, recently by a paper that I wrote about in a column of slavery. Children were operating and working for upwards and 12 to 15 hours a day, basically as slaves, to run the very system in school that would oppress them, that would keep them indoctrinated and imprisoned. So like African-Americans, indigenous children, up until the 1950s when finally the federal government decided to put in a law to say, if the children are sent to school, they actually have to go to a classroom.

Kona Goulet:

And in advance of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th of this year, which is now a federal statutory holiday in Canada, can you tell us what this day means and how it came to be?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

It's a federal holiday, absolutely. It's been adopted by one of the calls to action for coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that we should have a national day of commemoration to not just think about the atrocities that happened, but also just recognize the amazingness of survivors. The fact that survivors took the money that they had been illegally given as a result of the harms that had been perpetrated against them, and they paid for the TRC. Let's be clear here. The government did not pay for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, not one penny. It was the survivors, from the compensation money, from the harms that they had experienced, they used that money, 80-85% of it, to pay for the TRC. But the fact that survivors built and paid for the TRC is a remarkable moment for this country. What it says to you is that survivors wanted to build something to make sure this never happens again. And part of that is a day of commemoration.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

It's for us to stop and think and not go to work, but to spend time with our families, teaching our children about what happened in those schools and to make sure that we never let that happen again. So it's an important day. It's an important opportunity for all of us to think about what it means to be in a relationship with one another in these territories, or whether they're governed by treaties, or whether they be governed by agreements, or perhaps they are even unseated territory, meaning that lands that have never been adequately negotiated for or agreed upon in whatever territories that is across this country. So we have an opportunity on that day on September 30th to do so. Unfortunately, there will be some sections of this country on September 30th, who will deny that violence, will refuse to commemorate it, and will refuse to acknowledge the incredible gift and opportunity that survivors have presented to us. It's also a reminder for those of us who are brave and ready to have that conversation that we need to be talking about this more than ever.

Kona Goulet:

Thank you for that. Building off some of what you've said, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published 94 calls to action in 2015. One of which was to create a national day for Truth and Reconciliation. Can you say a little bit more to our listeners on what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, also known as the TRC, was, why was it created, and what were the outcomes of its work?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

It was suggested by survivors in the midst of negotiating, what's called the residential school settlement agreement, which began in 2008. Basically what happened is throughout the 2000s starting in, I think it was 1990, maybe just shortly after that, Phil Fontaine went on national news, in fact CBC Manitoba. He gave an interview and he said, "I had been physically, sexually abused in residential school." For many Canadians, they didn't believe him first off, or they thought that he was trying to seek some money in some way, or that he was really just complaining about his otherwise good treatment in residential school. But then that opened up the possibility for other survivors. Other survivors began to come out and say, "This happened to me as well. This also was an experience that I had. This is something that traumatized me." And as survivors began to talk throughout the 1990s, that led to them suing the government in a class action suit for the harms that they had experienced, the rightful conversation that needed to take place in this country.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And the fact is that when the TRC started, it was a conflictual time. The two parties had been sued, the churches and the government. And then the third party was survivors who, instead of taking the money that had been legally awarded to them as a result of that court process, that survivors offered a relationship to the churches and the government. And they said, "We want to create the TRC and we want to do that together, but we don't want to take the money and then go home. We want to take the money that we have been offered for compensation. And we want to create the TRC together." The churches, the government, and the survivors negotiated in the settlement agreement in the creation of the TRC and how the TRC would be made.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

The TRC was a six-year journey that was initially started with a different set of commissioners. It was quite controversial when it began in 2009 with the Justice Harry LaForme, and two other commissioners who just couldn't agree. That commission fell apart. Then what happened is that my father, Chief Wilton Little child, and Marie Wilson, who was a CBC reporter in the north and also a big advocate for many communities, got together. They were selected by a group which was including the government, the churches, and the survivors, which for the first time were working together to select those commissioners. That led to the successful deliverance of the TRC, which was a six-year process involving seven national events, hundreds of regional events, hundreds of researchers, seven volumes at the end, including the summary report, the TRC 94 calls to action, which was the roadmap to head towards reconciliation for this country.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

The TRC calls to action are split into two sections. One is 1 through 42, which is called Legacy, which is how do we deal with the legacies of residential schools, those institutions that are most impacted, those are things like justice and child welfare, language and culture, and health and education. And then of course, calls to action, 43 through 94, which are the path forward. What institutions do we need to create? Do we need to continue to build and fortify? What do we need to do? So one of the calls to action, for example, is coming up with a new citizenship oath for immigrants who come to this country. Another one is how do we deal with the issue of racist sports logos? Another one is how do we get the Pope to apologize for this incredible amount of Catholics who are indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples who operate in a church where this tremendous amount of atrocities took place, but the leader of that church refuses to acknowledge it.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Also training for civil servants, how do we implement indigenous rights in this country? All of these different things that come into the TRC calls to action, and that's what the TRC produced. The TRC produced a roadmap for Canadians through the calls to action, also through the National Research Center, which continues to investigate the issues of residential schools and seek those records, which are still being held by the Catholic church and other entities like the United Church, Presbyterian, the Canadian government. Many of those institutions still have not handed over documents to tell us where are the children, what happened in those schools, what continued to happen in those schools to create these tremendously violent situations for those children.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

We still have yet to hear the full story of residential schools, even though the TRC created six volumes, one more with the summary report, which had thousands of pages that talked about those schools, but we still don't know certain questions. Like one of the questions that we still don't know about is, "Why is there so many situations of violence in certain geographies and not others? What was the connection between residential schools and land theft? What was the connection between the churches who are often given the money to run those schools but then children starved anyways, where did that money go?"

Kona Goulet:

Can you say a little more about how the children were treated in these schools and specifically, the subsequent impacts on them, their families and communities?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Approximately 90% of children at those schools experienced some kind of physical violence. That may have been from either staff or priests and nuns. It could have been from those who worked in the schools, but it also was from older children. Because older children learned those methods from those who operated in the schools. These were absolutely unprepared teachers, oftentimes very young, 19, 20 years old, who took a few month program at schools like the one that I work at now, the University of Manitoba, completely not prepared for a situation which was very traumatic and very violent. They would be sent to these schools and they would be under the control of a local priest or nun who is aggressively pursuing an assimilation agenda, a forcible indoctrination into Christianity. And so these teachers just followed suit. They were very easily manipulated and they were also completely unprepared for what they faced.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And so being overwhelmed, they may have partaken in a violent situation in a violent way, because they didn't know another way, and many of them were quite young. So the University of Manitoba apologized during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for participating in the lack of preparation of teachers who sent those teachers to places in which they perpetrated incredible violence. And arguably, if those same teachers had been sent to, let's say, an urban school, or even a rural school in which violence wasn't taking place, or certainly schools in which there was some learning taking place, or some classroom activities taking place, you could perhaps see that those teachers might've went in a different direction. But Canadian teachers were also put into a situation of violence and acted violently as a result. And many people like to say, "Well, why don't you tell the good story of residential schools?"

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

There are many people who are very deeply invested in denying the violence that survivors talk about, that indigenous communities talk about. So let me tell you about the good story of residential school. Here it is. People occasionally had a good day. They occasionally learned a skill. They may have played hockey. They may have learned how to soap. They may have learned how to play the piano. All of those are things that they may have used later in their life to build a career, to support their families, maybe they talk about those things in a glowing way in a later part of their life and say, "I'm really happy I learned that in residential school." None of that! Not one day, you cannot on any way, talk about someone having a good day or learning something nice in the middle of a genocide and somehow give the system a pass.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

It was a part of a system in which indigenous peoples were deemed as inferior, and that Canadians were deemed as superior, and everything rolls out as a result of that. So if you want to know why indigenous art in major institutions or businesses, or many of us are still the first of our community to enter into and become a lawyer or a dentist or a doctor, it's because of the violence that continues to be perpetrated today coming from residential schools. I think one of the most powerful impacts of residential schools is silence. The fact that we don't talk about it. When I was growing up, virtually every single relative I had had either attended residential schools or was an intergenerational survivor. Nobody talked about it. Nobody talked about the fact that we had incredible addiction in my family, that we had violent behaviors in my family, that we had a whole lot of things that had happened that nobody wanted to talk about.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Many of those things created our relationships today, created the trauma that we were experiencing today. It also created a lot of the resilience. One of the things that I'm most proudest of is that we are a resilient family. We are a family that no matter what happens, you can have our entire community, for example, removed by the government in 1907, which is what happened in Selkirk, where I grew up, and my family refused to leave. They said, "Enough is enough." And they said, "You just try to remove us, and we won't leave." And we didn't leave. And we grew up, even though the entire town of Selkirk surrounded us, we became refugees on our very own homelands. And that's the kind of resilience that my family had because of residential school.

Kona Goulet:

[Nuninascoman]. Thank you Dr. Sinclair for sharing those powerful stories and information. Be sure to join us again for our next episode, where Dr. Sinclair will discuss where he believes Canada to be on the path of truth and reconciliation, what more needs to be done, and what progress has been made so far.

Michael Torrance:

Thanks for listening to Sustainability Leaders. This podcast is presented by BMO Financial Group. To access all the resources we discussed in today's episode and to see our other podcasts, visit us at bmo.com/sustainabilityleaders. You can listen and subscribe free to our show on Apple podcasts, where your favorite podcast provider, and we'll greatly appreciate a rating and review, and any feedback that you might have. Our show and resources are produced with support from BMO's marketing team and Puddle Creative. Until next time. I'm Michael Torrance. Have a great week.

Disclosure:

The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank Montreal, it's affiliates, or subsidiaries. This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry, strategy, or security. This presentation may contain forward looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements as actual results could vary. This presentation is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute investment, legal, or tax advice. It is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product or service. Individual investors should consult with an investment tax and/or legal professional about their personal situation. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Kona Goulet Head, Indigenous Equity & Inclusion, BMO Financial Group

Autre contenu intéressant