I was at the May 31 rally in Simms Park where over 300 people, wearing various shades and shapes of orange, came out to express their sympathy with First Nations people struggling to cope with news that a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children has been discovered on the site of the Catholic Church run Kamloops Indian Residential School.
I found it moving to see the openness to shared grief and the restrained anger at the Simms Park gathering that seemed to say so clearly today we will grieve this terrible loss and horrifying cover up of how these children were treated. Tomorrow we must deal with the demands of justice and the consequences of this hideous treatment of these beautiful young children and the government/organizations that allowed/promoted this kind of crime against humanity.
Can you imagine (no you can’t and I certainly can’t) what you would feel/think/do if you were suddenly confronted with such tragic news?
Surely this is the turn of the tide. No one can ever again open a meeting with the careless comment “We wish to acknowledge that we are meeting on the unceded territory of ………First Nation” –then go on blithely with the meeting as though such an offhanded remark is sufficient recompense for the theft of lands and the horrendous treatment of First Nations peoples—including the hideous treatment of their beautiful, young children.
Today the gig is up. It is time to put away the pretenses and platitudes. It is time for settler governments, complicit in this hideous death and cover up of so many children, to capitulate—to meet all demands unquestioning; to come to a settlement that recognizes past horrors and points a way forward where we can finally put this grim past behind us and move forward with a meaningful and implemented justice for all.
But we can’t let this be about just Canadian First Nations. Is this not exactly the cruel injustice that we allow the Israeli government to perpetuate on the Palestinian people—this theft of land and resources while killing children? While today there is contrition over the treatment of First Nations peoples in Canada, we tolerate the same sort of settler abuse in the theft of Palestinian lands and the death of Palestinian children from the US/Canadian funded Israeli bombing of the Palestinian people. Can we feel such horror at what happened in the Kamloops residential school in years past and not speak up about amounts to the creeping genocide of the Palestinian people? If we genuinely feel indignation at what happened in Kamloops those years ago how can we not speak up about what is happening as we speak?
In light of this hideous treatment of children (which has gone on around the world) I find it impossible to see a reason for the Catholic Church to continue to exist. Clearly the church needs to be placed in receivership and all its assets dispersed to help rebuild the communities and lives that have been devastated by its indifference to the lives and well being of First Nations peoples around the world.
I just can’t get my mind around the contradiction of a church that tells the people of Canada we shouldn’t allow very sick people in a great deal of unbearable pain that they shouldn’t be allowed to have a medically assisted end to the pain while they toss scores of young First Nations children in unmarked, unnoted trenches at the back of church property. It appears they didn’t even inform the parents of the death of their children at the school!
I will be wearing orange more often partly as a testament to my hope/demand for a just settlement with First Nations but also for my demand to create more just, sustaining and sustainable societies around the world.