Former head of Haisla First Nation and current MLA Ellis Ross says removal of John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria Town Hall is an empty move.
When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported in 2015, the scope and scope of its findings and recommendations provided a wake-up call to Canadians.
The final report of the committee contained a detailed account of what happened to indigenous children who were physically, sexually and emotionally abused in residential schools of the government.
In addition to the shocking scale of abuse in schools, the report estimated 3,200 children died from tuberculosis, malnutrition and other diseases because of poor living conditions.
But that was a lowball estimate. Justice Murray Sinclair, the chairman of the committee, said that up to 6,000 children died because deaths and funerals were so badly recorded.
"The truth was difficult," said Sinclair, an Aboriginal lawyer, judge and senator from Manitoba. "Reconciliation will become even more difficult."
Three years later Canadians discover how difficult the task can be – especially when reconciliation gestures drive people further apart, instead of bringing them together.
On 11 August a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald was removed from the steps of Victoria Town Hall by order of Mayor Lisa Helps and a majority of town councilors.
According to Macdonald, the first prime minister of Canada, Macdonald played a key role in establishing the residential schools in the 1800s, and the image was "a painful reminder of colonial violence."
Removal of the statue, said Helps, was a step towards reconciliation. But the chairman of the reconciliation committee thinks that these types of goodwill gestures can actually have a counterproductive effect.
"The problem I have with the overall approach to breaking down images and buildings is that it is counterproductive for reconciliation because it almost smacks of revenge or smacks of anger," Sinclair said.
Now the leaders of the First Nations are talking about the futility of demolishing statues, instead of addressing the deeper and more complex challenges for First Nations.
Ellis Ross, the former head of the Haisla Nation, said that he has heard many ideas to improve the lives of the indigenous people. Dropping images is not one of them.
"Not one person has mentioned this idea to me in 15 years of public office," said Ross, now a liberal MLA in the B.C. legislature.
"This kind of initiative has always been a frustration for me, it is like an empty speech about reconciliation, which does nothing about indigenous poverty, autochthonous children in government care or natives in prison."
That important and many others were included in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which included 94 "calls for action".
The recommendations include measures to improve health care, education and child well-being for indigenous communities. There were calls to reform the justice system and to protect the language and cultures of the First Nations. Calls were made to improve education programs so that all Canadians can learn more about the history of residential schools.
But there is nothing in the report about breaking off statues of the founders of Canada or other divisions that sow divisions.
Instead, there was a call to create new memorials and new works of public art to recognize indigenous people, their painful history after colonization and their contribution to the building of the land.
"We appeal to the Canada Council for the Arts to develop a strategy for indigenous and non-Western countries, indigenous artists to carry out collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process," commission.
Creating new works of art – instead of breaking down old works of art – is a better way to bring about reconciliation, Judge Sinclair said. 19659003] "We try to create more balance in the relationship," he said.
Brian Lee Crowley, head of the Macdonald Laurel Institute, Sinclair's insights come from years of research into reconciliation efforts around the world.
"That includes South Africa, the most famous and successful example," Crowley said.
"What comes through is that reconciliation comes only when people are willing to put aside the old hostilities, stop seeking retribution, stop seeking revenge for past mistakes. how you shape the future so that it is better. "
But what about the historic role of Macdonald in setting up residential schools? What about Macdonald that the native people called "savages" in 1879?
"You have to look at the context of time," Crowley said. "They honestly thought they were doing the right thing, they believed that the way to help Aboriginal people was to bring them into regular European society, to give them a Western upbringing.
" They went wrong with it to. They created a paternalistic policy that produced terrible results. "
This does not mean that the role of Macdonald in residential schools must be forgotten or forgiven," he said, but the demolition of his statue reduces his towering contributions to Canadian history, including the construction of the transcontinental railroad and the land. himself in 1867.
"He was a very flawed but a very brilliant man who gave good service to Canada," he said
Ross, the former chief of Haisla, said that a better idea would be to add interpreting plaques to to add images to explain history, good and bad.
"Keep the images," he said. "But also take the not so big policy decisions. My approach to reconciliation is to recognize the past, but it is more important to build a future. "
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