It has taken me a few days to actually write something about the horrific news that the remains of 215 First Nation children were in unmarked graves by a Kamloops residential school. Part of the reason is I recently started an ad campaign that has drawn in some new readers and considering that I sold this as a movie site, I wasn't sure how excited they'd be about one of the first new articles being this heartbreaking discovery with heavy political and social implications. Not quite the deep dive into Weekend at Bernie's they were dreaming about. I've also had a rough emotional week and wasn't sure what energy that I had to deliver any worthwhile thoughts about this tragedy.
Maybe that is the big one. What does a privileged white movie writer who crafts poems about dead tress and sweat pants have of any value to add to this horrible and devastating revelation? A revelation that should be added is what many First Nation people have been trying to tell us had happened for decades. It is sad that this didn't seems to shock many First Nation people and seems to be an ominous discovery that they have been waiting to get blasted onto them.
The problem has been that maybe white guys especially of the political variety have been allowed to talk too much when it comes to First Nations' affairs and have made their voices the prevailing narrative. As Emily will sometimes tell me, there are moments I must shut up.
The last decade plus there has been a backlash against P.C and being 'woke'. The idea is certain groups need to move on and stop dwelling on past sins. Some has screamed it is time to stop paying reparations or making amends for things that were done in the past. They will say it is to leave it in the past, and I know there is a lot of bitterness among otherwise kind-hearted people that feel too much has been given to certain groups, especially in Canada the feeling is too many privileges for the First Nation.
But how can one move on or declare things to be history, when the past keeps hitting them with more nightmares and the sins continue to batter down more souls. It isn't ancient history if it is still making current news.
Last year I wrote about the tragedy that was George Floyd. I made it very clear that systemic racism and abuse by authority on non-whites was not just an American problem. Many of the things that the murder of Floyd triggered were issues that happen in my country of Canada, and during that time there were many people that I know that expressed their own moments of fear for their safety due to the plague of racism and abuse by those in power.
On top of that, Canada and the church has a shameful and despicable history of racism and abuse. There is no doubt that the country tried to pull off a cultural genocide and try to get rid of First Nations. While there are no longer any more residential schools and the Government takes no avert actions to wipe out or assimilate an entire race and there are truly people who are apologetic and full of empathy and sorrow, it is clear that the haunting of a horrific past not only lingers but still swallows up many. Some are still broken and shaken from the time of being stuck in residential schools that were designed to erase their culture and language while those in charge showed no desire to even have them around. While others have been grieving for decades for the children or friends that never ever came home while no reason was ever given for their disappearance.
I went to a private Christian school and while I do remember hearing about residential schools and the interaction between First Nation (we called them Indians back then) and the European settlers, my memories were that those things were mostly positive. I don't think the word 'civilize' was ever used but I was led to believe that things like the residential schools enriched the children and made their lives better. They were converted to Christianity and shown a 'better life.' I was taught that these were things that were embraced by the First Nation people and it was all done through love.
I started smelling the bullshit a little in high school and after taking a few indigenous studies courses in University, I really started getting smacked hard with the reality. It was then that I realized this wasn't loving embrace of Christian values but rather a pollution of a religion that was distorted in order to strip people of their language beliefs, customs, songs, values and identity. When some First Nations people spew hate on Canada Day, it is hard to provide any counter. Atrocities were committed by the treatment of First Nations, and now it is becoming clear that it was even worse than a lot of us even believed.
I was informed even further of the injustice when I wrote a piece about some dissent between the Six Nations and Brantford for Collective Publishing. I tried contacting a few people from Six Nations, but there was so much hatred and pain that they kindly told me that they probably couldn't handle an interview with me. I did get a several hour long interview in a coffee shop with the editor of the Turtle Island News who pointed out the long history of lies and deceit that has created a divide between Brantford and Six Nations, and all First Nation groups with the country of Canada.
But how was it that it took until 2021 that we uncovered the remains of 215 children. How was it we ignored the cries of decades of missing little kids. Kids that are younger than my son Everett and my daughter Danika. Parents like me who must have been screaming and hollering and clawing for the return of their beloved children. How do we plug our ears for that long?
Priests and high-ranking officials of the Catholic church would have known. Definitely most of the Canadian government would have known. You don't just misplace 215 bodies. And the sad fact is that there absolutely no way the residential school in Kamloops is the only one that has buried bodies of children.
So, what is supposed to happen next?
We listen. We shut up for a bit and listen. We actually listen and not offer our input or our answers. We actually listen to the concerns, worries, grief, sorrow, pain and fears of the First Nation people. Just for the record, it is good advice to do that for anyone that feels they've been wronged and feel a dark separation from society for hurts committed. But 215 dead kids were discovered, so let's listen toe First Nations to figure out how this happened and what needs to be done next.
We listen with an open mind and an open heart. We listen with empathy, kindness, compassions and humility. We don't need to take offense or try to offer a defense. Just fucking listen.
Then we listen to the fact that First Nations people have been talking about the ongoing trauma and horrors of residential schools for decades. They have made it clear that it is something straight out of the worst horror movie where Jigsaw feels like he may have been a lightweight in his way of torture. Or at least, he stayed away from innocent kids.
It is time to realize that there has been a push for an investigation into residential school for years and that many have cried that there are missing kids, and they need to be found and there needs to be closure. Now, we know it was cries of truth and it is time to investigate every single residential school. There will be more bodies. There will be way more grief. It is going to be horrible, but First Nation people deserve closure, and we can't run away from the atrocities that were committed. A full and proper investigation must be done.
Then we really listen about the trauma and damage that has been done by the residential school. We try to find ways to provide proper healing and work towards healing wounds and correcting evil wrongs. Justice hasn't been served. I honestly don't know if what has been perpetuated can fully be repaid and fixed.
As a white guy who never had to worry about being shipped off to a school that will abuse me and strip me of my identity, the one thing that I do know is that I need to listen.