Non-residential school abuse?
Yes, it’s true. Following the protracted and painful revelation of the systemic abuse of First Nations children who were the “residents” in Canada’s now-infamous residential schools, another group of First Nations survivors are coming forth. They are the former students who attended classes in the residential schools without actually being residents. Canada has conducted hearings and investigations into the allegations of the abuse of residential school students and has issued apologies and granted token compensation to the victims who actually resided at the schools. However, other students who may have experienced similar abuse have not yet been compensated because they attended classes during the day but slept in their own beds at night.
I want to make the case that many Canadian children attending public school today (both aboriginal and non-aboriginal) are also victims of systemic abuse. That abuse is far-reaching and will affect generations yet to come. First, I need to explain my own position on the residential school issue:
- In some residential schools, the abuse of children was horrific. I have talked to survivors—people who were beaten and even had pins stuck into their tongues for speaking their own beautiful native language. Words cannot describe the pain that some of these children endured. They deserve the compensation and the apology…recognizing that money cannot make up for the emotional damage and the physical pain they suffered. It is abundantly clear that the wounds they received have deeply affected their children and grandchildren as well. Whole villages are recovering from the degrading trail of consequences: alcoholism, incest, drug dependencies, FASD, and more. The loss of parenting skills as a result of being raised without parents had a huge impact on many. In fairness, any children who suffered physical, sexual or emotional abuse as day-students in a residential school setting also deserve an apology and some material compensation in recognition of their wrongful treatment while under the supervision of government-mandated teachers. Any who were fortunate enough to attend the better-run schools and were treated fairly and respectfully are really, in some ways, no different than the children attending public schools today. In those cases, I see no need for compensation. However, to separate the experiences after all these years would be nearly impossible, based on failing memories and the mood of the day. It’s probably just easier (though not fairer) to issue a cheque to each student who applies, in an amount appropriate to the years in attendance and the recognition of non-residence.
- Even in those cases where the teachers were not personally abusive (and there were many devoted teachers who cared deeply for their young charges,) the primary abuse came from the act of removing children from the security of their parents’ homes in the first place. The brutal arrogance of a government that acts on the presumption that they (the government) are better able to care for children than their own parents is an affront to the principles of human dignity. We believe that God has given parents the primary responsibility for nurturing and instructing their own children. Any government that violates this principle is violating the will of God.
And that is my point. In public schools across this nation today, children (both aboriginal and non-aboriginal) are being taken away from their parents—not for months at a time but for a few hours each day for 12 or 13 years. After all, why should the state feed and house them when their parents will do it for free? While in the custody of state-sponsored professionals, they are defrauded of their innocence, discouraged from their belief in a loving personal God, deceived by “science” (falsely so called) regarding their origin and purpose, encouraged to experiment in sexual perversion, given a one-sided view of environmental issues and challenged and equipped to become purposeful change agents in society while being deprived of a personal sense of purpose for their very existence. Even with all that arrayed against them, there are survivors…students who, with or without their parents’ support and guidance, manage to hold onto their virtue, their faith and their intellectual integrity. My hat goes off to them. Many of their fellow-students are not so fortunate.
Many good teachers and administrators work in our public school systems and some of them will be offended by my remarks. I regret that. Of course, I am not referring to them. They deserve a gold star for holding onto their integrity, for “being there” for students, for challenging the system when necessary and for upholding the dignity of intellectual freedom and preserving the innocence of the young as much as they are able. No, I am speaking of the system itself and those who use their politically-granted power to abuse—not individual students—but a whole generation.
Last year a prolife billboard was torn down in our neighbourhood that asked the question: “Why wasn’t I told?” There are many things this up-and-coming generation is not being told. Their lives, their families and their communities will suffer for that lack of knowledge and the poor choices made as a result.
One day those young people will look back and say, “Why wasn’t I told?” It is unlikely that any compensation will be asked for or paid. Those adults making the terrible decisions today to force their political, moral and religious values on impressionable young minds may be long gone when the chickens come home to roost. But we today—who are able to see the damage being done and able to raise our voices—ought not to let this current generation of non-residential-school victims suffer this abuse without expending every ounce of energy to defend them from the institution we pay for and the politicians we elect.