6 Way the Canadian Government Participated in
Trafficking in Persons 2: Residential Schools

4 Dec, 2020

“I did not learn about residential schools until I was in college. That was in 2010. The last residential school closed in 1996 and the prime minister did not issue an apology on behalf of the government until 2008. Are you fucking kidding me??
The Canadian Government funded church run schools with the sole purpose of “getting rid” of indigenous peoples and their culture.
‘I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.”
– Duncan Campbell Scott, Department of Indian Affairs, 1920

These policies and intentions are woven through the very makeup of our government legislation and objectives. Children were literally stolen from their homes and families and forced to stay in environments that were volatile, violent and horrendous for the purpose of financial gain and exploitation to further commit genocide against indigenous peoples. This is exactly the definition of human trafficking. 

Systemic, individual and lateral violence against indigenous people still happens today with stolen land, access to water on reserves, overrepresentation in the prison system, children being apprehended by Child Protective Services, human trafficking and missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. I am confident the list goes on and on and on.  

 The government has not implemented many of the calls to action from the truth and reconciliation report and governments, private sector, non profit sector and the public at large have not done enough to look inside and examine the ways that we have participated in that colonial violence, and continue to participate in it.

This type of intergenerational trauma changes the generational line down to the cellular level. We continue to reinforce these learnings as service providers when we push colonial methods of healing and support.

I still have so much to learn about my own biases and ways of reenacting colonial violence. Every time I attend an event that talks about residential schools I feel ashamed that I didn’t know or don’t know what is being brought up. I’ve learned over the years that shame is a product of colonization. If it can feel too uncomfortable to learn about then I wont make the time to learn because the shame feels too big. It’s hard but necessary to lean into that shame and use it as a message to take action not to avoid. 

 The legacy that Canada has left of human trafficking and the lack of action to repair systemic causes of exploitation is simply disgusting. There is so much evidence, research, advocacy,  that is being done and has been presented to the public and the government and still movement is too slow.

Individually and collectively we all have a responsibility to learn our history. To hold each other accountable and to look inside and do the hard work of peeling back our own biases. There are no excuses for not taking action to get curious and learn more.   There are many resources available written by indigenous authors, videos, various art exhibits and social media accounts available to learn more. I’ve included a couple of links below, however, I would be so grateful if others could post resources to share as well.
Eliminating violence against Indigenous women and girls begins by listening to their voices (onwa.ca)
If I Go Missing: Jonnie, Brianna, Shingoose, Nahanni, Shannacappo, Neal: 9781459414518: Books – Amazon.ca
Reading for Reconciliation 6 books on Residential Schools (ictinc.ca)