Labour Views: The History of Genocide is not History

By Lorraine Rousseau

Couple of days are left until the end of June, that has annually been dedicated to celebrating all Indigenous Peoples and cultures in Canada. This year’s celebrations are with heavy and broken hearts across the lands as more and more unmarked mass graves are found at varying sites of residential schools.

Canada Day is around the corner. With heavy hearts, this year will be different. I empathize with calls to cancel this year’s celebrations. Indigenous communities need the time and space to heal and mourn. I’ve learnt that many will be taking action: attending events on July 1st while wearing Orange Shirts in solidarity with Indigenous communities. Our communities across Canada mourn and honour the children who didn’t make it home. Will you have fireworks if your neighbours are grieving?

Earlier versions of this government and organizations run by the Catholic Church fully participated in and sanctioned the efforts of annihilation of a people. Their justification for the systemic discrimination and oppression was to ‘civilize’ a culture that they were unable to understand.

The education system presented by government combined with a European settlers and churches, are the origins of residential schools, dating back into the 1600s. Here we are in the year 2021, approximately 400 years later, facing the results of genocide and systems in organizations that continue a slower destruction of those individuals who do not ‘fit’ in standards set that encourage unfair treatment and exclusion.

It’s more important to understand the history of genocide in Canada, a topic that rarely makes it to our mainstream education systems and schools.So why is it important to understand the history of genocide in Canada? Because it’s not history. Today’s racist government laws, policies and actions have proven to be just as deadly for Indigenous peoples as the genocidal acts of the past, says Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer, professor, activist, and politician.

On this Canada Day, let’s take the time to reflect and pledge to stay in solidarity with Indigenous communities as they strive towards justice.

As difficult as it is to view media and resources providing these truths, we must witness what has been permitted to happen. We cannot allow this atrocity to quiet the voices of those who can speak and of those who cannot – the death and abuse by ‘care givers’ and authority – the intergenerational effects, the lives lost – we cannot be complacent.

Wherever you’re in Canada, there is a chance that a residential school is located in the heart of your city, town or community. Included below is a list of the 34 Residential Schools across the Territories.

To all residential school survivors and their families, please use the resources available if you need support: NWT: 1-800-464-8106; Nunavut: 1-800-265-3333; Yukon: 1-867-456-3838. National Crisis Line: 1 866 925 4419. The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program provides mental health, emotional and cultural support services to eligible former residential school students and their families. Workers tending the National Crisis Line are able to provide more information on the support program. Resources are also available online.  

Northwest Territories Residential Schools 
Akaitcho Hall (Yellowknife Vocational School)Yellowknife
Aklavik Roman Catholic (Immaculate Conception)Aklavik
Aklavik Anglican (All Saints)Aklavik
Deh Cho Hall (Lapointe Hall)Fort Simpson
Federal Hostel at Fort FranklinFort Franklin
Fort McPherson (Fleming Hall)Fort McPherson
Fort Providence Boarding Home (Sacred Heart)Fort Providence
Fort Resolution Residence (St. Joseph’s)Fort Resolution
Fort Simpson Anglican (Bompas Hall)Fort Simpson
Fort Simpson Roman Catholic (Lapointe Hall)Fort Simpson
Fort Smith (Breynat Hall)Fort Smith
Fort Smith (Grandin College)Fort Smith
Hay River (St. Peter’s)Hay River
Inuvik Roman Catholic (Grollier Hall)Inuvik
Inuvik Anglican Hostel (Stringer Hall)Inuvik
  Nunavut Residential Schools 
Chesterfield Inlet (Turquetil Hall)Chesterfield Inlet
Coppermine (Tent Hostel)Coppermine
Federal Hostel at Baker Lake/Qamani’tuaqQamani’tuaq/ Qamanittuaq
Federal Hostel at Belcher IslandsSanikiluaq
Federal Hostel at Broughton Island/QikiqtarjuaqQikiqtarjuaq
Federal Hostel at Cambridge BayCambridge Bay
Federal Hostel at Cape Dorset/KinngaitKinngait
Federal Hostel at Eskimo Point/ArviatArviat
Federal Hostel at Frobisher Bay (Ukkivik)Iqaluit
Federal Hostel at Igloolik/IglulikIgloolik/Iglulik
Federal Hostel at Lake HarbourKimmirut
Federal Hostel at Pangnirtung (Pangnirtang)Pangnirtung/Panniqtuuq
Federal Hostel at Pond Inlet/MittimatalikMittimatalik
  Yukon Residential Schools 
Carcross (Chooulta)Carcross
Coudert Hall (Whitehorse Hostel/Student Residence – Predecessor to Yukon Hall)Whitehorse
St. Paul’s Hostel (September 1920 to June 1943)Dawson City
Shingle Point (Predecessor to All Saints, Aklavik)Shingle Point
Whitehorse Baptist MissionWhitehorse
Yukon Hall (Whitehorse/Protestant Hostel)Whitehorse

This article originally appeared in the Yellowknifer on June 30, 2021