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Current Criticisms over Indian Residential School


Dear Senator Beyak,

I am writing to join with the other Canadians who have written you to offer support in the face of the intense, and unwarranted, criticism you have faced regarding your measured and accurate comments about Indian Residential Schools.

I fear you have spoken a truth that cannot be spoken.

Bad things occurred in Indian residential schools. Some students were horribly victimized. However, it is ridiculously simplistic and childish to hold that no good whatsoever arose from Indian residential schools.

Many Canadians with the best of intentions laboured honourably and faithfully in the Indian residential schools with the goal of bettering the lives of the students they were entrusted. Were the results perfect? No. Were terrible indignities inflicted upon some students at some institutions? Undoubtedly yes. Was the institution of Indian residential schools compatible with our current modern understanding of the importance of family bonding and cultural preservation? Definitely not. However, it is a terrible smear upon the Canadians who honourably dedicated themselves to the Indian residential schools to simplistically hold the schools had no benefit whatsoever.

My father, while raised outside Canada, was brought up in a Catholic residential school. He was separated from his family, forced to learn a language not native to his land – – English, and he was subjected to harsh discipline early on in his childhood. This was not uncommon in the early 20th century. Is his situation directly comparable to those students who were in the Indian residential schools, possibly not. His experience emphasizes though that the norms relating to child rearing were very different in that time period--even for children from relatively well to do families in an European country.

I know of two direct friends and another indirect acquaintance who were students in Indian residential schools. They tell me, off the record, that the Indian residential schools made them what they are today. They do describe a harsh environment but one which also brought them literacy, a love of learning, and true affection for many of their teachers. Their experience may not have been universal, but it is ridiculous to suggest that the Indian residential school system was unmitigated evil.

I wish you the best as you withstand the current barrage of unwarranted criticism. You have been made an unfortunate target and have been unjustly vilified for speaking what is plainly obvious. Please know that I and countless other Canadian sympathize with your situation and offer you our support.