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Crocodile Tears for our Victims: Behind the Lie of Reconciliationby Kevin D. Annett, M.A., M.Div.
It's such a typically Canadian word: reconciliation. Everybody's using it these days, at least when it comes to Indians: the government, the churches, the media, and all those manicured politicians of the "Assembly of First Nations" who like to pretend they represent something. Reconciliation: it's such a nice word, and a nice idea, even if we aren't actually practicing it.
Now, I'm sure that the sudden rush to jump on the reconciliation bandwagon has nothing at all to do with the looming road and railway blockades being threatened by native groups, or the constant peril of lawsuits from all the Indians we tried to kill in our residential schools. But what strikes me about the compulsive use of the word these days is how arrogant and superficial it is for anyone to think that "reconciliation" can be arranged somehow, made to order if you like, as if it is in our power to cause such a fundamental cure.
It's like saying to someone you've just struck, or tortured, I'm going to make you like me now. A nice idea - at least, to the person wanting to be liked and forgiven - but it's pretty ridiculous to expect someone you've so wronged to desire such sudden intimacy with you. It's always advisable to check first with the one you've battered to see if he or she actually wants "reconciliation".
The government and churches of Canada have exercised nothing but this kind of myopic, self-serving approach in their dealings with the people they tried so hard to exterminate: the aboriginal peoples of this land. Put simply, us "white folks" never seem to change. Despite all our rhetoric and expensive advertisements that bleat about "reconciliation", we have never asked our aboriginal victims what they want from us. Like true colonialists, we continue to tell them what they need.
When our ancestors invaded this land, they decreed that all of its inhabitants would have to either surrender or die, in precisely the same manner that we are now ordering "reconciliation and healing" to happen with the remnant survivors of our massacres. And, now as then, those damn Indians better do as we say, if they know what's good for them.
That's exactly what Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice told native people last month when he threatened to cut off all federal funding to any native band that took part in the June 29 "Day of Action". But Jim also likes to talk about "reconciliation" with the same people he is threatening.
It's always been that way with us "whites"; it's how we do things. Little kids in our Indian Residential Schools were always given one chance to obey. After that, they got nails in their tongues, electricity to their heads, or an early grave: nearly 50,000 of them died at our hands in these "schools".
So, how exactly do we go about getting reconciled with all those little corpses, when we're the ones who made them that way?
That's a question nobody is asking, of course, because there is no answer. The dead are not reconcilable. They can't be bribed, or silenced with legal gag orders, or given cushy jobs and titles on Royal Commissions, or wined and dined by their tormentors. All the dead need is final peace, and that can only come from their story being finally and fully told.
After more than a decade of public pressure from groups like ours, the government of Canada buckled last April and finally started making noises about letting some of the story of these residential school corpses be told: in a process totally controlled by the government itself, of course, in a complete mockery of the cause of full disclosure.
After all, would we allow Willie Picton or any serial killer to appoint the judge and jury in his trial, or set up his own "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" to investigate what he did to all his victims? Why, then, are we allowing far more prolific serial killers - the government of Canada and the Catholic, Anglican, and United Church of Canada - to do precisely that?
I don't imagine that the families of Willie Picton's victims feel like being "reconciled" with him after what he did. Nor do I expect aboriginal survivors of the residential school death camps to be any more accomodating to the killers of their relatives, even when those killers wear the robes of church and governmental office.
So why don't we stop all this nonsensical talk about "reconciliation" with native people and the residential school survivors, and place ourselves where we belong: on trial?
That's precisely where the churches and government of Canada need to be: in the witness dock, answering charges of mass murder and genocide. For only from there can they be expected to start disclosing what they did to thousands of innocents, where those children are buried, and who is responsible for their deaths.
Who will place them in the witness dock? Or, put another way, can one dismantle a B 52 bomber in mid-air, in between bombing runs, when one rides comfortably alongside the pilots and bombardiers?
If Canadians ever tried to practice their own professed morality, and international law, and somehow put themselves and their institutions on trial for the worst crime in history, the word "reconciliation" might start to mean something. But short of that, it will continue to mean, in practice, whatever suits the needs of us white folks, who won the war against the first peoples of this land, and who therefore get to define and control everything.
Patting residential school survivors on their heads and handing them a few dollars isn't going to change anything, besides make us white people feel good about ourselves. But then, feeling good and staying on top is the way of conquerers, like us.
Fifty Thousand corpses can't be wrong.
.................................................................................................................Kevin D. Annett is the Secretary of The Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada, which was founded in 2000. He is the author of two books on genocide in Canada, and the co-producer of an award winning documentary film on residential school crimes entitled UNREPENTANT. He lives and works with residential school survivors in Nanaimo and Vancouver, BC.
Kevin Annett260 Kennedy St.Nanaimo, BC V9R 2H8ph: 250-753-3345 pager: 1-888-265-1007website: [url=http://www.hiddenfromhistory.org]www.hiddenfromhistory.org[/url]email: [email protected]
Read and Hear the truth of Genocide in Canada, past and present, at this website: [url=http://www.hiddenfromhistory.org]www.hiddenfromhistory.org[/url] ...... and on this radio program: "Hidden from History", every Monday from 1-2 pm (PST) on CFRO 102.7 FM (www.coopradio.org) (Vancouver)
"When the desire for Truth and Virtue becomes the only bias in our mind, only then can we know in ourselves what is right." Peter Annett, Humanist and dissident, 1769 (jailed and persecuted by the Church of England for his questioning of the Bible and the church)