Negative images still have victims

Columnist Tom Fletcher questions the utility of a mandatory residential school course.

Editor:

Re: Aboriginal education or victim studies, May 28 column.

Columnist Tom Fletcher questions the utility of a mandatory residential school course.

Residential schools were the linchpin of the colonial project imposed on aboriginals by the Canadian government.

Colonialism was heavily permeated by the assumption natives were culturally, morally and physically inferior to Euro-Canadians. This played out in egregious ways.

In Rethinking Canada: The Promise of Women’s History, Sarah Carter writes the federal government specifically targeted aboriginal women, propagating the myth they were “idle, gossipy and intractable.”

Official Department of Indian Affairs publications blamed First Nations women for slum conditions and poor health on reserves.

During the North-West Rebellion  in 1885, the military and media circulated stories of native women as treacherous and bloodthirsty. As a consequence, a powerful negative image of women was constructed, painting them as dangerous and “promiscuous agents of ruin.”

Unfortunately, this stereotype carried on into the 20th century.

I would argue the antecedent of the 1,181 missing and murdered aboriginal women is found in past government policies.

Throughout history, aboriginals fought many battles with one another and some practiced slavery, behaviour many peoples across the world also indulged in.

There is value in studying how the denial of the vote, criminalizing native religious practices, the 1927 outlawing of native land-claims support, non-recognition of aboriginal title and residential schools have negatively impacted First Nations, even if the only lesson learned is human rights are important to uphold.

Bob Burgel

Surrey

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