Happy Canada Day?

First of all, I am going to take a leaf from my blog friend Melanie (http://sparksfromacombustiblemind.com) and warn you, dear reader, that controversial opinions follow. I don’t wish to offend, but just so that you know, there are religious and political speed bumps in this post.

Let me start by saying that I am a fiercely proud Canadian. I served in the military. I have done lots of volunteering. I like the values that have developed here and I grew to appreciate them even more by living in other countries.

But I have been very upset and troubled by what has been unfolding with respect to our indigenous peoples.

If you’re Canadian, you will know what I’m referring to: all the children’s bodies that have been discovered in unmarked graves at three former residential schools.

If you’re not Canadian, here’s a quick history: from the 1870s to the 1980s, the federal government decided that in order to destroy indigenous peoples’ languages and culture and force them to assimilate, all children between ages 4-16 should be taken from their families and required to attend residential schools. About 150,000 indigenous children were literally stolen from their families and compelled to attend; sometimes these schools were hundreds of kilometres away from their homes and the children were rarely allowed back home to visit.

In this tragic tale, what’s the most tragic is that many, many of these children never survived the schools to return home at all, and their families were never given any kind of explanation. The federal government contracted with several Christian churches to run these schools: Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic. The vast majority of these schools – 75% – were run by the Roman Catholic Church. These Catholic residential schools were also operated the longest and were the last to close.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed the mistreatment at these schools, including the emotional, physical and sexual abuse that occurred. It also found that the crowded living conditions, poor nutrition and substandard medical care made the children more likely to die of disease and infection.

When this barbaric practice was finally fully stopped (this torture continued in some places longer than in others) the Anglican, United and Presbyterian churches apologised, turned over their records, and tried to make amends. The federal government apologised. The Roman Catholic Church? Nothing. Nada. Zero. No apologies. No records. No acknowledgment of any kind of responsibility.

It was long believed that there were the unmarked graves of children on many of the schools’ grounds, and now explicit proof is being found with the use of ground-penetrating radar. In the last month, more than 1000 graves in three different locations have been found. I am not surprised; I expect that now the search has begun, many, many more will be found.

I have very strong feelings about this: anger, embarrassment, guilt, sadness, and outrage.

I am mad at my government and I’m mad at the Roman Catholic Church. I was raised in that church.

But its actions have been despicable, it hasn’t apologised or taken any responsibility, and if it were any other organisation, it would be disbanded and its assets seized. At the very least, our government should immediately remove its tax-free status.

Meanwhile across the country, more and more Catholic Churches are being burned to the ground in the dead of night.

But instead of taking action, our PM stands around, shuffling his feet and spouting platitudes about how we need to behave ourselves. He’s a Catholic, and he hasn’t said or done anything about this horrible institution.

Some people are saying that Canada Day should be cancelled in favour of a day of mourning, reflection and amendment, and in many locations, it has been. Others say that this is nothing more than “cancel culture” and that we can’t blame historical figures for behaving in the context of their time.

I disagree. Human behaviour is human behaviour. Sir John A MacDonald, our first PM, knew exactly what he was doing when he helped to design the residential school system, and so did all the others who were also a part of this. His greed, his need for control and his sense of entitlement and superiority drove him and the many others who participated, including the Roman Catholic Church.

I work with many indigenous people, and I know first-hand how awful they have had it. As a result, I frequently experience white guilt when I really consider the fact that although I, personally, don’t bear any direct responsibility for what the colonialists did, every day I reap the “rewards” of what they stole. So does anyone who chooses to make this country their home.

But I’m not ashamed, and I’m not ashamed of my country. Shame won’t solve anything – it’s just a revolving door.

What will help is for us to face our past, squarely and honestly, without trying to sugar-coat or side-step, and without allowing a religious institution to escape taking responsibility because it’s religious. It’s the only way we can support our indigenous peoples. It’s the only way we can show our respect. And maybe, it’s how we can finally turn to them and say, “yes, I get it now. I understand.”

This Canada Day, I won’t be having a party while my friends are in mourning.

55 thoughts on “Happy Canada Day?”

  1. Great heartfelt post Lynette. How any country can invoke this practice and then challenge another for doing something essentially similar…how any religion can condone, undertake or facilitate this and declare themselves to have the best interests of the people in mind…how any human being can look at what happened here and think it was ever right, is simply beyond me. I have long been an opponent of organized religion, which seems to only wish to exert control over the people and continue accumulation of congregants and wealth. Apparently the numbers count for this practice is even worse in the U.S. And don’t even get me started on the great photo op, J.T. . Apologizing when your deeds are exposed is not the same as apologizing for the bad things you or your country have done and working hard to make it right. My wife’s 90 year old father and his entire family still bear the scars of his forced time in Irish convents and industrial schools run by the Christian Brothers, providing a service for their government. That screws families up for generations. . No Canada Day celebration here either. Thanks for stating the case and making us all think. Allan

    1. Thank you very much Allan. I don’t understand it either, but hypocrisy has always been with us and right now, we just seem to let it go! The Catholic Church is really just another male-dominated (no offense) and controlled political organisation that uses religion as a mask for pushing forward its agenda (control, domination, acquisition of wealth) and for getting away with despicable behaviour. I agree that apologising when the deeds are discovered is not the same as working to make amends because you actually have internalised the need to do so. The Christian Brothers is another screamingly awful Catholic organisation that was a front for systematic brutality and cruelty. I agree, the damage that has been done and continues to travel through the generations is heart-rending. Thanks for appreciating my rant.

  2. And not just Canada; the United States and Australia had comparable policies, with equally devastating results. Did it all start with British colonizing arrogance? How can we help the indigenous peoples heal? An apology doesn’t do much, although it’s a start – how about if the massive wealth of the Church were given to the people personally affected, let’s say down seven generations? I’m a Quaker, and there were Quaker Indian boarding schools; at least the Quakers are asking what they can do to help heal these wounds – and recognize that what was deemed right 100+ years ago caused deep harm. And the thought that governments and their people still aren’t doing enough to stop the disappearances and deaths of indigenous women and girls breaks my heart.
    I seem to have joined you on your soapbox –

    1. Yes, it went on elsewhere and down through the ages, but I think that pointing at another country is an attempt at trying to shirk responsibility (and there’s certainly plenty of hypocrisy to go around in this tragic saga) and divert attention. We have to take a hard look at what our founders did and how we non-indigenous people have been benefitting.

      The British and French were the main perpetrators. Later, after Canada had become a nation, the federal government basically put the churches in charge of carrying out its agenda. No, an apology doesn’t do much, but except for the Catholic Church, all the others apologised 25 years ago. And now that all these graves are being found at their former school sites, they are still silent (and refusing to turn over their records as well). There have been some reports that Indigenous peoples may try to sue the church, and I know that a delegation is going to visit the pope to ask that he issue an apology (is it just me or is there something dreadfully wrong with that? Why should they have to go there to do that??). The quick answer is that the federal government should step in, now, and revoke their tax-free status as a charitable organisation. There is nothing charitable about this outfit! The disappearances and murders of indigenous women and girls is another tragedy.
      Thanks for joining me on my soapbox- I appreciate it!

  3. Hiya! I’m back from, well, something, just in time for Canada Day. I wrote it on my new style blog,, The Terrible Idealist. It’s brief and it shouldn’t make anyone angry. Be sure to check it out and follow if you wish. Hope to see you soon.

  4. This is awful. I had no idea and as recent as the 1980s,omg! Why is it that the Catholic Church has such a hard time admitting to wrong doings. It makes me so sad and angry at the same time and also eases my conscience for not participating in their religion anymore.

    1. I think it’s because if they admit to one thing, they are going to have to admit to many, many other things (enabling Nazi war criminals to escape, Holocaust denial, covering up thousands and thousands of cases of sexual assault, just for a start). They are probably afraid that if they do that, they will lose many adherents (and all that power and wealth…) Any organisation that has done what they have shouldn’t have access to power and their wealth should be turned over to their victims.

  5. Thank you for sharing this post. Absolutely agree with your comments on this very dark and shameful moment in Canadian history. Today is not a day for celebration but a day for mournful reflection and to show our solidarity and support of Canada’s Indigenous communities.

    1. You’re welcome. I try to avoid using the word “ashamed” as it implies that we’re all just generally bad, and that’s not true. There’s some powerful guilt though. Thanks for stopping by and commenting – much appreciated.

  6. I too was brought up Catholic, and it took me a long time to realize that, in essence, it is basically a GIGANTIC CULT. I didn’t know about what happened in Canada, but it doesn’t surprise me. Thank you for the exposition.

    1. You’re welcome. I couldn’t agree more – it’s basically a cult, a more accepted and tolerated one because they have been scaring the crap out of people for centuries. But I think it’s time for the rubber to hit the road, so to speak: there needs to be consequences, and it’s about time our government shook off its fear and carried them out.

  7. Quel courage pour cette belle analyse de l’acculturation forcée des peuples indigènes, bravo ! J’en avais eu connaissance dans un film ou un documentaire, mais je n’en imaginais pas l’ampleur, ni les conséquences actuelles…
    Tous les pays colonialistes ont malheureusement agi de la même façon, partout dans le monde, en imposant la suprématie de l’homme blanc sous couvert d’une “bonne parole” 😦

    1. Merci beaucoup. C’est une période importante mais difficile de notre histoire, mais faire face à elle est la seule façon pour nous d’apprendre et de respecter. Oui, malheureusement, ce comportement a dominé l’histoire. Merci pour vos commentaires.

  8. Bravo, Lynette — I didn’t see this until I had written my own post. You write with an authority that I do not have, and I applaud you for speaking so forcefully. Nothing you said was polemical; everything you said was constructive, if we have the integrity and discipline now, finally, to act. This is about the indigenous peoples, but ultimately, it is about us all and will benefit us all.

    1. Thank you, Penny, very much appreciated. I agree that we have to act, first by familiarising ourselves with the calls to action, and secondly by holding our government responsible to take action. The Catholic Church should lose its tax-free status immediately and a search warrant for their burial records should be executed. Of course, JT just wants all this to go away so that he can get re-elected, so I’m concerned that the issues our indigenous peoples face will drop off the radar again.

  9. Thank you Lynette, you have articulated my feelings exactly and probably better than I did in my blog. I did not celebrate yesterday, instead I reflected on our country and how we must learn and move forward. Of most importance, the entire history of Canada, the good, the bad and the ugly must be taught in our history and social studies classes.

  10. Unfortunately, Lynette, this is just one example of appalling behaviour by the Roman Catholic church. In Ireland for decades they stole the newborn children from unmarried women, sexually and physically abused the mothers, and sold those infants to people who often abused them. Like so many religious institutions, the RC church is packed full of hypocrisy. Perhaps it’s really time for people who support such an organisation to ask questions about what it is they really believe in? Of course, the churches are not alone in this dreadful behaviour: the British Empire has, in common with all other ’empires’ a great deal to apologise for during its long years of rule. Power, as we know, corrupts, and that seems always to be the case.

    1. Yes, I have read about what they did in Ireland. Heartbreaking.

      I agree that the RC church is totally corrupted by its absolute power and is nothing but a miasma of hypocrisy. People really do need to start asking questions about what they are doing and hiding. As I’ve frequently indicated here, our government needs to revoke their tax-free status and search warrants for the death and burial records need to be executed. Enough is enough.

      I find the reactions of our PM becoming more and more irritating on the matter. He’s now saying that the people burning the churches are committing “hate crimes.” While two wrongs don’t make a right, it’s a bit rich to compare the burning of an empty building, the removal of a symbol, to the systematic destruction and abuse perpetrated by the Catholic Church.

      1. Double standards and blindness to the ills of the establishment are too common in Government, Lynette.
        In UK, we have the ludicrous situation that while small, struggling businesses are required to pay an annual tax on their property (Business Rates), all buildings used for worship are exempt from this tax, in spite of the fact that both the RC and C of E are vastly wealthy landowners! Nonsense!

        1. I agree. It’s out of line and completely unjust, but I think people are terrified of the churches, and governments worry about losing votes. Then, of course, there’s the whole god-government connection involving the queen who is also head of the C of E. Yikes.

          1. Yes, fear seems to be the ruling element of most religions, which says a lot about them. And, it’s high time the C of E was disestablished: after all, the UK claims it is a multicultural state, but favouring one religion over others is clearly discriminatory. Time, also, to remove the Bishops from the House of Lords. The whole issue is a pet peeve of mine, so I’ll say no more here, Lynette, or I might use all the space on your comments area!

  11. Well said Lynette. It’s been very upsetting and unsettling to hear about all the unmarked graves found at residential schools in Canada (and makes you wonder how many more are still undiscovered). It’s even more frustrating how there seems to be no accountability. Celebrating Canada Day this year definitely didn’t seem right, instead we used that opportunity to reflect and listen.

    1. Thank you very much. Yes, it really has. I think there are probably going to be a lot more, and the lack of accountability is appalling, especially as there seems to be no intention of doing anything about it.

  12. You can’t change the past can you. Just learn from it. Cannot imagine what those families had to suffer in the name of religion. It’s been on the news here briefly in the UK but didn’t know anything about this beforehand. Politics, religion, money and power. I don’t know enough about the story to comment really but those poor people, especially the kids.Terrible.

    1. Yes, very important and necessary that we do. It’s an extremely tragic history with yes, politics, religion, money and power at the root of it all. What happened to those families and their kids hardly bears thinking about. Thanks for commenting.

  13. Thanks Lynette for writing and sharing this tragic history. I used to live in Massena, NY for almost 20 years when working for the Seaway and worked with Canadians all the times, we celebrated Canada Day just like US Independence Day. I always thought Canada is more open-minded, so it’s sad to learn all these.

    1. Thank you for your comments. We are very open-minded in many ways, but like all countries, we have our issues that we have tried to ignore. This is the biggest one, and the only way to overcome it is to face it. We are starting to, I think, but it will be a painful process.
      Happy July 4th to you. 🙂

  14. Lynette. I popped over from Allan’s blog as he said you had written a stellar piece on Canada Day and he was correct. You articulated so many of the thoughts and feelings that I also shared. Not having been raised Catholic I don’t “bear that cross” so to speak but I am with you on why/how they continue to avoid the issue and have only paid $4M of the $25M that they were assessed for. They are the richest church in the world and own a lot of property. Pretty sure they can afford it. I did read yesterday that the Saskatchewan Bishops are starting a fundraising campaign to help raise the money — sure hope they don’t mean from their faithful followers because that just seems wrong. Once again not taking the blame. And don’t even get me started on JT and his hoping to sweep this under the rug. I am so hopeful that the #94 in 94 will gain momentum (I have emailed my MP) and this will actually become a powerful election platform.
    Like someone else said now I am on your soap box! Thanks again for so eloquently speaking from your heart.
    Bernie

    1. Thank you very much for coming by and for your kind and supportive comments. This church should be required to follow through, and if that means search warrants and a stop to their tax-free status, then that’s what we need to communicate to our MPs, no matter what party they represent. This church is extremely wealthy and should not be hitting up their members for more money, but unfortunately I’m not surprised that this is what they would be doing. JT’s attitude on this is really irritating, but I don’t think we will get much from anyone whose only concern is getting re-elected, ie, all of them. Thanks for joining me on the soapbox – there’s lots of room, and the more there are of us, the better!

  15. I have heard of this in the news down here in the States. It is despicable what humans do to humans. And it never stops doesn’t it? If we have any luck, maybe the aliens will come along and straighten out this dumbass planet.

    1. Yes, it really is despicable. It would be our luck that the aliens would take one glance, decide that they want nothing to do with our mess, and never look back! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  16. This really well-done by you! The truth of these days aren’t really mentioned as much as they should be. The history of how the world is wrought has a lot of darkness to it.

  17. Very heartfelt post, I can tell you had many emotions running through you while writing this.
    Thank you for making me more informed on this topic, and to be honest the image of the Catholic Church just keeps getting worse and worse in my eyes🤦🏻‍♂️
    I appreciate your ability to speak out ok this topic, it’s truly admirable!

    1. Thank you very much. 🙂 It’s important that we speak out on this – there’s been too much silence for far too long. I don’t know if you’re Canadian, but it looks like we have an election coming up, and this issue needs to be recognised by those running.
      Thanks for your kind and supportive comments.

  18. I feel for you. Just, I need to catch your attention to something. You can not change the past without forgetting it. When you write this post, you open a grave. It would be better for you and the next generations to keep the grave closed. When I compare your society and mine, I can find that you live in a healthy one.

    You may blame churches and government, soon you may get more evil people than before. It may change some laws you mostly need for the next generations.

    I do live far from Canada but I can see how the laws are changing in this country … It makes me feel sorry … you head to something evil.

      1. Thank you so much amking it clear to me! I believe that it is always great that you have a country like Canada where you can express everything freely … Also, I think that church is the church. If you criticize it, you may get evil everywhere. Of course, I know that there was something to blame for …

        Meanwhile, as an observer of your laws and the New Zealand, I think that it is getting a bit far from the right way.

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