Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak mounted a defence of the residential school system for Aboriginal children in the Red Chamber Tuesday, lamenting that the “good deeds” accomplished by “well-intentioned” religious teachers have been overshadowed by negative reports documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Let us consult the report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: (emphasis mine)
“[Residential school] was a very harsh environment. They, they treated us like criminals.… You, you had to, it’s like a prison. But we were small kids, and we didn’t understand. We didn’t understand harsh discipline. We, we understood love from our, our parents. But the harsh discipline was hard to take, and that happened to everybody, not only me.”
Children exposed to strict and regimented discipline in the schools sometimes found it difficult to become loving parents. Genine Paul-Dimitracopoulos’s mother was placed in the Shubenacadie residential school in Nova Scotia at a very early age. Paul-Dimitracopoulos told the Commission that knowing this, and what the school was like, helped her understand “how we grew up because my mom never really showed us love when we were kids coming up. She, when I was hurt or cried, she was never there to console you or to hug you. If I hurt myself she would never give me a hug and tell me it would be okay. I didn’t understand why.”4 Alma Scott of Winnipeg told the Commission that as “a direct result of those residential schools because I was a dysfunctional mother.… I spent over twenty years of my life stuck in a bottle in an addiction where I didn’t want to feel any emotions so I numbed out with drugs and with alcohol…. That’s how I raised my children, that’s what my children saw, and that’s what I saw.
Residential schools, as acknowledged by the prime minister’s own admission in his 2008 official apology from Canada, were an attack on Aboriginal children and families. They were based on racist attitudes that considered Aboriginal families as being frequently unfit to care for their children. By removing children from their communities and by subjecting them to strict discipline, religious indoctrination, and a regimented life more akin to life in a prison than a family, residential schools often harmed the subsequent ability of the students to be caring parents.
Your conservative “family values,” everyone.