Ibbitson: Why should Sir John A. take all the blame for Canada’s injustices to Indigenous peoples?

Valid points:

In the latest indignity visited upon the memory of Canada’s first prime minister, Ottawa’s National Capital Commission has announced plansto substitute an Indigenous name for what is now the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.

Why does everyone pick on Sir John A. and not Sir Wilfrid?

Wilfrid Laurier, one of Canada’s most beloved prime ministers, expanded the residential-school system and suppressed a 1907 report that revealed the schools were cruel and unsafe. His interior minister, Clifford Sifton, dispossessed First Nations of their lands in order to promote settlement in the Prairies. His governments also blocked Black and Chinese immigrants from entering Canada.

But although Ryerson University has been renamed Toronto Metropolitan University on the grounds that Egerton Ryerson helped establish the residential-school system, Wilfrid Laurier University has no plans to change its name. Laurier streets across the nation remain untouched. Renaming Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier hotel is unthinkable.

Macdonald’s likeness has been banished from the 10-dollar bill, replaced by Viola Desmond. Laurier remains on the five.

Macdonald statues have been toppled or removed in Charlottetown, Montreal, Kingston, Hamilton, Regina, Victoria and elsewhere. But I can find no record of a Laurier statue being carted off to storage.

Tearing Indigenous children from their parents and forcing them to attend schools far from their communities, where they were subjected to disease, abuse and efforts at assimilation, and where some died, was an act of cultural genocide by our lights. But by the lights of both Macdonald and of Laurier – and, for that matter, of Robert Borden, Mackenzie King, R.B. Bennett, Louis St. Laurent, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson – it was sound policy. And newspapers across the land, including this one, agreed.

King’s governments deserve particular scrutiny. Not only did his administration maintain the residential-schools system, the King government in 1923 enacted legislation banning Chinese immigration. The act was rescinded in 1947 but King continued to maintain that “large-scale immigration from the Orient would change the fundamental composition of the Canadian population.” He also turned away Jews fleeing Europe on the St. Louis; an estimated 254 of its passengers later died at the hands of the Nazis. And his government dispossessed more than 21,000 Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Pierre Trudeau’s government began phasing out residential schools. But that same government produced a white paper under Indian Affairs minister (and future prime minister) Jean Chrétien that would have eliminated special status for First Nations, converted reserves into private property and wound down treaty rights. The government retreated in the face of First Nations outrage.

Injustice toward Indigenous peoples long predated Confederation and continues to this day. The record of racism toward non-European immigrants is lengthy and sordid. What makes Macdonald more culpable than the rest?

The answer could be that, as the first prime minister and a Father of Confederation, Macdonald personifies Canada. In pulling down his statue, some people are not simply protesting the legacy of residential schools – they are pulling down the symbol of an oppressive, colonizing state.

In that sense, to pull down a Macdonald statue is to pull down the statue of every prime minister and every leader who contributed to oppression of Indigenous peoples. And given what they’ve been put through, who could blame them?

But Macdonald and a handful of others also gave us Canada. They crafted a dominion unique in its balance of powers between federal and provincial, English and French. Immigrants from Britain and Eastern Europe came here. Italians and Portuguese and Chinese and South Asians and Filipinos came here. Muslims and Jews came here. Refugees came here, the latest from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Canada is far from perfect, but it is arguably the least imperfect country on Earth, if the embrace of diversity is your measure.

There are lots of John A. Macdonald things in Ottawa. Replacing one of them with an Indigenous name won’t hurt anyone. Reconciliation will take time and be hard, but we must reach for it.

Let’s be careful, though. Sir John A. is part of who we are, good and bad. Let’s talk to each other about that. Talking is always better than tearing down.

Source: Why should Sir John A. take all the blame for Canada’s injustices to Indigenous peoples?

Legal misstep lets Catholic Church off hook for residential schools compensation – The Globe and Mail

Legally off the hook but ethically? Morally?

A miscommunication by a federal lawyer allowed the Catholic Church to renege on its obligation to try to raise $25-million to pay for healing programs for the survivors of Indian residential schools.

Of that amount, the Church raised only $3.7-million, and a financial statement suggests less than $2.2-million of that was actually donated to help former students cope with the trauma inflicted by the residential schools.

The legal misstep occurred when Ottawa was pressing the Church to pay the entirety of a related cash settlement stemming from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action deal in Canadian history.

The failing fundraising effort by the Church, which represented almost a third of its obligation under the settlement, was playing out as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was travelling the country hearing gut-wrenching stories about what occurred behind the walls of the institutions that operated in Canada for more than 100 years.

The landmark settlement agreement required 50 Catholic groups that ran the schools, known in court documents as the Catholic entities, to pay a combined $79-million for their role in the abuse.

Of that, $29-million was to be paid in cash, most of which was to flow to a now-closed Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Another $25-million was to be donated in unspecified “in kind” services. And an additional $25-million was to be raised for healing programs through the “best efforts” that the entities could make at fundraising.

In an attempt to make the Catholic Church pay the full amount of the $29-million cash settlement, the government inadvertently released it from any obligation it might have had to continue with a dismal fundraising campaign.

“When you have a deal, it needs to be implemented,” said Bill Erasmus, the National Chief of the Dene Nation who handles the residential schools file for the Assembly of First Nations. “So the Church should be paying up. The church agreed there were harms. That’s why people were to be compensated.”

But, as of last summer, the Catholic entities were legally off the hook.

In a March 19 letter to Ron Kidd, a concerned citizen from British Columbia who has been following this case, Andrew Saranchuk, an assistant deputy minister within the Indigenous Affairs department, explained that a court settlement reached on July 16, 2015 “released the Catholic entities from all three of their financial obligations under the settlement agreement, including the ‘best efforts’ fundraising campaign, in exchange for a repayment of $1.2-million in administrative fees.”

This result, Mr. Saranchuk went on to explain, “was due to miscommunications between counsel regarding the nature and extent of the settlement being discussed.”

Source: Legal misstep lets Catholic Church off hook for residential schools compensation – The Globe and Mail