First Nations have, for years, demanded that Pope Francis come to Canada and offer an apology for the horrors inflicted on First Nation peoples by the residential school system. Pope Francis is now in Canada and he is expected to provide that apology while he is here. My mistake, in thinking that First Nations would be happy and move on, is the fact that I am white.
My first inkling that there was not overall happiness was when I saw a Face Book post by a First Nation person, saying the apology means nothing for her. In the same thread, one person responded by saying that First Nation peoples are not a monolith. While some are happy with the apology many are not. Since I cannot adequately express the reasons why, I will take quotes from a CBC news article, that will better articulate the unhappiness.
Myla Jacob is from the Webequie First Nation and a teenager in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Thunder Bay has had a dark history of racism and a number of unsolved murders, of First Nation victims.
“An apology won’t fix anything now. It won’t bring back our culture or lanuage. It’s just words to me.”
Laura James, who is Myla’s grandmother, and a residential school survivor, said the following.
“For myself, I would say no words coming from anybody is going to bring healing for myself. Personally, I’m on my own healing as I have lived life from day to day … right from that time when I walked out of that school.”
Bethany Koostachin, from Wasaho Cree Nation-Fort Severn, is an art curator in Thunder Bay and works with Indigenous youth.
“I just found that an apology has little to no impact on my life. I am still going through the effects of intergenerational trauma. I still have to heal a lot of my own trauma from foster care and all the stuff that I’ve learned about what my grandparents have gone through.”
My only experience with this was when I was in a Northern Alberta First Nation community, at a community meeting, covering residential schools. The meeting included survivors and the children of survivors. To hear their testimonials was, to say the very least, heart breaking. Kids taken away from parents at a young age. Survivors unable to parent because they did not experience being parented. Nightmares. An ongoing distrust of the education system. Just some of my memories from that day..
People talk about white priviledge. Well here it is.