Tag Archives: Saskatchewan

An honest telling of Canada’s story will make Canadians uncomfortable

Still, the truths of history are better than lies

✎  Wayne K. Spear | November 9, 2017 • Current Events

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EFORE BRONWYN EYRE was Saskatchewan’s Education Minister, she was an opinion columnist battling godlessness, political correctness, the myth of global warming, and other menaces. Her broadcasts were hosted at CKOM and CJME, and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix featured her columns, as did lesser-known publications like the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association’s “Saskatchewan Choose Life News.”

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Why do I mention this? To establish that Bronwyn Eyre is an experienced writer of opinion columns and, as such, a person able to put thoughts into words. And yet when she was asked recently to clarify comments she made in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, Bronwyn Eyre produced gobbledegook. Her initial comment however was plain enough and had the courage-of-conviction candour that you’ll find in her articles: “I would submit that there has come to be at once too much wholesale infusion into the curriculum, and at the same time, too many attempts to mandate material into it both from the inside and by outside groups.” Later on in her comments, made during the Throne Speech Debate of November 1, 2017, she says exactly what she means by wholesale infusion:

My grade 8 son brought a homework sheet home the other day — they’re always sheets — in which he was asked to outline nothing less than his vision of his collective past, his country, and his world. As background, however, he’d copied from the board the following facts which were presented as fact: that European and European settlers were colonialists, pillagers of the land who knew only buying and selling and didn’t respect mother earth. He asked me if it was okay if he could write that he associated with his pioneer great- and great-great-grandparents because no one was writing down their vision of the world. And I said yes, of course, and that after all, they had known poverty in Norway or Ukraine, or war in Germany, that they had come here and tilled the land that produced food for everybody and loved their families and tried to create whole, stable communities in this province, and had loved it here.

And here is the non-clarifying clarification Eyre offered a reporter:

What I was trying to highlight is that it’s maybe something that we all feel on some level that I think we can acknowledge that, you know, we’re perhaps free to love the story and our families and for him too to love the story without excluding loving anybody else. That’s really all I’m saying.

Anyone who has read Eyre’s works, as I have, will doubt “all she is saying” is that we should be free to love our stories and our families. She disapproves of the drift of current changes to the curriculum, just as she disapproves of the drift of politically correct modern society, and if she weren’t a politician she would have found the cahones to say so. But if her point were only about love, I would agree with her. It’s a good message: love your family and your ancestors and your country. We all need this love. And this love is what Indigenous people were denied for generations, by residential schools and the Sixties Scoop and the story of Canada.

I grew up in Canada in the 60s and 70s. I went to a public school and the history I was taught was definitely infused. Infused with lies. The textbooks had nothing to say of the inner life or aspirations of my Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) ancestors, who suffered losses of every kind so that settlers could start a new life. It would have been nice to hear stories that made me love who and what I was, and where I was from, but there was no love, and no compassion, for Indians in the curriculum. My teachers told me stories about Indigenous people that justified the casual daily racism every Indigenous child experienced in the playground and in the town. The story of Canada wasn’t a story you could love as an Indigenous person, because it made you feel stupid and ashamed and worthless. Our schools didn’t give us a vision of the future, they told us we Indians belonged to the distant past. It’s no wonder so many gave up on life and took the leap into an early oblivion.

An honest telling of Canada’s story will make Canadians uncomfortable, but in the long-run Canada will be better for it. The truth is often unpleasant, but it’s morally and practically more defenisible to live a life informed by what’s true and real than it is to live under the sway of comforting half-truths and lies. In 2002 I wrote a speech for the launch of a residential school exhibit, at the National Archives of Canada, that began:

The National Archives of Canada is a solemn place, dedicated to the service of the nation’s identity. It gathers what has been as an endowment to what will be. Because no legacy is enriched by counterfeit, a nation is ill-served by history which is not genuine. And so, we are here today to consider a national institution committed, not to the preservation of a people, but to their forced assimilation.

“Because no legacy is enriched by counterfeit, a nation is ill-served by history which is not genuine”—I wrote these words 15 years ago and they guide me still. I care about truth, and I care about authenticity, and I consider it a tragedy to live without either. I’d like to think Canadians of honour feel the same. I used the metaphor of an inheritance of fake money because that is what I believe Canadians have received from their educators, for generations—a counterfeit. I know it’s what I received, and as a result I’ve been a skeptical person my entire adult life.

Ms Eyre, you can love your family and your ancestors and your accomplishments without sacrificing intellectual and moral honesty. In fact, you have to. Otherwise it’s not really love.

Colten Boushie’s Death Must Have a Purpose

For Indigenous people, change is often a matter of life or death

✎  Wayne K. Spear | November 7, 2017 • Current Events

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CMP ROOFTOP SNIPERS were at-the-ready when Gerald Stanley arrived in North Battleford last April for his three-day preliminary hearing. There was drumming and a show of support for the family of Colten Boushie but no violence. There’s been no violence of any kind in the months since this Indigenous Rodney King (as some have called Boushie) was shot in the back of the head while sitting in a car stalled on Stanley’s Biggar, Saskatchewan property. The family has made it clear that what they want is not blood but justice and change.

Colten’s death must have a purpose. While his death revealed a deep divide that exists between many within this province, it has also brought us here to this courthouse, where we could come together and ask for a fair trial for everyone involved. We, Colten’s family, hope that this preliminary hearing and the issues that it raises about our relationships with each other will generate further discussion and dialogue to help us bring our communities together.

Biggar, Saskatchewan

It’s an understatement to characterise this sentiment as dignified, but then what isn’t an understatement when speaking of confronting the death of a child. As the family were grieving their dear lost son and grandson and brother and nephew, strangers were posting hateful comments on social media. The rooftop snipers, presumably deployed to snuff an incipient Indian uprising, turned out to be unnecessary. But there was rabble rousing and racial hatred to be shot down in the other column of the deep divide ledger, so the Premier stepped in to denounce racists and their racism. Before long a Browning municipal councillor named Ben Kautz had resigned over a posting on the Saskatchewan Farmer’s Facebook group, where a number of other mean-spirited comments could also be found. As if losing Colten wasn’t bad enough, random citizens heaped contempt on the family’s pain, and still the family called for healing.

There are good reasons why Indigenous people call for healing and peace at times like this. The first and perhaps most compelling is that we need healing and peace. At roughly five percent of the population, Indigenous people are not going to win a contest of force against Canada, and we know it. But there also isn’t an appetite for perpetuating the hatred and violence that has been commonly experienced by Indigenous people, for generations, whether in the residential schools or on the street. Far too many of us have become experts in trauma, intergenerational violence, and hate. We don’t just want something better, we need it, in a life-or-death way.

Last week the RCMP cleared themselves of a charge of misconduct made by the family of Colten Boushie. The officers can’t recall doing or saying the things that witnesses affirm that they did and said, in the course of their investigation of the Baptiste home. At the time of Colten Boushie’s death the RCMP issued a press release suggesting he was connected to an investigation of property theft. Then the RCMP allowed the 2003 Ford Escape in which Boushie was shot—a critical piece of evidence—to go to the salvage yard before it had undergone forensic (blood spatter) anaysis, thereby jeopardizing the integrity of any later trial. “The RCMP were, best case scenario, negligent,” the family lawyer Chris Murphy told a journalist. Still the RCMP seem to think they have done nothing wrong, which apparently means that they haven’t.

Next Spring Gerald Stanley will go to court, where he will face a charge of second-degree murder. In the meantime his rural Saskatchewan house has been put up for sale as he prepares for a new life either inside or ouside of prison. He has expressed regret for the death of Colten Boushie, just as Ben Kautz has expressed regret for his Facebook post, just as the RCMP has said it’s sorry for offences taken in the course of its faultless  investigation. The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) meanwhile agitates for a broadened right to defend property against trespass. The two solitudes of Saskatchewan, the reserve and the farm, remain as estranged as ever, and Indigenous people everywhere hold their breath in anticipation of a trial they don’t dare allow themselves to believe will be fair and impartial.

Colten Boushie is gone and the white cattle ranchers found guilty of property theft of their neighbours remain alive and well in the community, despite their crimes. There is indeed a deep divide, deep as the chasm between life and death.