June 16th, 2024

Moral ground lies buried at residential schools


By Letter to the Editor on July 15, 2021.

Editor:
The exceedingly measured tone of Mr. Giesbrecht’s letter to the editor, “Burning churches not the solution”, is truly a triumph of both compartmentalization and rationalization.
From the calm plateau of a spectator, he decries further vandalism and/or violence against church buildings, or more accurately, the religious ideas they represent, probably seeing this as profound disrespect for something that he has been taught to value, but also pointless retaliation for past “mistreatment” of Indigenous children. Here he masters the understatement.
If only such appalling crimes of adults against children, always the ultimate breach of faith and trust, actually did remain safely in the past, but we all know that sexual abuse continues as we speak, wherever in the world “celibate” Catholic priests are in proximity to unsuspecting children.
Aspiring to the airy “divine” of the supernatural with its soothing, immortalizing doctrine at the expense of their own common human natures, they have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Literally. If truth is the essential precursor to any real reconciliation, I challenge all who are sanguine about their continued affiliation with Catholicism to google the CBC interview with Bert Allen, whose story is only one of so many “survivors,” giving new meaning to the word. The unnecessary, casual cruelty and the utter depravity of these perpetrators in the name of their “beliefs” is simply stunning.
The government of the day has much culpability in establishing the residential “schools” in the first place, but imagine if they had recruited actual educators instead of Catholic nuns and priests who are more rightly associated with indoctrination. At the time, Catholicism was clearly seen as occupying the highest moral ground available, and so was the logical choice as a remedial, civilizing force for people who were primarily seen as “savages.”
But things change. At this point in time, that high moral ground lies buried with thousands of children in unmarked graves. Is that still not enough? My grandfather’s hired man who was in World War II spoke with horror about seeing baby skeletons at the bottom of a well outside a convent. A Catholic convent.
Patricia Pargeter
Lethbridge

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Citi Zen

With reference to WW2, many, many Canadians died and were buried in unmarked graves. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. While we remember are them on each Remembrance Day, we don’t continuously try to place blame.
Bad stuff has happened throughout history. Move on.

TonyPargeter

No equivalence here. The reason there are unmarked graves in World War battlefields is that the victims were blown up beyond recognition and could not be identified. Otherwise, there would be grave markers. We do honour dead soldiers with parades, flags, bugles and nonsense about the greater glory of god. (At least, those who did on the side that won are so honoured.)
In Canada, children were forcibly seized from their families and delivered into the hands of priests and nuns to strip the Indian from the children. As we now know, physical, emotional and sexual abuse was rampant. Many died from abuse, neglect and disease, or in attempts to escape from these concentration camps. Astonishingly, these pious nuns and priests did not even give their dead “converts” Christian burials or, it seems, even record their untimely deaths, instead throwing their bodies away in unmarked graves or burning the products of “sinful” priestly pregnancies in incinerators, like they were dead dogs, not innocent children.
It is time to hear the supressed voices of the survivors. And it is time for accountability. The Catholic church in particular must accept its responsibility, and stop hiding behind the “bad apples” claim. Somehow it still hangs on to its privileged historical role in our society. Why is the Catholic church still allowed to run publicly funded schools and hospitals in Alberta, after all they have done?

biff

the entire last paragraph is riveting. thank you.

biff

the writer is correct to note the incessant wicked history of the catholic church; its legacies include lies and coverups of truths, theft, greed, self service, ego/power…well, pretty much all the seven deadly sins, plus a few more for the “hell” of it. and, all of that has been practiced by the catholic church not sporadically, but with consistency and over centuries. moreover, it has protected its perps as though the perps were the victims.
however, not every person or priest associated with the catholic church is a pedophile or is in favour of protecting those that are guilty of such acts. this is not the first time the intelligent writer (should know better) has taken to stereotyping and lazily sweeping an entire lot into one convenient box.
as for unmarked graves, while i am uncertain as to whether all first nations did not mark graves, it appears to me that was most often the practice. ceremony around the dead appears integral to the great majority of societies, and perhaps whether or not that occurred should be more the point as past bodies are ever the more discovered. mass graves/burial sites are not unusual although they are not the typical christian practice: what needs to be determined is why there are mass burial sites at residential schools. immediately, we are jumping to conclusions without a complete basis. as an integral part of that process, we ought to determine whether or not the church simply discarded those little bodies without respect. if that is proven so, it is entirely appalling, and is as un’christian’ as is sexual abuse.
meanwhile, once again, we find ourselves in the quandary of viewing our more ignorant past from the perspective of our somewhat more enlightened present. it is a good thing that we can come to acknowledge the wickedness of our past; it is not so good that we struggle to see the wickedness of our present. i hate to pose this question as an example of perspective, but i feel it is useful: did natives often, or at all, bury their victims – including children – in marked graves, or according to their respectful ceremony? again, i will state our past is gross…and so is our present. you would think the 7 deadly sins, so embraced as hallmarks of success in our consumer/ego driven society, are actually the commandments.

Last edited 2 years ago by biff
TonyPargeter

Nothing in my comment or Tris’s letter claims that every Catholic priest, nun or teacher was guilty of atrocities. But the pattern is clear, and the institution of the Catholic church is clearly culpable. As for the fields of unmarked graves, the ones coming to light are largely on the grounds of residential schools. These children were under the absolute control of the nuns and priests, so the question of whether indigenous people marked graves is irrelevant. The absence of Christian dignities in the burial of these children speaks eloquently to the callous disregard in which these self-righteous holy men and women held their newly baptized charges. There was no respectful ceremony, clearly, to use your words. The conclusion is clear – no need to jump.

biff

i appreciate your reply, thank you. i take up the point about the stereotype in reply below.

Last edited 2 years ago by biff
Tris Pargeter

Ah biff, there you are–self-appointed arbiter of worthiness and intelligence in submitted comments, based on your own apparently singular but reliably superior position well beyond whatever fray is under discussion, a position so wholly impartial that even capitalization (or your actual name) is superfluous, castigating others for “laziness” and “stereotyping” while simultaneously attributing all ills to your own “convenient box,” the trite conclusion that human society is “too consumer and ego driven?”
Again you condescend utterly to this writer in particular, feigning disappointment because “I should know better?” Wow.
And arcane discussions of burial practices is hardly the point here. I would suggest you stop commenting on something that you obviously haven’t even been following.
All this posturing when I’m pretty sure you actually agree with me anyway, that it’s time to start treating the Catholic church as the monstrous crime syndicate that it actually is.

biff

to quote from your letter, “…but we all know that sexual abuse continues as we speak, wherever in the world “celibate” Catholic priests are in proximity to unsuspecting children.” there are many priests that are decent, yet that line states otherwise. it is akin to condemning any entire group for the actions/behaviours of some: that is stereotyping. as for your indignance with my expressed concern about your tendency to stereotype, i have read many of your entries that stereotype males, and at least one that stereotyped (and glorified) black males, but in such a way so as to use that to condemn white males.
as for the “point here”, it is indeed that we had best investigate further and fully so as to discover the truth, rather than immediately jump to conclusions…which is exactly what is happening in our knee jerk, overreactive society. as for my bringing up native treatments of those they had killed or had come to a position of superiority/dominance over, that is very much worth consideration: it demonstrates that people from all races/ethnicities suck/have sucked. to put it another way, were the tables of power turned, would we not expect the culture and language(s) of what we call canada to be markedly different than it has come to be? none of this is to justify any of the acts that we have grown to condemn today; what it does do is to underscore the darkness and depravity and ignorance that encompasses all “tribes” of humanity. sadly, that remains a driving force to this day.

Last edited 2 years ago by biff
TonyPargeter

Well, speaking of the position of superiority or dominance, which gender has that been in human “tribes” all through history, and still is? As I have said before, a key part of being “entitled” is not even recognizing that you are, so solidly embedded are you.
And it’s hard not to notice that the growing wave of right wing fascism popping up everywhere is peopled by stereotypical power-hungry “bad boys” on a tear who have gone rogue in retaliation to what they perceive as an existential threat. This attack comes from the political left, and is a subtle shift in the status quo toward that pesky but ubiquitous feminine essence from whence we all came, a.k.a. mother earth, or nature. It represents a check (which is taken as an outright assault in such an entitled group) on them and their flagship system of capitalism with its testosterone-fueled competition, greed, and winner-take-all mentality. While this drive has indeed accomplished much, and still can, curtailment and/or power-sharing is now dragging at the standard narrative with telling terms appearing in our lexicon, like “toxic masculinity” and “mansplaining.”
And religion, obviously a man-made set of ideas that conveniently gave men the ultimate leg up by “trumping” everything and everybody in one fell swoop, where they pretended to be humble before the the god too, but actually considered themselves to be at least versions of the big guy, is teetering finally, thank goodness. This is a perfect example of “nothing dies harder than a bad idea.”
I’m a poet, so here’s one: “Being on the margins of power means learning to be vigilant, so bring on the marginalized with their clear, fresh eyes; they already know how to share so we can all survive….”

biff

the poem connects me to beauty, and i embrace its hopefulness. thanks for this.

biff

despite my heartfelt embrace around your hopeful take on the marginalised, my cynicism is never far away. given the generally limited demonstrations of humans to be ethical, compassionate, tolerant, and truly loving, it may not be that simply being/having been marginalised is enough to enlighten one’s soul. many a marginalised has simply gone on to become the “marginaliser”.
i have my take on the likes of soundbites, which seem to so much than ever abound. and, they resound with an utter hollowness, save for the hatred and stereotyping that tends to underlie in the rubbish speak. the likes of “toxic masculinity” and “mansplaining” are in-the-moment examples of hater speak soundbites; and worse, it is hater speak that is somehow deemed acceptable. i am left to wonder: are we humans truly looking to solve, heal, uplift and evolve; or, are we simply looking to shift our propensity for hate from one object to another?
there is no denying the ill will and ill deeds of many a male. there is also no denying the same of many a female; only, the latter is less discussed. females may near as often behave just like a man in power, which is to say, the decency of anyone may tend to wither under conditions that confer power upon one. i am sure we acknowledge the observation, that “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” relationships/marriages may just as often involve an abusive, controlling partner of either sex. there have been many acts of depravity carried out by females over time, whether they be “leaders” or just otherwise regular folk with a poor grasp of social conscience. i feel we will have seen more of it in the public eye involving females had there been more of a physical equality between the sexes, and thus, had we had more females wielding power in the public eye.
i struggle to buy into tribalism (stereotyping by any other name): tidy divisions drawn that create inequalities (superior/inferior), that limit/encase, and that celebrate and denigrate what in essence amounts to the superficial and illusion. is there anything that better creates a vestibule of limitations and ignorance through which power and all its ill will can thrive?
it was not at all long enough ago that there were male and female realms in our still woefully unenlightened society. mans’ work; women’s work; women wear long hair, not men; a woman’s place is in the home, the man goes to work. let us consider how that limited females, held them down to far less than their potential. and we can then expand upon that, and consider how that conditioning limited males, too, not so much as victims, but moreso, in the stunting of human and spiritual growth. we still have a way to go to reach equality in canada, let alone worldwide.
we can make much the same case with all the folly that is the illusory divisions among peoples. does not a person’s skin, sex, race, ethnicity – “tribal stereotype” – actually limit, and even condemn, one to have to behave a certain way, to be treated a certain way, to be seen in a certain way, to be limited and to meet expectations of those certain ways?
what i am suggesting is that until we come to understand that we each have come from the same origin, and that we each return to that same origin, we are about nothing more than the illusion of separation, and consequently, we will remain fixated on our superficial differences. we will continue to vie for power and embrace competition as though those were our religion. we will have our insecurities played upon, and we will remain divided: ever suspicious; ever fearful; never equal.
toward the goal of healing, we will need to accept that all of our “separate” issues are in fact human issues. not women’s issues, not race issues, not just issues of this group or that group…. it has been said many ways and many times by people much wiser than i: we are only as good, and as strong and as free as the least equally and well treated/received in our world. human issues: all encompassing, too, because even as it appears that it is just this or that group that is marginalised, there is also this or that group that is perpetrating the conditions for the marginalised. it is my sincere feeling that we are here to be love, and as such, to be whole.

biff

to be clear: there is absolutely no intent to be patronising; i am genuine in acknowledging your intelligence.

biff

is the writer suggesting the burning of churches is warranted?

TonyPargeter

Maybe not warranted, but certainly understandable.

Fedup Conservative

My half breed Cherokee Indian grandfather came to Alberta to get away from how Indians were being treated in the U.S. and the young ones weren’t being treated any better here.
For years Indians were pointing it out to the Whiteman but most refused to listen or believe it.