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Your Sunday sermon

I have been following the story in the news about the many indigenous children buried in mass graves in Canada.

While I can understand the idea of "integrating" indigenous people into the ways of the white colonists, the problem is that throughout history this has been done with no respect or consideration whatsoever to the natives. Even these days, people in such a tolerant place as New Zealand get upset if a newsreader signs off using a Maori phrase.

In Canada, however, the story is actually pretty bleak. In order to perform this assimilation, children were taken from their families and put into the care of nuns in residential schools, mandatory boarding schools. The point was to strip them of their own culture and teach them the culture of the white colonists.
This was harmful as it removed the children from their normal familial support network, and as is expected, they suffered a lot of abuse of all three kinds - psychological, physical, and sexual. In the end, many of those who passed through the system ended up as citizens of nowhere - unable to fit into their indigenous communities and, due to racist attitudes, unable to fit into the mainstream communities.

Official apologies have been issued, and report delivered in 2015 following many interviews concluded that the residential school system was "cultural genocide".

It was to be a blight on Canadian history. Until the summer of 2021, when the remains of hundreds of indigenous children were discovered at the former sites of four of these residential schools. 215 children in British Columbia, 751 in Saskatchewan, and a few hundred at other sites. As you can understand, this has caused quite some consternation. And these are the ones that we currently know about.

Interestingly, the hundreds in Saskatchewan were not in a mass grave. It was a proper burial ground, but it appears that members of the Catholic Church removed the headstones some time in the 1960s. Trying to hide the evidence of their misdeeds?


Now, the thing is, I don't think this degree of evil is Canadians. It's Christians.


Now, don't get me wrong. I have no problem if a person wishes to believe in "god". For those willing to listen, science has already explained how and why we are here. The how is the process of evolution, we're basically apes with opposable thumbs. As for the why, well, we're supposed to screw like bunnies and create offspring to ensure the continuation of our species in order to multiply and conquer like bacteria in order to become the alpha species.
I fully understand if that is upsetting. It all seems rather pointless when looked at in that way. I mean, if we're just supposed to multiply, then why Sartre? Jazz? Firefly? We are capable of so much. So much beauty, so much hatred. Science doesn't provide an adequate explanation for these things.
This is where spirituality comes in. If it helps somebody sleep better to think that they are the creation of some beardy bloke in the sky who has a special plan that includes them, then why not? It's complete gibberish, but it might help make life seem more acceptable than the harsh reality of it. The harsh reality that we can all name certain people - Nelson Mandela and Summer Glau - but thousands come and go every hour of every day and outside of the small circles that they inhabit, their lives won't be forgotten because their lives were never known.


However those people who reject their own lives in order to dedicate themselves to doing the bidding of a mythological entity... I hope and pray for a time when this isn't handwaved as "because religion" and gets treated as what it really is - a mental illness.

A mental illness in which such people should never have been put in charge of anybody's children, especially those who have nobody to stand up for them.

After all, if a person is working in the service of God and talks to Jesus (who died two thousand years ago), then it's not much of a stretch to expand that delusion to include the abuse and torture of children "because they are possessed by demons". And if those children should die of this abuse, it's not because they were murdered by deranged bastards, it's simply because the devil was too strong and wasn't going to let this one go.

If you think I'm being cruel and unkind to kindly nuns, I wish to point you towards a remarkably similar story that happened in Ireland at the hands of the Roman Catholic church (seeing a trend here?). The Sisters of Magdelene laundries, which were supposed to be for "fallen women" (prostitutes) but ended up with a lot of females who were different in some way to the expected order of things so got classified as "fallen". A euphemism for unwanted.
And yes, there was a mass grave. 155 people, so less than Canada's residential schools, but then again it's probably a lot easier to kill a child than an adult.


White man has colonised many places and oppressed (often with extreme cruelty) the native populations in these places. This is a part of our history. As a British person, I'm well aware that our history is messy and nasty, sometimes in ways that take the breath away. From the stuff that the slave traders got up to (the Royal slave traders, I should add) to the partitioning of India, not to mention tossing all our unwanted to a big island on the other side of the planet. Throw in a few wars, conquests, and conflicts and we've just described most countries. Nobody gets to stand up and say "we're cool, we didn't do any of that" because it's been going on for as long as there has been recorded history. England invaded by Vikings, Normans, Romans, you name it...

As for the future? I think the first thing we ought to do is try to understand these cultures a little better. We cannot ever adequately apologise (and is it really us who should be apologising for things done hundreds of years ago? seems to me that such an apology would be rather empty), but we can try to build something for the future. Enough with the racism. Enough with the bullshit about people with coloured skin being somehow lesser people. It's us, with those attitudes, who are the lesser ones.
Understanding and inclusion. That's a way forward. Anything else would just be excuses to prolong the status quo.


Here endeth your Sunday sermon.



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Rick, 13th July 2021, 22:18
Sadly, the day after I write this, 160 graves were found at the site of a former residential school in the west of the country. Run by Catholics and closed in 1975 (if I remember correctly), this grim discovery is...probably not the last demonstration of mind-numbing cruelty that the country will have to deal with.

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