A commenter on the CBC Manitoba website regarding the now-ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission kind of gets to the heart of the matter:

“… My father went to residential school where he was beaten for speaking his language and raped numerous times. Children died because they were given shabby clothing, insufficient food and regular physical abuse. Once boys got big enough (9 years old) they were sent into the fields to grow food that they we’re allowed to eat. My father was absent most my life because he was dealing with these demons. I would give up ever “special right” my status card gives me for a childhood with my father.”

These things happened. There can be no disputing this.

I’ve written a lot about youth crime and youth justice issues over the past few years. I can tell you honestly that one of the things that sits with me is how in 99 per cent of the youth-related criminal court cases I’ve covered, there are no parents to be found.

It’s no great secret that the majority of young offenders charged with serious crimes in Manitoba are aboriginal kids.

Yes, sometimes their grandmothers show up for hearings; occasionally it’s an aunt.

Most often, however, its a social worker. A state-appointed guardian who probably has 100 other ‘files’ to juggle.

It’s a shame – and you have to wonder how much the ‘generational’ nature of what happened residential schools is at play here.

I think it’s probably a lot.

People who know me know I’m not one to subscribe to the ‘hug a thug’ mentality.

But, in a young criminal’s mind – assuming they have reasonable grasp of their functions and aren’t addled with ADD or FAS [many of them are] – can they be expected to act in a way that contrasts with your psychological upbringing and makeup?

Just as I smoke cigarettes habitually – a learned, negative, behaviour – the vast majority of us are really creatures of habit.

I believe that many of the young car thieves, rapists, thugs and murderers would love a re-do of a childhood that appears to have been, from where I sit, anyways, empty of the true kind of care and attention most ‘normal’ people in Canada had the benefit of.

3 thoughts on “Truth and Rec

  1. It’s really not that difficult to figure out, which is why it’s perpetually baffling that so many people persist in believing that aboriginal people suffering from various social ills just like living that way. It really is more comfortable “othering” human beings than recognizing that any of us could have ended up the same way, however.

    Across the world, the pattern of colonialism and forced assimilation almost always ended the same way for the conquered and assimilated people; where there are exceptions, they are either highly instructive exceptions, or they are exceptions because the balance of demographic power was significantly different. Otherwise, it has always followed the same pattern: first, the breakdown of the family, pushed deeper by racism and hopelessness. Then comes poverty and addiction. With poverty and addiction, eventually comes violence. And these things fuel more racism and more hopelessness, until what you basically have is a population struggling to get out from under a crushing boulder built of white people’s expectations.

    Once you get above the individual level, human beings are not fundamentally different. We are all the same species, with the same potentials and failings of our species. All other things being equal (i.e. assuming no FASD), there is no meaningful difference between a bunch of young golfers at a Tuxedo golf course, and between a bunch of rangy kids wandering the North End at night.

    So why do some go on to be millionaires, and the others go on to jail? It’s not difficult, or “bleeding heart,” to recognize that this is because of their environments, because they are trained to succeed or fail from a very young age.

    In the upper middle class, we were raised in a way that made it very difficult for us to fail. We were raised to succeed. In the poverty-stricken neighbourhoods and reserves, with totally broken families, rampant addiction, bad food, bad housing, no structure and only intermittent transmission of the bonds and values needed to assume a productive life, it is very difficult not to succeed.

    The reason my graduating class of about 300 is, 10 years on, almost entirely now composed of successful, well-educated middle- and upper-middle-class career persons, and a group of 300 kids in the North End probably isn’t, isn’t because we were any smarter or better. It’s because regardless of our personal struggles our individual crises and challenges, we grew up surrounded by carved-in-stone examples of how to live, set forth by adults who formed our only view of what kind of life we could lead.

    The only tragedy is, those kids in the North End did too. A friend once said, “what you’re seeing now is a generation of kids who were raised by people who were raised by pedophiles.” If all of Linden Woods’ parents were suddenly parent-swapped with abusive, unloving taskmasters who found their charges fit only for manual labour and abuse, a lot of those Linden Woods kids would turn out the same way.

    Really, what gets talked about too little though is how love plays into this. It’s so indefinite that it doesn’t get its due. But time after time, residential school survivors say the same thing: I never learned how to love or show love, so I couldn’t show love to my own children, and I drank instead.

    Spending one’s formative years in a loveless environment is unbelievably devastating to a child’s development. (I’d also mention something equally elusive, like “the soul,” but since “love” is so diaphonous anyway, let’s stick with “child development.”) We learned that in Romanian orphanages, why don’t we accept it here? I’d argue that love is what makes the difference between poor families whose kids go on to college and brag about how they were so poor but their parents taught them the value of hard work, etc., and between poor families whose kids go on to join gangs and shoot each other up.

    Also, I never forget that the First Nations did just fine running their own successful, sustainable, imperfect but effective and productive communities for thousands of years before white folks came along. (This is not idealizing the First Nations, which is equally misguided as condemning them; it’s just basic fact.) If North America hadn’t been colonized by Europeans, you could safely bet your life that they’d still be doing quite fine here now.

    But, in a historical heartbeat, colonialization and residential schools happened, and then they weren’t doing so fine any more. (See also: Australia.) Not much of a coincidence. You’d have to be blinded by ideology or racism to doubt that this was the event which essentially caused where we’re at now.


    Anytime rockstar. Didn’t know you had a super-seekrit blog. I’m all over it.

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