‘Scapegoating the Residential Schools – 4’


‘Scapegoating the Residential Schools’
{Part 4 of 4}:

From news stories on November 24, 2005, the day the federal Liberal government announced that they had reached a deal with the Assembly of ‘First Nations’ on the Residential School issue:

“Toronto-based ‘Thomson Rogers’…has led a massive class-action lawsuit being pressed by 20 firms across Canada. If that process is nullified by the new settlement, Farrer says the consortium of lawyers would receive $40 million…

“It seems like a lot of money. But during the same period of time, the Department of Justice paid its lawyers to fight this litigation somewhere between $80 million and $100 million.’’
“Ottawa must also kick in $125 million for the creation of an aboriginal healing foundation, $60 million for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and $20 million for commemoration projects…

ERBLScapegoatingTheResidentialSchools800x800-4“Under the agreement, the federal government will provide a total of about $1.9 billion in compensation to the estimated 80,000 former residential school victims who are still alive.

“This is not an issue of physical or sexual abuse — everyone who attended a residential school will get a government cheque averaging $24,000. No questions asked.

“In addition, the deal allows those who do have claims of abuse to collect their $24,000, and still go after the feds for additional compensation for their suffering at the hands of school pedophiles.

“Government officials admit they have no idea how much all that could cost taxpayers, but one lawyer involved in the agreement estimates the additional tab could hit $1 billion {in addition to the $1.9 billion…}.

“And what of the churches responsible for the offending pedophiles and other serial abusers?

“One Supreme Court ruling established that the churches should bear about a quarter of the liability in residential school abuse cases — a bill that could easily have topped $500 million. But under the deal struck over the weekend, the government is agreeing to protect the churches from all ongoing and future legal actions by abuse victims.

“In return, government officials say the Anglican church has agreed to chip in about $25 million, and the Presbyterians about $3 million…

“Having run almost 70% of the residential schools at issue, Catholic organizations could have been on the hook for at least $350 million of the latest deal.

“Instead, under the agreement, the church has to provide $25 million of “in-kind” services for aboriginal healing, and has agreed to try to raise another $25 million for “reconciliation” programs. Finally, the 41 Catholic groups involved in the deal have also pledged $29 million to the ‘Aboriginal Healing Foundation’ “as it may be requested.” The foundation is one of the dozen secretive money pits created by the Liberals beyond the prying eyes of access to information laws, and even the auditor general.

“Oh, I almost forgot the lawyers.

“The government has agreed to pay the lawyers for the aboriginal school victims a cool $80 million.”


Cartmanmoney“Father Antonio Duhaime of the Oblates was principal at the Duck Lake Residential School from 1962 to 1968, and then principal at St. Mary’s Residential School on the Blood reserve from 1968 to 1980.

“Given the name ‘Black Eagle’, Fr. Duhaime speaks some Blackfoot and in 1988 was made an honourary chief of the Blood.

“The parents brought us their kids in September, and said ‘Father, I want my children to learn English’ and now they’re accusing us of forbidding them to speak their native languages,” he says, shaking his head. “If some of the natives are successful today, they can thank the residential schools. No one else was interested in the Indian people back then.”


“At the time, there was a low budget for each school. The federal government was insisting on assimilating the natives, and they were pressuring the children to attend non-native schools off the reserve.”

However, the sports program at St. Mary’s remained an attraction.

“We had two provincial high-school basketball championships,” he says proudly. “Our teams travelled all over the world; Ireland, Mexico City, Europe. The kids loved to play because on the basketball courts, they were equal or superior to whites.”  

“Dora Cardinal can recall only one instance of physical punishment at St. Anthony’s School at Onion Lake.

“One time, one of the older girls was strapped because she had run away. But the nuns were generally very caring, and a lot of fun,” she says. “My Grade 1 teacher in particular was always trying to cheer me up, and she never yelled at us. The way I see it, kids were better off then than today,” she says firmly. “Kids today get away with everything; they have no respect for anyone. When I was at the school, I learned a lot about patience and self-discipline, and I learned to persevere.”

“That Indian reserves today are riven with social problems is everywhere admitted. According to Statistics Canada, the suicide rate among natives is five to eight times the national average, infant mortality is almost double the Canadian average, poverty is three to five times more common, and 60% of reserve residents depend on welfare. In Saskatchewan, the mortality rate on Indian reserves is an annual 5.0 per 1,000, compared to a provincial rate of 3.5. In 1995-96, 22% of all inmates sentenced to prison in Canada were aboriginal, about five times their share of the Canadian population.

“But can the residential schools be blamed for this horrific misery? Rita Galloway grew up on the Pelican Lake Cree reserve in Saskatchewan. Today, she is a teacher and president of the Saskatchewan-based ‘First Nations’ Accountability Coalition’.

“I had many friends and relatives who attended residential schools,” she comments. “Of course there were good and bad elements but overall, their experiences were positive. Today, those people are now productive citizens; professionals, consultants, and business people. They learned the ethic of hard work.”

“Mrs. Galloway believes that it is unfair to blame residential schools for the conditions found on many reserves.

“The suicide rates are very high, there is a lot of sexual abuse on the reserve; some of my siblings were sexually abused by band members.
But my parents never attended a residential school, and they still had problems; my father lost his logging business because of drinking. A LOT OF THESE PROBLEMS WERE PRESENT BEFORE THE SCHOOLS. When you put a group of people together in a small area like a reserve, there will be problems. BUT IT’S ALWAYS EASIER TO BLAME OTHERS.

“The real problem is lack of financial accountability,” insists Mrs. Galloway. “Each year, Indian Affairs doles out $13 billion to 680 reserves across Canada; and we don’t know where a lot of it goes. And now, with this apology, the government is handing out another $350 million. When that money is gone, we’ll be having the same discussion in 10 years {AND WE ARE}, and there will be the same excuses for more money. But more money doesn’t solve anything. Someone has to have the guts to say ‘we need accountability’; only then will you see real changes and growth.”

“Mrs. Galloway taught at the Prince Albert Indian Residential School from 1988 to 1990, when the school was operated by the Prince Albert tribal office.

“Within the last five years, there was a police investigation for sexual abuse,” she reports. “They didn’t run a clean school themselves, and they’re pointing the finger at others. AS ABORIGINAL PEOPLE, WE HAVE TO BE AWARE THAT OTHER ABORIGINAL PEOPLE ARE ABUSERS, AND IT’S AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION TO BLAME THE RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS.”

“Mrs. Galloway also believes that residential schools still have a vital role to play.

“Nowadays, there’s lots of children who don’t even attend school,” she points out. “There is a very high drop-out rate among native children who attend school off-reserve. It’s attributed to racism, but the deeper problem is that these kids don’t get the support at home that they need. There are too many distractions, and many reserve homes are overcrowded. The morning after welfare day, children come to school tired because their parents were partying all night. We have to give these children some normalcy in their lives. When I taught at the Prince Albert school, I was able to give the students the academics they needed, and they were able to focus on their studies.”

Prince Albert Indian Residential School (Prince Albert, Sask. -1950) Anglican Church of Canada General Synod Archives Residential School Photograph Collection
Prince Albert Indian Residential School (Prince Albert, Sask. -1950)
Anglican Church of Canada General Synod Archives Residential School Photograph Collection

“One of two residential schools still operating in Saskatchewan is the Whitecalf Collegiate in Lebret.
Formerly the Oblate-run Qu’Appelle Industrial School, in a 1983 land claims deal the school and 55 acres of surrounding land were ceded to the nearby Star Blanket Cree Reserve. Verne Bellegarde, today executive director of the collegiate, attended the school for Grades 1 to 12, from 1947 to 1959.

“Mr. Bellegarde says that the band now operates the school with a great deal of success.

“For only 200 positions, we have over 500 applicants from Indian reserves all across western Canada.” The school’s attraction, he believes, is its solid academic record plus its strong emphasis on sports. “Nearly 90% of our graduates go on to some form of post secondary education; with 50% of our grads attending university.”

“Mr. Bellegarde believes that most parents feel their children would be better-educated at the collegiate than in reserve-based schools.

“I would definitely say that we don’t have an absentee list,” he points out, “and we can isolate them from home to some extent.”

“Mr. Bellegarde points out that, while he was a victim of sexual abuse himself, he doesn’t believe that such abuse was widespread through the residential school system.

“You can’t dwell on that,” he reflects. “I’ve put it behind me, because I can forgive.” He prefers to remember his positive experiences. “I learned discipline, and the 3 Rs. Through my experience with sports, I realized that I could compete against non-Indians.” 

“Rod Lorenz agrees.

“There can be a lot of distractions on the reserve,” he says. “I think boarding school can be a great way to study and apply yourself. My own son is attending a residential school; but it’s a Ukrainian residential school in Manitoba. Residential schools — or boarding schools — have a lot of resources and can be a real advantage to young people. They’re a good idea for the advanced grades, but not the younger children. They need mom and dad.”

“Mr. Lorenz believes that it is convenient for the native political leadership to overlook the positive side of residential schools.

“Victimhood gets money,” he says simply, “and there are certain vested political interests who have no reason to say anything good about residential schools. If you’re trying to get money, balance is not what you want.”

“Mr. Lorenz also believes that adherents to native religions like to discredit Christianity by smearing the residential schools.

“There are definitely some people who see Christianity as a rival religion. Those who spearhead the native spirituality revival are very hostile. If they can use the schools as a stick to beat the Catholics, they’re going to use it. If someone says that the schools weren’t so bad, they become pariahs; they sold out to the ‘whites’.” 

“The churches have been brow-beaten into line. In 1992, the Oblate order issued an apology for “certain aspects of their ministry” including “recent criticisms of Indian residential schools.” The wordy document, delivered by Father Doug Crosby, then president of the ‘Oblate Conference of Canada’ and now Bishop of Labrador, APOLOGIZED FOR IMPOSING “CULTURAL, LINGUISTIC AND RELIGIOUS IMPERIALISM over the
native people.”

“Retired Oblate priest Duhaime believes that the smear of residential schools cheapens the sacrifices of many lay workers and missionary priests over the years who gave their lives in the service of Indian children.

“It’s very disappointing,” he remarks. “All the years we worked in these schools, trying to make a difference, and all you hear today is negative. It’s very hard to take.”

–Patrick Donnelly, Alberta Report, 01/26/98, Vol. 25 Issue 6
{CAPS added}


north-ftres-graves0805On the Net: “The story about Canada’s residential schools for Indian children remains to be fully explored. So far, the documented death toll is 3,000, not 50,000, or about 2% of the children who entered the schools.

“The figure of 50,000 is an extrapolation based on what is known of the worst times, at the worst schools.

“In fact, an overall mortality rate of 2% would be remarkably low for the pre-antibiotic era — when TB was an incurable disease for Europeans as well as Indians — an era that included the post-WW1 Spanish flu epidemic that killed between 3% and 6% of the World’s population.

“The actual mortality was, therefore, almost certainly in excess of 3,000, but probably far short of 50,000.

“In some cases, mortality resulted from thoroughly-incompetent management leading to rapid spread of TB through school populations. But thoroughly-incompetent management is the bureaucratic norm, and cannot be equated with deliberate genocide.

“Claims that Indian children were victims of brutality and sexual abuse in residential schools are not difficult to credit, since we know that such things often happen almost anywhere that children are taken from their own homes and placed in institutional care.

“Nevertheless, it is surely probable, in fact almost certain, that the schools were by and large run by people who did care for the children in their charge and believed that by ‘Westernizing’ them, they were giving them a better chance in life.

“Today, that view is politically incorrect, and Canada has formally apologized for committing “cultural genocide” against the Indians.

“But it would require better evidence than we how have now to conclude that real aim of Canada’s residential schools was more sinister than Indian assimilation to the settler society.

“And indeed, assimilation probably remains the bests hope for Canada’s indigenous people, although that can only be accomplished in the absence of coercion.”
“The ‘Missing Children Project’ describes deaths at the Indian residential schools due to tuberculosis, Spanish flu, fire and drownings.

“Allow me to share some stories of my family during the early 1900’s. One great grandmother lost two children to Spanish flu. She also lost two houses to fire. One was lost in the great fire that swept northern Ontario in 1911. She and six or seven of her youngest children, my grandfather among them, took refuge in an open field while the fire raged; they lived only by the grace of God. Another great grandfather died when he fell in a barn. His neck was broken. He was 28. His brother drowned four years earlier. A grandmother died at age 22 of tuberculosis, as did her twin sister and brother.

“We should mourn 3,000 Indian children who died before their time. Do remember, however, that many shared that fate during that time. Death was always close 100 years ago — we must not think it visited only the residential schools. Virtually all families lost loved ones due to the causes listed by the Missing Children Project.”


SpanishFlu1919Most of those children died of disease, just like most other Canadian children:

“In Ontario alone, 36,000 children died from diphtheria between 1880 and 1929… It wasn’t until the early 20th century that “immunization against smallpox and diphtheria had begun in Ontario schools.”
“Early settlers were not spared from infectious diseases. In 1832, an estimated 20,000 lives were lost in Upper and Lower Canada from a cholera epidemic…

“In 1847, the next wave of infectious disease, typhus, killed 6,000 of the estimated 100,000 Irish settlers fleeing the potato famine in their home country…

“Public health activities accelerated when Canadian soldiers returned home from the First World War, bringing with them the Spanish influenza of 1918-1919. An estimated 40 to 50 million people were killed worldwide by the pandemic, including approximately 50,000 Canadians. Once on Canada’s shores, the virus spread quickly across the country, even to remote communities…”


Kuperschool” ‘Oblate Brother’ Glen Doughty was convicted in 2002 of sex crimes at Kuper Island.
Former dorm supervisor Arthur Henry Plint was jailed for sexual and physical abuse of boys at Port Alberni from 1948 to 1968.
Another former Alberni employee, Donald Haddock, was jailed last year for sex crimes dating back to 1948.

“But that doesn’t mean everything that happened at the schools was bad, or that everyone employed by them was a predator.

“Some were really nice,” says Evelyn Voyageur, “and some were there because they couldn’t get a job anywhere else.”

“She can name four abusers, but she also keeps in touch with a former St. Michael’s teacher in Victoria who is loved and admired by all…

“The good people still get tarred with the same brush, though. To some, saying you used to work at a residential school is like admitting being a concentration camp guard. That’s unfair, just as it’s unfair to say the authorities were being malevolent in deciding forced assimilation into white society was the best thing for the Indians.

“People who thought themselves to be doing good works, who were unaware of the abuse going on under their noses, are now wounded when they hear their government, their churches, apologizing on their behalf.

“Thirty, 40, 50, 60 years on, there are plenty of unhealed wounds to go around. Apologies and compensation packages can’t change the past for those who lived through it. And those of us who weren’t there, can’t pretend to know how it feels to live in that skin.”

–‘Residential school scars still raw’,
Jack Knox, Victoria Times Colonist, Nov.24, 2005

Fort Qu’Appelle Industrial School (Sask.), 1884
“Residential Schools: A Photo History”


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