Applying their own self-serving beliefs as objective truths to everyone, since always.
Haiti was the richest of France’s colonies at one point.
What few people mention is that before Haiti became the only colony to win its independence via a slave revolt, its worth was tied up in Black bodies. Haiti’s wealth was enslaved human beings.
France forced Haiti to pay the equivalent of France’s entire annual budget before recognising Haitian independence, equivalent to $21 billion in 2010 dollars. Since the first day Haiti was recognised as a country, it has been in debt… a debt to slave-owners by former slaves, for their own worth.
Haiti only paid off that ‘debt’ in 1937, by taking out loans from the US..so of course it didn’t actually get out from under that debt at all. And now the Paris Club manages that debt.
So for all the people disingenuously wondering why Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, go ahead and ask when the world is going to demand that France pay reparations to Haiti instead of allowing this shit to stand.
There is no Aboriginal system of education in Canada. This fact is sometimes obscured by misunderstandings of reserve or band schools, or even charter schools that may provide ‘indigenous content’. Nonetheless, the system of education that exists in Canada is wholly Canadian; the outcome of failed top-down initiatives to ‘do what’s best for the Indians’.
Education is widely seen as a key component to future success not only for the individual children who receive that education, but also for the society to which they belong, as a whole. We use graduation rates and post-secondary degree attainment numbers to help determine the efficacy and accessibility of a system of education. More than simply informing us of how many individuals are meeting educational standards, these numbers give us fundamental information about the overall health of a society.
There is no Aboriginal system of education in Canada. This fact is sometimes obscured by misunderstandings of reserve or band schools, or even charter schools that may provide ‘indigenous content’. Nonetheless, the system of education that exists in Canada is wholly Canadian, both legislatively and in terms of provision.
Another important fact is that the Canadian system of education is failing indigenous peoples. This is not a matter of debate. Regardless of personal opinions, bigotry and stereotypes, the grim statistics paint a very clear picture. When examining access, graduation rates and post-secondary degree attainment in other countries, we do not blame individuals for egregiously poor outcomes. We do not do this, because education is a social undertaking that transcends individuals and even minority groups. It requires mobilisation of all levels of government, and it impacts every single person living within the boundaries of that system of education.
The stats: outcomes
- A sizable gap in student performance between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students is already present by grade 4, with a widening of the gap by grade 7. (page 4)
- 40% of Aboriginal students aged 20-24 do not have a high school diploma compared to 13% of non-Aboriginal people.
- High school non-completion rates are even more pronounced on reserve (61%) and among Inuit in remote communities (68%). (page 3)
- 9% of the Aboriginal population have a university degree compared to 26% among non-Aboriginal students. 63% of Aboriginal university graduates are women.
The stats: funding
- Non-Aboriginal funding is funded by the provinces. Aboriginal education is funded federally. Non-Status Indians and Métis students receive provincial funding only.
- The federal funding formula for on-reserve schools has been capped at 2% growth per year since 1996 despite the need having increased by 6.3% per year, creating at $1.5 billion shortfall between 1996-2008 for instructional services alone.
- Only 57% of federal funding for First Nation students is allocated to First Nation schools. The rest goes to support students attending off-reserve schools. (page 13)
- Unlike their provincial counterparts, First Nations schools receive no funding for library books, librarian’s salaries, construction or maintenance costs of school libraries, nor funding for vocational training, information and communication technologies, or sports and recreation. (page 20)
- In 2007, there was a need for 69 new First Nation schools across Canada and an additional 27 needed major renovations. Funding was only provided for 21 new schools and 16 renovation projects. (page 24)
- Despite claims by AANDC to the contrary, a recent federal report confirms that there are severe funding gaps in First Nations education that must be addressed immediately in the short-term, and that long-term improvements must be made with the active participation of First Nations stakeholders.
- Post-secondary funding, available only to Status Indians and Inuit, has been historically inadequate to meet funding needs, and has created a backlog of 10,589 students between 2001-2006 who were denied funding. (page 34)
The First Nations Education Act: The top down approach again
Despite repeated reports (from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996, to this latest report tabled in 2012) which recommend that the federal government cease acting unilaterally and without consultation with First Nations, that is precisely what has happened yet again with the First Nations Education Act.
No one has actually seen this Act, which is supposed to be put into place in September of 2014. Instead, a draft plan has been created which will be ‘shared with First Nations communities for their input‘. The federal government claims it has been adequately consulting First Nations all along, but First Nations leaders have been vociferous in their dissatisfaction with this process. ‘Consultation’ leading up to the draft was 8 consultation sessions, about 30 teleconferences and some online activities.
The Canadian government has an absolutely dismal record with respect to indigenous education. Why anyone would believe that this time they can get it right, without even truly consulting or working with the people who will be most affected by any policy decision, is a complete mystery.
No thanks, we’ll do it ourselves
Canada needs to finally listen to what indigenous peoples have been demanding for years: that our cultures and languages be given more importance in our systems of education. This focus has been supported by so many publications including (but not limited to):
- Indian Control of Indian Education, 1972
- Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996
- Final Report of the Minister’s Working Group on Education, 2002
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007
- First Nation Control of First Nation Education, 2010
- Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, 2011
- Joint FNEC-NAN-FSIN Report, 2011
- Report of the National Panel, 2012
In 1978 and 1979, the Mohawk communities of Kahnawake and Akwesasne opened their own schools respectively named the Kahnawake Survival School (high school) and the Akwesasne Freedom School (elementary, junior high). Focusing on cultural and linguistic immersion and academic excellence, the schools are community funded, the infrastructure was built by the community, and each school has created its own curriculum. In essence, these are private schools which have had to form relationships with provincial authorities to ensure that their students graduate with recognised credentials that will be accepted in post-secondary institutions.
These two school embody the implementation of recommendations in numerous federal reports as well as the stated needs and aspirations of indigenous communities. They are not the only examples of solutions created and implemented by indigenous peoples, but the fact remains that the Canadian system of education does not provide adequate space for the widespread development of an indigenous system of education.
When public funding of Aboriginal education has been so woefully inadequate, and federal control has even been criminally incompetent, it is unacceptable for the Canadian government to yet again attempt to ram through a piece of legislation that cannot possibly fix the problem. You cannot fix the ills caused by a top-down approach by implementing more top-down policies.
Indigenous communities as a whole simply do not have the internal resources to create an entire system of private schooling in order to rectify the horrendous gap that has always existed between native and non-native student outcomes. If you can judge a society by its system of education, then Canada stands clearly guilty of discriminating against indigenous peoples by allowing this situation to continue; and worse, by perpetuating it through another unilateral attempt to ‘do what’s best for the Indians’.
If you were wondering why so few native people are in support of the proposed First Nations Education Act, I hope you have a better sense of the issue now. My thanks.
From Residential Schools to the First Nations Education Act, colonialism continues
Education is widely seen as a key component to future success not only for the individual children…
In January, the Morris Mirror ran an editorial by the community paper’s editor-in-chief Reed Turcotte, that likened First Nations to terrorists and decried our “corruption and laziness.” Not to be outdone, 80-something Nanaimo resident Don Olsen submitted a letter to the editor in March, detailing our supposed total lack of achievements and inability to survive in a modern world.
The shorter HuffPo version of my last article is finally up!
Yadda yadda a plot to go back and time to the first Thanksgiving…
And the turkeys are the “Indians”.
Stop saying, “get over it” and “move on” when they are STILL covering up our histories. There can be no moving on until there is a truthful reckoning. So roll up your damn sleeves and get INTO it.
Since December of 2012, and the rise of Idle No More events, there have been numerous “teach-ins” throughout the country. Some of them focused on the theme of reconciliation, others provided necessary background to those unfamiliar with the causes of ‘indigenous discontent’, while others attempted to provide a possible vision for the future. Whether you agree with a focus on education versus a widespread series of actions, it is nonetheless clear that much work is needed to overcome some very pervasive and damaging stereotypes.
This year alone, we have seen some very telling opinions being given a public platform, all of which depict indigenous peoples in a… less than flattering light.
In January, the Morris Mirror ran an editorial by the community paper’s editor-in-chief Reed Turcotte, that likened us to terrorists and decried our “corruption and laziness”. Not to be outdone, 80-something Nanaimo resident Don Olsen submitted a letter to the editor in March, titled “Educate First Nations to become modern citizens“, detailing our supposed total lack of achievements and inability to survive in a modern world. The Calgary Herald rounded out this vituperative triumvirate with another letter to the editor by Martin Miller of Okotoks called “Equal partners” which demands that we stop oppressing the brow-beaten taxpayer with our endless demands.
The Morris Mirror experienced significant backlash and despite its claims to “represent the views of the local community”, local residents were quick to voice their disgust with the views expressed. Some businesses withdrew their ads from the publication in response.
The Nanaimo Daily also experienced negative publicity and lost ad revenue for its choice to publish Olsen’s letter. Unlike the Morris Mirror, the Nanaimo Daily offered a full-apology and withdrew the article. By then, a number of people had published rebuttals to the letter, including a very detailed one by Danica Denomme. In contrast, the Calgary Herald has not apologised or withdrawn Miller’s opinion piece.
In April, a BC NDP candidate resigned after some of her online comments about First Nations peoples came to light.
It didn’t stop there, of course. In July, a Calgary Herald journalist Karin Klassen wrote an article which in essence, defends the 60s Scoop and suggests that First Nations people are culturally unfit to parent. This opinion piece was not offered by a random citizen, but was delivered by a seasoned, paid journalist. In her article, she ignores all of the research on the subject in favour of a knee-jerk personal reaction supported by nothing more than her anecdotal experiences. At its very best, the article is an example of a gross lack of professionalism.
The fact that people are able to outright dismiss literally centuries of oppression as though this could have no possible impact on events today, never ceases to astound me. How is this even possible? Clearly the first step, as exemplified by Klassen, is to claim that good intentions negate oppression. Another tactic is to say, “those were different times”. This approach was taken by the son of a scientist behind nutritional experiments on First Nations children, who wrote to the media to justify the program.
When dealing with these kinds of opinions, one tends to have to weigh the pros and cons of ignoring them, or providing an often emotionally exhausting rebuttal. Native peoples and our allies are often faced with putting in extreme effort to refute and educate, but it can feel like we are making little progress.
The myth of progress
That feeling is unfortunately supported by extensive research. Anderson and Robertson’s “Seeing Red: A history of natives in Canadian newspapers” provides exhausting evidence of how little the narrative has changed in the media since 1869. In fact, Anderson and Robertson assert in their introduction that, “with respect to Aboriginal peoples, the colonial imaginary has thrived, even dominated, and continues to do so in mainstream English-language newspapers.” The imaginary to which they refer, is the way in which Canada has created an image of itself, based not so much on historical fact as on ideological interpretation. In doing so, Canada has necessarily had to rely upon an imaginary of indigenous peoples which, as expressed recently by Turcotte, Olsen and Miller, portrays us as pretty much useless.
How is it that so little progress has been made to overcome this narrative in 144 years? Certainly the colonial myths which continue to dominate media discourse have existed for much longer than this. Nonetheless one would hope that nearly a century and a half of technological and social development would see a corresponding shift in mainstream attitudes. Instead, we literally see the same arguments being made year after year after year.
Of course, the idea that Canadian society is evolving and progressing is an important part of the colonial imaginary. When Canadians consider the injustices faced by indigenous peoples, those injustices are nearly always located in the past. The irony of course is that every generation has located such injustice in the past, and only rarely in contemporary contexts. Were this actually true, no injustice could have possibly occurred ever, much less could be understood to continue today!
Canadians who do recognise historical injustice seem to understand it in this way:
- Bad things happened.
- Bad things stopped happening and equality was achieved.
- The low social and political status held by indigenous peoples is now wholly based on the choice to be corrupt, lazy, inefficient, and unsuited to the modern world.
In other words, there is no history of colonialism and systemic racism that informs the modern view of indigenous peoples, because that problem was solved at some point in the past. The real racism is in conflating legitimate dislike for indigenous peoples (based not on race or ethnicity but rather on the bad choices we make) with historic colonialism/racism which is over. In continuing to discuss colonialism and racism as a present-day concern, we are engaging in reverse-racism and oppressing blameless settlers.
Canada is hardly unique in this ahistorical approach. In the United States, slavery is also located in the distant past, and the belief that full equality was achieved at some nebulous but definite point is widely accepted (at least by Whites) as true. Thus anti-Black sentiment is based not on race but on true generalisations of all the bad choices Black people have made since they became equal. Even suggesting this view is untrue raises hackles.
Flip the narrative
The fact is, what we all learn about Canadian history is wrong. Every single one of us, native and non-native alike, have been fed a series of lies, half-truths and fantasies intended to create a cohesive national identity. What is most startling about this, is that a great many people are aware of the errors and omissions present in our system of education and in our public discourse, and yet somehow there has not yet been a national attempt to rectify this.
That is not to say no effort has been made. The inclusion of events into the mainstream consciousness that I only heard rumours about when I was in school, has been incredibly important. Acknowledging Japanese internment, the Chinese Head Tax, Residential Schools and a host of other less-than-inspiring events and policies has certainly taken us beyond the kind of starry-eyed propaganda served up for a long time in this country.
Nonetheless, integral to colonial narrative is belief in the superiority of European contributions and the absence of any truly important contribution from non-European peoples to Canadian society, except when narrowly defined within examples of successful integration and ‘up by their bootstraps’ stories. After all, if non-European and indigenous contributions were of any real value, wouldn’t we see them everywhere? Instead, all that is good and modern originated in Europe!
Not everyone states this as baldly as Mr. Olsen et al. but the sentiment is nonetheless widely shared. Which is incredibly sad, because Canada will not crumble and fall apart if we become more honest and aware of the history of these lands and the incredible diversity of contributions by peoples from all over the world.
The violence of national myths
A more accurate and less self-serving history, a more honest reality, is ours. It is our birthright, whether we have been in these lands for thousands of years, or arrived yesterday. We are all being denied a real identity, based on more than colonial myths intended to create a national identity out of thin air.
It is not only indigenous peoples who want to reclaim that birthright. There are millions of people living in this country who are trying to come to grips with their own personal histories, which more often than not, fail to accord with the official narrative. Unwed mothers who were pressured into giving up their babies for adoption, finding out that many of these babies were killed and buried instead. Black orphans who were horrifically abused by those who were supposed to protect them. Italians in Canada put into internment camps during WWII, and so very many more who have had to struggle to have their stories heard and believed.
These are all horrific stories, and they are only the tip of the iceberg, because most of us have heard only a fraction of them. The violence that national myths commit, is to delegitimise the very real pain that is the legacy of abuse and oppression. When these stories begin to surface, they are often treated as conspiracy theories. Even when incontrovertible proof is discovered, and the information becomes freely available, the overarching Canadian narrative obscures and confuses, splitting these events up into disparate and unconnected ‘unfortunate incidents’. Most Canadians will learn only a few of these stories, and will be unable to connect them to a wider history of colonialism. This means that nothing can change, as is made so clear in the book Seeing Red, and exemplified in articles like Klassen’s. How can we possibly learn from the past when this country is so invested in whitewashing it?
We all need to work on reclaiming our histories, but this cannot be an individual exercise, it absolutely must be a national one. We must share our histories and learn the histories of others, and our curriculum and media must reflect our evolving understandings.
Right now, indigenous peoples are trying very hard to share our histories. Whether this will create a new chapter in Anderson and Robertson’s research is going to depend on whether or not Canadians are finally willing to listen.
We can’t get anywhere until we flip the narrative
Since December of 2012, and the rise of Idle No More events, there have been numerous “teach-ins”…