British Columbia is a rich Canadian province. As with most places where money flows freely, not everyone is allowed a taste of privilege.
British Columbia has one of the highest rates of child-poverty in the whole nation. This lack of wealth to buy the basics of life that most of us take for granted has been giving B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development the excuse it needs to remove kids from their parents. The premise for doing so, sounds logical: If you can’t pay to properly feed, clothe and house your child, you’re neglecting your child. The government will step in to do what you can’t and, in the process, take your child away from you. But once you start picking apart the apparatus that serves to ‘protect’ the kids separated from impoverished families, it’s easy to see that provincial government’s methodology is based in cruel madness, masquerading as concern.
Last year, it came to light that a teen removed from his family lived in 17 different foster placements under the watch of 23 different social workers and caregivers over an 11 year period. His final placement: being kept in a hotel room: a practice that was employed on a regular basis, due to the number of children in B.C.’s child protection system and the difficulty in finding suitable foster families. Unsupervised and suffering from a number of mental health issues, he jumped from his hotel window, to his death. In a feature published this week by The Globe & Mail, it was revealed, that this teen, Alex Gervais, was being “sporadically” checked in on by a caregiver paid $8,000 a month. Read the rest
For more than a century, the Canadian government was responsible for perpetuating horrendous abuses against native peoples who were unfortunate enough to be living in an area where a imperial colonialist power decided to set up shop. It was government policy for Indigenous children to be separated from their families, the without the permission of their parents or tribal elders, and them into what were known as residential schools: institutions predominantly run by the Catholic Church, along with a small handful of schools that were handled by Anglican, Presbyterian and United Church interests.
Once the kids were secured into these boarding schools, they were taught the 'right' way to live--right being in accordance to western culture. Were the incarcerated children to dare to speak their own language or act according to cultural norms outside of what their white caretakers felt was 'civilized,' they were met with severe corporal punishment. Mortality rates at the schools were high. So were instances of physical and emotional abuse. Children were often buried in unmarked graves or simply disappeared. Even after the last residential school closed in 1998, its legacy of hate and abuse remains.
In 2015, Canada finally confessed to its part in this long-running crime. The nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission looked to the crimes of the residential school system, saying that they amounted to cultural genocide. The commission made 94 recommendations that it felt would go along ways towards righting the wrongs of the past. One those recommendations was that the Pope step forward and apologize for his church's role in the residential school system. Read the rest
After close to a decade of preparation, University of Victoria is preparing a law program that will incorporate the laws, customs and traditions of indigenous cultures from around Canada with a traditional legal education. It's an important step towards reconciliation between Canada's mainstream and the native communities in our country that the government has marginalized and brutalized up until very recent times.
This isn't the University of Victoria's first indigenous law rodeo, either. According to the Globe and Mail, the institution ran a law school in Canada's far north between 2001 and 2005. The school, called Akitsiraq, featured heavily on Inuit law and tradition.
This inclusion of the laws and customs of Canada's indigenous people in a law school's curriculum is a big deal. Canada's white establishment (of which I include myself in) is used to seeing its legal show ran on a framework of laws and traditions that feature heavily on our British colonial legacy. Currently, Canadian lawyers are only trained to interpret and operate within this framework. By throwing the laws and views of Canada's indigenous nations into the mix, a new, truly Canadian legal system could form – one that gives all of the nation's citizens a fair shake. From the Globe and Mail:
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Up to 25 students are expected to begin in September, pending approval of the program by B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. Tuition and fees will be just under $11,000 a year, the same as at the school’s common-law program.
On MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell reminds us that the United States of America has awfully mistreated the people who lived on this continent before us, and helps America understand the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Read the rest
Famed author JK Rowling has been in the news of late. Her recently released History of Magic in North America stumbles over a number of insensitive cultural hot points, not least of which is her characterization of Native Americans.
Simon Moya-Smith, culture editor at Indian Country Today, explains why the conversation is important, but he couldn't care less about JK Rowling's fiction, because it is fiction. Moya-Smith reminds us that our public school textbooks spread deeper lies.
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What matters here, folks, in this debate over J.K. Rowling’s latest work is the language society uses – the language that is still taught to kids in schools today about Native Americans and our spiritualities.
Think about it: How in the living hell can a child differentiate alleged fact from fiction if schools continue to teach students that Native Americans practiced magic? Note I used the past tense of ‘practice.’ There are very few lessons in grade schools that provide any information on contemporary Native American societies. Super sad, but super true.
And let me leave you with this, home skillet:
Twitter turns 10-years-old this month. Facebook is 12-years-old. Social media, then, is prepubescent. It’s still trying to figure out why the hell hair is growing down there. But it’s through this peach-fuzzy platform that people are only now learning that Native Americans ARE STILL ALIVE. Seriously. Previous to the ubiquity of social media, propelled by the proliferation of the Web, people thought Indians were either dead or living in teepees.
As Emi McLean writes on the Open Society Justice Initiative's blog about the genocide trial in Guatemala, "Semana Santa (or Holy Week) seemed to slow down Guatemala City everywhere but in Judge Jazmin Barrios’s courtroom on Monday."
And the trial continues at breakneck speed. The prosecution of Jose Efraín Rios Montt, the Army general who ruled Guatemala from 1982-1983, and his then-chief of military intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, re-opens for the 6th day today in Guatemala City. The charges of genocide and crimes against humanity they face are based on evidence of systematic massacres of Mayan citizens by Guatemalan troops and paramilitary forces during a most bloody phase of the country's 36-year civil war. The US government provided assistance to Ríos Montt and other Guatemalan military dictators that followed in that era, in the form of funding, training, military and CIA personnel, and weapons that were used against the indigenous population.
On Monday, March 25, the court heard 13 witnesses for the prosecution recount horrifying accounts of atrocities they witnessed and survived, committed by soldiers under Ríos Montt's command. Read the rest
In the language of the Diné (what the Navajo call themselves), the word for "star" is "sitsoi yoo." But that word means more than just "star." According to Nancy Maryboy of the Indigenous Education Institute, sitsoi yoo means something closer to "my ancient relation from which I came," a reference to a traditional Diné belief that humans were born from stars. Remind you of anything?
I'm currently attending the 6th Science Center World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa. Tomorrow, I'll be talking about how science museums are failing adult visitors, but I've also gotten the chance to sit in on several really interesting panels. The anecdote above comes from a panel on Indigenous Astronomy, which I hope to write some more about in the future.
Image: Sergio Eguivar — Buenos Aires Skies, via Astronomy Picture of the Day