On November 16, 2016, Senator Murray Sinclair spoke about Indigenous perspectives on racism to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs.
In this video recording of his address (beginning at 00:18:00), Senator Sinclair confronts Sir John A. Macdonald’s clearly genocidal views and their lasting damage on generations of Indigenous children and their families.
Here’s my transcript of Senator Sinclair’s remarks:
“For 150 years, Canada established residential schools in this country for the purpose of taking children away from their families – at young ages, six, seven, eight years of age – placing them into schools that were designed – not to educate, despite the fact that they were called ‘schools’ – but to indoctrinate them into a different culture for the purpose of eliminating the culture known as ‘Indianism’ or ‘Indians’.
“In fact, back in 1883, our good friend – and our hero – Sir John A. Macdonald, said this:
When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages; and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training and modes of thought are ‘Indian’. He is simply a savage who can read and write.
“I always thought it would be a cool thing for us to get t-shirts made up saying ‘I’m a savage who can read and write!’ [laughter] because we’ve moved beyond that. We’ve proven, in fact, that that image of inferiority, which is behind that statement, is so blatantly wrong and unfair and unjust that it smacks, not only of racism, but of a genocidal view of things.
“The UN Convention on Genocide was passed in 1949 by the United Nations; Canada was a signatory to it. And, in article 2(e) of that Convention, it says that it is an act of genocide to forcibly remove children from one culture, one racial group, and place them with another racial group, for the purpose of eliminating the first racial group.
“And, that’s what Sir John A. Macdonald wanted to do.
“And, that’s what Canada tried to do, during the whole, entire process of residential schools, was to take children away from their parents, little children, away from their parents, place them into institutions, for the purpose of indoctrinating them into Canadian culture, to make them think that they were no longer Indians, that they were Canadians, that they were British subjects, that they were something other than they were.
“And they were punished, physically, for speaking their language, for trying to practice their culture, for trying to stay connected to their culture.
“Documents have been found which show that teachers would not allow children to go back home unless the parents promised that they wouldn’t speak their language with the children, they wouldn’t try to take their children to traditional ceremonies, they wouldn’t try to teach their children about their own history as a People.
“So, the intention of the residential school, and the policies that were behind it and supported it were clearly to wipe out the culture and language of Indigenous People. And, while they didn’t totally wipe out the languages and the cultures, they were severely damaged, because children were in those schools for seven generations [my emphasis].”