Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor. (Photo by Bernard Thibodeau)

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor. (Photo by Bernard Thibodeau)

Alistair MacGregor column: Past the time for action on residential schools

I had never fully grasped the history of the horrors of the residential school system

By Alistair MacGregor

I can remember, back in February 2015, attending the healing and cleansing ceremony for the St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay on the traditional territory of the ’Namgis First Nation.

Up until that point, I had never fully grasped the history of the horrors of the residential school system in Canada. But when I saw the survivors of St. Michael’s approach the building after the ceremony, scream in rage and anguish as they hurled bricks through its windows, and collapse in tears at the end, it was at that point that I began to comprehend just what survivors have gone through and continue to experience to this day.

The discovery of unmarked and undocumented graves of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation this week has reopened wounds that have never healed. It has reignited discussion about the federal government’s continued failure to properly address this shameful episode of our country’s history and has highlighted its continued hypocrisy. It is a sure thing that more unmarked graves will be found in the future.

Make no mistake about it. This was forced assimilation and a genocide that was inflicted on an entire people. Indigenous people did not “send” their children to these schools. Children were forcibly ripped away from their families; they were forced to forget their language, culture, and history; they were neglected; they were abused, both sexually and physically; and they died, often with no notice given to families. Unmarked and undocumented graves were often the final resting place, a testament to how little value was placed on these children’s lives by both the federal government and the Catholic Church that ran the schools.

The Liberal government continues to use platitudes and symbolism in response, when it is quite clear that we are well past the time for action. After all, this is a government that has implemented only a fraction of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, continues to fight a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on the systemic discrimination against Indigenous children, and continues to spend millions of dollars fighting residential school survivors in court.

As a country, we have stood on the world stage and called out other countries for human rights’ abuses under their governments. We have done this, knowing full well of the documented horrors that went on at Canada’s residential schools. And now we are beginning the process of finding the unmarked graves of all those children who never had the chance to grow up and live a fulfilling life surrounded by a loving family.

This moment in time must serve as the catalyst needed to finally force government action on our path of reconciliation.

Alistair MacGregor is the Member of Parliament for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.


Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

North Cowichan’s committee of the whole have rejected staff’s recommendation to limit the use of fireworks to Halloween. (File photo)
North Cowichan rejects limiting fireworks to Halloween

Municipality decides staff recommendation would be unpopular

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

CVRD Area E director Alison Nicholson, right, hiked two hours to Waterfall Camp at the Fairy Creek watershed along with Comox town councillor Nicole Minion and Comox Valley Regional District director Daniel Arbour to meet with old-growth logging activists on Monday, June 7. (Submitted)
Cowichan Valley regional director visits Fairy Creek protest camps

‘They clearly communicated that they are committed to what they are doing’

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Most Read