Though, it has become a bit of a fad to burn down or vandalize Catholic and other churches across Canada in response to the hundreds of graves being uncovered at former Indian Residential Schools, there is another side to the story.
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It was the federal government who initiated the program, financed the schools, approached several Christian denominations to run them and forced the Indian parents to send their children to the schools.
And there is more.
Toronto Sun columnist, Brian Lilley, provides a bit more information found in the Canadian government’s 2015 report on the Residential schools entitled, “Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials.”
First, the government knew about these graves years ago. They are discussed in the report, but it also provided information on why these cemeteries were necessary. Lilley explains that “the government refused to pay to transport the bodies of students who died back to their parents.”
Secondly, the graves were not unmarked. Because the federal government also refused to pay for stone markers, the residential schools were forced to use wooden crosses to mark the burials. Over the decades, these simply rotted away, or in the instance of at least one cemetery were burned away by a prairie fire.
Thirdly, after the schools were closed down, the federal government did not continue the upkeep of the cemeteries. In fact, Lilley writes that a principal at one of the schools even sent a letter to the federal government expressing his concerns about what would happen to his school’s cemetery, if the government refused to maintain it after the school closed. The need for such a letter suggests he knew what was going to happen.
READ THE REPORT: Canada’s Residential Schools:Missing Children and Unmarked Burials
The major causes of death in the schools was TB and the Spanish flu that swept the world in 1918. But undoubtedly, the unsanitary and crowded conditions resulted in a death rate for native children exceeding that of children in the general population by between two to four times.
But part of that lands at the feet of the federal government as well, as we read of repeated requests from both parents and the schools stating they needed more funding to properly feed and look after the children.
But, there is absolutely no doubt some schools were mismanaged, and children were abused, both physical and sexually, at others, and the denominations must take full responsibility for that.
But as is so often the case, there is also another side to the story.