AGAR: Plenty of living political leaders who should answer for residential schools

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Tearing down statues and lecturing Canadians on racism isn’t accountability.

The last residential school operated by the Canadian government, Gordon Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, closed in 1996.

There are people alive today who should be held to account.

Toppling and defacing statues of Ryerson and Macdonald does nothing. They can’t explain themselves.

The residential schools, going into the 1990s, are a modern evil. There are living people who have some explaining to do.

There is a lot of righteous anger directed toward churches, particularly the Catholic Church for their part in running the schools and, it now seems, callously burying dead children by the hundreds in unmarked graves out behind the school like a dead dog.

But I am pointing the bony finger of blame at government.

Government made the law, enforced the law and funded the schools. The churches worked for them, so the primary responsibility falls on government.


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There are five living former Ministers of Indian Affairs and Northern Development who in my opinion, at the least, need to be before an inquiry to explain themselves.

They are:

– Judd Buchanan, minister under PM Pierre Trudeau from 1974 to 1976. He is a member of the Order of Canada;

– Jake Epp, minister under PM Joe Clark from 1979 to 1980. He is a member of the Order of Canada;

– David Crombie, minister under PM Brian Mulroney from 1984 to 1986. He is a member of the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario and a former Mayor of Toronto;

– Pierre Cadieux, minister from 1989 to 1990 under Mulroney;

– Tom Siddon, minister from 1990 to 1993 under Mulroney.


    Cowessess finds signs of 751 unmarked graves at former residential school

  2. Some of the graves at the Marieval residential school now marked with red flags.

    ‘Like a crime scene’: 751 unmarked graves reported found at former Saskatchewan residential school

  3. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett speaks virtually during a news conference on June 2, 2021.

    Government reaching out to Indigenous communities to fund residential school searches: Bennett


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I skipped the Campbell administration because there wasn’t time in that short-lived government to do anything and then the Chretien government shut down the last school.

There are three living prime ministers who oversaw the racist laws and administration of the residential schools.

Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, and Kim Campbell.

I gave Kim Campbell’s administration a pass due to brevity, but she should be explaining how she thought the law and the reality of the schools were right and just. She was, after all, justice minister and attorney general, and minister of state, a junior role to the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, prior to the closing of the schools.

It’s debatable how we include Jean Chretien. He was minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in 1969. But he is also the prime minister who ended the practice.


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Let’s not leave out Queen Elizabeth.

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So that is nine living people from government to start the list.

If any of them say they didn’t realize how bad it was, the best thing that could be said about them is that they were incompetent. But forced family separation and “assimilation” was racist, pure and simple. Wasn’t that enough to turn their untroubled heads? David Crombie didn’t understand racism in 1986? Mulroney didn’t?

There are reports going back to the 1960s as to how children were mistreated. Did they not read?

I am not suggesting a particular penalty or whether one is needed. I am suggesting starting with a public inquiry with testimony from those individuals.

Stop with the statue toppling and lecturing Canadians that this is a racist country.

Start with calling to account the people who actually did it.


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