The term “residential school syndrome” is a seemingly neutral way that people in Canada use to describe the horrific experiences and wide-ranging effects of Christian boarding schools on First Nations children.
I have no problem with the seemingly high-minded attempt to diagnose a wide variety of social ailments. I know through my parents that the abuse was real and has lasting effects.
Both my parents attended the Pelican Falls Anglican Residential School in Hudson, Ontario and suffered through horrifyingly typical abuse.
I really don’t know how they stayed strong enough to endure that trauma and successfully raise my brother and I. For me, they are brave beyond belief.
Where I have problems with this term is in the euphemistic omission of one key word. And that word is Christian.
Call a spade a spade! There were no other types of boarding schools for First Nations children.
Sure, there were Anglican schools, Catholic schools, United Church schools and maybe even Presbyterian and Lutheran schools. Despite the denominational differences, they’re all Christian schools. Talk about an elephant in the room!
There were no Buddhist schools. There were no Jewish schools. There were no Muslim schools. There were no Hindu schools. And there were certainly no traditional indigenous schools.
Vague terminology, like the term ‘residential school syndrome’, disguises and sanitizes the truth.
We’ve seen repeated examples of this intentional practice with regard to recent military terms. “Collateral damage” really means the killing of innocent people and their property. “Friendly fire” is a twisted way of referring to killing your own soldiers.
I can go on and on in this vein, but the point is that the intention behind this terminology is to dehumanize and minimize violence, to further the end goal of taking away accountability for unjustifiable death.
In the same way, by omitting “Christian” from the ‘residential school syndrome’, you take the blame away from religion responsible for causing a syndrome.
Residential school syndrome should properly be referred to as the ‘Christian Syndrome’. Imagine that, a religion responsible for something worse than a disease.
As a proud Indigenous man, I don’t blame Europeans for the problems that we have overcome. That’s the easy way out.
If asked, however, to select just one destructive force on the planet, then, without a doubt, the single most destructive force on Mother Earth has been Christianity.
As an English major, I can appreciate the poetic beauty to certain passages in the Bible. However, being poetic has little to do with truth.
Don’t let those PR and advertising firms convince you otherwise.