by Rev. Kevin Annett
The whole sorry and self-serving charade called Canada's "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" into Indian Residential Schools is exactly like a sexually abusive parent calling all his family together to discuss why everyone seems so troubled and hurt ... without, of course, ever looking at his own behaviour, or surrendering his tyranny over them. When the abuser runs the show, whose truth will be allowed? And who, and what, can possibly be "reconciled"? If you'll allow me for a moment to push this analogy, here's the answer: the only truth allowed in such an abusive family system is whatever doesn't upset the arrangements of abuse - and everyone involved must be "reconciled" to that fact. Having dealt with many such situations at the family level, I am amazed at how similar is our condition in the much larger family called Canada, as we gather now at the behest of those responsible for our suffering to be told that it's time to look into why we have suffered. The institutions of church and state that planned and carried out conquest and murder have declared that the truth of what they did will now be told, in a self-appointed inquiry called a truth and reconciliation commission, or "TRC". (Gee, the letters almost form the word "trick"). Like the raping and brutal parent who has called his family together to "share", those who have suffered from his blows will not be allowed to speak of what he has actually done to them. The TRC public forums will not permit residential school survivors to name the names of their torturers, or even discuss "wrongdoing" in the schools. Nor will they be legally protected from the consequences of anything they say. In short, a simple message to survivors: Watch what you say, or you'll get whacked again. If a rapist posing as a parent tried that, his deception would be obvious, but only to those outside his family system of dysfunction and fear. To those quivering under his rule, his hypocrisy would seem generous and inspiring, a sign that perhaps he is changing and will stop beating and raping them. The big problem in Canada is that most of us, native or white, are part of the quivering mass who have grown up under the absolute rule of colonial church and state. We cannot stand outside the dysfunction called Christian Canada and see the lies for what they are. But in any abusive situation, there are those who are able to see their torture for what it is, and seek help in confronting the Big Rapist: not easily, or quickly, but through courage, reason, and thinking outside their family system, as well as by their the capacity to suffer the outrage of all their fellow abused, quivering family members. From the beginning of the whole debate around "truth and reconciliation", no-one in "authority", and few outside it, have asked the most obvious and fundamental question:
Are we, as a nation, capable of either truth or reconciliation?
Did truthfulness or the desire to be reconciled at any point guide the policies and actions of the Canadian government or its Anglican, Catholic and United churches towards native people?
Was it truthful or reconciling to house the sick with the healthy in residential schools, and stand by as thousands of children were killed off over a century?
Or, to suppress the evidence of this crime by secretly burying or burning up the dead, and incinerating documents, and silencing witnesses?
Or, to allow the churches responsible for these crimes to evade prosecution and set up the TRC inquiry into what they did?
Even today, is a desire for truth guiding the TRC, when it is muzzling what survivors can say at the behest of church lawyers - and when it has declared that, even though criminal acts and homicide occurred in the residential schools, there will be no criminal investigation into these schools?
Protecting the perpetrators and minimizing the cost of the whole thing: those are the two fundamental purposes of the TRC, and its government and church backers: not seeking "truth and reconciliation".
After all, truth is a pretty simple thing to do: you just let people talk, freely and openly. You disclose what you know and surrender the guilty. You disinter graves and give the murdered a proper burial, tell the whole sordid history, and create memorials and museums to honour the dead. And most of all, you stop doing the crime.
Maybe, after generations of such truthful action, "reconciliation" may be possible. But that's not in our hands.
The truth is, none of these basic things are happening in Canada.
Everything related to the residential schools is being carefully managed so that the churches will not have to suffer anything, or be held accountable for their murder of children, and no political fallout will beset the government. Once these primary abusers are protected, then sure, we'll be able to have all the "truth and reconciliation" we want: all that is due anyone in an abusive family. And then "justice" will have been done - on the terms of the abuser, of course.
Is there another way?
There is, actually, but it probably won't happen - for it begins with us, "white" Canada, looking at ourselves honestly, and healing ourselves first - like any abuser must do if genuine peace and health is to return to his family.
The town pedophile always hides behind a veneer of liberal humanitarianism, and Canada is no different. Canada was built on murder and conquest, and sustains itself by raping the land of its resources as quickly as our foreign corporate rulers dictate. That's never changed. And native people are simply in the way of that huge grab, as they always were, which is why they are being killed off at nearly the same rate they were a century ago.
Most of this isn't obvious to the sheltered "white" citizenry, who get along with and sustain the Big Rapist by paying their taxes, doing their jobs, and believing the Family Lie. And so they won't be convinced about who and what they are very easily, not this side of their cozy world collapsing.
Of course, it is collapsing, and quickly. All the raped resources can't last forever. When we've outlived our usefulness to GoldCorp and Teck Cominco and Power Corporation, and to the United States government, we'll be tossed aside and watch as all the stuff on which we base our optimistic view of ourselves vanishes - watch, indeed, as our air and lakes and rivers finally die, and we finally learn that it wasn't just little Indian kids that we were murdering in the residential schools.
Those scientists who aren't on the corporate and government leash - and there aren't many - believe that we're actually past the point of no return when it comes to planetary survival, and that ours could very well be one of the last generations of humanity - let alone life - on mother earth.
So let's stop pretending that we, as a people, can heal, be truthful, or be reconciled, about anything. Clearly, we can't - not about our own history and nature, at least. And when death approaches, all that is needed is telling it like it is.
Death is approaching, because of us - because of the rapacious greed of European culture, its corporate capitalism spawned by a Christian imperialism that said we had and have the right to conquer anything, and anyone. We are all now the victims of our very civilization, which is destroying us and our perfect planet. The horror we unleashed in the Indian residential schools was just one manifestation of that sickness.
So it's time for all that to end, as it should. We will never stop our depredations, our crimes, our cozy rationalizations and arrangements - so that's all being ended for us.
My answer to my fellow Canadians, and its absurd "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", is this: Stop trying to be what you're not. We are neither truthful nor reconciling. We are a culture and a people of the Lie, a conquering, arrogant culture that will surrender nothing, regardless of the individual exceptions to that rule.
Here, instead, is what we need in Canada - something much more in line with our true nature: An Irreconcilable Untruth Commission, which openly declares this to our aboriginal victims:
Yes, we conquered this land and its indigenous people, because we wanted your lands and resources. We did what we had to do to steal this land, and we will not surrender any of it to you, the survivors of our conquest. Sure, we'll grant you Indians crumbs now and then, especially to the few among you we've trained to be our loyal servants. But the rest of you are expected to die off quietly and to help us terminate you.
In the meantime, to keep everything in our hands and sustain our international reputation and credit rating, we'll admit to some things.
Of course we killed off children in the residential schools. How else were we supposed to destroy your hold on the land and yourselves, once and for all? How else were we supposed to so traumatize you that you'd not fight us and would sink into the oblivion of poverty and self-destruction? How else would you come to love competition and murder and shopping and self-gain?
Get real. That's how our world operates. It's called western civilization.
If only we Canadians had the clarity and the courage to know this, and to speak thus. But we don't, which is why the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" will carry on, spreading the reality that makes us feel most comfortable and reassured.
It's all about us, after all. The ones who matter.
May we rest in peace.