, 06.03.2021 10:28 AM

My latest: when it comes to dead children, a tweet isn’t enough

Slacktivism.

They define that as “the practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, characterized as involving very little effort or commitment.”

Slacktivism happens a lot, in the social media age. People tweet a tweet, or post a link on Facebook, or sign a petition.

Or they offer up thoughts and prayers. Or they fly a flag at half-mast. Or they put some kids’ shoes on their front step.

They do those things, and then they think they’ve done something meaningful. They think they’ve done enough.

And sometimes (perhaps) it is enough. Or (at least) it’s better than nothing. Depends on the subject matter.

But when the subject matter is hundreds of dead babies and children, dumped behind a building like they were trash, I’m sorry: A well-meaning tweet or a “215” graphic on Facebook simply isn’t going to cut it. It’s not enough.

Not even close.

Now, I know what you’re going to say: ‘I’m just a regular citizen. I’m just Joe or Jane Frontporch. I have no power like the politicians, or the media do. What can I do?’

Well, for starters, you shouldn’t do what the politicians are now doing, which is nothing. Which is the same damn thing they always do: Thoughts and prayers, sturm und drang.

Press releases no one reads, promises of more Royal Commissions that accomplish nothing, bilingual tweets no one remembers. (In either official language.)

That’s slacktivism. That’s giving the illusion of doing something that is really nothing. I detest that, personally. I’ll bet you do, too.

I also detest it when people try to fit their narratives into a larger narrative. But hear me out: I actually come to this story with legitimate connections.

One, my daughter. She’s Indigenous. We adopted her when she was one day old. She changed my life.

Two, Sir John A. Macdonald. He changed Indigenous lives, too.

He was the monster who came up with the residential school system — the system where it became acceptable to drop babies in unmarked graves. After they had been stolen from their parents, and abused, and destroyed.

And, in some cases, killed. Obviously killed. (Why else hide their deaths from the world?)

“Sir” John A. Macdonald was a young lawyer in Prince Edward County, where I live. I literally live in the area’s old general store and post office, and Macdonald used to come here to get his mail.

And he called people like my daughter “savages,” many times. He called for more “Aryan culture” in Canada. And he acted on those words.

So, what can we do, so long after the fact, you ask? Fair question.

Just this week, the Americans are dealing with a similar act of evil: One hundred years ago this month, a white mob attacked the predominantly black district of Greenwood, in Tulsa, Okla. The mob killed at least 300 African American men, women and children, and they burned 35 square blocks to the ground.

And they did all that, as with Canada’s residential schools, with official sanction. Some had even been made deputies.

So, what are the Americans doing about that, so long after that fact? Plenty.

There’s a massive lawsuit, for starters, against every level of government. It demands a detailed accounting of what was lost and stolen. It calls for the building of a hospital. It calls for an ongoing fund to compensate victims — survivors and descendants. It calls for a tax break for victims until restitution is paid.

That’s not a tweet or a Facebook meme: That’s real, meaningful, concrete action. It’s something that you don’t need to be powerful to do — it in fact is specifically designed to empower the powerless.

So I ask you: Someone wants to take your babies and children away from you, never to be seen again. To steal their language, and their culture, and their lives. What would you do?

You’d do a hell of a lot more than some slacktivism. I know that — you know that.

So, let’s do more.

— Warren Kinsella has been a Ministerial Special Representative on Indigenous matters in every region of Canada

18 Comments

  1. irreversable road map to freedom says:

    People need to take the time to talk about these things in person. The truth is average white settler Canadians are generally ill prepared to accept the facts. For example, a guy I work with was going on about how the children probably died of TB, that the schools were intended to teach English etc… So I took the time to explain that – no- the children were probably murdered either intentionally or through neglect. This is why the graves are unmarked. The purpose of the schools was indeed to destroy Indigenous culture and this is well documented. The children were indeed abducted by the government. Again, well documented.

    Singh has made a good proposal to knock it off with the court battles. I think this is a good start. The multi-generational damage is well beyond the scope of any Western judicial concepts. Colonialism and its aftermath are territory where these norms simply do not exist.

    That said, I don’t agree with removing SJAM from schools or tearing down statues. I don’t think that is going to alleviate any suffering. Its not the same as confederate statues. SJAM didn’t fight a war against his own country to defend his racism. His country was (is) racist. It is better to acknowledge that the country is flawed, not just one man who died 130 years ago.

    • Moose Knows says:

      Odds are your friend may have been right, but that doesn’t make it excusable for the government or those who ran the schools. In 1907, Dr. Peter Bryce told to government that if he wanted to create a tuberculosis factory he would create residential schools. The government was aware that kids were dying droves by tuberculosis but did little to change the policies or practices that made these schools so lethal. The tuberculosis thing is being used as a get-around, but it isn’t. The kids were in government care, and everyone after Dr. Bryce’s 1907 should have been aware they were sending these kids into an unhealthy and potentially lethal environment.
      The fact is, the people running the schools had so little empathy for their students and their families, in general, that they discarded and disrespected those who died of natural causes even when there wasn’t a need to hide evidence.

  2. Peter Seville says:

    How is it that the Christian churches that did the actual killing continue to be attended and supported by so many people? Boggles my mind.

    • irreversable road map to freedom says:

      Very simply, a lot of them don’t want to believe it / can’t believe it.

      Also, attendance at church does not demonstrate agreement with everything that church does or has done. Plenty of Catholics for instance think the Roman Curia is nuts.

  3. Miles Lunn says:

    I think main thing is to teach people about history including the unpleasant facts but also we cannot change the past but we can change the future. That means acknowledging the past but then moving forward. With many bands on territory with lots of resources, I have long supported the idea of giving them an ownership stake, maybe even full ownership in resource development as I believe that could help lift many out of poverty. Likewise to preserve culture, we should start offering indigenous languages in schools as second language for ones with few native speakers and for larger ones which many still speak, they should have option of doing education in that language instead of English or French (while still leaning one of two as second language). Heck even with bilingualism, I would support idea of having federal signs in English, French, and indigenous language of the territory they are on.

    Likewise perhaps we could look to New Zealand as they had a similar past, but with Maoris they had a one time settlement and has worked reasonably well. Off course would have to adjust to unique circumstances as lots of differences too. I would even support this of giving reserves full taxing power that provinces have and those living on them including non-indigenous would pay tax to band instead of province in. This could in particular be quite attractive for many firms if lower and also likewise this would give them more control over things like health, education, transportation etc. US does this and while their history is every bit as bad with Native Americans, their tribal territories are granted greater autonomy.

    More importantly I think real problem today is not just racism against First Nations, which still very much exists even if less bad than past, but rather ignorance and indifference. It seems like First Nations issues almost never enter political discussion and real problem is less hostility to action, but rather indifference.

    One positive is Ellis Ross is running for BC Liberal leader and if he wins that and becomes next premier, I believe that could do a lot having a First Nations leader as premier of third largest province.

  4. Robert White says:

    Professor Palmatter advises to advocate for legislation with teeth and meaning vis-a-vis genocide, potable water on reserves, et cetera. Genocide is occurring as we write here via the potable water problems on likely all First Nations lands given that First Nations & Palmatter advise that they need minimally $8 billion for water filtration, septic systems, and drilled wells just to maintain what already exists to a standard of reasonableness that the average city municipality has.

    Parliament has dithered for decades and they are they slacktivists IMHO.

    I’ve always complained about this stuff since Internet became reality and accessible.

    RW

  5. Peter Seville says:

    I’m sure that folks who believe in original sin.. talking snakes in the garden of Eden, and eternal damnation, would have difficulty coming to terms with the fact that their churches killed so many children.

  6. Gilbert says:

    The church is a human institution and this means it is flawed. Nobody can disagree with this. However, I’ve noticed that those who attack the church rarely see any of the good that it accomplishes.

    • Robert White says:

      The village idiot is a human institution too as it takes a whole village to raise but one village idiot that is flawed.
      Nobody can disagree with this. However, I’ve noticed too that those who attack the village idiot rarely see any of the good that accomplishes given the dogma of the village, of course.

      RW

    • Phil in London says:

      So help me understand this dynamic, must we praise Stalin for his contribution to the crushing of Hitler, or is it fair game to discuss his role in the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam war? Are famines or orchestrated by him that deliberately lead millions to starvation deaths all to be hushed because he got rid of Hitler?

      This precious church is neither innocent nor a bit player.

      Your lame-assed request for praise is precisely how this story continues. These “men of God” are given cattle Blanche because of good works?

      People who wish to defend abusers are naive or complicit.

  7. Peter Williams says:

    Justin Trudeau and the rest of Parliament will talk and talk and talk. Justin may even borrow some money to give to First Nations members.

    But the upgrades to Justin’s summer houses at Harrington Lake will be finished before all First Nations get clean drinking water. And I’ll bet that Justin has clean drinking water at Harrington Lake.

  8. Pipes says:

    Everyone knows that in government or clergy, the strategy is always, deny, deny until they die. They also know people in general can’t sustain a fight. People have jobs and children etc that distract them and don’t have the capital it takes to take on prodigious institutions. Without stimulus, everything dies in a 6 day newscycle.
    That’s why you, as an individual should right your MP and the Vatican. Do something. Do anything!

  9. irreversible road map to freedom says:

    Phil,

    I think the key is to avoid assigning black and white / good and evil labels to entire institutions / religions. The Catholic Church (and I am emphatically not Catholic by choice) has done good things and bad things. Catholic Monks in the Middle Ages invented universities for example.

    There is tremendous fault in the leadership of the Church with respect to Indigenous relations. However, I couldn’t bring myself to the position that everything the Church has ever done is wrong, that it is fundamentally evil and therefore so are average lay people.

    The problem is that the Church hierarchy is accountable to nothing but ancient nostalgia. As you say “carte blanche because of good works”. This isn’t the fault of average lay people. They didn’t create the ridiculous unaccountable hierarchy that exists today -unique amongst world religions – and they certainly aren’t standing in the way of change.

    • Phil in London says:

      I can agree with a lot of what you are saying but first off Universities were first established by Muslims in the 700s UNESCO and GUINESS will agree with me on that.

      I also disagree with the notion that lay persons can have no fault, they can. About a year ago the Black Lives Matter movement was insisting that white people are complicit in racism if they don’t publicly speak out against it. I don’t happen to agree with that but it was accepted by many.

      So let me refine that to this situation, I believe EVERY lay person CAN speak out and that they can make the choice to challenge church authority. This is not 1950s rural Canada. I am not saying it would be easy for lay persons to speak out, just that they can. It would be persuasive I believe if every lay person withheld from the collection plate with a clear message they were going to directly deposit their usual tithes to another different charity in protest. It would register.

      Now, I agree with the majority of your remaining comments. I have no doubt about good works of my faith. I don’t publicly practice my Catholic faith (personal preference) by going to church but I do still live it in my heart.

      I mentioned Stalin to drive home a point, that I think it outrageous to somehow try to wipe out the bad in this story with the overall good works of the church. I never in any way alluded to the Catholic Church on a whole being bad, I was attacking the notion that someone could somehow use the many good works as almost an absolution for the bad.

      I don’t know if Gilbert was trying to lessen the stain by reciting the good works, my point was to suggest that the good works are not a soap to cleanse the bad.

      I am not even that convinced the hierarchy of the RC Church is evil or corrupt as much as it is obstinate in the face of challenges. That hierarchy would counsel me to beg forgiveness for my sins and encourage others to forgive. I just have a really big problem with current leadership being sorry for the pain caused but in no way say they are sorry for what the organization they run did in different times. I think there is a difference in what you are apologizing for.

      I think the apology must be clear and unqualified and I find it repugnant that the church would offer to be involved in the reconciliation, they may want to be but I feel that would be the native’s choice. The apology need be that “we are sorry for what we did as an institution” PERIOD.

      I don’t like that this conversation has varied from the original article, it was not about what the church did, it was about the slacktivism of many (I think this was aimed mostly at Trudeau) .

  10. Andy Kaut says:

    Reading the comments and considering the official position of the OMI folk, it looks like your slacktivism is a direct result of responsibility; the closer to the original Sin, the less we are willing to do.

    Eg. the Anglican Church has never made any qualms about their participation; they have apologized but never made reparations. The RC church has done neither. And the government has apologized until their face turned blue, but seem still unable to square the circle that is generations of abuse and addiction.

    I have an idea.

    Throw out the Indian Act. Abolish the reserve system that keeps generational abuse perpetuated ( https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/cycle-of-first-nations-sexual-abuse-1.3888184 ). And quit throwing money at the problem like that’s the solution.

    Hilariously, the federal government in the last 20 years has only had two solutions for the indigent Indigenous population- ignore the loud ones, buy the rest off. Harper tried, Trudeau has tried, and the money flows right back out again. This is the worst form of paternalism; you obviously can’t make a way for yourself, raise your kids, compete in white society, so we’ll Fix It All.

    And government tried. They tried then and they tried now. They’ve taken a knee, they’ve signed the cheques…all of this is a version of government knowing best. The only thing they haven’t done is listened. And learned.

    The gov’t decided that the Crown knew better than the people. And every damned time we vote on shit without listening first, we do the exact same.

    Ask those survivors. What do they want to see come out of this? Should we scan every school? Should we compel the churches of all strikes to repay their part? Should we, maybe, actually start giving land back?

    Or should we buy some nifty orange shirts and drop some flags?

  11. Gilbert says:

    Natives in Canada have been mistreated by both religious and secular sectors of society. In a country like Canada, I don’t understand why there are reserves that don’t have access to clean drinking water. That’s very sad.

    • Robert White says:

      It’s criminal, and criminal genocidal behaviour on the part of my Government of Canada is not going to be tolerated by myself, or First Nations anymore.

      Idle No More was an appropriate revolution and it should still be promulgated.

      Indian Affairs is still a joke after all these years. Nothing works for First Nations if Parliament never makes any progress whatsoever YoY.

      RW

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