Friday, June 18, 2021

Doubling Down on Racism - The Chris Champion Edition

 Over at the Dorchester Review, we find one Chris Champion doubling down on his position that the "Indian Residential Schools (IRS) really weren't all that bad".  

The dust-up on Twitter starts a few days ago, but culminates in a series of posts like this one, depicting students "having an absolute blast on that play structure", for which the poster got well blasted in the responses.  

First of all, I will point out that WWII Nazi propaganda showed us pictures of smiling children in concentration camps, and prisoners playing football - that doesn't change the brutality of the conditions they were kept in - it was still propaganda. 

For context, the Dorchester Review is a quasi-intellectual publication operated by the same Chris Champion that led the writing of the much criticized Social Studies components in the Kenney Government's proposed curriculum revisions - we'll come back to that.  For now, I want to focus on what the Dorchester Review's Twitter account has posted, and an article that was published on their website this morning.  Given the tone and tenor of what is written in the article, and what I have seen on Twitter, I assume that whoever is running the Dorchester Review Twitter account is either Chris Champion himself, or someone very close to Mr. Champion. (does it really matter?)  

This morning, in reply to this tweet, and several others, we find the following tweet: 

Which just happens to link to an article on the subject written by Mr. Champion.  Let's take a closer look at Mr. Champion's ideas here, shall we? 

THE LOCATION BY radar scanning of the remains of an estimated 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site was another grim image and reminder that much of the experience of native people in Canadian history has been tragic. Learning more about isolated school gravesites, one can only be saddened at the harsh lot endured by children far from home and by all innocent people who suffered and died from disease in epidemics. But it is if possible sadder still to see a grossly distorted and selective narrative taking grip of a large segment of society, one that threatens to empty “truth and reconciliation” of real meaning or effect.

No, Mr. Champion, it is not a "selective narrative" - a selective narrative is what most Canadians were fed about the IRS program. We grew up either not being told about these things, or being told a very glossed over version that made it sound like a private school from England. We weren't told about the coercion used to force students to go there, the intentions of the politicians who created the program, nor were we told about the horrors that went on there.  

It's also very concerning to see Mr. Champion minimizing the presence of unmarked graves on these properties. Think about that for a moment - not only did these students (children) die far from their homes and families, but they were buried in unmarked graves. Further, for reasons lost to the sands of time, the schools don't seem to have kept any records of these deaths, or have bothered to notify the families of their child's death?  

Almost the entire media and social media class in Canada, however, seized on Kamloops as evidence of “Canada’s Holocaust,” as if the children had been deliberately killed or that death was the norm rather than the very sad exception. Much of the political elite responded like a Pavlovian dog, and the near-universal assumption is now that such unidentified graves are proof that the government, nuns, or the pope were responsible for “genocide.” Teachers leading classes online implied that the children had been killed; this is now the norm in schools. Those Indian children who did somehow manage not to get wiped out by clergymen and the three R’s are now described as “survivors.” But anyone over the age of 40 knows that the term “survivor” was specifically used for “Holocaust survivor,” meaning European Jews not exterminated in the Shoah, and that the word has since been co-opted by others for its political emotiveness rather than its accuracy.

When The Dorchester Review remarked on Twitter on May 30 that most of the children likely died of disease (meaning they were not murdered), the mere suggestion was met with a huge efflux of ivory tower and Twitter gutter posturing about “denialism” seemingly from millennial activists unaccustomed to discussing things once they have made up their own mind.

Oh, so, we're supposed to just brush this off as "these kids died of illness" now, are we? 

Does it not occur to Mr. Champion that one can murder just as easily with neglect and cruelty as with a shotgun or a sword? We know now that conditions in the residential schools were far from ideal,  If you want a deeper dive, the report 'The Survivors Speak' from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) goes more into the experiences of the students. 

I'm quite certain that a good number of students died of disease at the various IRS sites. When those schools were notoriously underfunded, lacked adequate food and so on, one might almost predict that waves of illness would take a heavy toll. However, it is the lack of resources provided to those schools which created a situation which would inevitably kill more students. In today's language, we call that neglect - and it carries criminal consequences. One can make an argument that forcing these children to attend schools which were designed to erase their culture and language, to live at those schools, and then to under-resource those schools is in fact a deliberate act of neglect. 

One is also left to wonder why it is that those same schools couldn't be bothered to even record the deaths of students, and simply put their bodies in unmarked graves? Given that the intent of the schools was to break students of their family and cultural roots, one might suspect that the attitudes within the school administrations was a fairly cynical one that started with the idea that the students weren't really human to begin with ... an attitude consistent with ... racist thinking. 

LIKE THE totalitarian propagandists of history, activists do not hesitate to use the dead as ammunition to blast Canada as a racist and genocidal country. The momentum of the Sinclair Commission is in fact to keep the wounds always as raw as possible to prevent healing. Thanks to the multi-billion dollar grievance industry that has metastasized since the 1970s there can never be closure, a situation made worse by the Harper government’s failure to set any limit or time cut-off for claimants.

While the TRC was headed by retired Justice Murray Sinclair, it was never titled "The Sinclair Commission".  Champion's use of this language is another attempt to dismiss the TRC's findings and declare the voices of the people in them invalid.  Yes, one might start to suspect that Mr. Champion has a deeply racist streak in his thinking. 

The Harper Government could not place limits on claimants even if it wanted to.  Any such limits would have immediately been struck down both on basic charter analysis, but also on the well established basis that people can take very long periods of time to work through their trauma to a place where they can even bring themselves to speak about it. 

The Sinclair Commission reports are not the last word but rather a beginning where historians are concerned. We must hope brave researchers will emerge to bring a semblance of balance to the story of the schools. They weren’t ideal and were sometimes horrible, but they were a very far cry from concentration camps.
Perhaps it's convenient for Mr. Champion that he's allegedly a historian, and he can do that actual evidence-based investigation to come to a "balanced" conclusion.  Of course, I suspect strongly that his idea of "balance" means ignoring the TRC reports entirely.  He is remarkably persistent in his efforts to minimize the IRS program, though.  

It is erroneous to call the schools “compulsory” with “the aim of forcibly assimilating indigenous youth,” as did the BBC, for example. Some were compulsory, others not. Only about one-third of native children in Canada ever attended a residential school, so they cannot all have been compulsory.

This is utter nonsense. We have direct quotes from the architects of the program stating that the intent was, from the outset, to assimilate.  I don't care how much Champion wants to whitewash these words, the stated intent was there from the beginning, and taints the whole program.  In arguing that "only about one-third" of indigenous children attended a residential school, he quietly ignores the amendments made to the Indian Act under MacDonald which made school attendance compulsory, the coercive tactics used to separate children from their parents, and events like the "60s Scoop". 

If Mr. Champion wasn't so invested in his own biases, he would likely find it much easier to recognize that there is a broad pattern of systemic racism in Canada's politics that drove programs like the IRS.  

Another ignored aspect is this: What was it like to be a teacher or administrator? Are there no diaries, letters, memoirs, or other such records? It is ridiculous to compare organizations of poor Oblates to machine-gun-toting Einsatzgruppen and Soviet NKVD.

I do not understand the logic at play here. Whether you wrap it up in the cloak of religion or not, it's still genocide when you try to wipe out another culture and/or its people. I don't think the RCMP were exactly the "gentle enforcers" here either - we have plenty of evidence that they were anything but. Vile deeds don't become less vile simply because one puts a genteel face on those who perpetrated them.

Mr. Champion's mere involvement in the development of Kenney's curriculum is now enough to taint the resulting program irrevocably with his racism. The proposed curriculum needs to be pulled and redesigned with a much broader range of voices contributing to it. 

If there's one thing that comes out of this, it's that we should all strive to not be Chris Champion. Canada and Canadians are capable of being better than this obstreperous, stubborn man who refuses to accept the reality of what happened to the indigenous peoples at the hands of unfeeling, racist government policies. 

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