HALIFAX–Residential school survivors expressed outrage Thursday over a statement made by Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan who said the Indian residential school system was not an act of “genocide,” but a case “of education policy gone wrong.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was holding one of its national events in Halifax when news of the minister’s statement hit.
“Well it was a cultural genocide whether Canada wants to believe it or not, it happened,” said Georgina Doucette, an Eskasoni elder.
Duncan made the statement Thursday morning during an announcement Ottawa that the Conservative government would be commissioning a stained glass piece of artwork in honour of residential school survivors to be installed on Parliament Hill.
Recent academic research has shown that residential schools fit the UN definition of genocide.
A TRC official said he wasn’t surprised by Duncan’s statement.
“To hear that there’s an opinion by the federal government that is different from ours, it is not a surprise,” said Wendall Nicholas. “It’s a disappointment and I believe that it’s time that the government truly recognizes that there is an obligation that they understand that they live with and they carry just as we do.”
Residential school survivor Ronald Momogeeshick said he wondered whether the minister would have a different opinion if it was his children that were taken away from him.
“How about if I come over to your house, take your kids, sodomize them, shape their minds,” said Momogeeshick.
One residential school survivor, who did not want to give their name, said the minister should resign.
“If this man does not do his homework and look at the very meaning of genocide, he had better step down from his position and let someone who knows what genocide means in that position,” said the residential school survivor.Â “He is no help to us if that is his attitude and that’s his meaning of what was done to us.”