“In Canada, there have been official government apologies for the abuses committed during the residential schooling era (which lasted until 1996), plus monetary compensation, and a truth and reconciliation commission that was constituted and recently finished its work. Nonetheless the fundamental ethos of residential schooling has not only been preserved, it has been amplified into a template containing the basic operating instructions for how to approach peoples around the world who are understood to be inferior. Such inferiority can be understood, for example, in the way that other people’s governments, no matter how indisputably democratic or legitimate they may be, are consistently treated as if they were disposable.
Residential schooling in Canada and its counterpart systems in Australia and the US, all intended to “save” Native children, to “educate” and thus “improve” them, is reflective of a classic settler state ideology of the late 1800s, which emphasized evolutionary progress through assimilation. It is not an unfamiliar ideology either, for those familiar with the thinking behind “modernization” theory and the basic thrust of international developmentalism. What is interesting to note is that it is only out of these same settler states that ideas of the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) emerged and were propagated at the UN in recent years. The main actors who articulated and advocated for R2P have been primarily Canadian and Australian.
The globalization of residential schooling means that certain basic working principles now constitute a template that is applied to a broader set of international relations, as well as revamped forms of counterinsurgency in foreign military occupations. This template consists of the following elements:
the binary between racially and/or culturally differentiated tutors and wards;
a process of abduction, understood broadly, and exemplified by such phenomena as the international traffic in non-western babies in the adoption industry, to the re-implementation of the trusteeship system, to the neoliberal destruction of state-regulated economies and the military occupation of other nations—thus the seizure of individuals and nation-states, rendering them more or less captive to agendas imposed by western powers; and,
what is still essentially a civilizing mission cloaked as “humanitarianism,” the defence of “human rights,” or “democracy promotion”—that is, ideological narratives and their corresponding practices whose aim is sill that of “saving the natives from themselves” and to prepare them for life in the white man’s world (the “international community,” or “the community of civilized nations”), so that they may lead productive lives as law-abiding, well mannered servants of the global capitalist economy.
What “abduction” can also mean is that in order for “us” (the interventionists) to presume to “care” for little known and even less understood strangers, these “others” must be seen as living in a state of some sort of neglect and unfulfilled need. That other thus becomes like an object that is first “seized” so that it can be set free. That other is an object set low within a hierarchy, one that resembles old cultural evolutionist schemes where Europeans were always at the top, and Africans locked far down below in a Paleolithic time zone awaiting redemption. Western “humanitarianism” thus works within an imperialist ideological framework: that object—for example an Africa once again imagined as a zone of ultimately helpless destitution—needs our “protection” (we are the prime actors, they are the terrain upon which we act)….
… when we in Canada “apologize” for an institution such as residential schooling, for what are we really apologizing? What have we learned about ourselves and our basic values and working assumptions? The answer to both questions unfortunately appears to be: little or nothing.”
James Corbett’s interviews on “Canada’s Genocide”:
Episode 077 – Canada’s Genocide: link to audio
“Canadians enjoy an international image based on peacekeeping and goodwill…but Canadian history harbours its own dark secrets. Join us on The Corbett Report as we talk to Kevin Annett about what the Canadian government has hidden from history and we highlight the work of native activist Splitting The Sky.”
Corbett Report Radio 040 – Canada’s Genocide with Kevin Annett: link to audio
“Tonight we talk to Kevin Annett of hiddennolonger.com about the hidden genocide of native schoolchildren that took place in the Canadian residential school system. We hear about Kevin’s remarkable story trying to bring this hidden history to the public and some of the grisly discoveries made last month that put an end to the debates and whitewashes about what really happened at the schools.