Observed on July 1, Canada Day is normally the day when the Canadian nation celebrates its history. But for this year, the celebrations were not only muted, they were interrupted by Indigenous protestors that had every right to make their feelings of anger felt. This was due to the bodies of more than a thousand children being found in the areas surrounding the residential school that was operated by the Canadian state and the Catholic church in the late 1800s.
Since the news made headlines, arsonists have directed their anger over the heinous crimes once committed by former Catholic clergy by destroying such symbols of Anglo colonialism, which are the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria statues.
After a mass grave filled with at least 200 children was found last May, and hundreds more found in June, people were shocked and horrified as more of the story of how they got there in the first place surfaced on the news.
Between the years 1890 to 1978, a school was opened that was part of a network of institutions run by those in the Roman Catholic Church all across Canada. Indigenous children were taken from their homes and forced into the school in order to have them assimilate ‘into Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada,’ where they were not allowed to speak their native language or exercise any of their cultural practices or beliefs.
Moreover, the school was known for physical, sexual and emotional abuse that they put the more than 150,000 children that attended the institution through. In fact, in 2015, there was a probe into the school by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that explained the school’s targeting of indigenous people in Canada a “culture of genocide.”
A few former students even told the commission that it was a horrible, brutal and incredibly unsanitary place that lacked enough heat during the long winter months. Worse, one student that went to the school back in the 1920s commented that “Every Indian student smelled of hunger.” There were numerous disease and virus outbreaks consisting of tuberculosis, influenza, measles and other contagious sicknesses throughout all their years of operation, many of which caused a number of children to die as well.
While other past students described the traumatic sexual abuse they had suffered while enrolled in the school, they also shared how some of the children disappeared when they tried to escape.
With all the stories being shared alongside the horrific discoveries of the mass graves, many of the First Nations Peoples were angered, having many traumatizing memories and torment come to the surface, causing some of them to direct their anger at the symbols of colonialism found around Canada.
As a matter of fact, at least seven churches, with only one of them not being Catholic, have come under attack by arsonists in the last few weeks. Meanwhile, just last June, a statue of Pope John Paul II that stands in a Catholic church in Edmonton was covered in red paint and handprints.
The Pope John Paul II statue outside Holy Rosary Catholic church by NAIT has been vandalized with red paint.
Footprints & handprints around it.
— David Boles (@DavidJBoles) June 27, 2021
Then on July 1, other Canadian residents had a protest that pulled down the statue of Queen Elizabeth II, alongside the statue of her great grandmother and the original figurehead of the British colonization, Queen Victoria. In a Sky Newsreport on Twitter, it featured the overturned statues while people chanted “No Pride in Genocide!,” with many other media outlets reporting the same.
Queen Victoria statue toppled in Canada.
Crowds chanted 'no pride in genocide' as the statue was brought down and then kicked.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 2, 2021
— Marina v Stackelberg (@CBCMarina) July 1, 2021
Statue of Queen Elizabeth II adjacent to Government House has also been brought down. pic.twitter.com/UCFZYYPKjy
— Renée Rodgers (@ReneeRodgersCTV) July 1, 2021
Over 2,000 miles away in Parliament Hill in Ottawa, a large group of protestors were heard chanting “Cancel Canada Day” and “shame on Canada” as they called for the end of the national holiday due to the unacceptable deaths of so many indigenous children.
While both the indigenous groups and some Canadian leaders and politicians demand for the Catholic church to issue an apology, especially from their religious leader, Pope Francis, reportedly the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishopsreleased a statement saying that this could still happen at the end of the year.
What is not as clear is whether the British crown will bother to give an apology to those that belong to Canada’s indigenous people. Just like a number of other British colonies, the British monarchy has never been apologetic for their yearning to colonize those that they can for the country’s personal gain.
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