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Whitewashing the atrocities of history is abhorrent

To the editor,

Who would deny the past?

I find Holocaust deniers to be despicable. The Holocaust, or Hitler’s final solution, was to murder every Jew in Europe. It was premeditated genocide and before the Nazis were stopped they had executed approximately six million innocent people.

That happened.

Most Canadians are rightly proud of our country’s role in ending the Holocaust. But horrifically, some Canadians don’t believe it even happened. Instead, these deniers believe the stories of death camps are exaggerated or made up, that Jews were “merely” deported, or that the Holocaust was a hoax invented to motivate allied troops in World War II. Whether these deniers are inspired by anti-Semitism, ignorance or guilt, their views are hateful and repugnant.

Many years before the Holocaust, the fathers of our confederation had a problem. Their vision of a transcontinental nation had a fly in the ointment; namely, the First Nations people. The Canadian government’s solution was a combination of assimilation, exclusion and neglect. The residential school system figured prominently in their plan. Over the next hundred years and more, First Nations children were removed from their parents, often by force, enrolled in residential schools and stripped of their culture.

That also happened.

In 2015 Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued a report that determined residential schools were “schools” in name only. In truth, these government-funded, church-run institutions were set up to eliminate parental involvement in the intellectual, cultural and spiritual development of Aboriginal children. The report documented a system rife with physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Many thousands of children perished from the abuse, from disease, and from neglect.

Most Canadians accept the commission’s findings. But, there are some who deny the schools’ true purpose. They minimize the reports of abuse, and dismiss or deny the terrible death toll. Whether these deniers are motivated by racism, ignorance, or guilt, their views are as hateful and repugnant as any Holocaust denier’s.

To be clear, I am not equating Canada’s residential school system to the Holocaust. No two genocides are the same. What I am saying is that white-washing the atrocities of our history is abhorrent. Residential schools were a form of cultural genocide waged against the First Nations people. We as Canadians must fully accept the truth about them and dedicate ourselves to national reconciliation.

Along with the report, the commission submitted 94 calls to action. To our country’s shame, in the six years since the report was issued, we have only implemented a tiny handful of them. But, we can ignore our past no longer. Canada owes it to our First Nations and our future to do better.

It won’t be easy, but it must be done.

Stephen Whitred

Barriere, B.C.