Canadian residential schools

You may have heard it on the news this past week that the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of a residential school in Canada. Residential schools were compulsory boarding schools run by the government and religious authorities during the 19th and 20th centuries with the aim of forcibly assimilating indigenous youth.

I knew these awful schools had existed but I thought only in Australia. It was only on Anne with an E that I realized these schools had also existed in Canada, right up into the 1970s! In season 3 of Anne with an E the character of Ka’kwet (Kiawenti:io Tarbell), a girl from the Mi’kmaq tribe, was introduced…

… and her storyline broke my heart. Hers was the story of a First Nations girl who goes to a residential school full of hope at first but then quickly gets confronted with the horrible reality of these schools. Even though she tries to, she can not escape. Someone made a video about her storyline on the show. At one point a priest says, “God willing, we kill the Indian but save the child” and that line alone just broke my heart. It is included in this video…

The story of Ka’kwet on Anne with an E ends with her being stuck in residential school, her parents camping out near the school and Anne and Matthew going home heartbroken, vowing to start a letter campaign to get her out. Fans, like me, are seeking a better ending for Ka’kwet than she got. A Mi’kma’ki woman wrote a beautiful piece in 2019 just after the show was canceled on how frustrating it is that Ka’kwet never got a real resolution due to the premature cancelation and I’m with her. Showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett has said before that it is impossible to give Ka’kwet an undamaged happy ending as that would not be realistic and she is right. Still, I feel she would have given her some sort of real resolution had the show been allowed to continue and I still really want to see that. So yes, this is another reason why Anne with an E still needs to be renewed.

Today on Twitter Corrine Koslo, who so brilliantly plays Rachel Lynde on the show, shared this…

I’ve been watching these testimonials and it is impossible for me to grasp that these schools existed in my lifetime. Vivian, one of the women giving her testimony, is my age and the effects on her life are harrowing.

In 2008 and in 2017 apologies were made to the First Nations people of Canada and some reparations have also been made. The awful news of finding the remains of these 215 children now has brought this history to the forefront all over the world and that is a good thing. It is important to know what happened (there is some good background info about Canadian residential schools on Wikipedia) and to listen. Of course, we humans do not easily learn to be more tolerant of the other (I’m thinking specifically of Uyghur camps in China right now that are aimed at indoctrinating Uyghurs and other Muslims and eradicating their culture and religion) but I still hope that from knowledge eventually healing and wisdom will come that ends these savage discriminatory practices.