WARNING: This story comprises particulars some readers might discover distressing.
Former prime minister Jean Chrétien stated Sunday that in his tenure as minister of what was then Indian Affairs, he by no means heard something about abuse occurring in residential faculties.
Chrétien made the feedback throughout an look on the favored Radio-Canada discuss present, Tout le Monde en Parle.
“This drawback was by no means talked about once I was minister. By no means,” stated Chrétien, now 87, of his time within the division from 1968 to 1974.
Throughout the French interview, Chrétien appeared to attract a comparability between his personal expertise attending a standard school boarding faculty as a young person to that of Indigenous kids who had been pressured to attend residential faculties.
“I ate baked beans and oatmeal. And to make sure, it was laborious residing in a boarding faculty, extraordinarily laborious. Right here in Quebec, we needed to [in order to get into university],” he stated.
“In Shawinigan, we did not have a university. We needed to go to Trois-Rivières or to Joliette,” he defined. “We had no selection. It was laborious however my dad and mom insisted I am going to school and I needed to do it.”
Chrétien stated whereas he did not get pleasure from sleeping in a dorm with 200 others, he “by no means had an issue.”
Tales of bodily and sexual abuse of Indigenous kids in residential faculties had been documented within the 2015 Reality and Reconciliation Fee.
Extra just lately, discoveries of unmarked graves on residential faculty websites have as soon as once more introduced the difficulty to the forefront.
Innu writer essential of former PM’s feedback
The previous prime minister’s remark drew the ire of one other visitor on the discuss present, Innu writer Michel Jean.
“Respectfully, I do not assume Mr. Chrétien is aware of precisely what residential faculties are,” he stated.
“The phrase boarding faculty makes individuals assume it was a faculty the place we train individuals to jot down, however it wasn’t that.”
He stated that whereas Chrétien may recall consuming poor-quality meals, it does not evaluate to what kids in residential faculties had been subjected to.
“My mom’s cousin informed me that when there was duck, the nuns would preserve the duck meat and reduce the ft off, with its toenails nonetheless on, boil that in water, and that is what they gave to the youngsters.”
Jean described how members of his family suffered abuse in residential faculties.
“There may be somebody in my household who attended a residential faculty in Fort George who was sexually assaulted daily for eight years by a nun,” stated Jean.
“It was known as a boarding faculty, however it was not a faculty.”
‘We will not rewrite historical past’
Chrétien, who appeared on the discuss present to debate his new guide, stated that he was conscious of the existence of residential faculties, however not what was occurring there.
In Chrétien’s autobiographical guide, the previous prime minister recounts an anecdote the place he suggested Queen Elizabeth to not apologize to the Maori individuals of New Zealand for the hurt achieved to them by the British colonial administration.
Chrétien writes within the guide that he informed her: “Your Majesty, in case you begin [apologizing] I should deliver you to Canada and, since now we have a number of hundred Indigenous communities, you can be in your knees for not less than two years.”
When requested about this, Chrétien stated it is high-quality to apologize, however “we won’t rewrite historical past. Horrible issues occurred.”
Chrétien went on to defend his report, saying he tried to enhance the lives of Indigenous individuals in Canada, each personally and politically.
“I even adopted an Indigenous son, to steer by instance,” he stated. “This proves my funding on this concern.”
The final of the residential faculty websites in Canada closed in 1997, whereas Chrétien was prime minister.
Easy methods to get assist
Assist is obtainable for anybody affected by their expertise at residential faculties, and for these triggered by the newest studies.
A nationwide Indian Residential Faculty Disaster Line has been set as much as present help for residential faculty survivors and people affected. Folks can entry emotional and disaster referral providers by calling the 24-hour nationwide disaster line: 1-866-925-4419.