Another viewpoint on reconciliation with Aboriginal people

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Re: Reconciliation is a two-way street, Olds Albertan, July 6, 2017

Mr. Giesbrecht makes some commonly stated valid comments on the question of reconciliation of indigenous peoples with other Canadians. I hope comments such as his stimulate conversations around many dinner tables, and among many groups of people.

I take issue with a few of his points, without going into great detail.

The oppression faced by groups such as Chinese and Jewish people is quite different than that experienced by First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

It was the relentless federal government policy to eradicate their languages, culture, spirituality, economy, governance; in fact everything fundamental to the indigenous way of life. At the least, it was cultural genocide. Literally, the intent was to remake indigenous peoples into people of the white race.

This policy was in addition to taking indigenous land under the guise of peace treaties. In this sense, there is no comparison to other oppressed groups.

The Indian Residential School system was one of the prime strategies to achieve these goals. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented the story of this cruel chapter in Canadian history. Many organizations are committed to answering the calls to action.

There are many amazing indigenous leaders who are making unprecedented contributions in all fields of human endeavour, such as law, business, politics, social work, education, engineering, architecture, spiritual growth, science and the arts. They have overcome huge odds, worked hard, and shown enormous patience.

“Balance” is good. So we could start with increasing spending on education for indigenous children to that spent on non-indigenous children. We could also ensure that indigenous people have clean drinking water, as most other Canadians do. We could reduce the unjust percentage of indigenous people in our jails.

In fact, there have been positive recommendations over the years that would go a long way to achieve some level of equal opportunity.

As Mr. Giesbrecht knows, the Indian Act presents a complicated challenge to achieving true reconciliation. There are many sides to taking action on this reality. The obstacles raised by the Indian Act need to be dealt with.

I have heard indigenous peoples speak of their clear desire “to break out of the trap of dependency.” I am inspired by the many who have, and who are giving impressive leadership along the way. They would have a far better chance of “balance” if they were on a level playing field.

Very Rev. Bill Phipps

Calgary

— Phipps was a moderator with the United Church of Canada from 1997-2000.

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