Home > BC Liberals, BC New Democrats, British Columbia Politics, Northern BC > BC Liberal MLA’s Remarks On Residential Schools Shameful

BC Liberal MLA’s Remarks On Residential Schools Shameful

March 14, 2008

We keep on being told by the BC Liberal government that it is pursuing a new relationship with First Nations.

If that is true, then Gordon Campbell has no choice but to reprimand and remove Dennis MacKay, MLA for Bulkley Valley – Stikine from the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth, for his rather shameful comments on residential schools and aboriginal choice schools. Before I go further, read his comments for yourself:

“Now we have the total aboriginal school proposed for Prince George. I just wondered, with the negative thoughts that are attached to the residential school system.

I don’t believe for a moment that every child that went to a residential school was abused. I think a lot of aboriginal people benefited greatly from the residential school system, but we never hear from them.

I would be interested in your thoughts on this going back to a totally separate school for the aboriginal students…”

Wow! Where do I begin?

I’ll start with the low-hanging fruit: the part of the quote that I italicized. MacKay thinks that most aboriginal people benefited from the residential school system? Really? I can’t see being forced to move away from home away from one’s parents, being forced to speak English, being punished for speaking one’s own language as being beneficial. Not at all.

Now the second thing about the comment that scares me. MacKay’s comparison of residential schools to a proposed aboriginal choice school for Prince George. The proposed aboriginal choice school would focus a little more than the regular schools on aboriginal culture, languages, and ways of teaching.

It would be the choice of the parent to send their child to this school – and that child could be of any race. If an aboriginal parent doesn’t want to send their child to this school, they don’t have to. Simply put, the aboriginal choice school would be similar to French Immersion, or Montesorri.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I fail to see anything but superficial similarities between an aboriginal choice school which the parents can choose for their children and is open to everyone, and a residential school which was only open to aboriginals and the parents didn’t really have a choice.

With his obvious lack of understanding on these issues Dennis MacKay should not be a member of this standing committee, and Campbell should remove him.

PS: Thanks to the reader who sent an e-mail and pointed out the italicized part of the quote to me.

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  1. March 14, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Great post. I think that Mr. Mackay needs to sit down with a few residential school survivors and listen to their stories the next time he wants to spew stuff like that. I’ve heard many of these stories, and even though i’ve seen a lot of this stuff, I still get choaked up when I hear them tell their stories.

    At the end of the day, these schools were about tearing Aboriginal people down, telling them that everything about them wasn’t good and that the only way that they could be good would be to be “more white”. Imagine if we took that same approach to teaching other students of other backgrounds today, and told that to children of different backgrounds??? Schools are supposed to be about making children feel great about themselves and who they are, not to tear them down. If Mr. Mackay feels that it’s alright for some people to have faced those actions, then he truly deserves to loose his seat.

  2. Billy Smith
    March 14, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    You’re both being too kind. The residential school program was a national disgrace. They were trying to force assimilation on First Nations. In the process, many were beaten, raped and/or killed. This can only be seen as an attack on the culture of the aboriginal groups.

    MacKay should be ashamed of himself. He’s not, nor, apparently is Campbell. The chair of the committee has said the NDP should apologize for bringing this to light, if you can believe it.

    An interesting aspect of this is that the story was on Canada Now last night. It aired on CBC Radio all day today. It was on CKNW Radio in Vancouver. It ran in several newspapers, including the Province and the Times Colonist. Yet the newspaper closest to MacKay’s riding had nary a word. Curious, no? They must not have been able to fit it in around all the photo ops for Shirley, Pat and John, I guess.

  3. March 14, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Billy…. I wasn’t trying to be too kind. I was trying to be measured in my words. I have lots of strong words for the residential school program, but I didn’t think that by using some of the words that i’d rather use I would be helping matters. It’s true that Mackay should be ashamed of himself, but i’ve found that those that tend to make those comments don’t feel like they have anything to be ashamed of. The only way to change that is, as I suggested above, to speak to those directly affected by it. When you put a face to those actions of the past, and see those who suffered from it and how it affects them, that shame should hit him then.

  1. May 5, 2008 at 3:25 pm
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