At The Leader we’re always looking for balance in the way we cover things. That goes for small, local issues and big national or international ones. Not that we spend much ink on topics outside the local context. That isn’t really our job – and let’s face it, a community paper that uses up its space to rant about the U.S. presidency, say, or nutjob Asian dictators deserves to have its knuckles rapped.
What do we know about that stuff anyway?
Answer: not much. Or about as much as anybody else that watches the evening news, reads an Edmonton newspaper or monitors the online chatter. Being opinionated is easy: having something useful to say is not.
It may or may not be useful to say anything about the red hot topic of Indian residential schools in Canada. Like most Canadians, nobody at this publication has any experience with them. The overwhelming impression being conveyed these days is that they perpetrated horrible abuse, without exception, coast to coast to coast. Not having anything to counter that, we are prepared to accept it and regret it, and generally-speaking support all reasonable efforts to right the historical wrongs. There is a lot of baggage being carried around by a lot of people (it seems) who experienced or inherited the damage.
Okay, but is it truth we’re going after here? Because it’s not all on one side. It never is, but you definitely don’t get that impression these days.
For example, we talked to a guy who attended St. Bruno’s School in Joussard back in the 1940s or ‘50s. He figured it saved the lives of him and his siblings, because they were starving at home. They were well fed and well cared for, he said. Is there any room at all in the narrative for this sort of thing? In the current climate, we suspect anybody who expresses this ‘other side of the coin,’ would be shouted down.
We’re not trying to downplay the damage done. But when things get too noisy, too one-sided, we start to get suspicious. Perhaps the whole concept of residential schools was wrong. But the notion being portrayed that the system was universally sadistic and racist simply doesn’t hold water.
It could also be that such stories of ‘good’ experiences at residential schools are being told, but simply are beside the point. The point being that it was a system that never should have existed in the first place. It’s the bastard child of colonialism – one that the powers-that-be wish they didn’t have to acknowledge. And – we have no doubt – if it hadn’t been residential schools it would have been something else that also wouldn’t have worked.
As human beings, we are all involved in a long process of waking up to the realization that ‘other’ people (those who live elsewhere and don’t look like us) deserve respect. It sounds simple, but it isn’t.