The Canadian Museum of Human Rights opens next week but I went in for a preview look yesterday. My expectations were low but my hopes were high. The museum is not nearly complete and that's disappointing, so it's totally premature for any real comment but at least what I did see was better than I'd feared. By the way, they do use the word genocide several times in exhibits about the treatment of indigenous Canadians. And there is a piece on missing and murdered Aboriginal women. However, there's still a lot omitted from our story; as just one instance, so far I see no mention of the official medical reports by Dr. Peter Bryce in 1907-1909 that Indian children were being "deliberately exposed to tuberculosis and other communicable diseases, and then left to die unattended by church and residential school staff". Please see this website http://canadiangenocide.nativeweb.org
This was even more egregious than the policy of trading smallpox blankets to Indians in the US (and possibly Canada).
As an educator creating curriculum that must include our horror history, I continually strive to be grade-appropriate, which is tricky. I can see that CHRM deals with the same challenge. The video testimonies from residential school survivors chosen to appear in the museum is tame and appropriate for children as well as adults. The serious obvious problem is loss of content for adults who ought to know.
To this end, yesterday I suggested, and will continue to suggest, an additional gallery for educators and other adults that would include the more horrendous documents, proofs and testimonies, which would not be viewed by unaccompanied children. However, I feel this material should be mandatory for grade school teachers and politicians who so influence tone and policy in Canada. Our horror history has always been soft-pedaled - because it IS so horrific - so Canadians don't really know much beyond the inferred sexy bits. We have to have the courage to face the whole picture both privately and publicly including the worst parts. It's a big dirty secret, the details of which involve medical crimes, collusion, complicity and coverups at every level.
I intend to visit at least once more before I leave town, and on subsequent trips to Winnipeg. I will both suggest and squawk when appropriate.
Meanwhile, rather than criticize the cake before it comes out of the oven, or CHRM for what they have not yet done, my own time is going towards working with our own indigenous experts - from street people to Ph.Ds - on contemporary issues. Regardless of outside efforts, our own people can also make a huge difference. Educating and supporting each other is already underway but always needs to beef up and stay healthy. I heard that at least one Reserve plans to make their own museum, direct and uncensored. Of course I wish we had CHRM's tremendous financial resources.
Regarding doing the song My Country tis of Thy People You're Dying, I really don't want to shorten it for TV so probably won't sing it at tonight's show.
My Country has it's own historical value and was written 50 years ago when I was the only person talking about it. Now, I'm glad to say, we have teams of Aboriginal educators, and testimony from survivors who leave no doubt about the issues I covered in My Country, including using the word genocide accurately. Feeling like doing No No Keshagesh (no no greedy guts) which is about environmental greed in Indian country and might inspire more people to do something effective right now. - BSM