A fellow residential school survivor comforts Lorna Standingready during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission closing ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2015. Mark DeWolf says he remains open to ‘any credible evidence’ that residential school enrolment harmed Indigenous families more than enrolment in other kinds of schooling, or no schooling. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
The man who wrote the commentary on which a controversial radio ad claiming to debunk the "myths" of residential schools was based says he attended one himself and he stands by his opinions.
The radio ad labelled commonly accepted narratives on the traumatic impacts of residential schools as "myths." Both the ad and the written commentary were produced by the Winnipeg-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP).
Audio of the ad was removed from the FCPP’s Soundcloud nine days after it was published, but a transcript summarizing it concludes with a link to a five-page article titled "Myth vs. Evidence: Your Choice," by FCPP research associate Mark DeWolf, from August 2018.
DeWolf, described in the article as a retired English teacher, writer and musician living in Halifax, told CBC News in an emailed statement that he attended St. Paul’s Indian Residential School on the Kainai reserve near Cardston, Alta., for six years. He said his father was the principal and that his mother sometimes taught at the school.
DeWolf said that while he wasn’t aware his article was being made into a radio commentary, he stood by its message.
"I confess I was shaken and rather upset to see how the ads — which I knew nothing about — had been perceived by some individuals," DeWolf said in the statement.
"But while that ad necessarily boiled things down to a few simple statements, it doesn’t misrepresent the main points of what I originally wrote."
"I remain open to any credible evidence that [residential school] enrolment harmed Indigenous families more than enrolment in a day school, enrolment in a white public school, or no education at all," DeWolf said in the statement. 15-year-old study cited
The radio ad claimed "there is little evidence that abuse that was suffered by a grandparent had any effect on the academic success of the generations that followed" and that "former students of residential schools are nearly twice as likely to have retained more of their language and traditional culture than those who did not attend an IRS institution, and are more likely to provide leadership in preserving that culture, than those who did not attend."
In a footnote for these claims, DeWolf’s article cites a 2002/2003 health survey done by the First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC), a non-profit research firm based in Akwesasne, Ont. DeWolf’s article claims that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has ‘helped spread erroneous information’ about residential schools. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) DeWolf’s article also suggests that media reporting on residential school survivors is largely exaggerated or incomplete and that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has spread some "erroneous" information.
The article says that efforts "made to place the IRS system’s significance in its proper context provoke outrage and attract fierce condemnation by those who suspect a racist or political motivation."
DeWolf wrote in his statement to CBC "When I used the word ‘myth’ in my essay, I was thinking very much of the way Canadians almost to a man (and woman) thought of German soldiers in WWI as baby-bayonetting Huns, and the way some Canadians who didn’t get caught up in that thinking were shamed.
"That useful propaganda campaign may have achieved its short-term purpose (recruitment of the young men who died by the thousands in Europe), but it did not hasten good and trusting relationships between the Canadian […]
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