Children line up outside Lejac Residential School in B.C., circa 1907-51. (National Centre for Truth and Reconcilation) A radio ad about the "myths" of residential school trauma that aired recently in Saskatchewan has prompted angry reactions across the province and online.
The two-minute piece, which aired across multiple private radio stations, was made by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP), a Winnipeg-based think tank. It begins with a question: "are Canadians being told the whole truth about residential schools?
"We have been told that the residential school system deserves the blame for many of the dysfunctions in Indigenous society — abuse of alcohol and drugs, domestic violence and educational failures can all be blamed on the school system which did not finally end until the 1990s," veteran prairie broadcaster Roger Currie says in the ad.
"Myth: residential schools robbed native kids of their childhood. In fact the average stay was less than five years and the vast majority of Aboriginal youth never attended a residential school," the ad says.
"Myth: the harm that was done to those attending residential schools has been passed on to today’s generation. In fact there is little evidence that abuse that was suffered by a grandparent had any affect on the academic success of the generations that followed," it continues.
It was also posted to the FCPP’s Soundcloud account, but was removed on Monday.
The spot ran once according to a spokesperson at Manitoba-based Golden West Radio, which operates stations in Swift Current, Humboldt, Moose Jaw, Estevan, Weyburn and Rosetown/Kindersley.
It was a commentary that airs in a paid spot on Fridays, the spokesperson said.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard from more than 6,000 witnesses over six years and its final report in 2015 found that residential schools amounted to cultural genocide. Around 150,000 Indigenous children went to residential schools and it’s estimated around 6,000 children died.
In 2008, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to former students saying it was a sad chapter in Canada’s history and the policy of assimilation was wrong. Listened ‘in disbelief’
Tammy Robert, a media relations specialist and blogger based in Saskatoon, heard the commentary in a coffee shop.
"[I] sat there and listened to the entire thing, kind of in disbelief," said Robert.
Robert said she was stunned at the presentation of residential school-related trauma as myths, and the use of the word "fact." She said wrote a blog post about it.
"I’m an advocate for free speech and opinion but you have to be grounded in fact, and at this stage there’s not a chance that those were facts. That’s what struck me the most," she said. Tammy Robert, who writes the oursask.ca blog, heard the ad in a coffee shop. (CBC News) Robert said she thought the piece was especially problematic as it was airing in rural Saskatchewan, an area she believes has "a racism issue."
"We’ve seen it play out time and time again and most prominently with the Gerald Stanley trial which created even more rural tension and racial tension in Saskatchewan. I just don’t see the point of [the broadcast]," Robert said.
The FCPP said in a statement its radio commentaries are "designed to reach a wider non-traditional audience" and that they’re based on the items published by the centre.It said Currie, the man who voiced the piece, had "no editorial control" over the piece and was "simply a paid professional." The statement did not address concerns raised in reaction to the ad. ‘So egregiously wrong’ James Daschuk, an associate professor at the University of Regina who studies the health of Indigenous Peoples, said he was surprised FCPP developed the commentary that "undermines their […]
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