Dr. Roland Chrisjohn delivers keynote address at the conference "The Psychiatrization of Indigenous People as a Continuation of Genocide"The Psychiatrization of Indigenous People as a Continuation of Genocide." Video screenshot. There are two highly critical contexts as well as focuses for this article — the first is a historic conference and keynote address held at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). The name of both was "The Psychiatrization of Indigenous People as a Continuation of Genocide" and the primary speaker was Indigenous scholar Dr. Roland Chrisjohn, member of the Oneida Nation and professor at St. Thomas University. The second context and focus is the horrific violence done to Indigenous people in the part of Turtle Island known as Canada — more particularly, Canada’s tendency, while seemingly "redressing" the violence, at the same time minimizing, covering up the violence, and even perpetrating new types of violence, duly theorized as "help."
To begin with the second of these, such obfuscations have happened throughout "Canadian history," but to start in "contemporary times," jubilation and enthusiasm abounded when the Royal Commission on Indigenous People was formed. Finally, we were going to see an honest redressing of grievances, some figured. The Commission was to visit a huge number of Indigenous communities. Correspondingly, concepts like "nation-to-nation negotiating" were in the air. Moreover, they even sought out the services of the truly exceptional Indigenous scholar Dr. Roland Chrisjohn to do the residential school part of their study. The problem? The needs and demands of Indigenous women were largely ignored. Colonizing solutions like "loosing" a team of hundreds of social workers on Indigenous communities were among the major recommendations and outcomes. And the report on the prison system was notoriously deficient.
Additionally, while Roland wrote an exceptional piece that was supposed to be published by them — The Circle Game (in 1994) — which scrupulously lay bare the actual horror of the residential schools, the Commissioners never published it, despite Roland having been told it was brilliant and being assured it would be fast tracked — for people in charge were loathe to upset the Catholic Church (for details on the actual Report of the Royal Commission, see here ). Instead he read in the newspaper that the Commission had "discovered" that Indigenous people were suffering from "residential school syndrome" and were in need of tons of therapists. How convenient! What an unmitigated cover-up! And what a boon for the legions of social workers who indeed were the only "winners" here. Certainly not the Indigenous people. And certainly not the principle of truth.
Fast-forward several decades, and enter the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Finally, we are going to get redress, many once again felt. And yes, some important measures have been taken. Nonetheless — and understanding this is absolutely critical — once again we see a backing away from the totality of what happened, and what is in essence a cover-up. Just look at the name itself — "Truth and Reconciliation." How in the blazes could it get at "truth" when it was not given the authority to subpoena government documents? To call this " Truth and Reconciliation," that is, to insinuate that this is about the pursuit of truth, is fraudulent. What appears to be operating here is an attempt to create the appearance of truth, while at the same time hiding the truth.
Correspondingly, in what is an unconscionable decision, the Committee described what happened to Indigenous people as "cultural genocide," including the stealing of Indigenous children. To be clear, calling it "cultural genocide" is a way to circumvent the terrible reality […]
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