A “cultural genocide” in Canada is believed to have taken the lives of at least 6000 children studying in the residential school system during 1940s-1950s.
The revised death toll came to light after it was revealed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, that Canada had attempted to commit genocide against aboriginal people, reported The Independent.
“The most glaring blemish on the Canadian historic record relates to our treatment of the First Nations that lived here at the time of colonization,” McLachlin said.
According to Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who is responsible for studying the legacy of the residential schools, the figure is an estimate and the true figure could be much higher.
“We think that we have not uncovered anywhere near what the total would be because the record keeping around that question was very poor. You would have thought they would have concentrated more on keeping track”, Sinclair told CBC.
Sinclair agreed with McLachlin’s assertion that Canada had sustained an “”ethos of exclusion and cultural annihilation”.
The incident dates back to the 19th Century, when the Canadian government developed a policy of aggressive assimilation, advocating education of aboriginal children at church-run residential schools.
According to one estimate, 20 to 40 per cent of aboriginal children who attended the residential schools died shortly after leaving the school.
Most of the children died of malnourishment or disease. Those who attended the schools between the 1940’s and 1950’s were even subjected to science experiments in which they were deprived of basic nutrients and dental care.
“I think as commissioners we have concluded that cultural genocide is probably the best description of what went on here”, McLachlin said, adding further that if anybody tried to do this today, they would easily be subject to prosecution under the genocide convention.
From Canada, that boasts of a first Indian-origin Defence Minister in Harjit Singh Sajjan, here is the story of another Indian-origin woman migrant who has risen to become a minister in the government of the British Columbia — the Western-most province of the country known for its tech prowess globally.
Meet Jinny Jogindera Sims, who was born in Jalandhar in Punjab and migrated at age nine to England where she got a B.Ed degree at the University of Manchester.
Then, Sims and her husband moved to Canada in 1976. The first woman President of British Columbia’s largest teachers’ union, she was elected to the Canadian Parliament in 2011.
The 65-year-old mother of two, who now heads the Ministry of Citizens’ Services of British Columbia, is quite passionate about her job.
In a conversation with IANS, when asked about Canada’s inclusive nature and how emigrants like her can make it to the top in different fields including political power, pat came her reply: “If you ask me is there more we can do, my answer will be absolutely. We need to do more on aboriginals and the nations’ ethnic communities”.
“We need to do more. Inclusivism and racism is not a one-time issue. We need to do more for their education and other issues. We need to do it all the time”.
Asked about Indians and attracting the talent in the growing tech sector of British Columbia, Sims said Indians have made a name for themselves in the tech and other sectors and are in the forefront.
“I have been to India as an MP to various cities, including Bengaluru and Kolkata. Looking at the skills and talent and amazing companies, India is important in the tech sector. We are looking at new cooperation with Indian tech companies,” she emphasised.
As member of the British Columbia legislative assembly, she is a minister representing the Liberal Party in the government headed by Premier John Horgan.
Asked about her ministry’s work, Sims said her department has gone more digital in delivering services to citizens and that has brought its own problems.
Cyber crime, fake news and other related problems faced by the countries across the world are also her main problems.
“Digital economy is growing. More and more people are getting sophisticated and trying to commit cyber crimes. We are engaged more with businesses that are worried that more people are trying to get information online through Internet bandits.
“We are telling businesses to build extra layers of security. It is like when we construct a home, we have doors and windows which we close for security. Likewise, businesses have to build layers of security like Next-Gen anti-virus solutions and firewalls,” the minister stressed.
She said her ministry is very agile on cyber security and has become smarter with time.
“They (cyber-criminals) have got technology and are, all the time, trying to get into our systems. Nearly 300,000 systems were affected which is mind-boggling. It also shows we have to be extra-cautious, building firewalls and constantly monitoring them,” Sims said.
Asked about the problem of data stealing and stalking over social media platforms, Sims said the government’s role in this is limited.
As a mother and a grandmother, she would only advise that schools and parents have to tell children on the newer risks arising from the use of Internet.
“Parents can limit the children from accessing Internet. We can teach and guide them on cyber security. Businesses also have a responsibility,” Sims added.