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Conrad Black: Centuries of failed policy does not equal evil intent

National Post: It is generally agreed that approximately 150,000 Indigenous children in the period of about a century after 1860 attended the infamous residential schools. But even the TRCR acknowledges that the schools began before Confederation so the attempt to blame them on Macdonald was simply a sadistic method of singling out for defamation the most admired figure in the history of Canadians. As for the dubious offence of “cultural genocide,” insofar as it occurred, the culprits are the modern economy and technical advances in communication. Native children were strongly encouraged to speak English or French but no effort was made to deprive them of their native languages or prevent them from being spoken. Macdonald told the House of Commons in 1884 that the official hope was “the education in the ordinary branches of learning and the instruction in the industrial pursuits as well as the moral and social elevation of the Indian children,” an unexceptionable mission. Macdonald demanded that girls be permitted to attend and opposed the imposition of mandatory attendance.

"Macdonald championed the right to vote of the natives. Shortly after the so-called Frog Lake Massacre of 1885, Liberal MP David Mills demanded to know if Macdonald would permit Aboriginal people to ”go from a scalping party to the polls.” Macdonald said “Aboriginal Indians, formerly lords of the soil, formerly owning the whole of this country… are, in their own land, prevented from either sitting in this House, or voting for men to come here and represent their interests …(They) are disenfranchised, and justly complain that they have no representation … They have the same rights as the white man.” The TRCR’s assault upon John A. Macdonald is an outrage and the craven submission to it of many people and institutions throughout the country is even more contemptible.

"Two final points: hysteria has been propagated about the discovery of unmarked graves at the Marieval cemetery in Saskatchewan, when It may include adults and people unconnected to the residential school. The Archdiocese told the Post that is has been made aware that there were grave markers at the cemetery that were removed in the 1960s. The widespread assumption that the graves were deliberately concealed are unfounded, and dramatic conclusions about the identity of the dead and manner of their deaths are, to say the least, premature. Finally, Martin Lee, in a letter published in the National Post on July 5, disagreed with my statement that Quebec’s Bill 96 comes closer to cultural genocide than the residential schools did. I believe that banning the country’s majority official language in federal government offices and federally chartered corporate workplaces in Québec and restricting English language primary and secondary education to ever smaller numbers of people is a heavier blow aimed at the English language in Québec than encouraging one third of native children over a century for a few years each to learn English or French with no effort to prevent retention of their native tongue. Readers who are interested may judge the issue for themselves."

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