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Debunking the half-truths and exaggerations in the National Post


As scholars located at the University of Manitoba, it was with great concern and some embarrassment that we read the recent editorial on the final report of Canada’s TRC by Hymie Rubenstein and Rodney Clifton. Their perspective both on the TRC’s report and Canadian colonialism more generally in no way reflects the main currents of thought in those disciplines devoted to understanding genocide and settler-Indigenous relations, nor is it consistent with the view of the vast majority of our colleagues at the University of Manitoba. The U of M has publicly acknowledged both the harms of Canada’s Indian Residential School system and the university’s own role in perpetrating to them. Moreover, later this year the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation containing the archives of the TRC will open at the University of Manitoba, where it will act to preserve the memory of Canada’s residential schools while serving as a powerful resource for survivors, their families, researchers and members of the public.

Rubenstein’s and Clifton’s remarks echo the insensitivity and moral inattention the TRC is attempting to redress. They lean on a half-baked understanding of what genocide is and show little evidence of having read the TRC’s report. They assume the role of arbiters in an unsavoury competition for the mantle of true victimhood and bizarrely equate the boarding school experiences of Indigenous children with those of immigrants and the wealthy. Their editorial also ignores the substantial historical record and places heavy weight on the authors’ own anecdotal experience from late in the IRS era. It also minimizes the high death tolls and abuse occurring in IRS as simply common features of an earlier era of schooling and portrays the stripping away and denigration of indigenous languages, beliefs and cultural practices as somehow good for Aboriginal children. To suggest that others are reinforcing half-truths is to misunderstand the concept of truth itself. It also shows a lack of willingness to engage in a process of reconciliation by accepting the truths of others or truths that may be difficult to admit.

We reject Rubenstein’s and Clifton’s characterization of the Indian Residential School system and its effects. Their attempt to downplay residential schools’ harms is indicative of their failure to understand the history of residential schooling and the TRC, its mandate, its careful evaluation of the available sources and scholarship, and its conclusions.

Sharon Alward, Fine Art
Marlene Atleo, Education
Greg Bak, Archival Studies and History
Jarvis Brownlie, History
Diana Brydon, Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies
Karen Busby, Faculty of Law
Warren Cariou, Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture
Mary Anne Clarke, Peace and Conflict Studies
Elizabeth Comack, Sociology
Aimee Craft, Faculty of Law
Joan Durant, Family Social Sciences
Maureen P. Flaherty, Peace & Conflict Studies
Deana Halonen, Social Work
Nancy Hansen, Disability Studies
Mary-­‐Anne Kandrack, Sociology
Kiera Ladner, Political Studies
Rick Linden, Sociology
Jayme Menzies, recent graduate Faculty of Law
Eveline Milliken, Inner City Social Work Program
Adam Muller, English, Film and Theatre
Tom Nesmith, Archival Studies and History
Judith Owens, English, Film and Theatre
Debra Parkes, Faculty of Law
Adele Perry, History
Tracey Peter, Sociology
Susan Prentice, Sociology
Jennifer L. Schulz, Faculty of Law
Niigaanwewidam Sinclair, Native Studies
Struan Sinclair, English, Film, and Theatre
Katherine Starzyk, Psychology
Shirley Thompson, Natural Resource Institute
Jocelyn Thorpe, Women’s and Gender Studies
Christopher Trott, Warden, St John’s College
Lorna Turnbull, Faculty of Law
Andrew Woolford,Sociology

University of Manitoba profs can add their name to a petition here:

response to Clifton & Rubenstein

  1. Hear Hear thank you DIana for taking a stance to underline the need of flexible mindsets to be able to accomodate the truth of Others and accepting that there are only many voices and manyfold path that can weave a fabric worth considering the many realities we touch upon in every split second of our experiences, and they hence teint our view and impressions of said realities& histories and cultures….How can we foster contextual mindsets able to navigate multiple point of views and experiences as a necessity to a caleidoscopic view of reality and interperation of past present and future?
    Anybody who would like to collaborate and tools please get in touch with me
    kdvcac-socialmedia at yahoo dot com

    thank You Diana and cosignataries

  2. Vincent steinhauer permalink

    Those two should be fired, especially when the institution that will be hosting the trc memorial center is the same institution that signs their pay cheques. I say its highly hypocritical of this institute to benefit in the millions from our suffering and protect these two academics and call it academic freedom!

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