Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 20, 2005
WCR Letters to the Editor
Chief labels RCMP officer's memories racist
Response to Vernon Smith's article on residential schools (WCR, May 30).
I write to express my complete disbelief in the actions of the WCR in publishing outright racist commentary in relation to aboriginal residential schools. Even if the WCR thought that Mr. Smith's article attempted to show "the rest of the story," it clearly knew it could not be supported by the incontrovertible facts that are known about the abuse of native children in Catholic-operated residential schools.
Mr. Smith's article attempts to whitewash the tragic legacy of the residential school system and wants Catholic readers to be left with the impression that for aboriginal people to survive in the modern era, it was essential for us to learn English, adopt western customs and learn vocational skills.
Mr. Smith and the WCR failed to complete the "rest of the story" by neglecting to mention that residential schools were instituted specifically to assimilate and forever destroy the native people.
What Mr. Smith also failed to report was that these were small children four to 16 years of age at the time. How could these little children complain to the RCMP who brought them to the schools in the first place, in rare cases at gun point.
Mental, physical and sexual abuse is one thing, but the greatest damage perpetrated by the federal government, with the full cooperation of the churches, was to destroy, perhaps permanently, the moral fabric of the native people. Destroyed was love within the family unit. Cultural values and traditions that made the Indian proud and strong were dismantled and replaced by Anglo-conformist attitudes that had little respect for anything other than capitalist expansionism and exploitation of resources.
The sad reality is that for over 100 years the Catholic Church was complicit in the willful destruction of a race of people.
I am a former child of the residential school system. I was taken to the Ermineskin School by my parents at the age of six and as I recall it was not a happy occasion. The event is permanently etched in my mind. To date I have not said anything about the residential schools, their damage and the abuses.
I am personally aware of the extreme damage done and the lives negatively affected. I am a practising Catholic and active member of the Church and each time I read articles such as the one by Mr. Smith it emotionally and physically shunts my respect for the Church.
The Catholic Church and the RCMP have been described as partners to Duncan Campbell Scott's edict that the "only good Indian is a dead Indian." The past hundred years have been a struggle for the very survival of the native people of Canada. Not the fantasy portrayed in Mr. Smith's article concerning the residential school system.
Yes, there were some priests and nuns that the Indian people loved, admired and respected. For Mr. Smith to suggest that the Church and its priests and nuns were a blessing to Indian people is tantamount to saying to Jewish people that the Nazis had some good people and that their extermination policy was good for them.
Mr. Smith writes that the Indian people had nothing. He fails to mention the native people also had no hospitals and no jails, as there was no need of them.
But also, on the other hand, the Oblates came out West with nothing. In fact, they were tired, weak and starving. The native people extended their hand to help them and offered their accommodation, otherwise, they would have starved and froze to death.
Today, the Oblates have amassed great capital. They have built huge cathedrals, schools, universities and hospitals. They now complain of the large lawsuits that have been launched by First Nations people personally affected and at the potential loss of Church assets.
As for the RCMP, their role was and is to protect the settlers (now the taxpayers) from the natives whom they helped confine on to reservations so they would not get in the way of modernization and industrial expansion.
Of course, Mr. Smith did not cite the findings of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples of Canada in relation to the role of the Church in the residential school system. I would suggest this is where one can find the "accurate facts" which forms part of the mission of the WCR.
Mr. Smith also fails to mention that Indian plaintiffs have won nearly all residential school abuse trials held over the past six years.
Also ignored are the recent comments of Justice Minister Anne McLellan that "we need to make important changes to our approach in order to resolve the tragic legacy of Indian residential schools and to settle the outstanding legal claims of former students in a more timely way."
According to Mr. Smith's fiction, the residential school system was necessary and useful for our well being and we as native people should be thankful for the training we received.
Chief Victor Buffalo
Samson Cree Nation
Letter to the Editor
Teacher opposed residential schools
I would like to respond to the article by Vernon Smith in the May 30 WCR.
First, the photo of St. Raphael School of Legoff near Cold Lake portrays the teacher Joseph-Henri Lirette, my dad. My father married Alphonsine Lefebvre of Cold Lake on Feb. 7, 1921 and taught in Legoff for Oblate Father Laurent Legoff for two years (1920-22).
St. Raphael of Legoff was not a residential school, but a day school on the Chippewa/Montagnais Reserve. Dad taught religion in the Chippewa language.
Later, after Mom Alphonsine's death in 1928, Joseph-Henri remarried Rose-Alma Girard of St. Raymond, Que. With Alma, he lived on the Cree Reserve of Big Head of Grand Lac des Isles near Pierceland, Sask.
Joseph-Henri Lirette spoke Cree also and taught in a one-room school (Grades 1-8) from 1935 to 1946 under the auspices of the Oblate Fathers.
The residential school system was a federal project. Many Oblate priests, as well as my dad, were basically against the residential school concept.
Often, Dad told us that when native children returned from residential settings, they could no longer speak their own language, were ashamed of their culture and could no longer "survive" in the forests.
Religion better than 'Prussian social welfare'
I enjoyed reading Jim Verreault's letter (WCR, May 16), but I don't quite agree that the labels like "liberal" and "conservative" ought to hold little meaning to faithful Catholics. Since we live in the "world," we cannot escape their political and economic meaning and influence, and we have to choose and discriminate.
This is what Father Rolheiser tried to say in his June 6 column - these modern words have indeed become an ideological fault-line, whether we like them or not.
To complicate matters, we have red Tories or liberal conservatives, conservative or pro-life liberals, fiscal or social conservatives, pro-capitalism conservatives, socialist liberals, etc., each such label denoting a certain subset or characteristic.
Such categorization may seem confusing, and we should clarify it, but it is necessary, because it is precisely this polarizing verbal specification ("He who is not with me is against me" Matthew 12:30) that ultimately forces one to think and eventually change or switch parties.
The problem with Father Rolheiser's latest categorization is that it equates the weight of evil each label carries, but it is not true that a slow indirect economic attack on the family is of the same urgency as direct liberal blows, although both may be ultimately deadly and ought to be dealt with.
Many conservatives have an economic blind spot, but the same can be said about many utopian liberals.
The history of the British liberalism and conservatism, which this continent has inherited, proves that the liberal social help in the form of Prussian social welfare schemes, eugenics, and socialism was in the long run just as harmful to the well-being, liberty and dignity of the poor and their families as the brute Darwinian capitalism of the Manchester School, ironically, also a liberal capitalistic institution.
In other words, there is irresponsibility, immorality and greed, there are knee-jerk reactions and temporary band-aid solutions, and there are real solutions which transcend both labels.
Liberals who believe in the wholesale taxing and forced redistribution of produced wealth are just as wrong as liberal conservatives who believe in an unbounded or absolutely free-capitalistic enterprise.
The solution lies first in restoring religion and morality, in upholding the family values and natural order, next in the economic empowerment and independence of family, and that can be achieved only by the just distribution of property and the means of production.
Kenneth Kearns may be long gone, but he's not forgotten
I enjoyed very much the May 20 article on the priests celebrating their golden jubilees and on their classmate (the late) Don MacDonald.
Another priest member of that class was killed in a tragic highway accident Nov. 18, 1964. He was J. Kenneth Kearns. He had been ordained in his home parish in Montreal in May 1955.
After graduating from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, he studied at St. Joseph Seminary.
After ordination he served two years at St. Patrick's as curate and two years at St. Anthony's. It was there I resided with him and came to appreciate his artistic, culinary, intellectual and spiritual gifts.
He believed in and delivered short sermons. He was a gifted artist and humorous cartoonist. I hope his cartoons are preserved for posterity. During this time he became the first chaplain of the Carmelite third order.
After a couple of years at St. Anthony's he became the first pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park. A school there honours his name.
As Catholics we believe in the communion of the saints. We believe in praying for the dead and we believe in asking our deceased loved ones to pray for us.
So as I think of Kennie Kearns and his priest friends, I believe he has helped them in their pastoral ministries. I am very grateful for his presence in my life.
J.K.K. - a priest forever in the order of Melchizedech. J.K.K., pray for us.
Rt. Rev. Felix Otterson
Politicians' antics abuse the memory of veterans
My bullet wounds have healed. My scars remain. My vision is blurred, my hearing impaired.
We, my regiment, a reconnaissance tank regiment, were in the second phase of the D-Day invasion. Our role, once a beachhead was established, was break out and pursue. Our life expectancy was one week. What a waste!
The behaviour of the various political parties that constitute our government prior to and during the budget debacle - their complete lack of integrity throughout - indicates a complete lack of appreciation for and of the freedom they have that allowed them to bring our country, Canada, to the brink of anarchy.
Members of Parliament, you have desecrated the valiant sacrifices made by thousands of young Canadians who volunteered to lay their lives on the line to preserve the very freedoms which you abuse today. You have managed to make a mockery of 2005 - The Year of the Veteran.
Marriage is a vocation too
Several story lines or statements in the May 30 edition of the WCR provide material for further discussion.
"A vocation returns" (Page 2) is an unclear title for the story about Father David Gaffny returning to active ordained ministry. From the brief story, it appears that Father Gaffny has been called to the vocation of married life as well as to the vocation of the ministerial priesthood.
It would have been much better to say "Presbyter returns to active priesthood" or something similar. In this way the article could avoid the idea that only some people (the ordained and religious) have vocations.
Perhaps the WCR might consider doing a story on marriage as a vocation or a story on the priests of the various particular churches (including the Latin Church) who are allowed to be married and to minister as priests in the Catholic Church.
"Sister tells of Medjugorje's message of Love" (Page 3). What is the official position of the Church on apparitions such as those at Medjugorje? Must a person believe in the apparitions to be a "good" Catholic? An article on the Church's official position on apparitions would help the faithful in their understanding of such matters.
Rev. L. Hofmann
Prayer can rescue our youth from suicide
Pam Stensel, who travels internationally exposing disturbing statistics on teen sex, once spoke of how her travelling mission began. She worked trying to help youth deal with serious problems resulting from teen sex.
One day an old man who hung around the office stopped her and told her a story about some sheep being raised in an enclosure next to a steep cliff. As the gate was always open the sheep would wander one by one through the gate and fall off the cliff. The punchline came when he said that it was time someone got up and shut the gate.
As I write, arrangements are being made to bury the third of three teen suicides in seven months from the same community. Pope John Paul II coined the phrase "culture of death" to describe today's culture of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic research, war, suicide. When youth suicide strikes, we sigh, shake our heads, feel helpless, suffer as a community.
We can do something - intercede. Prayer can change personal history (St. Augustine), world history (demise of communism), stop plaque (Lisbon, 1432), suspend natural law (Hiroshima, 1945).
Prayer can rescue our youth from suicide. We can pray weekly for youth in the Prayer of the Faithful. Have prayer sponsors for youth in parishes and schools who would pray daily for them. A youth prayer basket containing prayers by and for youth can be taken up with the gifts. Many opportunities arise if we put our heads and hearts together.
We must care about and love youth enough to go to God on their behalf. Are we going to continue to pick up their broken bodies one by one, or are we as a community going to get up and shut the gate?
Catherine Lee Wah
Love will bring back separated siblings
I wish to express my disagreement with Rene Benoiton's assertion (Letters, WCR, June 6) that the splintering of the Christian faith was caused by the so-called "self-righteousness" of those who have defended the doctrines of the Catholic Church over the ages.
As Dr. Scott Hahn once said, it was rather, to their credit, the integrity of those who could no longer agree with Catholic doctrine that caused them to leave. But what does this have to say of post-modern Catholics who think they can pick and choose which doctrines they will believe, and still maintain they are in good standing with the Church?
As for the issue of equality that Benoiton brings up, it goes without saying that we are all equals in God's eyes. Even the most hardened agnostic can come to believe this through natural reason alone.
However, not all faiths are equal, for as the Church declared in Dominus Iesus, "the subsistence of the one Church of Christ in the Catholic Church" (no. 4).
This is not arrogant trium-phalism, it is simply faith in Christ's founding his Church on the Rock of St. Peter, despite secular attempts to manipulate that position of authority throughout the ages, and modern attempts, even in our own Catholic Church, to downplay the significance of such a belief.
We are furthermore warned, "The Church's constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism."
Benoiton writes of loving others, and I agree wholeheartedly. But the greatest act of love we can give to our separated siblings is to love them back into the Catholic Church. To think that we can simply leave them where they are, bereft of the totality of truth, is an act of utter heartlessness.
Henry should be wary of human rights 'tribunal'
It was with great interest I read your front page article, "Henry warns of growth in religious intolerance" (WCR, June 13).
I note Bishop Henry is currently the target of two human rights complaints from the Alberta Homosexual Rights Commission. I am an outspoken Catholic Christian who has been punished with a fine of $17,500 and ordered to never criticize homosexual acts again. My crime was distributing flyers articulating biblical and Catholic teachings on homosexuality.
After my experience with the blatantly pro-homosexual human rights commission and tribunal, my advice to Bishop Fred Henry is this. Don't waste good money on a lawyer to defend yourself in front of this sort of kangaroo court.
A pro-homosexual academic at the University of Alberta recently commented at a lecture, the benefit of bringing social conservatives before these tribunals is the process is stacked in favour of the homosexual activist. If the tribunal chair wants to find you guilty and fine you he or she will, no matter the truth, justice, or logic of your arguments.
The standards of evidence used to gain a conviction at a human rights tribunal are laughable. In my case I was found guilty and fined $17,500 because a homosexual man testified he read my flyer and "cried." The poor excuse of a judge wrote in his judgment I had to pay compensation to four homosexuals because I caused "loss of self respect and hurt feelings."
No real court in the world would convict and punish an individual on this sort of reasoning. Canada's human rights tribunals do. The best-intentioned lawyer in the world is facing homosexual activism rather than sound legal arguments, hence the lawyer is powerless to protect your rights in this arena.
The laity must support our leaders when they are persecuted by these biased government bodies.
The medium is the message
Re: "Renounce wealth and power" (WCR, June 6).
The pope advises Christians to renounce wealth and power.
Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message." He was right.
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