More Unmarked Graves at Former Residential Schools Prompt Calls To Cancel Canada Day Celebrations
Many Canadians are struggling to honor the national holiday as they come to terms with the country’s dark history of injustices towards indigenous people.
Toned-Down Canada Day
Several Canada Day celebrations were canceled across the country on Thursday after hundreds of more remains were discovered at former boarding schools for Indigenous children.
Thursday’s holiday commemorates a major milestone in Canada’s history towards full independence from the United Kingdom, but many have found it difficult to honor as they come to terms with how Canada has treated indigenous peoples.
Over the last month, more than 1,000 unmarked graves have been found in British Columbia and Saskatchewan on the locations of former Residential Schools. Those schools were around for over 100 years, well into the ‘90s, and were largely run by the Catholic Church with the funding from the Canadian government.
Their ultimate goal was to ”civilize” indigenous peoples in what the government now recognizes as cultural genocide. The recent revelation of unmarked graves on the grounds of the schools has emphasized how horrible the schools were as nearly every corpse was of an indigenous child.
The most recent find was announced by the Lower Kootenay Band on Wednesday, which said that ground-penetrating radar revealed the bodies of 182 at St. Eugene’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. It’s believed the bodies are from members of local First Nation groups.
The discovery of the unmarked graves is bittersweet for many indigenous peoples. For decades, they’ve claimed that children would go missing at the schools but were largely ignored.
Canada has tried to reconcile with its past by setting up a commission to investigate crimes and other injustices done to Inuit, Metis, and First Nations. The Commission For Truth and Reconciliation estimated that, in total, 4,100 people went missing in the residential school system. However, Murray Sinclair, who used to run the Commission, now thinks that the number could be “well beyond 10,000.”
The discovery of so many unmarked graves not only caused multiple cities to cancel Canada Day celebrations, but also led Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address the issue in his Canada Day speech.
Trudeau said that the discovery of the graves “have rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country’s historical failures.
“Let’s recommit to learning from and listening to each other so we can break down the barriers that divide us, rectify the injustices of our past, and build a more fair and equitable society for everyone,” he added.
While resentment towards the Canadian government for its involvement in the injustices towards indigenous peoples remains split, most indigenous communities are still angry at the Catholic Church for its involvement. Notably, the Church has refused to apologize for its actions. The Canadian government has apologized and is working towards reconciliation, and the largest Protestant church denomination, which ran a sizable minority of the schools, has also apologized.
However, there may be some movement on this front. The Pope agreed to meet with delegates from three of Canada’s three largest indigenous groups, the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis later this year to discuss the problem, though the Vatican didn’t say if the meeting would result in an apology or not.
Despite this, many activists want the Pope to come to Canada and make an apology there, and overall frustrations may be turning into violence.
Four Catholic churches have been burned down over the last week in what police believe are suspicious circumstances, possibly linked to the church’s involvement with residential schools.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (The Wall Street Journal)
95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home
The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.
A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.
Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.
At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.
They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.
The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.
She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.
After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.
Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)
U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”
The Public Order Act
A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.
The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”
It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.
“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”
An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests
During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated.
“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed.
“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”
“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote.
When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police.
For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.
“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages
The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.
As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.
An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.
Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.
“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.
Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.
More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.
Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.
Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.
Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.
Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.