Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for July 26, 2013

Honour your apology, Yukoners tell Harper

Despite Thursday’s rainy weather, about 50 people gathered at the healing totem pole in downtown Whitehorse, joining Idle No More groups across the country in a national day of prayer.


Photo by Vince Fedoroff

PRAYING FOR HEALING – Some of those gathered Thursday afternoon at the healing totem pole said they were shocked and disgusted by last week’s relevations that some children at residential schools were denied food and vitamins. Leah McLeod. Marilyn Jensen, Megan Jensen and Michael Pealow, left-right.

Despite Thursday’s rainy weather, about 50 people gathered at the healing totem pole in downtown Whitehorse, joining Idle No More groups across the country in a national day of prayer.

“In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an apology to the residential schools survivors, and we just want him to honour this apology and release the documents that he’s apparently withholding that has to do with a lot of the evidence of the abuse that happened in the residential schools,” Leah McLeod explained.

McLeod, 27, is one of the local Idle No More organizers.

“We’re here today to do some prayers and maybe sing a couple songs and hope and pray and ask him to release these documents ASAP.”

The national day of prayer was organized in response to last week’s revelation that nutritional testing was conducted on children at residential schools to examine the effects of malnutrition on the human body. Many children were deprived of food and vitamins.

McLeod told reporters she wasn’t surprised when she heard of the nutritional tests.

Her mother is a residential school survivor, and she said she’s heard a lot of stories.

“It’s pretty disgusting, and it really hurts to think about it,” she said.

“I’d like to tell this story and have something done about it.”

Marilyn Jensen, another Idle No More organizer, added that “we all need to know the truth.

“We’re trying to heal, and in order for us to move forward we have to start at a place of honesty and truth,” she said.

Those gathered formed a circle around a healing pole and, grasping hands, bowed their heads for the opening prayer.

A series of songs followed, including one composed by Megan Jensen.

Before beginning her song, she shared her reasons for joining the gathering.

“What we are doing today is standing up for all those children, all the children that have suffered through history, and it’s gravely important that us as youth know what happened, that we are educated thoroughly and with as many details as possible so we can educate others and break the barriers that are causing disunity,” she said.

Michael Pealow, one of the many non-First Nations people in attendance, echoed the need for education.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t know anything about residential schools. I never really even heard of them,” Pealow said.

“And when I moved to Fort Liard in the Northwest Territories and I got to know people there, people started sharing their stories with me and they were very hard to listen to. It was very hard for me to believe that this happened in Canada,” he said.

This is a part of our history that we really need to understand and acknowledge, Pealow added.

“The residential schools were about assimilation, about taking culture away from people, about trying to disempower people, and these things are still happening in Canada and most Canadians are completely blind to it.

“We need to listen and we need to pay attention to what’s going on.
We can stop this from happening; it doesn’t need to continue; we can work together, we can work with each other; it doesn’t need to be the way that it is now.”

Two veteran Yukon First Nations leaders, Shirley Adamson and Judy Gingell, attended and had warm words for the young leaders.

“It’s a wonderful thing that’s been happening and that it’s being led by the youth of our aboriginal communities across Canada and particularly by the aboriginal youth in the Yukon because it gives those of us who’ve gone through leadership before great comfort in knowing the message is being carried forward and that the fights that we fought in the decades before are not being forgotten,” said Adamson.

She is a former grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

There’s still more that the public doesn’t know about, she said, commenting on the news of the nutritional testing.

Sharing a terrifying memory from her own past, Adamson remembered when the U.S. military conducted bombing tests by Lake Laberge, where she lived as a child. Nobody ever came to check if they were OK, she said.

Gingell, also a former grand chief and ex-Yukon commissioner, reiterated Adamson’s thanks to the youth for taking the lead on Idle No More.

“We didn’t spend many years of our life negotiating land claims agreements for this government to continue to deal with our people as if there were no agreements in place,” she said.

Gingell went on to express support for a resolution passed at last week’s Assembly of First Nations annual assembly in Whitehorse.

“I really feel that our leaders in the Yukon need to support this resolution and stand behind it and make this prime minister accountable. He has to deal with this,” she said.

The emergency resolution condemned the nutritional testing conducted at residential schools.

It asked Canada to develop a fair compensation system for survivors who suffered emotionally and physically from these experiments and to collaborate with provincial governments to develop curriculi to educate Canadians about the experiments.

CommentsAdd a comment


Jul 26, 2013 at 8:28 pm

That was then, this is now.  Time to move on with your lives and stop living in the past as victims.


Jul 29, 2013 at 1:13 pm

North that comment shows you are about as bright as a 2 watt light bulb burned out. Unless you have a family member who has gone through what the residential schools did to them you have no right to make a comment like that. How about we take your kids(hope you don’t really have any) and put them in a school and abuse them mentally, physically and emotionally and break their family bonds, then send them home to you after a number of years and say good luck enjoy your life. I am sure you would enjoy that.

What you are afraid of is the truth of what happened. There has been great strides made in dealing with this dark time in our past but unless we deal with it now, it will repeat it self some time in the future.

Jackie Ward

Jul 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm

The second comment is dead wrong. It’s time to move on. You guys got your cash. You got your healing centers. But no, you want more. More what exactly? More money? Where does this end? You’ve gotten your apology. You’ve gotten an inquiry. What else do you want?  It’s over. Move on with your life.


Jul 30, 2013 at 2:37 am

Oh my, personal attacks.  Does that actually work for you in real life or do you just get smacked upside the head when you attack and insult people in person?

Try to state your own views as clearly and concisely as possible and refrain from personal attacks, it always lowers credibility.


Jul 30, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Thank you ‘north_of_60’ and ‘Jackie Ward’ for confirming what I already knew. That redneck, Ignorant uneducated bullies are alive and well in the Yukon.

Jackie Ward

Jul 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm

That’s where you are wrong. I have a lot of native friends. I’m not a racist. Nor am I a bully. I just call it like I see it. Yes, a lot of natives suffered. I’m with them on that. I could never imagine my life if that happened to me and my family. But there is a time where you have to move on. All this discussion and adventures for money regarding residential school abuse just brings up bad memory’s. I don’t think you guys will understand what I’m trying to say here. If I’m wrong then someone answer me this one question. WHAT DO YOU WANT? In one sentence.


Jul 30, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Jackie is right, you are completely wrong about people you don’t know.
In fact, it’s attitudes like yours that are the root of the problem, because they only create a polarized “us-vs-them” situation.

Name calling only shows ignorance and an inability to discuss things objectively.
Intelligent people realize that there is no point in whipping a dead horse. 
Get off and move on.


Jul 31, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I agree with North and Jackie.

Time to move on mandatory residential schools which took place from 1884 to 1948. That means you would have to be at least 82 to have been of age to vote during mandatory residential schools. I’m sorry my grandparents didn’t vote to prevent the abuse of your parents or grandparents.

To put things in perspective when is the last time you heard someone complain about the effects their parents PTSD had on them the result of service in WW2. Again service was mandatory (draft) during WW2 and it end 3 years before the mandatory residential schools were repealed.

Lastly when is the last time a sexual or physical abuse victim asked for the information to be revealed to the public? Don’t they have a right to privacy and what proof do we have that’s what the survivors want.


Jul 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I am curious how so few hold the church responsible. To be clear Canada has done a great deal to try to make reparation for what is undoubtable unforgivable. Canada funded a Aboriginal Healing Foundation, created a Common Experience Payment, Alternative Dispute Resolution, etc. Yet all the Vatican has done is issue an apology.

People blame the Canadian government which is fair, they certainly played a part but which group associated with this has a history of child abuse? I mean is their a country the church hasn’t abused a child in? Some 10,000 cases over 50 years in pretty much any country you could think of. And that’s just reported cases. Canada made a bad decision and backed residential schools and the Church does what they have been doing for centuries, spread suffering.


Jul 31, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Rorex21…Jackie, 60, et al.

I suggest you fact check. PTSD was not a diagnosis post WW2, or Korea…well, any conflict really until the mid roto’s in Bosnia.
But, yes, they did suffer, and their kids did too…just swept under the rug (and bottle). I’m a vet, and so is my father, grandfather and great grandfather, so, this, I can speak to.

What do First Nations want? Good question. Every community in Canada (over 600), suffered different levels of damage to their culture, so, in fact, there will be many different expectations, and this will take time. If you look around at other countries, you will see that almost every one of them with First Peoples populations is having the same conversations right now, just like we are here in Yukon. There were, estimate at the time of contact, over 100 million FN people in the Americas, 95 % were gone within 200 years, and we’ve done a bad job with the survivors, don’t you think?

Genocide comes to mind. Ask an Armenian, Kurd, Jew, Tutsi, White Zimbabwean, Cossak, Roma, Bosnian ...if they have “gotten over it”...and what they think about those that refuse to see what actually happened.

My homeland, is now part of Russia, and many of of died trying to hold it…we lost, became refugees. We never forget.

Yukon River

Jul 31, 2013 at 10:48 pm

“You want more, what more exactly?”

I want all Canadians to know their true history. No more secrets. This is not about money. This is about respect, reconciliation, honour. Think about the last terrible relationship you had… Now imagine that relationship lasted since 1492 and was still going on today. how would you feel? Furthermore, so many people act like indians have it so good, but have you seen the statistics? Would you switch places? Once we ALL know the truth we will be set free. Our societies are going through a great change and a lot of healing has to happen.  Sorry for the inconvience and if we make you uncomfortable. Welcome to Canada.


Aug 1, 2013 at 12:09 am

It’s the current, politically correct ‘victim fad’ to assume that aboriginal children were singled out for unusual treatment in the past. Aboriginal children were not uniquely singled out for any tests or experiments. All institutionalized people were used for tests and experiments in those times.

You can’t realistically evaluate history with today’s standards, you have to use the standards and norms of the time.


Aug 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Rorex21 FYI, the last residential school closed in 1996 here in Canada, you don’t have to be in your early 80’s to have experienced the physical, sexual and emotional torture our Aboriginal people have endured to centuries. A fifty year old co-worker of mine went to Residential Schools. Some of our Aboriginal Leaders in the Yukon were taken as children. EDUCATE YOURSELVES!!!!

Just Say'in

Aug 1, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Once you get your nose in the Government Trough it is hard to get it out. People forget that residential schools were for native and non native alike. Kids that lived in out lying areas under Canadian law were guaranteed an education and had to be transported to a central location to receive this education. Where the churches came in was they were willing to provide this education in exchange for some cash and the ability to do their missionary work at the same time, as they believed this was a good thing, as they still do around the world today. Had this education not been made available to these outlying areas we would be having this same discussion except it would be how the government denied them access to education and success. It will never stop they have become professional victims.

lol no

Aug 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm

So it seems every month or two, there’s something more that the first nation community wants. I agree that what went on in the residential schools was terrible, and unjustifiable, but living in the past, as lots of us have already stated, just brings back bad memories and makes us weak as a community as well. Constantly, I am aware of the privileges that the first nations are granted that nobody else gets. First off, you don’t even have to pay taxes on reserve land. That’s more than anyone could ask for. Second, you are constantly given free education, funding, and the list goes on. Now to come out and “Pray” for papers to be released to the public, don’t you think some things are better left in the past?
Drop it. You’re all over privileged in the first place and you’re always asking for more. Get over it, you’ve been payed for your losses.


Aug 1, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Almost all of the successful aboriginals today went through the residential school system.  Sure it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than remaining uneducated with few opportunities for economic advancement.

Look at your successful brothers and sisters and emulate their self respect and personal responsibility to make a good life for themselves.  Nobody ever got anywhere waiting for the government to solve their problems.

This is nothing more than another ploy to get more ‘compensation’.


Aug 3, 2013 at 7:15 am

...lol no

Overprivileged? That would be us, the average Yukon. You know how much YOU, and I get every year from the taxpayers from the rest of Canada?

Average Quebec resident?
3,200.00…notice the lack of the extra “0”. Are we entitled to that? Why, because we live here? If we are going to do equality of Canadians, how about we all take the same amount back from our taxes?

Perhaps we should press our government to a little less Calvanistic , and be more like Norway.
FN’s are still fighting for basic treaty rights that were given by our ancestors, rights that every government tries to subvert


Aug 3, 2013 at 8:30 pm

As others have said; what do you want? You have had money & an apology from the Prime Minister so please move on. You will not come to terms with this issue if you allow it to fester. Please also be thankful for the education: consider that children who lived in the bush would have been illiterate, without even basic reading skills, were it not for residential schools.
Stop & think how you, as an individual, would be surviving today if you had no education. Sexual abuse of minors is horrific & unforgivable, but it is not the sole perogative of First Nations residential school survivors; it happens still today in many situations. I have no problem with the financial compensation for residential school survivors who were sexually abused, but compensation for other actions deemed as abuse leaves me shaking my head. Although they may have seemed foreign to First Nations culture, they were commonplace actions of the times.
As a child going through school in UK, even at 5 years old I was subjected to corporal punishment & made to clean school bathrooms. No one gave me a huge handout & nor do I expect it because everyone was treated the same and it was not considered abuse. That doesn’t make it right but to carry this issue through to grandchildren of residential school students is going too far. How many generations are you going to extend this to?

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