Friday, March 8, 2013

Dark Legacy: Systemic Discrimination Against Canada's First Peoples

It's a new book I'm reading. Got it from the Parliament branch of the Toronto Public Library.

Dark Legacy: Systemic Discrimination Against Canada's First Peoples by L.J. O'Connor and Morgan O'Neal, with Lloyd Dolha and Jim Ada.

I'm about half-way through it. So far it's talked about the betrayal of treaty promises that led to the cooping-up of First Nations on isolated reserves that were mismanaged and pilfered by white Indian Agents. It quickly moved to the development of the idea of residential schools and their horrible social impact on numerous First Nations families and communities. It ties the impact of the residential schools on the social problems on reserves and in urban centers that were used to justify the "Sixties Scoop," where tens of thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their families by social workers (well intentioned or not) and sent to live with non-aboriginal families, some of them outside provincial and even national borders. Many suffered a profound sense of alienation. Some were mistreated, including with sexual abuse. Meanwhile, the parents who lost their childhood to the residential schools and who had now lost their children to social welfare agencies could only persist in quiet despair.

All of this suffering produced disproportionate levels of suicides, alcoholism, physical abuse and other problems. Remember that on top of this there exists the prejudice against First Nations peoples in the labour market, theft of resources and mismanagement of reserves all overseen by the various Indian Affairs ministries across successive changes of government at the federal level.

It is in this context that racism First Nations peoples, and sexism against First Nations women, develops. First we dragged them down to poverty and demoralization. Then we blamed them for their state. Then we justified it to ourselves. Then, along with the prevalent misogyny in society, we made First Nations women the target for abuse and brutality.

The book details the horrific rape and murder of Rose Roper in 1967 by three white men. Roper was portrayed as a prostitute in the media (although she wasn't and it would have been irrelevant if she had been) and how two of her killers walked free while the third had to pay a $200 fine. Then there is the infamous case of the raping and killing of Helen Betty Osborne by a quartet of white young men in 1971 and the subsequent cover-up of this by the town of La Pas, Manitoba, which persisted until 1987. In Saskatchewan, in 2001, three young white males admitted to statutory rape of a 12-year old First Nations girl (they thought she was 14) but their sentences were reduced as the judge decided that the girl bore some of the responsibility for having willingly gotten into their truck and drinking beer with them and found two of the men not guilty and sentenced the third to two years of house arrest and community service.

I'm now at the sections where white male serial killers of First Nations women are allowed to kill and kill again by a racist policing and judicial system that sees the lives of First Nations women as unimportant. These victims of generations of government abuse, systemic discrimination and poverty, are unemployed, drug-addicted prostitutes, so, therefore, they're responsible for their own problems and their miserable lives are valueless. Gilbert Paul Jordan, John Martin Crawford and Robert "Willie" Pickton, were all miserable losers who breathed in the racist contempt for the First Nations and sexist contempt for women, that permeates Canadian society. They were all multiple murderers who were often arrested for assault or rape, and who were suspected of murder, but who were all ignored or given light prison sentences that had them back on the street to kill again.

Anyway, that's what I'm reading and thought it was an important enough book to share. I couldn't find any sort of worthwhile link for it.

I'm also reading a book that's apparently highly recommended by Glen Beck: Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II  by Arthur Herman. The explosion of output and, subsequently, wealth, that resulted from military spending in World War II (following a decade of economic stagnation in the 1930s) produced a military and economic super-power. It's an important story and a general survey of the subject such as this one is useful. It's childishly pro-business and anti-union, anti-Democratic Party. Herman presents the capitalists as unvarnished heroes who produced victory despite being beset on all sides by what Ayn Rand would call "the moochers." According to reviewers on, the book is littered with small errors, if it gets the big parts basically right. I'm finding his childishness a hard slog at time. I actually don't doubt the talent, ingenuity, hard work or even the occasional patriotism of this class of people. I don't even doubt the sincerity of their viewpoint. It just betrays history to imagine that giving the business class all that it wants is the key to social, economic or political prosperity.


Beijing York said...

Thanks for the reviews. I think I will try to find the first one, I'm not so sure about the second one.

thwap said...

Beijing York,

The first one is in a lot of libraries.

Apparently there's lots of YouTube videos of Glen Beck talking about the other one. I can't bring myself to watch 'em though.

Unknown said...