Just minutes after being sworn in on Thursday, the new Indigenous Reconciliation Minister in Manitoba, Canada, found himself in a hot soup for defending so-called “boarding schools” in a country that has held thousands of indigenous children after they were forcibly removed from their homes. houses. families.
Minister Alan Lagimaudier was answering a question about schools at a press conference when he was interrupted by an opposition leader.
“They thought they were doing the right thing,” Lagimaudier said of those who ran the boarding school system at the time. “In hindsight, it’s easy to judge [the past]but at the time they really thought they were doing the right thing. “
Lagimaudier was still speaking when Wab Kinyu, leader of the New Democratic Party of Manitoba, walked directly to the podium where the minister stood and objected to his comments.
“I can’t agree that you said what you just said about boarding schools,” said Kinyu, who was born into an Onigaming tribe. “It was the clear intent of the boarding schools to ‘kill the Indian in the child.’
“This is not cultural relativism, this is not a revisionist story when we say it was wrong.”
The Canadian government forced at least 150,000 indigenous children attend boarding schools at Christian churches from the 1880s to the 1990s. Children were not allowed to speak their languages or braid and were forced to practice Christianity. Physical and sexual abuse was rampant, and countless children died in schools.
In recent weeks, hundreds of unmarked graves have been uncovered at the site of former boarding schools, sparking renewed outrage over the long-standing practice of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was named in 2015 “cultural genocide… “
Lagimodier, which Metis and a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, said on Thursday that he believed the boarding school system was “designed to take Indigenous children and equip them with the skills and abilities they need to fit into a community as it develops. “
Kinev unequivocally condemned the minister’s position.
“We will give you a chance,” he said of Lagimaudier’s new ministerial position, “but you cannot defend boarding schools here if you want to work with indigenous communities.”
After the press conference, Lagimaudier apologized on Twitter for his remarks and said he had “made a slip.”
As “Indian Manitoban”, I truly believe that boarding schools were a tragedy and were created to assimilate indigenous children and eradicate indigenous culture. It was wrong then and wrong now, ”he said.
His party, however, was less apologetic.
In a tweet that has since been deleted, the Progressive Conservative Assembly of Manitoba accused Kinya of bullying Lagimodier.
“We are all committed to making significant progress towards reconciliation,” the group tweeted: according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation… “The political spectacle of breaking into someone else’s press conference to intimidate a minister who was sworn in just 10 minutes before does nothing to achieve this reconciliation.”
Kinev supported his decision to oppose the minister.
“As an honorary TRC witness,” he tweeted, referring to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “I have instructed survivors to shout out denials of genocide when I hear them.”
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