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LETTERS: Residential schools have been replaced by a broken penal system

Editor:

Horror follows horror in the ongoing revelations of the suffering and degradation of our Indigenous sisters and brothers.

Much has been said. In the May, 2021 issue of Maclean’s magazine we now read of the increasing brokenness of our Canadian penal system. We are reminded of the unacceptable percentage of Indigenous and Black youth who are incarcerated. We regularly read there, and in our newspapers, of their treatment, of the numbers who are burdened with mental illness.

We read of the solitary confinement still in use, with blatant disregard of our own laws.

Under the government of Brian Mulroney, Michael Ignatieff stated: “I worked in a prison when I was a younger graduate student. I worked with lifers. I’m utterly unsentimental about criminals, but one thing I know about prison: it’s that prison makes almost everybody worse who’s in there.”

Ultimately, Ignatieff’s efforts went nowhere.

The inevitable outcome of the Residential School experiment haunts us today and will for years to come. It is my observation that the Residential Schools have not gone away. They have been replaced by our racist, broken penal system. And so the “erasure” is still being practised.

The numbers of Canadians who support our First Peoples in their struggle is increasing and will continue to do so. I have personally witnessed frequent racist comments and acts in various provinces, in schools, on the streets, and even in churches.

Like-minded people call on all levels of government and all those who seek justice to now also focus on prison reform and rehabilitation in concert with the historic sensibilities and practices of Indigenous culture.

Let us all speak up and act in whatever capacity we are able up in order to move forward.

Dorothy Randall, Surrey

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