You might not have known I was the child of a residential school survivor but the truth will express itself in various ways and in strange places.
Even though she spent twelve years there, my mother Elle Garlow never spoke of the horrors of residential school. As a matter of fact she never spoke negatively about Canada or the system that is entrenched here. But you could see the pain through her smile and feel the haunting memories during the quiet times Eleanor spent staring into nothing while at the kitchen table.
Through deduction or perhaps sub-consciously I absorbed the truth as a child and when the Canadian National Anthem blared at me through the speakers at B.C.I. high school I knew that I couldn’t stand. I would rather die than stand for the theme song of my mothers abusers. Even if it meant expulsion I couldn’t be forced to publicly respect the anthem which to me sounded like a child murder song.
My homeroom teacher at B.C.I. was Mrs. Black and she allowed me to go quietly to the hallway each and every morning as the anthem played. To make it even more awkward because there was no official explanation given, it appeared that I was a deliquent, a bad student, a punk. In reality I wasn’t being bad, Canada was bad and I was just a child who was enlightened by the truth.
Now that the truth is becoming apparent to everyone these types of silent high school protests are understandable. Some estimates say at least 20,000 children died at residential school but it could be incredibly more. There was hardly any oversight and the school authorities were fueled by hate.
I want my Canadian friends to know that my pursuit for justice is motivated by my love for my mother and not out of hate for Canada. She deserved a happy childhood and a happy life but that was deprived from her by oppression. There are people responsible, they have names and addresses. There are companies that profitted from her abuse. Before there can be closure I need full disclosure of everyone complicit in the Canadian Crime.
Canadians understandably want to distance themselves from the utter horror of this colonial past and move on, but how can we allow that to happen when there is no justice for the deceased? On social media some speak of residential school as something that happened in the 18th century and everytime I let them know that it happened to my mother and it is still happening now in other ways.
At the very least I hope that Orange Shirt Day doesn’t turn into a Canadian celebration because it ought to be spent in quiet reflection. So many children didn’t come home from school, it is an entire generation of families that were erased. For Remembrance Day we honour the fallen soldiers who died in battle. This September 30th let’s rememeber the children who died as prisoners in a cruel and cold system that hated them.