Today is National Aboriginal Day (June 21st), and this is probably the first year it has really hit home. As a librarian it usually means a book display featuring Aboriginal history, culture, arts and literature, with some posters about local events, maybe a performance, or a film festival. I actually did host a pretty cool short film festival on the weekend called “Roots Remain” by Cinema Politica, including Balmoral Hotel with guest speaker, actress Angel Gates. It was a really positive event, and left me feeling raw, which was good.
Today everything sunk in even deeper because I met “Dan.” I was waiting by the photocopier for some document to pop out, right by the entrance, and as I wait I like to acknowledge whoever comes in to the Carnegie. I said good morning to a pretty hardcore-looking dude, fully covered in tattoos to see if he would soften, and he replied in the positive. Technically, he scared the crap out of me, but you never know.
About a half hour later he approached my office with a piece of paper in his hand. He had heard about a class action law suit by Klein Lyons firm for Aboriginal kids who had been part of the “60s Scoop.” These were children who were removed from their families and placed into foster care, adopted into non-Aboriginal homes to be assimilated.
In a soft-spoken way he laid down his story. Removed from his family as a toddler in the late 1960s, adopted by a so-called Church Elder, sexually assaulted by him at age 4. The man gets 3 years in prison, but reeks havoc in Dan’s life, as well as his sister. Dan ends up in jail for robbery, struggling with addiction, and eventually his young son is taken care of by his sister, who ends up committing suicide. The son is then put into foster care, and murders someone at age 17, ends up in prison, and cycles through the system.
Dan kept saying he knew his life would have been so much different if he had been with his real family… everything would have been different. What can I say to comfort him? All I could do is listen, pursue the lead we had with the lawyer, affirm his love for his son, and then wait until I get home to cry. What could a 4 year-old do or say to comprehend and cope with what was happening to him? It makes me sick. How could a country remotely think that this scenario was beneficial to a child and a community? The repercussions are maddening!
Sadly, Dan’s story is not remotely unique and the message on the lawyer’s answering machine was that due to the volume of the class action that it would take her two days to respond. But I am glad that I had this conversation directly. It was so straight up and honest. He had gone through so much, and I hope he will experience justice, peace, love and hope. Mercy upon his sister’s soul, and love to the son.
Let there be genuine truth and reconciliation because racism stinks, and no one (especially a child) should ever have their sense of trust and hope in the future so heartlessly sabotaged. Bring the LIGHT!