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LETTER: Don’t be ‘deaf’ to the genocide of residential schools

Trent Derrick


Letter to the Editor

Canada has committed multiple genocides. By saying Canada committed a genocide, it is belittling the uniqueness of the hundreds of different First Nations groups. With the discovery of the 215 children in the Kamloops Residential School, Canadians are waking up to the fact that they are no better than any other country. As more and more stories come out, hopefully First Nations will finally be heard.

Residential Schools were horrendous places that were designed to destroy the culture, language, pride and humanity of those forced to go to them. The purpose of these schools was “to kill the Indian in the child.” The tools of genocide work well. An example is what I have called DOK’ (Gitxsan for ‘to be deaf’)

DOK’s are those who collaborated with residential schools administration as a way of protecting themselves from the brutality of the system. These collaborators are rarely discussed and very little research has been done. What we do know so far is through the testimony of survivors. Often, a DOK’ was a brutal enforcer on the inside. They were used to keep order, inform on what was going on and carry out punishment on behalf of administration. Quite often they were the older children who were part of the schools for a long time.

I believe that calling them DOK’ “to be deaf” is fitting. They lost the ability to hear the suffering of their own people. They are those that lost who they were in residential schools. By becoming the oppressor, they became part of the system designed “to kill the Indian inside the child.” A DOK’ had their humanity taken from them.

A close comparison is the kapo from the concentration camps. Kapos were Jewish collaborators who were known to be brutal, oppressive and mistreated their own people. They were used by the SS to keep the concentration camps under control with minimal guards.

Canadians have condemned child soldiers in Komy 2012, the Khmera Rouge in Cambodia, the child soldiers of Myanmar. Children who lost their innocents and become the tools of a brutal society and continued violence towards their own people. In Canada we did the same to our Indigenous peoples but when First Nations cried out for help, they were ignored. “Get over it” is the Canadian tool of silencing the victim.

It is important to know that residential schools were used to eradicate traditions, culture and language.   It was a destruction of family ties and family structure which led to the complete breakdown of their humanity, Residential schools were used as a genocidal tool and created the Dok.’

These tactics are no different than any other genocidal tool. Canada committed individual genocides to hundreds of unique First Nations. It is time Canada recognizes what it really did to the First Nations. Without recognizing truth, Canadians will continue to repeat the Genocidal policies that have been in place for generations. Once we recognize the truth, Indigenous peoples can work towards healing.

Editor’s Note: Trent Derrick writes this as an individual, not in his capacity as chair of the School District 57 Board of Education.

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