Thursday, 25 June 2015

Caroline vs. "Unrepentant: Kevin Annett and Canada's Genocide"

Maisie Shaw was murdered at the Port Alberni school in 1946; she is one among the countless whose graves are unknown. (source)

The other night I was in the mood for a documentary, and eventually landed on "Unrepentant."  It's not a new film (it came out in 2006), but it centres on the appalling treatment of Aboriginal children in residential schools, which is especially relevant now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has released its report and recommendations.

The documentary alternates between interviews with residential school survivors and with Kevin Annett, a former minister in the United Church.  Annett details his ministry in the small British Columbia town of Port Alberni, how he became engaged with Aboriginal parishioners and heard their stories of the residential schools, and how he was defrocked by the United Church for spreading information on the role of United, Anglican, and Catholic churches in the genocide against Aboriginal people.

The interviews with survivors of the residential schools are heartbreaking, and it really drives the point home that this happened within our lifetimes and our parent's lifetimes.  I'm so disappointed that this aspect of Canada's history is not really covered in school, and at how the federal government has been reacting lately with the outcome of the TRC, the Idle No More movement, and the lack of an inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Interviews with Annett describe how the United Church reacted when he began to expose the realities of the residential school system, and how it mistreated him both professionally and personally.  It was very interesting to hear the lengths the Church went to to cover up its past, but as the interviews wore on it seemed like Annett was taking the narrative away from the survivors and putting the focus on how he was harmed by the Church while trying to help the Aboriginal community.  It is important to be an ally, but Annett takes the step towards White Saviour Complex territory, and that made me really uncomfortable; I found myself wanting to skip his segments altogether and only listen to the survivors of the residential school system.

I definitely would not watch "Unrepentant" again, though have to give credit where credit is due: the interviews with survivors, though difficult to hear, were incredibly informative.  These are the stories that need to be told.

xx, C.

PS: Aboriginals push to save former Ontario residential school known as 'mush hole'
PPS: Almost Missing - 'It Could Have Been Me' - Thirteen remarkable women share their own stories

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