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Aug. 3, 2021 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
Editorial: Shining a light on atrocities
The front page of The Lake Report's July 1 issue. (Photo illustration by Richard Harley)

I’m not proud of it, but it doesn’t change the fact that as a citizen and a journalist, I am partly responsible for not shining a bright light on the atrocities committed at Canada's residential schools.

Last year, staff at the Angel Inn contacted The Lake Report about their day for staff to wear orange in support of the Indigenous community. When I heard about it, I thought it can’t possibly be as bad as they say or literally everyone in the country would be wearing an orange shirt, not just the staff at one Niagara-on-the-Lake restaurant. Students at Royal Oak also wore orange.

And we published the photos. But we didn’t give it the attention it deserved.

Part of me didn’t believe, or didn’t want to believe, Canada was responsible for something so reprehensible. Part of me wanted to think these people were being told exaggerated stories.

Part of me was dead wrong. Looking back, I’m not sure why the topic was so easily dismissed. I remember being told of the children being ripped from their families, of cultural genocide of Indigenous traditions and ways of life.

Yet, I did almost nothing.

Sure, we published the photos. But much like the remains of the Indigenous children recently discovered, they were buried in the back of the paper. With today's Canada Day edition front page, we hope to symbolically draw attention to this neglected tragedy.

Whether it was ingrained in me to think Canada couldn’t possibly have acted so badly for decades, or whether it was white privilege, or both, I’m ashamed of it.

And the same could be said for a lot of the country’s media.

Where were the journalists when these kids were being abused and buried? Where were the scholars to read the countless books on the atrocities? Where were the artists to write songs of protest?

We were asleep at the wheel and now it’s our job to make sure we get it right — to make sure these stories are told and the truth of our history is revealed.

To say now is the right time, is misguided. Back then, when it was happening, was the right time.

Last year when approached by people who were more enlightened than myself and passionate about reconciliation — that was the right time.

Now, it’s just the time. It’s not right, not wrong.

But now is the time to make sure we are loud and ferocious to demand better from our country. To demand amends be made – and people and institutions held to account.

Now is the time to get history right.

But now is also the time to accept Canadian society's role in letting these tragedies occur. And to act to fix the litany of problems Indigenous Peoples still face.

It’s time to demand our country put to rest those souls we lost and ensure all available documents are made public.

If we work toward a better future for all, and not close our eyes to such atrocities, we can make sure we don’t let anything like this happen again.

We can change the world, starting now.

editor@niagaranow.com

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