Can we truly reconcile with those we’ve wronged? Is it in our grasp?

Brief Background on Canada’s TRC:

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s mandate is all about releasing the truth regarding Canadian History, inform Canadians about the atrocities that were committed towards the First Nations people, and form respectful and healing relationships.  Based in Institutional Restorative Justice, it involves a change in national media and school curriculum, as well as monetary and symbolic reparations.  In this blog post I am looking into the combination of this, as well as First Nations traditions and forms of justice and how it will affect the success of our TRC.

Research and Other Attempts at a TRC:

Restorative vs. Retributive Justice:

Restorative Justice is focused on restoring a respectful relationship between the victims and the perpetrators.  Rather than focusing on the needs of the perpetrators punishment-wise, mediated conference between perpetrators and victims is used to come to a satisfactory conclusion for both.  This is a method that is slowly being integrated into our criminal justice system, and a similar method has been used in many other cultures for many many years.

Retributive Justice is focused on punishment of the perpetrator.  This method is widely used in criminal justice systems around the globe, but often doesn’t end with a satisfactory a result for the victim.  There is also a lack of communication, often leaving important truths unsaid.

TRC-wise, Canada is using a restorative justice template.  However, I looked into what would happen if the TRC was forged much sooner after the original offence, and I found that Sierra-Leone used a primarily retributive form of reconciliation.

Unfortunately, they did not consider the fear of backlash the victims faced in coming forward and demanding retributive action, thus not much was done originally to remedy the situation.

Combining this with First Nations practices:

In Canada, one of the First Nations traditions that we have integrated into the TRC is “witnessing”.  Basically, it consists of having specific “witnesses” present at truth-telling ceremonies and events to connect with what is being said personally, and spread the stories they hear within their own circles.  By including something like this, these witnesses are helping others to connect with the truths that are being shared.

This is so so important, as with the media as it is today, we can struggle to make personal connections with people and their struggles.  Instead of having to rely on biased journalism and media to keep up with the progress of truth telling and sharing, we can rely on folks who care about it.

Helen Cromarty, survivor:

“As a residential school survivor, there were things taken away from us that we can never ever get back, doesn’t matter how hard you work at it. I worked hard to get my culture back, my language. I still have to work at it. There are many missing things that I can never ever get back, but having the government apologize and acknowledge the damage that has been done, I feel a little reprieve. I can live with it and I think that’s another step forward. Why not keep going? The path is there now, follow it. …I left home when I was five years old, so the family bonding that all of you get when you’re a child, in those formative years, I don’t have that. But I somehow learned that, after having five children I worked hard at bonding.”

 

Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of the Ontario Native Women’s Association:

“Reconciliation means more than just the restoration of our relationship. Our women, our people, have unaddressed grief, intergenerational trauma, as the residential schools severed the most important bond, that bond between indigenous children and their mothers and their families. This system exposed our children to a cycle of violence that continues today, but we know that violence is a learned behaviour and therefore we also know that we can unlearn this behaviour. We can make a change.”

Conclusions:

I’ve still got a lot of questions and I hope to learn more in reading the first chapter of the TRC next week.  Like who is mediating the discussion of Justice between government and churches, and the First Nations People?  As well, in order for restorative justice to work it has been found that both sides must see each other as equals.  I’d be interested in hearing some people who have a very different stance on the issue of reconciliation.  Finally, how are they going about reconciling if the government is nigh partially the perpetrator and the dispenser of justice?  I feel that understanding the roots of what we are trying to achieve and all the different viewpoints on it is super important if we are to succeed.

Half-Term already? Nooooooo!

How to fit my learning halfway into Socials 9 into a concise, easy to read, blog post.  Easier said than done!  I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it.

People don’t change.  This is evidenced throughout history in the way it repeats over and over.  There are reflections of history in many instances in modern politics, and a better understanding of our past will lead to a brighter future.  We learn best from our mistakes, but we cannot learn from what we do not know.  There is one prominent cycle I’ve noticed in the news, as well as what we have learned in class, that supports this theory.

Big Idea: Disparities in power alter the balance between individuals and between societies.  

The way I see it, power is something no one man, woman or non-diverse group of people should wield.  All too often in history, it was handed on a silver platter to those undeserving.  For example, Christopher Columbus was given far too much power in his expedition, and it resulted in the bloody massacre of thousands of Native Americans.  After people like that are given that much power, relationships between the people and those with the power are strained for years to come, such as after the English Civil Wars.  That said, even if the power is said to be shared, such as between King Charles I and Parliament, it can end up in the exact same way for there is almost always a one true power.  The idea behind democracy is that the people are represented by those in power.  The problem is, is that not everyone has equality, therefore the people are not fully represented.  This is evidenced by Parliament’s historical lack of diversity.  I’m excited to see that Trudeau has taken this into account with the country’s Parliament, as I feel that it better represents the people of Canada.

Content Areas

Here is where I found the pattern.  When a specific person, or non-diverse group of people are in sole possession of power, they tend to implement discriminatory policies towards the groups they deem less important than they.  We saw this in the niqab debate, where politicians tried to regulate the attire of women from a specific religion based on their personal beliefs.  These groups tend to make up the lower class, whereas the people in power and those like them are the upper class.  With these policies implemented, the upper class develop a superior attitude to the lower class, which leads to crimes and wrongs committed towards those already subject to discriminatory policies.  This is evidenced by the media reports about police brutality towards racial minorities. When the lower class comes together as a whole, fed up with the abuse/neglect from the upper class, conflicts arise.  They start small, but they sometimes grow to catastrophic proportions, as seen in the English Civil Wars.  After a large scale conflict is won by the lower class, they implement a social/political revolution.  I saw this in the movie “The Butler” that I watched at home, it depicted the struggle for equality for all races.  Even after social/political reform, we retain the idea of classism, so the cycle continues.

Competencies

What I do well!

Make reasoned ethical judgements about controversial actions in the past and present, and whether we have a responsibility to respond.

Throughout all the examples I’ve mentioned thus far, I have looked for examples in which specific moments have repeated themselves.  I feel as though learning about these actions is the response we truly need.  As for whether we need to act on them, in the case of Columbus Day, I think we certainly do.  We are continuing to celebrate the massacre of thousands of Native Americans every year.  One thing I would like to learn more about in this topic, is why we send our troops into other countries’ wars.  I want to know at what point do we decide to throw our soldiers at risk to defend another man’s borders.

Assess how prevailing conditions and the actions of individuals or groups affect events, decisions, and developments.

In class, we talked about morals with the Trolley Problem.  With each layer of intricacy, the class became more and more anxious.  We looked around the room, silently judging those with different choices.  I believe that the choices each student made was based off of not only natural instinct, but learned behaviours.  With that in mind, when I look at this question, I think of all the difficult decisions politicians make.  Knowing that they will be judged by every person whose ideas do not match theirs.  I feel as though sometimes, this would affect the decisions they make, and they may take the easy way out of things.  Fearing the backlash from the public, they would slip up, and make far more trouble for themselves.

What I need to work on!

Assess the justification for competing historical accounts after investigating points of contention, reliability of sources, and adequacy of evidence.

I have yet to do very much of this, as I tend to be a biased reader.  I am not the best at looking at all sides of a problem, though it is something I look forward to practicing.  To work on this skill, I will read from more than one source, and from more than one side of the argument.  I will challenge myself to think deeper to fully understand the topic.

Assess the significance of people, places, events, and developments, and compare varying perspectives on their historical significance at particular times and places, and from group to group.

Assessing the significance of things has never been my strong suit, as I was always one to highlight the entire page thinking if someone’s bothered to write about it, it must be important.  To develop my skills in this area, I will read texts specifically to break them down into the important bits.  When I am describing my day to my family, I will challenge myself to do it in thirty seconds or less, so that I only focus on the important bits.  Finally, I will learn from all sides of the event, by comparing perspectives and deciding on those most valid.

Conclusions…

At the end of the day, no matter how many times we are told exactly how not to do a thing, we will do it anyways.  This really sums up my learning experience, as no matter how many times I learn that staying up late to do my work the night before is a very bad decision, I still end up doing it.  After all, what’s the point of learning from your mistakes if you can simply repeat them?

A Midlife Crisis for 17th Century Britain

The English Civil War.  I like to think of it as a midlife crisis for the 17th century United Kingdom.  A struggle for power over money, religion and parliament, what did it accomplish?  The aim was to abolish the monarchy, but that didn’t go so well.  King Charles I fought hard against Parliament to retain his position, but eventually succumbed after the second civil war and was executed by the people to put an end to the fighting.  Charles II then escaped to Holland to plan his return to his rightful throne.  After finally putting an end to kings and queens for good, or so they thought, the people decided it would be wise to elect the military leader Oliver Cromwell as “Lord Protector”.  As the role of a “Lord Protector” had not fully been established, Cromwell ruled as a king.  Which, if you are following, doesn’t make much sense at all.  Charles II came back to fight for his throne in the final civil war, but was chased out by the Parliamentarians.  When Cromwell died, he passed the lordship on to his son, Richard Cromwell.  Richard Cromwell was not quite as forceful as his father, and the people begged for Charles II to return to rule England as king.

  1. What did all this fighting and bloodshed accomplish?
  2. Did Oliver Cromwell intend to take advantage of the war to take control of the country?
  3. Did the idea of the “Divine Right of Kings” have a factor in the people’s wanting to abolish the monarchy?
  4. Did this event have an effect on the ego of future kings?
  5. Will future kings become more or less invested in the idea of the “Divine Right of Kings”?
  6. Was it Richard Cromwell’s decision to step down?  Was he threatened?
  7. Were the commoners actively involved or was it mainly the upper class who had a say?

I do believe I may have an unhealthy obsession with the British Monarchy.  Obviously, this is the first thing that caught my attention in this topic, as it could well have been the end of kings and queens in Britain.  Could you imagine?  I believe the world would be very different today had they truly abolished the monarchy back then.

The Brutality and Deceit of the Fabulous Tudors

Disloyalty, cruelty and murder, oh my!  The years 1400-1600 in the British Isles were certainly very eventful in the way of progress.  As we know, this often means a lot of bloodshed.  From Henry VIII and his many wives, Edward VI with his manipulative advisors to Bloody Mary and her reign of terror.  It’s hard to imagine that anything good came out of this tragedy of a dynasty!  The last reigning monarch of this line of insane rulers was however, Elizabeth I.  The incredible things she accomplished during her time as Queen are something to be in awe of. Throughout her reign she was pressured to marry, but as she knew she would have to sacrifice all of her power as Queen, she declined.  Ruling a country the way she did without a man at her side was unheard of during her time!  I am truly in complete admiration of this woman.  After all she went through, the death threats and the house arrests, she managed to forgive her sister and repair all the damage her family had wrecked upon the nation.  This dynasty may have been a disaster, but it definitely didn’t end in tragedy.

The torture and execution methods used on criminals were still very barbaric and cruel during this time.  There were many executions during the reign of Queen Mary which coined her the title “Bloody Mary”, as well as many carried out by her father King Henry VIII.  All in all, I find it fascinating just how much pain and suffering we managed to put our fellow human beings through in the name of the Lord.

Google Doc: British Isles 1400-1600

Inquiring About the Existence of Life, Among Other Curious Concepts.

Any chance I get to start a thought provoking or perhaps controversial discussion I will certainly take.  I love partaking in conversations with passion, ones that bring many different opinions into play.  Obviously, to begin something like this, you must have a repertoire of questions without a defined answer.  Here are a few questions to which answers would be hard to find.

  1. Why are prejudices developed?  Why did humans accept women as lesser than men?  Or people with skin colours other than white as less than human?  Is is ingrained within us or was it a learned behaviour?
  2. Why did we create complicated systems and believe they’d make life simpler?  We’ve created monetary systems, taxes, stocks and bonds, real estate systems and other confusing customs, but we desire an easier lifestyle?  How is that possible if there are so many things to worry, stress and fret about!  
  3. Why are human beings perpetually unfulfilled?  Why is it that we desire that which we do not have?  Why do we covet the possessions of our neighbours?  Again, is it human nature, or something we have developed?
  4. Does the existence of sadness affect the feeling of being happy?  By extension, would a good thing feel better after a long spell of bad things?  Could this connect to the previous question, would we feel more satisfied if we weren’t accustomed to good things?
  5. Is the Universe truly infinite?  Were it to be, anything you can think of exists somewhere in the Universe.  There are an infinite amount of copies of you, even different dimensions where you have made the opposite decision.  Maybe because one of you had eggs rather than toast for breakfast, you got salmonella and had a revealing dream on morphine which began a million dollar franchise and that copy became very wealthy.  I’d advise you not to dwell too much on this subject for now I am questioning every decision I have ever made.
  6. Who dreamt up the radical concept of religion, and when?  I would imagine it was just before the middle ages, for it was during that time that a belief in a religion became a way to cope with the harsh conditions of life.  Each religion has their own beginning, but I still have so many questions!  Who transcribed the Bible?  How did they know of the exact details of each event?  
  7. How did certain people take the beautiful concept of religion and turn it into a way of justifying their terrible actions to themselves and to the public?  There are many documented instances where people have done horrible things “In the Name of God”.  Why?  How could they take things so far as to say that God would grant them forgiveness for what is so obviously a sin?
  8. If the Devil is considered bad, why does he punish the sinners?  Why is he not considered good for doing so? 

MINDBLOWN 10

Now I believe that there are certain questions here are without answer, many people have dedicated their lives to finding the answers, but they are usually unsuccessful.  Most of my questions are fairly daunting, but I am inspired to pursue 1, 3, 4 and 6.  I feel that reading the holy writings of the bigger religions may help me with #6, and learning more about human psychology would aid me in finding answers to 1, 3 and 4. I don’t know if I’ll ever be successful, but I’ll be able to make more educated theories.  This diverse set of questions I feel says I am a very inquisitive and curious person!  I have many questions about human existence and religion, which says that these concepts may be the most foreign to me.  I am always up for a good discussion, so if any of these questions intrigue you or you have more information to give me, let me know!

Columbus: Genocide of the Innocent.

Having been born in the US, I had this concept of Christopher Columbus familiar to many Americans.  I believed he had colonized America and created the land populated by 318.89 million people today.  Reading about the horrors he committed whilst doing so, makes me wonder if it was worth it.  While it’s true we may not have all the “progress” that we made after we colonized America, is that such a bad thing?  I believe that had the Arawaks and other indigenous peoples survived, we would have had a very different type of progress.  Perhaps one with less brutality and greed?

The sad thing is is that even if Columbus had not colonized America, others would have.  It is human nature at this point to pillage, conquer and destroy.  Over and over and over in history we have destroyed helpless peoples who could have contributed to the creation of a better society.  The reason it continues to happen today is that we have not accepted the fact that our great country was built upon a foundation of the remains of peoples who lived long ago.  We still have a day to celebrate this genocidal self-proclaimed explorer, navigator and colonizer of the “New World”.  Once we all understand the truth about this man, the sooner we can change our ways and grow together as a world.

As I was reading the article, the first thing that popped into my head was a stand-up comedy skit done by the great Eddie Izzard.