Last month I sent out a letter to various government officials at the provincial and federal levels. The main body of the letter read as follows:
I have been following the news about the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and I felt it was important for me to address an issue that I believe was not covered by any of the reports. What happened to the abusers when the residential schools were disbanded in the late 1960’s? This question appears to be beyond the scope of the TRC.
I know what happened. The abusers – many of them priests and teachers of the residential schools – either returned to their home countries, or were dispersed to other private schools or parishes across North America. The problem of abuse did not end when the schools were disbanded, yet it appears that this issue is largely ignored in Canada.
I endured severe physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests who were in charge of my education at a private Catholic school in British Columbia from 1973 through 1977. The instructors were shuffled around the continent to continue their terror attacks on children even after the residential schools had been closed some years before. Though I am not a residential school survivor, I am a survivor of abuse that still haunts me. I would like to see that there is some regard for all children who endured abuse at the hands of those who have hid behind their religion in order to destroy the countless small souls who were victims to these monsters.
I am enclosing copies of the court documents, research paper and playscript. ….. I have made it my intention to continue to speak out about child abuse in all forms. When I was completing my PhD I wrote a research paper on the effects of religious based child abuse on survivors and have just finished writing a play about the abuse I endured in hopes that it will help in breaking the silence for victims and families of abuse survivors. The subject matter is not light, but it is important to continue the dialogue of abuse and recovery for all people in Canada.
Should you have any questions or comments, I would be most appreciative.
These letters (along with booklets containing my original court case documents, research paper, and recent version of my solo story) went out to approximately twenty different organizations and individuals across Canada. To date I have received three replies….one from the office of the Prime Minister, one from the office of Justin Trudeau, and one from Premier Christy Clark.
Harper’s and Trudeau’s letters are what you would expect from politicians. Harper’s was written by an assistant on behalf of the Prime Minister and it is short and succinct – I am thanked for sending in correspondance regarding “Indian Residential Schools (sic)….” and I am assured that they have sent on this information to the Honorable Bernard Valcourt – Minister of Aboriginal Affairs for “his consideration”. Trudeau’s assistant makes an even shorter reply that is more generic – again writing on behalf of Justin Trudeau, she acknowledges receipt of the letter and states that the “document” will be brought to the attention of an Ottawa policy team.
These are pretty much what you may expect from politicians on the verge of a looming election. However, The letter from Premier Christy Clark was written and signed by her directly (at least the letter is in the first person and signed by her). She thanks me for sending in my letter and background information and states that the abuse within the Catholic school system was “certainly a dark time in our history and remains very difficult to comprehend”. She further takes the liberty to commend me for the work I am undertaking to no longer supress my experiences and memories, and even quotes my play directly. Despite what people may want to say about our leaders, this letter seemed to be sent with a sense of compassion and an attempt at understanding the challenges victims continue to face.
Though this post may seem political in scope, I want to state that I am sharing the information of what I have received openly. I found it interesting that of the several letters I have sent out, only three contacts have replied. I am thankful for any response that is sent to me – but the BC Premier’s letter had more heart than the other two received. At some level, it is nice to see a letter from a politician that is not carefully crafted to make a safe political reply.