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We must ensure history does not repeat itself

By: Tim W. Callaway

  |  Posted: Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 10:43 am

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“From the 1870s to 1996, 150,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their families across the country and sent to residential schools, where they were alienated from their community, language and culture. Alberta had 15 residential schools, more than any province.” – Postmedia News, Feb. 25

Recent revelations of an inexcusably high number of deaths among foster children in this province over the past 15 years are mind-numbing in their implications regarding life in Alberta, ostensibly one of the most enviable economic jurisdictions in the world.

Seen against the backdrop of the statistics above, there’s ample evidence that Albertans might well hang our heads in shame regarding this province’s record concerning the treatment of children. All the oil royalties in the world can’t erase this sad chapter of the Alberta mosaic.

Accordingly, I applaud Alberta Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar’s acknowledgement of a glaring malfunction with respect to the province’s responsibility to adequately oversee the well-being of children in its care. His initial efforts to take steps to right this egregious wrong are most commendable.

So, too, do I appreciate the recent, if belated, apology by Edmonton’s Archbishop to survivors of Alberta’s residential schools.

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and Northwest Territories, Most Reverend Richard Smith has stated: “(We) want to do whatever we can to reach out and foster healing and reconciliation and to learn from what has happened in the past.”

What happened in the past should never ever have happened, of course, and I’ve long since wearied of trying to rationalize, excuse or otherwise justify the thinking and actions of people whose imperialistic allegiances and religious zealotry trumped the fundamental values articulated by the founder of the very faith they professed to follow. Jesus taught us to love our enemies - he didn’t advocate obliterating their dignity and culture while so doing. Which part of this simple reality did the Crown and the Church not comprehend?

For numerous reasons, it’s futile to content ourselves with merely berating our forefathers for their misguided myopia, as disgusting as it was.

Better by far to help relegate these ugly chapters of Alberta’s history to the dust-bin by doing our part to banish the remaining vestiges of such nonsense and ensure such never happens again.

A step in the right direction would be to persistently encourage the Alberta government to lift its draconian publication ban on the identity of children who die while in foster care.

These children have names and faces. Relegating them to an impersonal asterisk in a history book is unconscionable.

So write, Facebook, tweet, call. The opportunity to make a difference for this province’s future is at your fingertips.

Tim W. Callaway is pastor of Faith Community Church. He can be reached at


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