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LETTER: Crosses and restorative justice

From reader Charles Jeanes

I was in front of the BC legislature June 6, where many small wooden crosses with feathers attached were on the lawn, commemorating 215 burial sites in Kamloops, under a Canadian flag at half-mast.

Stray thoughts, after the feelings of ashamed distress about this chapter of our national history:

A cross is a symbol for a death only because of Christianity. The juxtaposition of this symbol of the crucified Christ — a memorial for death simultaneously the symbol of the Church responsible for the deaths — is disorienting, for me.

The cross as death-symbol shows how deep the 2,000-year-old religion of Europeans has taken root in Canadian cultural consciousness; that fact means something else: Westerners of settler descent are not merely descended from people who perpetrated crimes on Indigenous people who possessed Canada first. We (yes, I’m from settler stock) are heirs to European Christian civilization; it created the modern foundation for a one-system global community. Vast positive and negative implications follow.

There’s no reason to feel shamed by the whole Western heritage. People admire and desire the West; we should labour to deserve this high opinion. Canada is not only a state built on injustices of stealing a continent from Native populations. It’s a state so desirable to inhabit, immigrants from all over earth want to come.

Canada is, in the opinion of many, a better place for the diversity of people who are ingredients of our population. As I stood among the crosses, Canadians whose origins were not European nor Native were also present.

I admit to my personal bankruptcy of substantive ideas on restorative justice for history, this miserable past beyond changing. That past is prologue; the present demands restitution. No reconciliation worth its name can come without meaningful compensation to Natives living now. Ideas, readers?

Charles Jeanes


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