Founder’s Corner: Canada’s Indigenous People: First Nations

By Dr. Emdad Khan

We are all new generation immigrants in Canada.  But this country belongs to indigenous people, first nations. European nationals were the first settlers.  We all must learn the history of Canada, especially the stores of first nations.

Great injustices were done to native Canadians by European settlers. We new immigrants must take the issues of first nations, the native indigenous people as our own. We must learn about their culture, lives, education and religion.

We must learn the details of the history and practices of the Indian Residential schools. It is unthinkable that children were taken away by force from home and were required to assimilate by force, not by persuasion. In the process, it appears, thousands of the children died, some were not allowed to visit home or see parents, not allowed to speak their language.

We now have two large, unmarked graves of innocent school children.  First, the 215 children from the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, BC and in the last few days; second, cases of 751 unmarked graves at Saskatchewan residential school site by the First Nations.

It is noted with thanks and a step in the right direction ,that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement shortly after the announcement saying he is “terribly saddened” by the news. “My heart breaks for the Cowessess First Nation, and for all Indigenous communities across Canada,” he said.

Another point of satisfaction is that the Catholic religious order that operated residential schools in Saskatchewan and British Columbia where hundreds of unmarked graves have been found has made a formal “commitment to transparency” to disclose all historical documents in its possession that are related to the schools. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate operated 48 schools, including the Marieval Indian Residential School in the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and the Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C.

We see a willingness to rectify past mistakes and offer reconciliation. We new immigrants must work with indigenous people and with Canadian mainstream politicians in a peaceful way for rectification and genuine reconciliation.

We must all address the violation of human rights. Everyone must have equal opportunity to maintain day to day family life, in housing, education, health and so on.

Let us Think of prophet Muhammed pbuh. He was from Makkah, settled by migration to Medina.  He worked with his companions and changed the old Yathrib town into a new city, Medina which  brought lights for all citizens of the new state. They together cleaned the city, dug wells for drinking water and provided other civil amenities, irrespective of faith, and ethnic background.

The past wrongdoing can not be undone. But we can work together to rectify past mistakes and bring genuine reconciliation working together with new immigrants, European settlers as mainstream Canadians, along with all levels of politicians, city, province and federal.

Let us consider Canada, our new Medina and spread light of emancipation for ourselves, First Nations and  for the mainstream society.

With Salaam and Regards