The only reason I’m going to mention the Sky Palace scandal in the same post as the deaths of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops BC is because the Sky Palace scandal pulled our focus away from Jason Kenney’s utterly inappropriate response to the history of Canada’s residential school policy.
Sky Palace Scandal
Let’s get the Sky Palace scandal out of the way first.
Last week Kenney and three of his cabinet ministers enjoyed a lovely dinner with some unidentified guests on the outdoor patio of the Federal Public Building. Dinner was a sit-down affair, complete with white tablecloths, San Pellegrino, wine and Jamison’s whiskey.
It was also a blatant violation of Alberta’s covid restrictions.
Dr Deena Hinshaw said it was a mistake, and that we should acknowledge our mistakes and move on to model the way forward. In essence, she gave Kenney an out—own your mistake and model better behavior in the future—he chose not to take it.
Instead he doubled down alleging:
- His dinner was “expressly permitted” under the outdoor gathering exemption. Tell that to Dr Hinshaw.
- The NDP would want Kenney to move the business meeting inside where there’s a higher risk of viral spread. No, they’d want Kenney to hold the meeting in accordance with the rules.
- The NDP is grousing because they want a hard lock-down. Not true and irrelevant.
- The NDP is hypocritical because they often socialized on the patio. Irrelevant, Covid-19 wasn’t ravaging the world between 2015—2019.
- Kenney et al paid for their own food and drink; besides Jamison’s is a budget whiskey. Who cares, still a violation of the rules.
- It was take-out not catered. Still a violation.
- Next week we could go to Stage 2 and have 20 people at outdoor gathering. That’s nice, this week that many people can’t eat on an outdoor patio.
This inane exchange took up airtime that should have been devoted to Kenney’s response to the discovery of the graves of 215 Indigenous children.
Kenney said the residential school policy was morally evil, wicked, and unjust.
And that’s where his condemnation ended. God forbid he say a bad word against John A Macdonald or the Catholic Church.
An intrepid reporter asked if he supported the Calgary School Board’s decision to rename Langevin school. Hector-Louis Langevin was John A Macdonald’s public works minister and together with Bishop Grandin helped implement Macdonald’s residential school policy.
Kenney said recognizing the evil of residential schools does not require us to remove central figures of Canadian history. That would be “cancel culture.”
He buttressed his cancel culture argument with a round of “whataboutism.”
What about Sir Wilfred Laurier who increased the “head tax” to restrict immigration from China, and Mackenzie King who prevented Jews from entering Canada in the holocaust, and Pierre Trudeau who imposed martial law in Quebec, and Tommy Douglas and members of the Famous Five who supported eugenics. We’d have to erase them too, right?
No, We’re not talking about erasing people.
We’re talking about rejecting the idea that people who used the power of the state or the church to forcibly take Indigenous children from their parents and assimilate them into Euro-Canadian culture should be honoured by putting them up on a pedestal and plastering their names on public buildings and infrastructure.
Yes, we must have a conversation about how to treat historical figures who did reprehensible things or held reprehensible beliefs, but today we’re talking about the 215 Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops and the politicians and clergymen who made it possible.
It’s not enough for Kenney to say he personally believes the residential school system “was unspeakably wicked and unjust” and a “great moral evil.”
Kenney is a political leader. As such he should be among the first to condemn the actions of those who created and implemented the residential school policies of the past and those who allow systemic racism to flourish in Canada today.
Anything less would be (to use Kenney’s words) a great moral evil.