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Systematic injustice

When I was working in Athabasca as a reporter six years ago for the Town & Country, I did several interviews a residential school victim — he did not like the word “survivor.”

Listening and later writing his story was one of the most difficult things I have had to do as a journalist.

At the time, he told me about the absolute horrors of the system that befell him decades ago as a child. He spoke, too, about how he had been released from school and then had encounters with the justice system.

After telling me his story, he had participated in a healing circle and shared his personal story with his community.

Fast forward to today. Within my first week back, I saw him at the local grocery store. Within my first month, I saw him back in the justice system, facing charges coincidentally related to damage at the house where I used to live.

His story is only one of the thousands that came out of the residential school system — stories that continue being written today by the aftershocks of that trauma.

It’s easy to look at stories like those about the Attawapiskat First Nation youth suicide epidemic and think, that’s far away.

But it’s not. It’s here. The three-storey St. John’s Indian Residential School in Wabasca operated from 1895 and 1966. And the horror stories it produced and continue to produce are, quite literally, in your own backyard.

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