Every country is stratified and to a large extent we all just accept it. The taxi driver in Ottawa is likely to be of Lebanese origin. The parking lot attendant, likely to be of Somali or Ethiopian origin, before they were laid off due to automatic When you visit a seniors home, all the staff, nurses and PSWs and immigrants of colour and the senior management is white. When’s the last time you ordered out for food and the delivery person was a white guy? Like, never. And we just accept that and don’t ask how come only one group does this low paying unstable job? When a new minister is appointed, if he’s a white male, it’s the norm so it’s a non event. If it’s not, then we suspect its Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s affirmative action plan and we doubt their competence. At the majestic Basilique Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde in Montreal there is an old painting on the east wall whose caption, until recently read, “La Vénérable Marguerite Bourgeoys enseignant les jeunes sauvages, près des tours du Vieux Fort de Montréal – 1694. (Trans: The Venerable Marguerite Bourgeoys teaching the young savages, near the towers of the Old Fort of Montreal – 1694) Teaching! The young savages! That was how the stratification was in 1694 and that is how the title read in the basilica until recently, when it was changed. What was she doing in the painting? She was doing what good nuns do, evangelizing and educating “the savages”. For that she canonized in 1982, designated a saint! When Sir John A. Macdonald was involved in setting up residential schools in the 1860s, this recent Scottish immigrant was not so much coming up with a new idea of Anglo-Saxon superiority that he brought with him. He was integrating into what had been happening since at least 1694, two hundred years earlier. It is ironic that some people today decry identity politics when in fact Canada was based upon identity politics. Our founding constitutional document, the British North America Act (Yes, British!), was culled by two of the three groupings of people in this region. The agreement was only possible because French Canadian Catholics and English Canadian Protestants got the constitutional guarantees for their separate school systems with guarantees of their languages, entrenching their identities. But what we were not taught in school, was that these two “founding races” as they were often called, very deliberately left out the third grouping – which itself is diverse – Indigenous Peoples. Why? Could it be because these two groups were of the firm view that they were not fit to be in government? They were after all…savages? Today we call that white supremacy or European Christian supremacy. So when the churches ran almost all the residential schools, its not like Sir John A had to go out and twist their arms to run the schools. The churches by then, had a long history of “educating” Indigenous Peoples. Making them civilized. Beating the Indian out of them. What the government did for years was to institutionalize these practices and add the force of the RCMP to kidnap the children from their parents and hold them in childhood prisons (residential schools) for decades. But today, when you look at the hospital that was supposed to be treating Joyce Echaquan in Lanaudière, Quebec, or the health care workers in BC who were taking bets on how drunk incoming Indigenous patients were, or the RCMP officers who viciously beat a First Nations chief in Fort McMurray when checking a licence plate, or the Saskatchewan farmer who shot Colten Boushi, you have to ask, who are the savages here? Isn’t it time they were educated on basic human decency? Is this racism? Of course. And 215 Indigenous children buried in secret. Is it systemic racism – meaning is the racism embedded in the system? Yes. Is it systematic racism? Like based on the government-ordered extermination of a group? Hmmm. Its looking a lot like that, isn’t it? Such callousness, such meanness, so widespread, yet to be uncovered. May be everyone did not know about it, and people at the top didn’t know about it, but the system was so corrupt that this criminality was allowed to take place with abandon, unchecked, across so many parts of the country. Colonialism at its worst. We’re a good country, we are a great country, in so many ways. We try to get better. How could this have been happening for so long? As we come to terms with this massive tragedy in the months and years ahead, we might also want to start rejecting the many stratas that we take for granted. For non-Aboriginal folks, if this is upsetting you, just think how debilitating it is for Indigenous people who could have been among these buried kids, or whose relatives were, or are likely to be among them…..and your country looked the other way for decades. They knew this was happening and no one in power was listening. This is the sad stuff of national shame. One of these days has to be a turning point, so the Canadian people and governments take concrete steps in response to this genocide. Ministers Carolyn Bennett and Marc Miller need to be urgently announcing some significant government responses, and may be its time for an officer of Parliament or a non-partisan Senate committee to keep track of actions by governments, churches and the private sector. Andrew Cardozo is president of the Pearson Centre.