Story of Haitian children seems all too familiar

I can’t be the only one to notice some eerie parallels between what’s going on with a group of children from Calebasse, Haiti and the situation of indigenous peoples here.

According to the February 4 Globe and Mail, “a group of American Baptists [have been] arrested for trying to spirit the 33 children across the border” to the Dominican Republic (which shares the same island with Haiti).

In the wake of the devastation wrought by the January 12 earthquake, it’s come to light that the parents of those children were desperate, and could no longer feed their families. What a choice: hand over over your kids to strangers, or hold on to them and quite possibly watch them die.

One passage from the story was particularly striking:

On Thursday morning, Jean-Ricia Geffrard dressed her 10-year-old daughter, Berline, and put her on a bus full of foreigners. She knew these blans were Americans and that they were taking the kids to the Dominican Republic, where they promised to send them to school and to let the parents visit often.

Not so long ago, Aboriginal parents in Canada heard the same promises — and faced the same heart-rending choices amidst poverty, isolation and death by disease — when they ambivalently sent their kids off to ‘Indian’ residential schools.  That is, where those parents were ‘allowed’ the choice: most had no say whatsoever in the matter.

The churches were fundamentally involved in residential schools then, just as they are deeply involved in Haiti now. It is clear they had an evangelical agenda in Canada; I cannot speak to what their full set of motives may or may not be in Haiti.

In any event, if you believe what some analysts are saying about Haiti’s past and present, that the country’s grinding poverty is no accident, then it would follow that any repercussions flowing from that — the destruction of families and communities through what is, in effect, the removal of children — should be viewed accordingly: as the living legacy of colonialism.

And as I hinted at the outset, it’s the kind of legacy all too familiar to indigenous peoples in Canada.

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