The Great Sin of Paternalism in Canada

“What connected the Führer and his people was fear of the modern age, or in other words, the future.”


“When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with his parents who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training and mode of thought are Indian,” Macdonald said, according to archived documents. “He is simply a savage who can read and write.”


How can we understand the motivations behind something as inhumane as residential schools? John A. Macdonald, the celebrated first Prime Minister of Canada and the foremost father of Confederation, left a legacy of discrimination and sorrow that will outstretch my generation, my children’s generation, and perhaps even my children’s children’s generation.

As he approached the end of his political career, John began to become obsessed with the idea of uplifting all the citizens of Canada to what he believed was equal status. A noble goal – one that is mirrored in modern struggles against homelessness, against racism and against the patriarchy. Unfortunately however, in this instance the ends do not even begin to justify the means.

This beloved man -

“Kill the Indian, but save the man.” 

So said Sir John A. Macdonald as he convinced a nation to wrest young Native children away from their families. So said Sir John A. Macdonald as he passed legislation that allowed him to destroy cultures in the name of patriotism.

How did he persuade Canadians into this?

How did he persuade Canadians into this?


In Socials class, we have been discussing the idea of “Paternalism.”

From Google:

“Paternalism (or parentalism) is behavior, by a person, organization or state, which limits some person or group’s liberty or autonomy for that person’s or group’s own good.”

This was the mindset that was infused into not just John A. Macdonald at the time, but to a majority of Canadian citizens. ‘It is for the good of the Aboriginals’, was a common theme from those who advocated for Residential Schools. Even if the Schools really were used simply to ‘elevate’ Aboriginals to British culture, the murder, torture, and disregard for fellow man is inexcusable, by all accounts.

The problem is, John A. Macdonald was not a villain of the time, nor is he considered one now. He is merely the face of a systemic social issue, that of disregard and discrimination towards First Nations peoples from other Canadians. Residential Schools, for all the horror that they inspire now, were a popular idea of the time. Voters loved the concept of equality and unified culture, even if it was through assimilation. The fact that the majority of bloody hands would be blamed on Macdonald simply made it even easier for the average citizen to tune out cries, and distance themselves from the prosecution.

When and where did the virtues of freedom and the very liberal world view of Confederation transition into Conservative fears?



Jackson, Lisa. “Is John A. Macdonald Really the Canadian Hero We Think He Is?” The Huffington Post. 12 Jan. 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <>.

Ireland, Nicole. “Native Groups Use Macdonald’s Birthday to Raise Issue of His Legacy of Residential Schools.” Toronto Sun. Toronto Sun, 11 Jan. 2011. Web. 1 May 2015. <>.

“Canadian Indian Residential School System.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 1 May 2015. <>.

Seligmann, Rafael. “The Atlantic Times :: Archive.” The Atlantic Times :: Archive. 20 Jan. 2005. Web. 4 May 2015. <>.

Injuries and Progress: Indepth Post #5

Even with my final indepth project wrapping up so soon, which also heralds the final weeks of the TALONS program – even with these feelings of finality and closure, I can’t help but notice that all of these journeys are just beginning. Whether or not I choke them off prematurely, or continue to explore them to their fullest will be dependent on whatever intrinsic self-motivation I have within me.

Physically I am firing on all cylinders. I am stronger now, and you can tell on paper. All of my lifting numbers have gone up, my run times have gone down, and best of all I have learned a vast quantity of new exercises and fitness/health tips from my various mentors throughout this project.

Lets chat about some recent mentor sessions.

Karlin Yuen and I had a great conversation on Saturday morning when we met up for a 6am workout at his home gym. As we moved on to our cool-down I brought up a fear of mine with him, specifically that I am afraid that I am going to lose all of my gains as soon as I have a chance to relax.

Personally, I prefer not being interrupted. I enjoy the feeling of getting out all the details before the dialogue begins back and forth. But I was beginning to speak faster and faster about a deep-seated worry of mine, looking back I really appreciate that Karlin interrupted me and pointed out obvious flaws in my reasoning. It was a brief but very needed jolt of positivity for me.


On Wednesday night I got a light concussion from a grappling match. I’ve experienced a few concussions before, and the most frustrating part of them is how debilitating they are even when you feel no different. In this case, the doctor said to reduce or preferably eliminate loud noise, physical exercise, and bright screens from my life for a few days. Because of this, when I met with Karlin for our Thursday night session, instead of lifting weights he took me out for coffee and he told me about his journey with fitness.

Karlin grew up in a physical and fighting-oriented family, and was athletic and fit from as young as you can be with those attributes. As he got into high school however, he fell into depression and became obese. He said that it was hard to tell which one caused the other, as they happened almost simultaneously. Going into his grade 12 year, he threw himself into jujitsu, consequently stoking a fire in him to become strong again. He lifted himself out of his depressed state and worked out almost every single day until he attained a level of fitness that he had never thought he could achieve.

It was inspiring to listen to, and an eye-opener for myself. It reminded me of the importance that I place on my body. Between nutrition, fitness, and sleep my permanent goal is to be the healthiest person I know – and as I know some serious health nuts, that is quite a challenge.

Karlin brought an explorer attitude to that conversation as he opened up to me a different side of him than anything I had seen before. Telling me about his past regrets and triumphs briefly transformed him into a far more introspective man than the one he normally presents himself as to the world.

On my end of the dialogue, I was a learner – completely absorbed in the weight of his story and the resonance it has with my dreams and my fears.

In general, I am a “ruler” archetypal person. I have penchants for exerting leadership, creating synergy, and manipulative behaviour. I am almost always a dominant conversationalist.

So, on those rare occasions, like this one with Karlin, where I simply listen… it’s always memorable and meaningful.

Chat soon.