Windsor law professor calls on Senator Beyak to educate herself about residential schools

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Valerie Waboose, an assistant law professor from the University of Windsor, is adding her voice to the growing chorus of Indigenous people calling on Senator Lynn Beyak to educate herself on the legacy of residential schools in Canada.

Earlier this month, Beyak criticized the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for "not focusing on the good" of the "well-intentioned" institutions. 

The senator continues to face criticism for her comments, but said she does not need any more education about the schools and that she has "suffered" with Canada's Indigenous people.

"The best way to heal is to move forward together, not to blame, not to point fingers, not to live in the past," she said. "Recognize the atrocities, but move forward."

'Typical' response

Waboose is from Walpole Island and focused her PhD thesis on the residential school perspective from the Nishnawbe viewpoint,

She said Beyak's response is "typical" of someone appointed while Stephen Harper was Prime Minister.

"I wasn't actually that surprised after I thought about it," Waboose explained. "I think that's the way a lot of Canadians think about the residential schools. They probably don't know that much about it."

Both of Waboose's parents attended the Shingwauk Residential School in Sault St. Marie, but never talked about what had happened there until she became a teen.

Now, the professor says her mother realizes she was traumatized by the experience and Waboose said she has spent years learning how to confront the lasting pain of a childhood touched by residential schools.

"It was not what I would call now, normal," she said. "I think now, being the age that I am, I've been doing a lot of healing."

Apology not enough

Many Indigenous leaders have called on Beyak to apologize for her comments, but Waboose said the senator should do more as her words show just how far removed she is from the suffering that happened in the schools.

"If she knew anything about the history of our people she would not say something like that," said the professor. "She should educate herself on what really happened as a result of the schools."