Travails of Maher Arar

Read Monaco Jerry on what happened to Maher Arar.

Use a hyperlinked document as a lab book

Hop on over to Bioinformatics Zen, where Mike has posted a neat idea: he uses a hypertext document as a lab notebook, so that he can include pictures and computer-generated results at the click of a mouse.

For shame, Canada!

News has broken that the Canadian government continued to require Native Canadian children to attend residential schools where they could learn “civilized,” Christian, European ways, for years after they knew that tuberculosis was rampant in those schools, and they continued to house sick and well children together. So the healthy children caught tuberculosis from the sick ones and spread it back to their communities–and we didn’t prevent it. We made it happen! Nobody cared enough to stop it, to speak up, or even to burn down those schools before another child caught a deadly disease. The tales of physical and sexual abuse have been coming out for years, but with very little publicity because “we’re not like that.” It makes me want to trample some smug, hypocritical administrative faces.

Christian churches ran up to 88 boarding schools for aboriginal children across Canada between 1874 and 1985. Their stated aim was assimilation; children were forbidden to speak their native languages. Some 200,000 children passed through the schools, attendance was mandatory and the Mounted Police rounded up truants. Their experiences were often brutal….Kevin Annett, who led the campaign, says he found reports of high rates of TB at residential schools in records, held at the University of British Columbia, which the government has since sealed….

Other documents show that officials knew death rates were high until the 1940s, Annett told New Scientist. They record children being admitted with active, contagious TB, with no quarantine or even ventilation in their rooms, the only ways to control TB before antibiotics. Former students say they slept in crowded dormitories with sick children, and were often hungry: hunger lowers immunity and exacerbates the spread of TB.

See also: “As Canadian as Possible… under the Circumstances” and a self-congratulatory article about the history of TB tracking in Canada.

Here is more from the Globe and Mail article “Natives died in droves as Ottawa ignored warnings“:

…children continued to die from tuberculosis at alarming rates for at least four decades after a senior official at the Department of Indian Affairs initially warned in 1907 that schools were making no effort to separate healthy children from those sick with the highly contagious disease….Peter Bryce, the department’s chief medical officer, visited 15 Western Canadian residential schools and found at least 24 per cent of students had died from tuberculosis over a 14-year period. The report suggested the numbers could be higher, noting that in one school alone, the death toll reached 69 per cent [another article says 63%]….Some of their stories, including tales of children buried in unmarked graves beside the schools, are told in a new documentary by Kevin Annett, a former United Church minister….Dr. Bryce followed up his 1907 report with a second one two years later, this time on the toll TB was taking in Alberta residential schools. He recommended that Ottawa take over responsibility of the schools from church control.

The Globe has uncovered letters in the archives showing that many others issued similar warnings. Just a few months after Dr. Bryce’s 1909 report, the department’s Indian agent for Duck Lake, Sask., wrote to his Ottawa colleagues: “The department should realize that under present circumstances about one-half of the children who are sent to the Duck Lake boarding school die before the age of 18, or very shortly afterward.”

Another document published in 1914 shows Dr. Bryce’s findings were accepted by Duncan Campbell Scott, the most influential senior Indian Affairs official of the period. “It is quite within the mark to say that fifty per cent of the children who passed through these schools did not live to benefit from the education which they had received therein,” Mr. Scott wrote in an essay.

But one of the documents obtained by The Globe reveals Mr. Scott’s department rejected the doctor’s recommendations because the government did not want to upset the churches that ran the schools.

The residential schools were an extension of religious missionary work. They started receiving federal support in 1874 as part of Canada’s campaign to assimilate aboriginals into Christian society by obliterating their language, religion and culture. Well over 100,000 native children passed through the schools, most of which were closed in the mid-1970s.

One can’t say that Canada’s government is any better than that of the U.S. just because it has less power to do harm on the world stage.

Religions: Wicca

Wicca as reconstructed by its modern practitioners is a nice, agricultural, emotionally satisfying religion. The earth has its cycles of bloom and harvest, the year has its cycle of waxing and waning darkness, a life has its stages. “God” is male and female–the God and Goddess with their aspects in various roles, the God as hunter, father (or lover?), and patriarch(?), the Goddess as maiden, mother, and crone. Everything that you do, good or bad, comes back to you thrice over. You can tell that I have only a passing acqaintance with the concepts. But if you need a place to go, mingle, chant, celebrate, and feel the mystery and unity of the universe, it seems like a good choice.

See also “Wiccan holidays” and “Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism.”

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