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Bill Kelly: Erin O’Toole’s take on residential schools is disturbing

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s propensity for shooting himself in the foot took a new and troubling perspective lately when he was addressing a group of young Conservatives at Ryerson University in Toronto.

It should be noted that Egerton Ryerson, of whom the university is named, was one of the architects of the tragic residential school system that was instituted under the John A. MacDonald government in the 19th century.

Read more: O’Toole tells students residential schools created to ‘provide education’ but became ‘horrible’

History, and human decency, tells us that residential schools represent some of the darkest days in our Canadian history. Aboriginal children were taken from their parents and their culture and forcibly indoctrinated into Christian beliefs.

Yet, O’Toole spins a quite different picture. He asserts that Ryerson and the other architects of this racist residential school system only meant to try to provide education to indigenous children.

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That’s like saying that southern plantation owners were only offering enslaved black people employment opportunities in North America.

Click to play video: 'Erin O’Toole says residential schools created to ‘provide education’ but became ‘horrible’' Erin O’Toole says residential schools created to ‘provide education’ but became ‘horrible’
Erin O’Toole says residential schools created to ‘provide education’ but became ‘horrible’ – Dec 15, 2020

Let’s be clear: nobody has the moral high ground here.

The stories we’ve learned about the physical and mental abuse and indoctrination in these horrific facilities are gut-wrenching, and the fact that subsequent governments did nothing about it leaves an indelible stain on our history.

But for O’Toole to soft-sell his Conservative ancestor’s wrongdoing and paint this as a politically partisan issue is not only historically inaccurate, it displays a disturbing twist of revisionist history for political gain.

We expect more and deserve more from our political leaders.

Bill Kelly is the host of the Bill Kelly Show on Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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