Latest Catholic sex scandal leaves residential school survivors looking for answers and an apology
The man once considered the third most powerful Vatican official and Australia’s highest senior ranking Catholic official, Cardinal George Pell, has been found guilty of child sexual abuse in a Melbourne trial.
The verdict was delivered on December 11 but subject to a suppression order until now, while a previous trial on the same five charges resulted in a hung jury—leading to a retrial.
Pell, the Vatican’s former Treasurer, was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16, along with four charges of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16. Pell is also accused of orally raping two choir boys he caught drinking sacramental wine in a church corridor.
Pell has described his sexual abuse of children as “plain vanilla sex.”
Apologies for residential school victims
Pell’s recent conviction once again raises the ugly topic of sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church. For many residential school survivors here in Canada, cases like Pell’s bring back painful memories time spent inside of Church-run residential schools.
Back in 2009, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology to the residential school survivors. The other three religious denominations that ran residential schools – the Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches – have apologized for their role in the abuse. But the Catholic Church, which ran the largest number of schools, has not.
While the former Pope, Pope Benedict, did meet with Indigenous leaders in 2009 to express his “sorrow and regret for the abuses suffered,” he did not expressly apologize or even come to Canada to express his regretful sentiment.
Canada’s Catholic bishops have been unclear about whether Francis is willing to apologize. Residential school survivors will not settle for Pope’s deepest sorrows & condolences.
A residential school survivors trip to Rome
Evelyn Korkmaz attended St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in northern Ontario between 1969 and 1972. She travelled to Rome for the Pope’s summit on church sex abuse.
Korkmaz, 60, who attended St. Anne’s, one of Canada’s most notorious residential schools, travelled from Ottawa to Rome for the summit in hopes of meeting Pope Francis and personally asking that he apologize for the church’s role in running the schools.
Korkmaz was not chosen by Vatican officials to be among the 10 survivors of abuse who met with senior clergy on last Wednesday. The meeting lasted for about three hours and was described as tense, Korkmaz says.
“The Pope didn’t show up. He sent bishops instead. How disrespectful,” she told CBC News after the meeting ended. “This shows where he stands concerning this issue.”
To give our readers more context around what her experience in Rome was like, Korkmaz penned this email:
Wow, this is a big responsibility, I hope I make my people and the spirits of my ancestors’ proud and my voice brings change. The Vatican needs to be accountable for the part they played in the residential school era. The genocide of our people, taking part in the erasing of our Indigenous culture, traditions, languages, our spiritual beliefs , mentally, physically and sexual abusing my people while attending the residential schools across Canada.
On February 20, 2019 I took part on a panel to address the world at a press conference. On behalf of the Indigenous peoples of Canada. I called on the Pope to come to Canada and apologize to the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Secondly, I asked the pope to release the Vatican documents of the sworn testimonies of about 38,000 Indigenous citizens, about the evils that went on inside the Catholic-run residential schools.
The church should commit to have those testimonies studied, and then develop governance structures, and parish policies and procedures, to ensure the persons who have sexually abused children or who might sexually abuse children, are removed from the church or stopped before it happens.
And thirdly, to pay the 25 million dollars the Church agreed to when they signed the Indian Residential School Agreement in 2006. These monies can be used for the healing of the residential school survivors’, and our communities; many caused by the many years of pain and suffering we endured while under the care of clergy.
As a founding member of Ending Clergy Abuse, I am also an advocate for voiceless children around the world who suffered sexual abuse under the care of clergy. On February 23, I took part in the ’March for Zero Tolerance. Zero Abuse + Zero Cover Up = Truth and Justice. We had no permit to march. That didn’t stop the Italy police from escorting us from piazza del popolo to giardini di castel sant’angelo.
It was empowering to march with other survivors from around the world like Poland, Germany, Spain, Congo, Ecuador, Mexico, Ireland, UK, US and two other survivors from Canada.
This to me was one of the most powerful moment, as we marched in front of the media and people from all around the world heard our voices for Zero Tolerance. This is the moment, I think the Papal summit of sexual abuse turned into the Summit of Ending Clergy Abuse, Zero Tolerance.
Nothing concrete came from the Papal summit, regarding change, accountability and transparency of sexual abuse within their diocese. Not surprising, as these abuses have been going on for centuries throughout the Vatican’s history. What was surprising though was the Papal summit tried to minimize the corruption within the Church by saying these abuses happen in families and in people’s homes around the world. There is nothing lower than deflecting the situation and pointing to someone else. Doesn’t the Pope remember he called for this summit and named it the Papal Sexual Abuse Summit?
That being said, I am proud and strongly feel Ending Clergy Abuse Survivors took over the Papal Sexual Abuse Summit and our voices were heard around the world. Our demands of zero tolerance for sexual abuse and cover-up, for the clergy to be removed from priesthood and convict for sexual abuse, if found guilty, were heard. There is not worse crime then taking the innocence of a child away. This is something you never get over and will carry to your dying day. Enough is enough this must end now.
Evelyn Korkmaz, a St. Anne’s Residential School survivor.
The time for a formal apology is now
Clearly, the need for a formal apology made on Indigenous Canadian soil by the Pope is still needed. All the other major parties involved in the residential school system have long since apologized for their actions.
The time is now for Pope Francis to put this matter to rest once and for all and to issue a formal apology on behalf of the Church to the victims of abuse suffered at the hands of those running the Church-backed institutions.
As the Bible says in James 5, Verse 16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
The recent uproar over the recipient of an Indigenous scholarship has yet to die down, and for good reason, seeing as much of this happened around Metis week and there are plenty of other cases like this that haven’t been called out.
Without any identifiable outward appearance of being Indigenous, 18-year-old Ainsley Whynacht claimed to be Metis and was accepted for The National Union of Public and General Employees (NSGEU) scholarship, which was intended for Indigenous youth.
Right away, it should have been suspicious to the NSGEU that Whynacht claimed to be Metis because Metis people are from the midwest of Canada, not the Maritimes. This doesn’t make her declared heritage an impossibility, but it definitely should have raised questions for the NSGEU.
Whynacht’s mother did not get back to TPM with proof of her daughter’s Indigenous heritage. Two weeks ago she claimed the family has documentation from the Universite de Ste. Anne demonstrating their Indigenous heritage from the Mi’kmaq nation.
It’s odd that when presented with someone that does not appear overly Indigenous the NSGEU would hand her the award without any proper vetting of her heritage. The fact that it never crossed their minds that an actual Indigenous student could be sidelined because an invalid candidate applied is negligence.
It looks like NSGEU knows this themselves. When TPM called them to speak to Les Bush, the person in charge of their scholarship program, we were first told he was out of the office, and when we asked if it was at all possible to get into contact with him, we were flatly told no.
Conservative MP David Yurdiga, when asked for comment by The Post Millennial on the topic of standards for Metis identification, said, “So this is an enormous challenge for the Canadian government obviously when there is funding coming along. And, you know, when you have some groups that don’t have a clear, concise standard, it causes a lot of challenges with distributing grants and funding, which groups get it, which groups don’t.”
Either way the NSGEU fumbled this, awarding the scholarship by merely looking at the application unquestioningly. The form comically asks the applicant to check off whether they are Indigenous or not and nothing more on the subject.
This is equivalent to a police report having a checkbox for whether the report was filed falsely or not. The NSGEU has seemingly never been made aware of the concept of lying and whether or not people like to do that sort of thing for money. The applicant should provide at least some information that would make them plausibly Indigenous.
The lack of verification that goes along with the scholarship meant for Indigenous youth makes it seem as if it was meant more for virtue signalling than a genuine effort to make more educational opportunities open for those who tend not to be given equal opportunities.
The Post Millennial interviewed Robyn Lawson, a Metis activist who has been deeply involved in the Metis community and knows about the lax standards around Indigenous identification.
In the interview, she highlighted the backwards way in which so many people claim to be Metis without any clear evidence confirming their heritage.
“I happened to know that there are several, especially on the Atlantic seaboard, along the maritime region, they have a lot of their departments actively still trying to find Metis settlements in proof of Metis identity out there,” Lawson said. “They’ve never been able to find it. But it doesn’t stop them from first claiming to be Metis and then looking for the proof… that’s probably their busiest fraudulent act; to claim to be a member of a nation that they’re still searching for evidence to substantiate that claim.”
Lawson pointed out that the rise in Metis identification, which has risen in places like Nova Scotia by 125 percent in the last decade, is connected to a 2003 Supreme Court decision, R vs Powley, that outlined five specific steps to identify as Metis. Those steps include aligning with the only officially recognized provincial Metis affiliates under the umbrella of the Metis National Council (MNC).
Her point about identification was further illustrated at her son’s university orientation week.
“In my son’s University Indigenous orientation meeting… there were six kids in that meeting, we parents and the Indigenous justice department staff. So, I’m not shy about asking people: ‘Whose family?’ And, ‘What’s your community?’ There were three answers [that day]. First one, ‘I don’t know, I was told I was Indigenous, so I assumed it’s Metis.’ The second one was similar to that, ‘Yeah. I know my mom or my dad is Metis, but I don’t know from where.’ And the third one said her answer was Mi’kmaq. I said, ‘Oh, Mi’kmaq. My brother married a Mi’kmaq woman out east. What community are you from?’ And she had to look to her dad for the answer. So she looked up at him, and he looked at her, and he turned back to me, and he said New Brunswick, and then I knew what I was dealing with right there… I’m telling you 48 hours later there was a story in the paper about the scholarship she had won, a significant Indigenous scholarship, for Metis leadership. She claimed Mi’kmaq when directly confronted in that meeting,” said Lawson.
Ainsley Whynacht, the NSGEU scholarship recipient, presented a Metis identification card online following the uproar to her Instagram posts joking about how white she is, but the card only raised more questions. It comes from the unrecognized Eastern Woodland Metis community and is not considered legitimate by real Metis.
Regarding the operations of “eastern Metis” groups, Lawson said, “The eastern groups, looking at their actual meeting minutes, which I’ve been privy to through various channels, in every single one of their meetings, the discussion is around, ‘How do we get this government to recognize that we are Indigenous and that we are Metis, and then next on the agenda is, what kind of goodies are we going to get for these cards? So, I can get my gas tax free, and I can go to this store and pay for my groceries tax free with this card.’ Those are the kind of conversations they have. They are never to be seen on the front lines of any Indigenous issue ever.”
Communities like the Eastern Woodland Metis seem to not care that their pursuit of recognition on faulty grounds only goes to watering down Metis culture. The belief that any native blood makes someone a Metis ruins the actual definition of what Metis heritage and culture means. If anyone can claim Metis heritage then it makes a mockery of the special classification for a group of people whose families were wronged in the past.
Despite how it sounds, an Indigenous scholarship is not fundamentally ethnic only, but also cultural. The point of these scholarships should be to reward those who work hard and achieve, despite inadequate educational resources, because it’s Canada’s duty to Indigenous people.
“The bottom line is these awards, whether they’re scholarships, or bursaries or a job opportunity, these awards are meant to lend a hand up, and some of these institutions play a crucial role in their efforts to act on reconciliation. You know, reconciliation requires genuine acts of reparation and supplying the education for Indigenous people. Not only is it an act of reparation and reconciliation, but it’s also an actual obligation in the Indian Act. If any group is going to go to the effort of supporting Indigenous endeavours, it’s incumbent upon them to make sure those awards are going to where they’re intended,” said Lawson.
Many scholarships for Indigenous people turn out to be poorly made affirmative action programs where those who have worked hard to pull themselves up from tough circumstances are skipped over for those who have every advantage and privilege.
Author and associate professor of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University, Darryl Leroux, made a note of the “raceshifting” trend amongst Nova Scotia’s population.
Mr. Leroux argues that ridiculous, lax standards can undermine the preservation of a unique culture. Despite Metis traditionally living in the midwest of Canada, somehow Nova Scotia has the highest percentage of Metis residence, despite one official settlement.
Much of the background of fake Metis communities are documented on the website Raceshifting, and much of the information is taken out of Mr. Leroux’s book, Distorted Decent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity, which tracked the legal creation and activities of each community.
If the NSGEU wants to host an indigenous scholarship program, indeed, there should be far more transparent and stricter standards around Indigenous identification. In the case of Ainsley Whynacht, it seems likely an actual Indigenous/Metis student was deprived of a scholarship because of selfish self-identification.
A trial underway in a Nanaimo B.C. courtroom this week is attracting controversy and strong opinions on both sides of the issue, as it forces school officials, the media and the public to reluctantly confront the question of what constitutes “religion” in the public sphere. The case of Candice Servatius v. School District No. 70 (Alberni) is about whether a public school can require children to participate in a spiritual ceremony, or in a ritual that appeals to the supernatural realm.
In September of 2015, Candice Servatius received a letter from the principal of John Howitt Elementary School (JHES) in Port Alberni, B.C., stating that JHES would be hosting a Student/Classroom “Cleansing” performed by a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth, a term used to describe fifteen related First Nation tribes who live on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. The school’s letter described in detail how the cleansing ritual would “cleanse” the classroom of “energy” and cleanse the “spirits” of the students. The letter claimed that without cleansing, the classroom and even the furniture would harbour negative “energy” and would not be safe until the “energy” was “released”. Smoke from sage was fanned over the bodies of children, including Mrs. Servatius’ daughter, who was required to participate in this ritual against her will. Several months later, an aboriginal prayer was offered to a “god” at a school assembly that children were required to attend.
Skye Ryan, a reporter with CBC affiliate CHEK news, writes that the practice of Nuu-chah-nulth spirituality is “on trial” and implies that Mrs. Servatius is opposed to aboriginal spirituality. Ms. Ryan’s story largely ignores the court documents, which make it abundantly clear that the only issue on trial is whether public schools can impose spiritual rituals on children in the classroom.
If Mrs. Servatius is successful in her court action, the Nuu-chah-nulth will not lose any freedom to practice their spirituality, ceremonies and rituals, nor will public schools cease to teach about aboriginal history, culture and practices, including aboriginal beliefs. If the court rules in favour of Mrs. Servatius, the only difference will be that children are no longer compelled by the state to be present and participate in spiritual ceremonies, prayers or rituals. This is the only just result in a pluralistic society that includes a wide variety of spiritual beliefs and practices, including the complete absence of such beliefs.
In her story, Ms. Ryan quotes Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council President Judith Sayers complaining about smudging being banned from schools. But Ms. Sayers herself has given evidence that in Nuu-chah-nulth practice, smudging is always entered into by consent. Neither Mrs. Servatius nor her daughter consented to this young girl participating in the ritual in the classroom.
Another aboriginal leader, Harry Cadwallader, testified that learning about smudging is different than being smudged. Mr. Cadwallader agrees that children can learn about smudging in a number of different ways: “You can be shown a demonstration. You can be shown a video. You can be read a description.” Mr. Cadwallader has testified that “the infusion of aboriginal culture, content, language, history, of understanding, as a methodology to improve the success of aboriginal students and raise awareness of all students about aboriginal people” can be accomplished without compelling children to be smudged against their will. This evidence was entirely absent from Ms. Ryan’s story, although it was publicly available in filed court documents.
Ms. Ryan further reports that the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is a “right-wing” organization, perhaps hoping this might somehow make Ms. Servatius’ claim worth dismissing out of hand. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not a “right-wing” document, and the Justice Centre works to uphold the Charter freedoms of all Canadians, regardless of where on the political spectrum they might reside.
If Ms. Ryan believes that defending freedom of religion (which includes the right not to be compelled to participate in spiritual practices) is “right-wing”, she is fully entitled to express that opinion. But Ms. Ryan should do so by way of an opinion editorial, and not insert her personal beliefs into what is supposed to be a straight news story. As the Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics Guidelines puts it: “We clearly identify news and opinion so that the audience knows which is which”.
The two Justice Centre lawyers in court in Nanaimo this week, Jay Cameron and James Kitchen, were not available to be interviewed for Ms. Ryan’s story, and they referred Ms. Ryan to me, also a lawyer. Ms. Ryan did not contact me, yet claims in her story that “Neither Servatius or her lawyers would be interviewed.” I was, and remain, available to be interviewed, but as of this writing Ms. Ryan has declined to contact me for comment.
Court cases, by definition, involve two competing “sides.” It behooves an objective media to remember that.
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca), which represents Mrs. Servatius in her court action against School District 70.
Remembrance Day has just passed, but the gratitude we bestow our veterans’ continues year round. Tales of their untold bravery are passed down in song and legend, and their sacrifices immortalized in the freedoms we cherish today.
As we reach the end of Métis Week in Alberta, we are conscious of the historical struggles faced by our Métis veterans. The pathway to recognition hasn’t been easy.
Nevertheless, here we are. And today, we stand by those–living and since passed–who fought to defend this land we proudly call home.
The raising of Métis flags in cities, towns and hamlets across the province, starting in Beaumont, pays homage to their patriotism and the lessons of their generation. The need to come together, regardless of creed, nationality, or where you come from holds in pursuant of reconciliation.
Raised on Nov. 14, the move honours the Métis for their part in shaping the region’s heritage. While the flag is set to come down Monday, a representative to Beaumont took to social media, stating, “[the flag] is currently on a temporary flag pole. We will be looking for a permanent home for the flag within City Hall.”
And in honour of that permanence, recognizing the contributions of figures like Bertha Clark-Jones, Theo Fleury, and Louis Riel remind us never to take life for granted. And in the case of the latter, the fleeting sense of unity in the face of western alienation.
Canada’s indigenous communities deserve more recognition
From the Cree code-talkers to the Métis veterans’ activists, strides were made after decades of hardship. Recognition for their sacrifices became a reality.
The unique role indigenous Canadians filled during the war effort proved indispensable. The Alberta Cree code-talkers, for example, improved Allied communications, where orders could be spoken and translated by a network of Cree code-talkers without fear of enemy intrusion.
While Ottawa recently issued an apology for its past treatment of Métis veterans, their $30-million pledge to recognize their contributions was highly regarded as a step in the right direction.
In the spirit of reconciliation, here is a notable example of those contributions.
Activists and Cree-Métis veteran Bertha Clark-Jones advocated for recognizing the pivotal role the Métis had during the Second World War. She dedicated part of her post-service career to guarantee fair treatment to indigenous and Métis veterans.
Bertha also helped open Nistawoyou, an indigenous friendship centre, which allows men and women living in Canada’s north to find work. She had also worked on the centre’s housing committees and also volunteered at NewStart, which provided educational upgrading programs to the northern communities.
The most profound impact she had was in her co-founding of the Voice of Alberta Native Women’s Society, which was one of the first equal rights organizations for both status and non-status native women. Under Bertha’s presidency, the Native Women’s Society also focused on helping indigenous foster children find foster parents within their communities. An issue overlooked before Bertha’s efforts.
Premier Kenney took to social media on Aboriginal Veterans Day to recognize her achievements as a proud Métis Albertan.
Coming together to defend one’s land, in spite of our differences, provides society with the moral fibre to embrace progress and leave no man, woman or child behind.
And that effectuates the spirit of Riel, who has since been rehabilitated and called a “statesman” by Ottawa’s mayor.
Theo Fleury honours Riel‘s memory
Stanley Cup winner and renowned Métis author Theo Fleury spoke to his on-and-off-the-ice struggles at a recent Edmonton event. Fleury, who is also an Olympic gold medalist, touched on having the balance and the ability to be vulnerable.
In an emotional speech, the Métis icon states, “I wanted to end my life. Not because I wanted to die, but because I was completely exhausted from living in emotional pain for the majority of my life.”
“I tried everything to get rid of this pain and suffering. And, I remember having the gun in my mouth. I remember the gun rattling against my teeth, and I remember what it tasted like, as it sat there for quite a long time.”
“At the moment of truth, I had this random thought inside my head: You never quit anything in your life. Why are you quitting now?”
Upon this realization, Fleury threw the gun into the desert, put his New Mexico property up for sale and returned home to Calgary two weeks later.
He attributes spending time with family and fellow Flames’ Alumni to help him get back on his feet.
“I chose to live, but I had no clue how to live life on life’s terms. All I knew was how to cope–happy, mad, sad–and I certainly knew how to make it go away.
Today, he resides in Calgary, as an outspoken advocate of Alberta, calling out the federal Liberals lack of fairness towards the province.
Lest We Forget: the Métis stand tall amidst growing concerns of identity theft
With concerns emerging on indigenous identity theft, attributed mostly to the “Eastern Métis movement,” Canada’s “Aboriginal Identity Population” rose sharply between 2011 and 2016. With the population increasing by 19.5 percent over that span, Indigenous claims to sovereignty and self-determination are under threat by the phenomena of “response mobility.”
In Nova Scotia, experts have indicated that the shift away from one’s “white identity” is commonplace amongst locals. Through “aspirational ascent”, fake claims of indigeneity created over 50 indigenous organizations, provoking genuine concerns from many outside the Métis community.
Being Métis is not something we aspire to be. It is who we are. We embrace our heritage and aspire for greatness. We uplift those around us and seek togetherness over division. But taking another’s identity and assuming it as one’s own appropriates the historical struggles many fought and succumbed too.
Whether intentional or not, author and associate professor of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University Darryl Leroux made a note of the “raceshifting” trend amongst Nova Scotia’s population.
Groups like the Eastern Woodlands Métis Nation are part of the problem. They’re fraudulent states Leroux says.
Per a CBC article, members of this “new Métis [Nation]” have used status cards to receive tax exemptions on cars and gas, sparking outrage and a subsequent probe into the matter.
Having amassed a membership base north of 30,000, Statistics Canada has indicated the number of self-identifying Métis in Nova Scotia rose 125 per cent in the decade preceding 2016.
Cheryl Maloney, a Mi’kmaw activist and Cape Breton University political science professor, states, “They’re trying to be viewed as Métis under the Constitution, and to have rights and benefits [as Métis people].” Rejecting their identity is not ‘exclusive’ or ‘mean-spirited,’ it is merely the just thing to do, especially for those no longer with us to speak against the whitewashing of Métis culture.
Social media users expressed outrage this past weekend as Instagram posts surfaced showing what appeared to be a young white student celebrating her scholarship intended for Indigenous youth. The girl’s family says they have a legitimate claim to Indigenous ancestry based on genealogical records, but Indigenous leaders are still skeptical.
Ainsley Whynacht, an 18-year-old still in high school, was announced as the winner of the 2019 Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) scholarship. The scholarship required applicants to submit an essay. NSGEU states in a Facebook post that Whynacht’s looked at “how the lack of access to public services has negatively affected the lives of Indigenous people.”
On her private Instagram, Whynacht makes light about the scholarship, calling it a “random essay on treatment of indigenous kids in school” and jokes about how the scholarship selection committee didn’t notice she was the “whitest person ever.”
In another post, Whynacht is seen holding up a bottle of tanning lotion, posting “its time for ya girl to fake tan or else that’s gonna be embarrassing.”
As backlash began to pour in after her private Instagram posts were screenshotted and distributed widely on the wider social media world, Whynacht was confronted with angry responses and demands to NSGEU to rescind the scholarship she had been offered. Whynacht responded by posting that she had “said I’m sorry already” and “all I did was write an essay.”
Later, in a conversation posted to Facebook, Whynacht attempted to demonstrate her Indigenous heritage by presenting a status card from the Woodland Metis nation, a highly controversial Metis nation that has been at the center of a debate about whether their claims to Indigenous identity are legitimate.
The Woodland Metis have been contested by various Indigenous scholars and groups, having no official Government recognition or recognition by the Métis National Council. The Nova Scotia-based Eastern Woodland Metis, of which Whynacht presented status from, no longer has an active website. The Grand Chief, Mary Lou Parker, passed away in summer 2019 and there appears to be no attempt to maintain the group.
After a Supreme Court decision in 2006 expanded the scope of who could claim to be Metis, the number of people self-identifying as Metis surged by over 125 percent by 2016, with new self-described Metis groups springing up in eastern Canada.
Cheryl Maloney, a Mi’kmaq activist and Professor of Political Science at Cape Breton University, notes the Eastern Woodland Metis have no connection to the cultural heritage or history of the recognized Metis of Canada. “The Metis in Nova Scotia are not actually tied to the constitutionally protected Metis. And if they are, they would be people who come to Nova Scotia and bring their status with them.”
Maloney says the creeping “raceshifting” of non-Indigenous people self-identifying as Indigenous is reflective of an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Maloney says Wynacht’s story is rooted in racism, fraud, and entitlement.
“Nobody wanted to be Indigenous when there was so much racism, and [the Government] was stealing your kids, and the odds were against you—no one was aspiring to live that reality,” Maloney says.
Maloney said she doesn’t know about whether the scholarship can legally be rescinded from Wynacht, but hopes NSGEU learns from this mistake and consults the local Indigenous community in creating future criteria for the scholarship.
“They need to include Indigenous people in these deliberations,” she says. “If they did, they’re likely to get a young person from the community who everyone is looking up to as a future leader. We know who they are. We see them. We have young people who are destined for great things if given the opportunity.”
The Post Millennial reached out to Ainsley Wynacht, and received comment from her mother who called the outrage a “non-story”.
“Ainsley is Indigenous and has provided proof,” she said. She claims the family has documentation from the Universite de Ste. Anne demonstrating their Indigenous heritage.
Ainsley’s mother says the document, a genealogical family tree, demonstrates Indigenous heritage from the Mi’kmaq nation on her mother’s and grandmother’s side.
“It confirmed that we are indigenous. We had to provide baptismal certificates for the three latest generations. We went through the church, sent the baptismal information to the university and they did the rest of the research.”
When asked to see the documentaion, Ainsley’s mother said they would provide the document to NSGEU and The Post Millennial upon the family’s return to their home from their cottage.
Jarvis Googoo, a non-practising lawyer in Halifax and a Mi’kmaq from We’koqma’q First Nation, says connection to the Mi’kmaq community is more important than simply having an ancestor or two.
“I know I am distantly Irish, but this does not make me Irish.” he says, “I know I am Mi’kmaq because that is all I know, it is all my family has been.” adding that the Whynachts, or anyone else who believed themselves to hold claim to Indigenous ancestry, needed to approach the Indigenous community—not the government.
“Some claimants say they have one ancestor from the 1800s [so that] makes them Mi’kmaq or Metis. For me, what makes me Mi’kmaq is my mother was Mi’kmaq, and my grandmother was Mi’kmaq.”
Googoo says he hopes NSGEU rescinds the scholarship, “That is scholarship money that should and could have went to an actual Mi’kmaq Indigenous person instead. And if it can’t be recinded, then going forward the NSGEU, or any other organization wants to try and ‘help,’ they need to engage with us and we can teach them how to do it right.”
The NSGEU Facebook page issued a response Friday to the online outrage in a now-deleted post.
“We are aware of the social media posts circulating about the recipient of the NUPGE Scholarship for Indigenous Students, this information has been passed on to the National Union, NUPGE, who administers this award, so they may investigate this matter further,” read part of the statement.
“It’s unfortunate that people say offensive things on social media that they end up regretting,” read the rest of the NSGEU statement.
Prior to the interview with The Post Millennial, Ainsley’s mother said she was unaware of the controversies surrounding the Woodland Metis and had enrolled her daughter and herself with them in an effort to participate more actively with what she thought was a legitimate local Indigenous group.
On her daughter’s comments, she says she knows they were “in incredibly poor judgement,” stating that she had been very upset when she saw them. On her daughter’s reasoning, Tanya says that “she was being bullied for looking ‘too white to be Indigenous’ so she posted that she’d use fake tan to not look so white.”
Ainsley wrote an apology to NSGEU late last week.
“I would like to sincerely apologize that these pictures and their captions were so grossly misinterpreted and I assure you that I meant no disrespect towards the union nor Indigenous people,” said Ainsley in her apology letter.
“The colour of my skin does not erase my heritage, or my anger towards their treatment that I wrote very passionately about in the essay that won me this scholarship,” the apology continues. “Even the suggestion that I would fake my ethnic background is truly insulting for me and is just another example of people not taking my ancestry seriously just because I do not exactly ‘look the role’, as I have been told.”
The $1,500 scholarship goes to the winner of an essay competition who is entering their first year of post-secondary education.
Ainsley’s mother also sent The Post Millennial a sample of some of the death threats Ainsley received as a result of her comments, which ranged from wishes her “family dies in a house fire” to Instagram users messaging her to “eat sh*t you useless wh*re.”
Jarvis Googoo says the threats made against the Whynachts are “plain horrible,” adding, “there is a great and peaceful way to discuss this… Our treaties were based upon peaceful friendship and that is how I like to discuss this and educate.”
The Post Millennial reached out to NSGEU and NUGPE but did not receive comment from them by the time of publication.