#everychildmatters: my 215km ride for awareness
Updated: 4 days ago
A few days ago, I committed to biking 215km on mountain bike trails to help bring awareness to the government's horrendous history of institutionalising under-privileged children and families. Rather than providing families the support they need, children have been taken away from their parents and put in institutions where they are neglected and abused. Every 50km, I will update this post with a photo from a spot where I stopped to reflect and a reading recommendation on a specific people that have suffered through institutionalised neglect/abuse under the eye of the Canadian Government.
If you would like to join me on my 215km path towards awareness, please feel free to share my post and/or post your own updates on social media. Or, do 215 of something else – like read 215 articles on the subject of youth “protection” or/and racism, or spend 215 minutes doing something to bring awareness to the plight of institutionalised children – like writing to your MP or/and volunteer at an organization that educates people about the effects of racism and discrimination (for a list of 20 in Canada, see https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/anti-racism-organizations-canada/?fbclid=IwAR3ohJU0a8_fWhEiXt_xakv3I7o_VsjIqmCVn1gS-UWAaXUoDi62iJ4D2wE)
Km 1-50: Indigenous Peoples and residential schools
My first 50km was dedicated to indigenous peoples across Canada and the horrific institutionalisation of their children in residential schools and consequential intergenerational trauma this has caused. Over 150,000 children were forcefully taken away from their families and put in residential schools where they were systematically and violently stripped of their culture and language. There are over 3000 recorded deaths, but as the mass grave recently discovered in BC proves, there are likely many more. Intergenerational trauma is the worst kind, as this is trauma that has affected a people so deeply that it follows them through generations in the form of social issues (depression, anxiety, PTSD and resulting substance abuse, for example) that were caused by the source of the trauma. When a people’s culture and language is systematically attacked by a governing force, they suffer intergenerational trauma.
I took the above photo because this spot makes me think of the path towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples and acknowledgement of the horror they have suffered through. Let us all come together and emerge from the shadows in support of our indigenous brothers and sisters. Although there are many insightful books on the subject, Richard Wagamese’s “Indian Horse” is one that particularly spoke to my heart as Saul Indian Horse’s story demonstrates how hard it is to escape from trauma associated with residential schools and racism.
Other recommended resources:
"For Indigenous Children in Canada, the Legacy of Residential Schools Never Ended" (National Observer - Karyn Pugliese aka Pabàmàdiz)
"Gord Downie's The Secret Path" (CBC Arts)
"Childhood Denied: Indian Residential Schools and their Legacy" (Canadian Museum for Human Rights)
Km 51-100: Teen mothers and their orphaned children
Km 51-100 was dedicated to unwed teen mothers who were put in "maternity homes" against their will and their children who were put up for adoption or sent to orphanages without consent from their mothers. As someone who was a teen mother, Canada's history of institutionalizing unwed mothers and robbing them of their children hits a nerve close to my heart. Up until the 70s, many young unwed mothers were sent to birthing institutions where they resided throughout their pregnancy and were subjected to abuse/neglect - their breasts bound to prevent lactation, told they were shameful and unfit mothers, tied down during the birth of their child, not permitted to hold their newborn, and stripped of their right to raise their child. The children of these women often didn't fare well either, many ending up in orphanages where abuse/neglect was more common than not. To put things into perspective, between 1945-1971, 600,000 births in Canada were recorded as "illegitimate births." Most of the women who gave birth to these registered "illegitimate" children did so in the above mentioned "maternity homes," or/and had their babies taken from them upon birth.
I spotted the above Ladyslipper orchid growing wild along the edge of a bike trail. Like wild orchids, teen mothers are beautiful yet fragile flowers who need our respect and support in order to thrive, and like all vulnerable people they need environments with resources conducive to their unique needs.
For insight into what life was like for many young unwed mothers and their children, I recommend Joanna Goodman's "The Home for Unwanted Girls." Goodman writes about the plight of the "Duplessis Orphans," when many Quebecois children born out of wedlock in the 1950s were housed in asylums because they were cheaper than orphanages (thanks to the federal and provincial governments and the Catholic Church). The children were subjected to violent abuse and psychiatric experimentation. Many of the mothers searched for their children once they came of age, but were told untruthfully that the records had been lost. Although this story took place in Quebec, the other provinces have their own similar dark histories concerning their institutionalization of unwed mothers and "illegitimate" children. #teenmothers
"The Shame is Ours: forced adoption of the babies of unmarried mothers in post-war Canada" (Senate Canada - Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology)
"Canada's Shameful Post-war Treatment of Unwed Mothers" (Policy Options - Art Eggleton, Chantal Petitclerc)
"Duplessis Orphans" (Canada's Human Rights History)