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AFN calls for Langevin Block to be renamed given namesake supported residential schools

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) says that Langevin Block should be renamed.

The Canadian Press reports, “The federal government is facing pressure to change the name of the building that houses the Prime Minister’s Office – the Langevin Block, located across the street from Parliament Hill. The building is named after Hector-Louis Langevin, a politician and father of Confederation who also happens to have expressed strong support for establishing what would become Canada’s government-run residential school program.”

The article adds, “Langevin, who died in 1906, was a lawyer, newspaper editor and Conservative MP from Quebec. He spent more than 25 years in federal politics, resigning as public works minister in 1891 amid a corruption scandal. It was in his role as minister of public works that Langevin argued for a separate school system with a specific mandate to assimilate indigenous children.”

Between the 1880s and 1996, 150,000 Indigenous children were sent by the federal government to residential schools in Canada.

More than 6,000 of those children died at those schools.

Mi’kmaw lawyer Pam Palmater has written, “Indian residential schools were boarding schools created and designed by the federal government to eliminate the ‘Indian problem’ in Canada… Instead of receiving an education (most never received more than a grade six education), most were starved, beaten, tortured, raped and medically experimented on. In some schools, upwards of 40 per cent of Indigenous children never made it out alive. Nationally, the death rate for these children was one-in-25 — higher than the one-in-26 death rate for enlistees in the Second World War.”

And author Rupert Ross has written in his book Indigenous Healing, “The combination of childhood trauma and emotional numbing is, in my view, one of the most important legacies of residential school. This explains why the destructive forces begun within residential schools still plague so many aboriginal families today, even when the last school shut its doors 40 years ago. Parents cannot teach what they never learned, and they cannot demonstrate what they have never experienced.”

The Hamilton Spectator has reported, “Vanessa Watts, the acting director of the Indigenous Studies program at McMaster University, says intergenerational trauma from the residential school system is an issue that first came to light in the 1990s. But the subject today is a logical next phase to examine after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. ‘It will be a huge undertaking. It will take a long time to resolve’, she said.”

In April 2013, former prime minister Paul Martin stated, “Let us understand that what happened at the residential schools was the use of education for cultural genocide.” Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has also made reference to residential schools in the context of cultural genocide.

The Council of Canadians supports the call being made by the Assembly of First Nations to rename Langevin Block.