We Were Children is a powerful documentary about two survivors named Lyna and Glen who attended a residential school for what their guardians thought was 'better' for them.
I have never been so frustrating while watching a film.
"The savage doesn't believe that cleanliness is next to Godliness" is a line that was often repeated at the beginning of the documentary after viewers see that Lyna has arrived at the residential school. It is NOT okay to call anyone a savage for their cultural practices and be able to get away with it. Unfortunately, Stephen Harper followed a similar route by introducing his Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.
It was scary to see this documentary because of the way that Lyna and Glen told their stories. In the residential schools, viewers learn that the Indigenous people were punished for speaking their own language because "English is God's language." Students were physically punished using whips, emotionally punished by being locked away, and psychologically punished by sexual assault. Why? Because "we the civilized world want to save you from a certain death." Unbelievable. Students were given numbers (Lyna was number 99), and their physical appearance was changed so that they no longer looked or could be identified with their cultural roots. These residential schools stripped away anything they had before arriving. I was outraged when one of the girls said to Lyna that she was washing her hands a lot because she 'isn't white enough' and that means she's dirty. The schools also had a painting on the wall to remind the children that their ancestors are in Hell and the goal of life is to get to Heaven- this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
I was happy to see that one of the sisters found Glen in the basement and screamed at the two priests who were doing such horrible things to him and the girl in the other locked room. What Glen said is true- what kind of God do they have that let them hurt other people? I can't believe that they sent the nun away for trying to speak up for Glen.
"Priests wouldn't do that" is a line that Lyna says, and she's right. If a priest is to follow a religion accordingly, then he shouldn't be raping little boys and girls.
Sister Mary is kind and I was happy that she took the young girls to the kitchen and fed them properly. It is sad to see that it took Lyna having to steal food to obtain the attention of the nuns and show them that they are not being fed well. Sister Mary was the hope in the hopeless school as she tried to be nicer to the kids throughout the documentary compared to others.
The overall treatment of these children was horrendous and should never occur to anyone again. It is heartbreaking to know that residential schools still exist around the world. I am happy to know now that the last residential school was closed in 1996- but this seems way too late. These schools should have been closed hundreds of years ago. I am glad they are no longer legal.