I was a kid when the Japanese government decided to put the mass murders in Korea and China the Japanese had committed in school textbooks in its full extent. Before that, they were mentioned as casualties of the war.
When we are accused of a minor infraction, we apologise and move on. That’s the best way to save face.
When we are accused of a horrific act like genocide where no apology seems enough and where we have to accept that evil was carried out in the name of our own nation, it’s human to resist the urge to deny the event or to defend ourselves. We simply can’t live with the magnitude.
So that’s what they did. Deny and defend because…how can they tell their own kids what they’d done? Unfortunately, denial and defence, in any conflict, is delivered from justifying ourselves and vilifying the other: discrimination, denial of the rights, and dehumanisation of the victims. Even though the Japanese who started it knew the truth behind their discrimination and denial, their kids didn’t. Their kids had no other information so they would genuinely believe “Oh those people just have their hands out. We already gave them so much – look how well their country is doing now. We gave them enough. And they have their hand out because it’s free money.”
And one day suddenly they put it in textbooks. That was the only way to end the injustice.
Yes, the generation that were raised on the new textbooks had fights with their parents. The parents had to experience the embarrassment of their “knowledge” and discrimination being proven wrong. But it was the only choice.
The last residential school in Canada was closed in 1996.