The absence of forcible coercion and violence underlies a civil, peaceful society. People across Canada were recently shocked by media reports of cross-gender violence from Winnipeg, involving the grandniece of a prominent political figure of First Nations ancestry. The case involving Rinelle Harper was particularly disturbing in that her attackers had twice thrown her into a near-frozen river. After publicly disclosing the victim’s identity, tips from the public led to the arrest of two suspects.
Such incidents lead many people to question the cause of malevolent behaviour, especially the Winnipeg case that involves assault among First Nations people. In the United States, violence among young African American males has long been cause for concern. However, during an earlier period in the history of both Canadian First Nations people and the African American population, such violence among people of similar ancestry was less common. A breakdown of the traditional family structure may be a cause of intra-ethnic violence, and such breakdown may be the result of misguided government policy.
Over the short term, the policy may have appeared to have merit, but over the long term, some unexpected and even undesirable results occurred. During an earlier period, the government of Canada administered a program of assimilation, intended to integrate First Nations children into modern society. Children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in foster care at boarding schools where many of them were beaten and abused. In recent years, the rest of the nation has become aware of the horrific and destructive effect that the compulsory residential school experience has had on First Nations people.
For many survivors, the experience negatively affected their ability to function in traditional family roles. Many survivors turned to alcohol and drugs to escape from or numb the memories of their emotional traumas, having no access to other means by which to come to terms with the demons that had disrupted their lives. As a result, they were unable to nurture the emotional needs of their growing children, who sought to meet those needs outside of the traditional family environment. The compulsory boarding school experience has adversely impacted the lives of survivors, their children, and now their grandchildren.
Prior to the American welfare era that began during President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, strong family bonds predominated within the African American population. At that time, single black women recorded a lower illegitimate birth rate than white women. During the pre-welfare era, schools and colleges for African American students encouraged a strong work ethic and a strong family ethic. The combination of the social impact of forcible military service in the Vietnam conflict, changing social values and easy access to state welfare undermined the commitment to family values within the African American community.
Crimes against women, such as rape, increased in post-welfare American ghettoes and in post-boarding school era First Nations Canadian reservations. The social dysfunction is the outcome of government and government-sanctioned policies that broke traditional family bonds. At an earlier time, young male children may have grown up in extended family environments that included the daily physical and emotional presence of several older male relatives who interacted constructively with them, guiding them toward civil interaction with peers and assuming greater personal responsibility.
Government policy and programs in several nations disrupted traditional family structures. As a result, young children were emotionally abandoned by and became emotionally alienated from parents and relatives. The combination of state economic regulation of the economy and state social policy gave rise to a transition from the traditional extended family where several generations had daily contact with each other, to the nuclear family of husband, wife and children who rarely saw other relatives. Government spending increased personal taxation, requiring wives and mothers living in nuclear families to seek employment away from home.
In several North American jurisdictions, state school policy such as teacher training favours women and restricts entry for men, increasing the number of schools with an all-female academic staff. At the present day, up to 50% of male students who attend such schools may live in single-parent homes, with their mother. Children from two-parent, two-income homes may have limited daily contact with their parents and frequent social contact with peers who may evolve into extended surrogate family networks. At some schools, members of such networks may engage in gang-like behaviour, including school bullying of outsiders.
Present day state school policy requires compulsory school attendance for children between the ages of 6 and 18. They are required to progress through a common core program at a learning pace set by the state. The state curriculum has replaced the time-proven phonic method of reading instruction with the problematic word-recognition or look-say method of reading instruction that could result in students experiencing dyslexia. State curriculum rejects multiple methods of numerical calculation and multiple methods of solving mathematical equations. Former award winning teacher turned education critic, John Taylor Gatto condemns state educational policy as being destructive toward children.
Preliminary information suggests that the perpetrators who brutally attacked Rinelle Harper in Winnipeg were the products of families that had endured the effects of problematic state social policy, state welfare policy and state education policy. Without excusing the individuals involved in such reprehensible behaviour, it would be well worth our while to rethink the kind of social experimentation on the part of governments that continues to encourage such behaviour.
* Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.