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Stolen from Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities

by Suzanne Fournier and Ernie Crey

Call it North of 60 syndrome. Contemporary media usually portray aboriginal people as a dour lot, dysfunctional and nasty. This pernicious, one-dimensional typecasting renders aboriginal people as eternal victims unable to take control of their destinies. Stolen From Our Embrace balances that shortsighted view with its account of cultural dislocation and community-based rebirth and renewal. So if you think you’ve heard this story before, you’re mistaken. You’ve only heard half of it.

Fournier, a reporter for the Vancouver-based Province, and Crey, the executive director of fisheries for B.C.’s Sto:lo Nation, relate harrowing descriptions of abuse suffered by First Nations children during their incarceration in state-sanctioned residential schools and non-native foster homes. This information is necessary. But it is not the whole story. Stolen From Our Embrace offers up success stories about communities that are regaining control over education, child welfare, programs for sexual offenders, and the education and care of people born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Fournier and Crey detail the steps First Nations communities are taking to ensure aboriginal children – and adult survivors of government systems – become healthy people with a strong sense of identity.

The authors show a great deal of respect for the people whose stories they tell here. And Fournier and Crey both share their own experiences. Like many Canadian families, Fournier’s family hid their aboriginal background, while Crey is a survivor of residential school and foster care. They match each chapter’s academic discourse with first-person narratives in an “as related to” style. Most impressive, they begin the book with a properly credited traditional story belonging to the Felix-Joe family of the Sto:lo Nation. (In aboriginal tradition, certain stories belong to specific people, families, or clans. They are not communal property, and are not meant to be shared indiscriminately.)

Today, 56% of the aboriginal population in Canada is under 25. They say they’re tired of shelved reports, tired of waiting for the resources necessary to build community initiatives.

Canadians should read this book. Then they won’t have to ask “Why?” when they meet these kids at the barricades.