Edwin Francis Jebb is looking to the people of Israel to revive the spirit of Canada’s native children.
The education director of the Opaskwayak reserve in Manitoba left Toronto in July for Israel to look for inspiration in his people’s own struggle for land, heritage and identity.
“The spirit of our children is broken,” said Jebb, 51. “They have no desire to go on with their lives and we want to learn from the Jewish people how they can still live with great faith and spirit despite all the sufferings and intolerance that happened to them,” he said.
“The Jews and the aboriginal people have a lot of common grounds. We both lost our own homelands and have faced racism and intolerance. Only education and communication can curb racism and intolerance.”
Jebb and eight other First Nations educators from reserves across Canada might have David Ahenakew, the disgraced aboriginal leader, to thank for the nine-day trip to Israel.
The former head of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the Assembly of First Nations made headlines when he called Jews a “disease” who deserved to be destroyed by the Nazis.
B’nai Brith Canada and First Nations leaders met in Toronto to explore ways to heal the wounds between the two communities resulting from his remarks, and decided to dedicate all the spaces of this year’s Holocaust and Hope trip for members of the First Nations.
The trip, first initiated two decades ago and paid for by B’nai Brith at $3,500 per person, is offered once every two years for Canadian educators to learn about the Holocaust.