No Time To Say Goodbye: Stories of the Kuper Island Residential School (Sono Nis $8.95)

The practice of snatching First Nations children from their homes and sending them to residential schools where they suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse has been well documented.

No Time To Say Goodbye: Stories of the Kuper Island Residential School by Sylvia Olsen with Ann Sam and Rita Morris (Sono Nis $8.95) is significant because it is a collaborative effort.

Three women from the Tsartlip Reserve on the Saanich Peninsula have worked with six former students of the Kuper Island residential school to produce a work of fiction closely based on the studentsí actual experiences.

Perhaps because it is aimed at young readers (or perhaps because the Kuper school was one of the more benign institutions of its kind) the harrowing instances of abuse are less severe than those recorded in the scholarly works and in the fiction of other ex-students of residential schools such as Tomson Highway.

Here, the sadistic punishments of bed-wetters, rebellious youngsters, and those who lapse into speaking their native language are toned down. The only sexual abuse described is heterosexual; the treatment of a girl selected by a priest as his sexual prey takes place behind closed doors.

The overall picture of brutality by the nuns and priests is mitigated by examples of kindness by one or two teachers, and by the camaraderie among the students themselves. Consequently, much of the book reads like a novel describing the adventures of a group of children in difficult circumstances at a very strict boarding school. They find friends, stand up to bullies, two of them make a daring escape, and one overcomes all odds to become a sports hero.

With illustrations by Connie Paul No Time To Say Goodbye will entertain young readers and inform them about a shameful chapter of Canadian history. It could also be a teaching tool leading students to seek out further information on the subject. 1-55039-121-6

[Joan Givner / BCBW2001]