Righting Canada's Wrongs: Residential Schools: The Devastating Impact On Canada's Indigenous Peoples
Righting Canada's Wrongs: Residential Schools
Canada's residential school system for Indigenous children is now recognized as a grievous historic wrong committed against First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. This article will provide an overview of the history, impact and legacy of residential schools, as well as the efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to document this experience and promote healing and reconciliation.
The History of Residential Schools
The residential school system was a policy of assimilation that aimed to eradicate the culture, language and identity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. It was based on the belief that Indigenous peoples were inferior and needed to be "civilized" by adopting Christianity and European values. The system was influenced by the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857, which required Indigenous men to renounce their status and culture in exchange for citizenship, and the Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds of 1879, which recommended the establishment of boarding schools for Indigenous children away from their families and communities.
The first residential school was opened in 1831 by the Anglican Church in Brantford, Ontario. By 1931, there were 80 residential schools across Canada, run by various Christian denominations and funded by the federal government. The schools operated under strict rules and harsh discipline. Indigenous children were taken from their families, sometimes by force, and sent to residential schools where they were dressed in uniforms, their hair was cut, they were forbidden to speak their native language and they were often subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Many children died of disease, malnutrition or neglect. Some were buried in unmarked graves near the schools. The schools also failed to provide adequate education and vocational training for the students, leaving them unprepared for life after graduation.
The Impact of Residential Schools
The residential school system had a devastating impact on the lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada. It disrupted their family and community bonds, eroded their cultural identity and self-esteem, and inflicted trauma and suffering that lasted for generations. Many survivors of residential schools experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide, violence and intergenerational trauma. They also faced discrimination, racism and poverty in mainstream society. The residential school system also contributed to the loss of Indigenous languages, traditions, knowledge and land rights.
The Legacy of Residential Schools
The last federally funded residential school closed in 1996 in Saskatchewan. However, the legacy of residential schools continues to affect Indigenous peoples in Canada today. Many survivors and their descendants are still struggling with the effects of trauma, abuse and cultural disconnection. They are also seeking justice, recognition and healing for the wrongs they endured. In 1998, the federal government issued a Statement of Reconciliation that acknowledged the role of residential schools in the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples and expressed regret for the harm caused. In 2006, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was reached between the federal government, the churches, the Assembly of First Nations and other Indigenous organizations. It was the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. It included compensation for survivors, the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and funding for healing programs.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The TRC was created in 2008 as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Its mandate was to document the history and legacy of residential schools, reveal the truth about what happened to the children who attended them, and promote reconciliation among Indigenous peoples, non-Indigenous Canadians and the institutions involved in the system. The TRC collected over 7,000 statements from survivors and witnesses of residential schools, as well as archival records, photographs and artifacts. It also held public events across Canada to raise awareness and educate Canadians about this dark chapter in their history. In 2015, the TRC released its final report, which included 94 Calls to Action that outlined concrete steps for addressing the ongoing impacts of residential schools and advancing reconciliation.
Residential schools were a tragic and shameful part of Canada's history that violated the human rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples. They caused immense harm and suffering that still affects many people today. However, through the courage and resilience of survivors and their families, the truth about residential schools has been exposed and acknowledged. Through the work of the TRC and the implementation of its Calls to Action, there is hope for healing and reconciliation among all Canadians. Righting Canada's wrongs is not only a moral duty, but also an opportunity to create a more just and inclusive society for the future.
: Righting Canada's Wrongs: Residential Schools: The Devastating Impact on Canada's Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Findings and Calls for Action by Melanie Florence
: Where are the Children? Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools by Aboriginal Healing Foundation
: They Came for the Children: Canada, Aboriginal Peoples, and Residential Schools by Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
: Statement of Reconciliation by Government of Canada
: Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement by Government of Canada
: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Mandate by Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action by Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada by Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada