The tragic story behind Indigenous residential schools in Canada

(CNN Spanish) – For 165 years and until 1996, indigenous residential schools forcibly separated First Nations, Métis, and Inuit indigenous children from their families, subjecting them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse in what Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called it “cultural genocide” in 2015.

During this time, the Canadian Government together with the Church operated around 150 schools, in which some 150,000 indigenous minors were enrolled.

In an apologetic speech given by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008, the politician indicated that these schools were intended to “separate and isolate children [indígenas] from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and assimilate them to the dominant culture “, under the assumption that aboriginal cultures were inferior and unequal.

“In fact, some sought, as was infamously said,” to kill the Indian in the child. “Today we recognize that this assimilation policy was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country,” said Harper.

Recent events

Between May and July, around 1,000 unmarked graves have been found in former boarding schools in the province of British Columbia and Saskatchewan, which were run primarily by the Catholic Church and funded by the government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the findings in both former inmates “reaffirm the truth” of what indigenous families, survivors and communities “have known for a long time,” and that the government will continue to provide funds and resources for bring “these terrible mistakes to light.”

“They are a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination and injustice that indigenous peoples have faced, and continue to face, in this country. And together, we must acknowledge this truth, learn from our past and walk the shared path of reconciliation, so we can build a better future, “Trudeau said in a statement.

The Government acknowledges that the consequences of the indigenous residential school system were profoundly negative and that they have had a lasting and damaging impact on the indigenous community.

Canada is gearing up for the discovery of more mass graves in the coming months, as dozens of indigenous communities are expected to allocate funding and technical support to research former colleges.

The response of the Church

At least 130 schools were in operation across Canada between the late 1800s and 1996, many of them run by the Catholic Church or the federal government.

Two Catholic religious groups, known as the Oblates, who were involved in running many of the residential schools in Canada, including those in Marieval and Kamloops, have said they intend to disclose all historical documents regarding their involvement.

“We deeply regret our involvement in residential schools and the damage they have caused to indigenous peoples and communities,” the groups said in a statement.

Cowessess chief Cadmus Delorme told reporters on June 25 that it was time for the Catholic Church, specifically Pope Francis, to apologize to indigenous communities, noting that “an apology is one of many stages in the journey. of healing “. This apology would comply with the call to action number 58 established in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, a commission established in 2008 for the purpose of documenting the impact of Canadian Indigenous Residential Schools on students and their families.

A delegation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit will meet with the Pope between December 17 and 20, according to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).


July 1, 2021: During Canada Day, protesters toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II in the Canadian city of Winnipeg as anger grows over the discovery of the remains of hundreds of children in nameless graves in former Indian schools .

June 29, 2021: Canadian authorities investigate multiple fires that destroyed four catholic churches on indigenous lands. The churches were destroyed after the recent discoveries of hundreds of human remains in former boarding schools operated by Catholic religious groups.

June 24, 2021: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement claiming that he was saddened by the discovery of the remains of children near the old Marieval residential school in Saskatchewan.

“No child should have been separated from their families and communities and stripped of their language, culture and identity. No child should have spent their precious youth subjected to terrible loneliness and abuse. No child should have spent their last moments in a place where he lived in fear, never to see his loved ones again. And no family should have stolen the laughter and joy of their children playing, and the pride of seeing them grow up in their community, “he said.

The president assured that the pain and trauma of indigenous peoples are the responsibility of Canada and that the government would provide the necessary resources to expose these injustices.

June 2021: The Cowessess First Nation found at least 750 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, in Saskatchewan County, Canada.

May 2021: The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community, in the interior of southern British Columbia, issued a statement confirming the discovery of the remains of 215 children who were students at the Kamloops Indigenous residential school.

November 24, 2017: Trudeau, On behalf of the Canadian Government, he formally apologizes to the indigenous peoples of the Newfoundland and Labrador provinces for the boarding school system, which has alienated children from their families, culture and religion.

2015.: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published a report detailing the damaging legacy of the country’s boarding school system.

June 11, 2008: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to alumni of indigenous residential schools on behalf of the Government of Canada. “The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indigenous residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a long-lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language,” it said. read in the statement.

September 1, 2007: Goes into effect on conciliation agreement for indigenous residential schools (IRSSA) which provides compensation to surviving alumni.

nineteen ninety six: Gordon’s Residential School in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, the last facility run by the federal government, closes.

1960: With the closing of the residential schoolsProvincial and federal social workers placed indigenous children in foster care or for adoption in predominantly non-indigenous families in the United States and Canada.

1930: More than 80 indigenous residential schools operate across Canada. There are more than 17,000 children registered.

1920: Under the direction of Duncan Campbell Scott, deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs, an amendment is made to the Indian Law that makes attendance in residential schools mandatory for all First Nations children between the ages of 7 and 16 old. This policy was also inconsistently applied to Métis and Inuit children.

Scott stated: “I want to get rid of the Indian problem. In fact, I don’t think the country should continually protect a class of people who can stand alone. Our goal is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada who has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question. , nor an Indian department, that is the whole object of this bill. “

1883: They authorize the creation of the residential school system in order to assimilate indigenous peoples to the colones society through education. This system relied almost exclusively on the churches to provide religious teachers, administrators, and instructors. According to Facing History and Ourselves organization, the system was underfunded and marked by lower educational levels.

1876: Indigenous Law is introduced with the aim of eradicating First Nations culture in favor of assimilation into Euro-Canadian society.

1842-1844: The Bagot Commission report is presented to the Legislative Assembly. This report proposes that separating indigenous children from their parents is the best way to remove them from their traditional life and assimilate them into Euro-Canadian culture.

1831: The Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Upper Canada, becomes the first school in the residential school system in the country.

January 21, 1620: From the early 17th to the 19th centuries, religious orders ran missionary schools for indigenous children, which would be the forerunners of the Government of Canada residential school system.

Dave Alsup, Rebekah Riess, Nicole Chavez and Paula Newton contributed to this report.

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