- In the 1870’s, the Government of Canada partnered with Anglican, Catholic, United, and Presbyterians churches to establish and operate boarding and residential schools for Aboriginal (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) children. (e)
- The intent of the Residential School System was to educate, assimilate, and integrate Aboriginal people into Canadian society. In the words of one government official, it was a system designed “to kill the Indian in the child.” (e)
- Attendance at residential schools was mandatory for Aboriginal children across Canada, and failure to send children to residential school often resulted in the punishment of parents, including imprisonment. (a) and (e)
- Over 150,000 children (some as young as 4 years old) attended federally-administered residential schools. (e)
- Many Aboriginal children were taken from their homes, often forcibly removed and separated from their families by long distances. Others who attended residential schools near their communities were often prohibited from seeing their families outside of occasional permitted visits. (e)
- Students were forbidden to speak their language or practice their culture, and were often punished for doing so. (b)
- Many students were forced to do manual labour, and were fed poor quality food. There are many accounts of students being provided moldy, maggot-infested and rotten foods. (b) and (c)
- Other experiences reported from Survivors of residential schools include sexual and mental abuse, beatings and severe punishments, overcrowding, illness, children forced to sleep outside in the winter, the forced wearing of soiled underwear on the head or wet bed sheets on the body, use of students in medical experiments, disease and in some cases death. (a), (b), and (c)
- In many cases, the abuses, and even the common experiences of having attended residential school have caused impacts such as post traumatic stress syndrome and have made it difficult for Survivors to engage in family, social, and professional circumstances. (b)
- Survivors were often away from their parents for long periods of time and this prevented the discovering and learning of valuable parenting skills. (c) and (d)
- The removal of children from their homes also prevented the transmission of language and culture, resulting in the fact that many Aboriginal people no longer speak their language or are aware of the traditional cultural practices. (c)
- Adaptation of abusive behaviors learned from residential school has also occurred and caused intergenerational trauma, the cycle of abuse and trauma from one generation to the next. (c)
- Aboriginal communities are still in need of healing with high rates of substance abuse, violence, crime, child apprehension, disease, and suicide. (b)
I believe that Canadians did commit genocide, and still affects both the Aboriginals and Canadians alike today. Evidence above shows that the residential schools physically, mentally, and most likely psychologically harmed the Aboriginals, with regular beatings, poor living conditions, and more abusive acts. Using the United Nation’s definition of genocide, this does not meet (b), which states that genocide is when serious bodily or mental harm is given to members of the group. This abuse lead to substance abuse, violence, crime, child apprehension, disease, and even suicide. The depression that many of the Aboriginals faced, caused intergenerational trauma, which means that these mental illnesses, abuse, and trauma will be carried onto future generations.
The residential schools also would affect the Aboriginal lifestyle, by taking away some of their freedoms or inflicting on their community, which creates an aftermath of physical destruction. This is a definition of (c) on the UN’s convention on genocide. Again, the abuse the children have faced may traumatize them until adulthood, and perhaps they too would become abusive. The staff of residential schools forcibly made students not speak their mother tongue, they would be punished for doing so. Cultural practices were also banned.
The reason that these schools were created was because the settlers believed that they were superior to the “uneducated savages” and wanted to “civilize” them. The goal for these residential schools was to “Kill the Indian in the child.”, because complete assimilation was not permitted, partial assimilation was the only way to weaken the Aboriginal society’s cultural influence and power. These schools lasted all the way until 1996, when the last residential school was closed down for good.
“If anything is to be done with the Indian, we must catch him very young. The children must be kept constantly within the circle of civilized conditions,” – Nicholas Flood Davin
In this source, it also says that segregation of boys and girls were common in these schools, not even siblings interacted often. This led to even weaker family ties, and friendships. They were only taught practical skills and were forbidden to learn about their culture. Once discharged from these schools, as high as 75% of the students died shortly after returning. This shows us how abusive and horrible these schools were.