Canada's Residential Schools (The History, Part 2, 1939 to 2000: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume 1)

April 8, 2021
Canada's Residential Schools (The History, Part 2, 1939 to 2000: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume 1)

Between 1867 and 2000, the Canadian government sent over 150,000Aboriginal children to residential schools across the country.Government officials and missionaries agreed that in order to"civilize and Christianize" Aboriginal children, it was necessaryto separate them from their parents and their home communities. Forchildren, life in these schools was lonely and alien. Disciplinewas harsh, and daily life was highly regimented. Aboriginallanguages and cultures were denigrated and suppressed. Educationand technical training too often gave way to the drudgery of doingthe chores necessary to make the schools self-sustaining. Childneglect was institutionalized, and the lack of supervision createdsituations where students were prey to sexual and physical abusers.Legal action by the schools' former students led to the creation ofthe Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2008. Theproduct of over six years of research, the Commission's finalreport outlines the history and legacy of the schools, and charts apathway towards reconciliation. Canada's Residential Schools: TheHistory, Part 2, 1939 to 2000 carries the story of the residentialschool system from the end of the Great Depression to the closingof the last remaining schools in the late 1990s. It demonstratesthat the underfunding and unsafe living conditions thatcharacterized the early history of the schools continued into anera of unprecedented growth and prosperity for most Canadians. Amiserly funding formula meant that into the late 1950s school mealsfell short of the Canada Food Rules. Overcrowding, poor sanitation,and a failure to adhere to fire safety rules were common problemsthroughout this period. While government officials had come to viewthe schools as costly and inefficient, the churches were reluctantto countenance their closure. It was not until the late 1960s thatthe federal government finally wrested control of the system awayfrom the churches. Government plans to turn First Nations educationover to the provinces met with opposition from Aboriginalorganizations that were seeking "Indian Control of IndianEducation." Following parent-led occupation of a school in Alberta,many of the remaining schools came under Aboriginal administration.The closing of the schools coincided with a growing number ofconvictions of former staff members on charges of sexually abusingstudents. These trials revealed the degree to which sexual abuse atthe schools had been covered up in the past. Former students, whocame to refer to themselves as Survivors, established regional andnational organizations and provided much of the leadership for thecampaign that led to the federal government issuing in 2008 anapology to the former students and their families.