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Almost half of non-Aboriginal Canadians living in cities have not heard or read anything about Indian residential schools?

Aboriginal Experiences in Residential Schools

Beginning in the late 1800s, Aboriginal children were removed from their homes and placed in residential schools run by the Canadian government and local churches. The schools attempted to assimilate and “civilize” the Aboriginal children. Instances of abuse were widespread, and in overcrowded schools, tuberculosis was often deadly. Of the approximately 150,000 children who attended residential schools, at least 3,000 died. The schools had a devastating effect on many Aboriginal families, which is still felt today. Two-thirds of urban Aboriginal Peoples say they have been affected by the residential schools, either personally or through a family member. In 2008 the Canadian government offered an apology, twelve years after the last residential school closed in 1996. Today, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada works to establish truth, healing and reconciliation in the aftermath of the residential schools.

Discussion questions

The residential school system had such a widespread impact on Aboriginal Peoples in the last century, so why do so many Canadians today not know about the schools? Why is the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada so important?

Resources

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. trc.ca/

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2012. “They Came for the Children.”trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2039_T&R_eng_web[1].pdf

The United Church of Canada. Residential School Archive Project: The Children Remembered.thechildrenremembered.ca/schools-history/

Environics Institute. Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study. 2010. uaps.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/UAPS_Summary_Final.pdf

For more resources, check out the We Stand Together How-To Guide, available at freethechildren/westandtogether.com.

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