About Canada’s residential schools…
OTTAWA — Canada’s former policy of forcibly removing aboriginal children from their families for schooling “can best be described as ‘cultural genocide.’ ”
That is the conclusion reached by the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission after six years of intensive research, including 6,750 interviews. The commission published a summary version on Tuesday of what will ultimately be a multivolume report, documenting widespread physical, cultural and sexual abuse at government-sponsored residential schools that Indian, Inuit and other indigenous children were forced to attend.
The schools, financed by the government but run largely by churches, were in operation for more than a century, from 1883 until the last one closed in 1998.
Oh no oh no oh no – those 11 words make up one of the most sinister phrases you can hear – the schools, financed by the government but run largely by churches. That describes the Irish industrial “schools” too, except that they weren’t even schools, they were prisons.
The commission documented that at least 3,201 students died while attending the schools, many because of mistreatment or neglect, in the first comprehensive tally of such deaths.
The report linked the abuses at the schools, which came to broad public attention over the last four decades, to social, health, economic and emotional problems affecting many indigenous Canadians today. It concluded that although some teachers and administrators at the schools were well intentioned, the overriding motive for the program was economic, not educational.
“The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to aboriginal people and gain control over their lands and resources,” the report said. “If every aboriginal person had been ‘absorbed into the body politic,’ there would be no reserves, no treaties and no aboriginal rights.”
But at least they gave the children a decent education, right?
The research and interviews conducted by the commission detailed a boarding school system that was woefully underfunded, inadequately staffed and largely ineffective at its stated aim of providing useful education.
Some former students interviewed by the commission cited school sports and music and arts programs as bright spots in their lives. But those programs were not generally part of the system, and most former students, even those who were not physically or sexually harmed or neglected, said their daily lives had been heavily regimented and lacked privacy and dignity. At many of the schools, students were addressed and referred to by number as if they were prisoners.
And yet we’re always being told that it’s Christianity that invented the idea of human dignity. Odd, that.