In the 1800s, the Canadian government believed that it was their duty to educate and care for the country’s aboriginal people. They assumed that if they were exposed to Christian religion and Canadian culture, customs, and education rather than native traditions, they would become “Canadian.” Plus, if they become “Canadianized” then their children will be taught to live a Canadian lifestyle, and eventually, all native culture will be diminished. The Canadian government formed a rule known as the “aggressive assimilation” and it would be taught at church-run, government funded industrial schools. These teaching facilities later became to be known as residential schools. The Canadian government thought forcing children to adopt the Canadian culture would be much simpler than forcing adults, and it would benefit them, in that they would be eventually able to join the mainstream society. These schools were federally operated, organized by the Department of Indian Affairs. Attendance to residential schools were compulsory and agents were sent out by the government to ensure all native children attended.
At the beginning, there were approximately 69 schools across the country, with 1,100 students attending them. There were almost 80 schools operating in Canada in 1931; an increase of 11 residential schools. In total, there were about 130 residential schools in every territory and province except Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick from early 1800s to the last, which
was shut down in 1996.
Canadian government believed that Aboriginal culture wasn’t able to co-exist with modern society, so they established these schools in order for the children to be able to work and live in the modern society. These schools were meant to assimilate the Aboriginal students, and for them to become Christian and speak either English or French. However, what actually occurred, as mentioned by many Aboriginal students who have survived residential school, is quite different than the intention. Aboriginal students experienced verbal, physical, and sexual abuse constantly throughout their residential schooling. These students rarely had the opportunity to witness a normal family life, in that 10 months they are taken away from the parents. However, when they return, they come back with non-Aboriginal skills and qualities, which make it very hard for the kids to help their parents or communicate with them.
Phil Fontaine, the leader of the Association of Manitoba Chiefs, in 1990, called upon the churches involved in residential schools to acknowledge the physical, emotional and sexual abuse that students in the schools were exposed to. A Royal Commission on Aboriginal people was convened by the government the following year. For a couple of years, the Canadian government discussed with the Anglican, Catholic,
United, and Presbyterian churches, which ran the residential schools, on a method of compensating those who attended the residential schools. Approximately 2 years after it was first announced, in 2007, the government announced a $1.9 billion compensation package to those that were forced to attend residential schools.
Common Experience Payments (compensation) were made to those that were alive as of May 30, 2005 and attended residential schools. Former residential school students were able to receive $10,000 for the first year or part of a year they attended school, plus $3000 for each year after that. Accepting the Common Experience Payments removes all liability of the government and church regarding residential schools experience, except in sexual abuse or serious physical abuse. In these cases, an Independent Assessment Process, o IAP, was set up deal with sexual or physical abuses.
Commemoration initiate is going to be funded by the Canadian government, which contains events, projects, and other activities that take place in the community and nationally. A total of $20 million will be available for the next 5 years. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was also promised to observe the legacy of residential schools. This commission was issued on June 1, 2008. Now only that, on June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephan Harper formally apologizes for the cruel treatment at residential schools in Parliament.
Peculiarly, even though the Catholic church was responsible for 3/4 of the Canadian residential schools, they apologized to the Aboriginals the last. Many other churches, before the Catholic one, apologized for the abuse experienced in the schools in 1990s.
Because residential schools treated their students poorly and unfairly, when these students became parents, their kids received a similar treatment, with a possibly a lesser degree of intensity and cruel treatment. Because of the ongoing continuous poor treatment and rough behaviour, Aborignals are more vulnerable to addictions, suicide, and especially family violence (particularly those who have been to residential schools). Also, First Nations are the fastest growing population, and if the parents from the residential school treat their kids the way they were treated in residential school, then the kids that will eventually join the mainstream will influence non-Aboriginals, producing problems in our society. Plus, parents from residential schools will most likely influence their kids to not go to school, considering the treatment they received in school. The messages sent from Aboriginal parents to their kids is ambiguous and differs greatly than that of non-Aboriginals, for their parents didn’t receive the cruel treatment in residential school.