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Residential Schools in Canada

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools that were established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. Although the first residential facilities were established in New France, the term usually refers to schools established after 1880. Residential schools were created by Christian churches and the Canadian government as an attempt to both educate and convert Indigenous youth and to integrate them into Canadian society. However, the schools disrupted lives and communities, causing long-term problems among Indigenous peoples. Since the last residential school closed in 1996, former students have demanded recognition and restitution, resulting in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in 2007 and a formal public apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008. In total, an estimated 150,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis children attended residential schools.

This is the full-length entry about residential schools in Canada. For a plain language summary, please see Residential Schools in Canada (Plain Language Summary).

Article

Residential Schools in Canada (Plain Language Summary)

In the early 1600s, Catholic nuns and priests established the first residential schools in Canada. In 1883, these schools began to receive funding from the federal government. That year, the Government of Canada officially authorized the creation of the residential school system. The main goal of the system was to assimilate Indigenous children into white, Christian society.

(This article is a plain-language summary of residential schools in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry Residential Schools in Canada.)

Article

Sixties Scoop

The “Sixties Scoop” refers to the large-scale removal or “scooping” of Indigenous children from their homes, communities and families of birth through the 1960s, and their subsequent adoption into predominantly non-Indigenous, middle-class families across the United States and Canada. This experience left many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity. The physical and emotional separation from their birth families continues to affect adult adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day.

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Murray Sinclair

Murray Sinclair or Mizanay (Mizhana) Gheezhik, meaning “The One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky” in the Ojibwe language, lawyer, judge and senator (born in 1951 in Selkirk, MB). Called to the Manitoba Bar in 1980, Sinclair focused primarily on civil and criminal litigation, Indigenous law and human rights. In 1988, he became Manitoba’s first, and Canada’s second, Indigenous judge. Sinclair joined the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2009, before becoming a senator in 2016. The breadth of public service and community work completed by Sinclair demonstrates his commitment to Indigenous peoples in Canada.

timeline event

Federal Government Proposes Stat Holiday for Reconciliation

Bill C-369 would make September 30 a statutory holiday called “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.” (See also Truth and Reconciliation Commission.) September 30 currently recognizes residential school survivors as “Orange Shirt Day.” The goal of the stat holiday would be to ensure that “public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools and other atrocities committed against First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.” The bill requires approval from the House of Commons and Senate to become law. It would then need approval from the provinces and territories to be officially observed.

timeline event

Truth and Reconciliation Records Added to UNESCO Register

A collection of residential school survivors’ archives, personal stories and pictures held at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg was added to the UNESCO Canada Memory of the World Register. Other collections of similar items from the McCord Stewart Museum in Montreal and the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection at the University of British Columbia Library had already been added. Residential school survivor and Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad said, “It’s a world recognition that these documents of survivors’ truths are going to be kept for years to come and for future generations.”

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Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Plain Language Summary)

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) started working in 2008. It was a result of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRRSA). The IRRSA recognized the suffering and trauma experienced by Indigenous students at residential schools. It also provided financial compensation (money) to the students. The TRC performed many tasks. It created a national research centre. It collected documents from churches and government. It held events where students told their stories. Also, it did research about residential schools and issued a final report.

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Women's Memorial March

The Women’s Memorial March (WMM) is held every year on 14 February, Valentine’s Day, in cities across Canada and the United States. The WMM started in 1992 in Vancouver, BC, following the murder of Indigenous woman Cheryl Ann Joe. The first Women’s Memorial March began as a small memorial for Joe, but grew to become an annual march to honour all missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The Vancouver march draws thousands of people, while women’s memorial marches have spread to more than 20 cities across Canada and the United States.