Residential Schools

Residential schools were established by Christian churches and the federal government to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian society.

January 01, 1620


Mission Schools for Indigenous Children Established

For more than two hundred years, from the early 1600s to the 1800s, religious orders run mission schools for Indigenous children — the precursors to the Government of Canada’s residential school system.

January 01, 1831

Mohawk Institute


Mohawk Institute Begins to Accept Boarders

Run by the Anglican Church, the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Upper Canada [Ontario], becomes the first school in Canada’s residential school system. At first, the school only admits boys. In 1834, girls are admitted.

March 20, 1845


Bagot Report

The Bagot Commission (1842-1844) report is presented to the Legislative Assembly. It proposes that separating Indigenous children from their parents is the best way to assimilate them into Euro-Canadian culture. The commission also recommends that the Mohawk Institute be considered a model for other industrial schools.

January 01, 1847


Egerton Ryerson’s Report on Education is Published

Egerton Ryerson’s Report on a System of Public Elementary Instruction for Upper Canada is published. The report describes an education system based on Christian faith, universal access and government support. Ryerson recommends that Indigenous students continue to be educated in separate, agriculturally based boarding schools with religious and English language instruction. He suggests renaming the institutions “industrial schools.”

June 10, 1857


The Gradual Civilization Act

The Gradual Civilization Act requires male Status Indians and Métis over the age of 21 to read, write and speak either English or French, and to choose a government-approved surname. The Act awards 50 acres of land to any “sufficiently advanced” Indigenous male, and in return removes any tribal affiliation or treaty rights.

October 06, 1860


Île-à-la-Crosse Residential School Opens

The Grey Nuns take ownership of Le Couvent Saint-Bruno. In 1897, the school becomes recognized as an official boarding school under the name Île-à-la-Crosse, housing a majority of Métis students.

March 29, 1867


Federal Responsibility

Under the Constitution Act (British North America Act), the federal government takes authority over First Nations and land reserved for First Nations. This authority would later extend to education of Status Indians.

April 12, 1876


The Indian Act

The Indian Act is introduced. The Act aims to eradicate First Nations culture in favour of assimilation into Euro-Canadian society.

March 14, 1879


Nicholas Flood Davin Submits Report to Canadian Government

The Canadian government appoints Nicholas Flood Davin to investigate American industrial schools for Indigenous children and make recommendations for similar schools in Canada. He submits the Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds, also known as the Davin Report, to the Canadian government in 1879.

July 01, 1883


Residential Schools Authorized

Based on the recommendations of the Davin Report, Sir John A. Macdonald authorizes the creation of the residential school system, designed to isolate Indigenous children from their families and cut all ties to their culture.

April 19, 1884


Creation of Residential Schools

Amendments to the Indian Act of 1876 provide for the creation of Indian residential schools, funded and operated by the Government of Canada and Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and United churches. The Canadian government also bans traditional Indigenous ceremonies, including potlaches, powwows and Sun Dances.

January 01, 1888


Gordon’s Residential School Opens

Gordon’s Residential School, which had been run as a day school by the Anglican Church since 1876, expands for boarders in 1888.

January 01, 1896


Residential Schools

Forty-five residential schools were in operation across Canada. Each school was provided with an allowance per student, which led to overcrowding and an increase in diseases within the institutions.

November 15, 1907


Health at Residential Schools

After visiting 35 residential schools, Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, chief medical officer for Canada’s Department of the Interior and Indian Affairs (1904–21), reveals that Indigenous children are dying at alarming rates – with the mortality rate of enrolled students as high as 25 per cent. This number climbs to 69 per cent after students leave school.

April 01, 1920


Residential Schools Become Mandatory

Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott, makes attendance at residential school mandatory for every First Nations child between 7 and 16 years of age. This policy was also inconsistently applied to Métis and Inuit children.

January 01, 1922


The Story of a National Crime Published

Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce publishes The Story of a National Crime, exposing the Canadian government’s suppression of information on the health of Indigenous peoples. Bryce argues that Duncan Campbell Scott and the ministry of Indian Affairs neglected Indigenous health needs and notes a “criminal disregard for the treaty pledges.”

January 01, 1930


Residential School Network Expands

More than 80 institutions are in operation across Canada — the most at any one time — with an enrolment of over 17,000.

January 01, 1934


Inuit Education Research Conducted by Federal Government

For the first time, the Canadian government conducts research into Inuit education. J. Lorne Turner, Director of Lands, Northwest Territories and Yukon Branch, Department of the Interior urges the government to provide formal education to Inuit children.

February 15, 1936


Report of the Royal Commission Appointed to Investigate the Conditions of the Halfbreed Population in Alberta

In December 1934, the Alberta government appoints Albert Freeman Ewing to report on Métis living conditions. The report indicates that 80 per cent of Métis children in Alberta received no education. The report suggests building schools for Métis children.

January 01, 1948


Thunderchild Indian Residential School Destroyed

Four students are investigated for arson. Others reportedly cheer as they watch the school burn. This was one of dozens of fires set by students as a form of resistance at residential schools across the country.

January 01, 1955


Residential School System Expands in Northern Canada

The federal government takes over the administration of many church-run residential schools in the North. Over the next decades, six schools open in the Western Arctic.

January 01, 1960


The Sixties Scoop

As residential schools closed, thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families by provincial and federal social workers and placed in foster or adoption homes. Often, these homes were non-Indigenous. Some children were even placed outside of Canada.

November 17, 1966

Chanie Wenjack


Coroner’s Inquest Into Charlie Wenjack’s Death

A coroner’s inquest into Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack’s death was held. The jury report recognized that “The Indian education system causes tremendous emotional & adjustment problems for these children.” They recommended, “A study be made of the present Indian education & philosophy. Is it right?”

January 01, 1969

White Eagle Residential School


Department of Indian Affairs Responsible for Residential Schools

The agreement between the churches and the Canadian government comes to an end, with the Department of Indian Affairs assuming responsibility for the remaining schools. The transfer of a few schools to local bands begins.

January 01, 1979


Residential Schools

Twelve residential schools were still operating in Canada, with 1,200 children attending. The Department of Indian Affairs evaluated the schools and created a series of initiatives. Among them was a plan to make the school administration more culturally aware of the needs of Indigenous students.

October 30, 1990

Phil Fontaine


Phil Fontaine’s Testimony of Abuse at Residential Schools

Head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Phil Fontaine, spoke publicly of the abuse he suffered at residential school. He gave a number of media interviews, outlining the abuse and calling for a public inquiry.

August 26, 1991


Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney initiates the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, with seven commissioners. The report is completed in 1996.

January 01, 1996


Last Residential School Closes

The last federally-run facility, Gordon Residential School, closed in Punnichy, Saskatchewan.

November 21, 1996


Final Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

The Final Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended a public inquiry into the effects residential schools have had on subsequent generations. The 4,000-page document made 440 recommendations calling for changes in the relationship between Indigenous peoples, non-Indigenous peoples, and governments in Canada.

January 01, 2007


Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement provided compensation to survivors of residential schools. All survivors received the Common Experience Payment, based on the number of years they attended residential school. Claims of sexual and physical abuse were assessed on a case-by-case basis.

June 01, 2008


Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

The Canadian government authorized the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to document the truth and inform all Canadians about what happened in residential schools.

June 11, 2008


Apology to Former Residential Schools Students

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on behalf of the Government of Canada, delivered a formal apology in the House of Commons to former students, their families, and communities for Canada's role in the operation of residential schools. The apology recognized the profoundly damaging and lasting impact the schools had on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language. Some criticized the speech saying that it specifically excluded from the apology the students of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

June 16, 2010


First National Truth and Reconciliation Event

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada hosted its first national event, in Winnipeg, MB. It explored the history of the residential schools system, the experience of former students and their families and the impact such institutions had on Aboriginal communities. Six more events followed in cities around the country, with a national closing ceremony in Ottawa.

March 27, 2014


Final National Truth and Reconciliation Event

The seventh and final national event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) took place over three days in Edmonton, Alberta. The TRC sought to provide opportunities for individuals, families, and communities to share their experiences at residential schools.

May 26, 2014


Residential School Monument in Winnipeg

A monument to honour the survivors of residential schools was unveiled in Winnipeg, MB, near the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools established to assimilate Aboriginal children into Euro-Canadian culture. Since the last residential school closed in 1996, former students have pressed for recognition and restitution, resulting in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in 2007.

June 02, 2015


Summary Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Released

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released the summary of its final report on the residential school system and the experiences of its survivors, characterizing Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal people as "cultural genocide." The report put forward 94 recommendations aimed at repairing relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada—relations that have suffered deeply from the legacy of more than a century of assimilationist policies and human rights violations.

November 03, 2015


National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Opens

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, a permanent archive of materials, documents and testimonies on residential schools gathered during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, opened at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Both the centre and the commission were created by the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

December 15, 2015


Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Released

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, its final report on the residential school system and the experiences of its survivors, in which Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal people is characterized as "cultural genocide." Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who attended the ceremonial release of the report, committed his government to implementing all of the 94 recommendations set out in the June 2015 summary report. The recommendations are aimed at repairing relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada — relations that have suffered deeply from the legacy of more than a century of assimilationist policies and human rights violations.

May 30, 2016

Kathleen Wynne


Premier Wynne Issues Residential Schools Apology

In response to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne formally apologized for the abuses committed against Indigenous peoples in the residential school system, as well as for the oppressive policies and practices supported by past Ontario governments. The province announced a $250-million, three-year investment in a number of initiatives aimed at reconciliation.

November 24, 2017


Trudeau issues Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools apology

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized to survivors of residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. They were excluded from Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology because residential schools there were not run by the federal government and were established before Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949. Survivor Toby Obed, who was instrumental in the class-action lawsuit against the federal government, accepted Trudeau’s apology on behalf of his community. However, Greg Rich, Innu Nation Grand Chief, refused Trudeau’s apology, saying it was too narrow.