timeline

Residential Schools

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

January 01, 1620

History 

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

History 

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

History 

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.

June 10, 1857

History 

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. It awards 50 acres of land to any “sufficiently advanced” Indigenous male, and in return removes any tribal affiliation or treaty rights.

March 29, 1867

History 

Federal Responsibility

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

April 12, 1876

History 

The Indian Act

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

July 01, 1883

History 

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

Library and Archives Canada / PA-042133

History 

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.

January 01, 1896

History 

Growing Number of Residential Schools

The number of schools across Canada quickly climbs to over forty. Each school was provided with an allowance per student, which led to overcrowding and an increase in illnesses within the institutions.

November 15, 1907

History 

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

History 

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

History 

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

History 

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

History 

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

History 

Report of the Royal Commission Appointed to Investigate the Conditions of the Métis 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

History 

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.

September 04, 1951

History 

The Sixties Scoop

The “Sixties Scoop” begins after amendments to the Indian Act give provinces jurisdiction over child welfare on reserves. Over the following decades, more than 20,000 First NationMétis and Inuit children are “scooped” from their homes and adopted into predominantly non-Indigenous families, leaving many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity.

January 01, 1955

History 

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.

September 01, 1959

History 

Two Residential Schools Open in Inuvik, NWT

Grollier Hall and Stringer Hall open in Inuvik, housing 500 students. The majority of students are Inuvialuit children who were taken from their families.

January 01, 1960

Sixties Scoop

History 

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. (See also Sixties Scoop.)

October 23, 1966

History 

Chanie Wenjack Dies

Twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack dies after escaping from the Cecilia Jeffrey residential school, near Shoal Lake, Ontario.

November 17, 1966

Chanie Wenjack

History 

Coroner’s Inquest Into Charlie Wenjack’s Death

A coroner’s inquest into Chanie Wenjack’s death is held. The all-White jury finds that residential schools cause tremendous emotional and psychological problems. They recommend that “A study be made of the present Indian education & philosophy. Is it right?”

January 01, 1969

White Eagle Residential School

History 

Authority for Residential Schools Transferred to Government

The Canadian government takes over responsibility for the remaining residential schools from the churches.

July 24, 1976

History 

Île-à-la-Crosse Residential School Closes

After a series of fires in 1964 and 1972, Île-à-la-Crosse Residential School permanently closes in 1976. It is replaced by new locally administered schools — the Rossignol elementary and high schools.

January 01, 1979

History 

28 Residential Schools Remain

Thousands of Indigenous students are enrolled at the 28 residential schools that were running in Canada at the time.

October 30, 1990

Phil Fontaine

History 

Phil Fontaine’s Testimony of Abuse at Residential Schools

Phil Fontaine, Head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, speaks publicly of the abuse he suffered at Fort Alexander Residential School. He calls for a public inquiry into the schools, which the federal government initiates in 1991.

August 26, 1991

History 

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Initiated

In the wake of the Oka Crisis, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney initiates the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, with a mandate to study the evolution of the relationship between Indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada and Canadian society as a whole.

January 01, 1996

History 

Last Federally Operated Residential School Closes

The last federally-run facility, Gordon’s Residential School in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, closes.

November 21, 1996

History 

Final Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

The 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples stated that many of the Indian Act’s measures were oppressive, and noted that “Recognition as 'Indian' in Canadian law often had nothing to do with whether a person was actually of Indian ancestry.”

July 01, 1997

History 

Grollier Hall Closes

In 1987, the Roman Catholic Church chooses not to renew its contract due to lack of “religious personnel.” Enrolment continues to decline throughout the 1990s until Grollier Hall is turned over to Aurora College in the summer of 1997, marking the end of the residential school system in the North.

September 01, 2007

Reconciliation 

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement Comes into Effect

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement provides compensation to Survivors, including the Common Experience Payment, which is based on the number of years they attended residential school. Claims of sexual and physical abuse are assessed through an independent process. The Agreement focuses on funding and supporting Indigenous health and healing services and also establishes funds for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

June 01, 2008

Reconciliation 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is Established

The Canadian government authorizes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to document the truth of Survivors, families and communities and inform all Canadians about what happened in residential schools. It is funded by the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.

June 11, 2008

Reconciliation 

Formal Apology to Former Residential Schools Students

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on behalf of the Government of Canada, delivers 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. Provincial and territorial apologies follow in the years ahead.

June 16, 2010

Reconciliation 

First National Truth and Reconciliation Event

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada hosts its first national event, in Winnipeg, MB. It explores the history of the residential school system, the experience of former students and their families and the impact such institutions had on Indigenous peoples in Canada. Over the next five years, six more events follow in cities around the country, with a national closing ceremony in Ottawa.

March 27, 2014

Reconciliation 

Final National Truth and Reconciliation Event

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

May 26, 2014

Reconciliation 

Residential School Monument in Winnipeg

A monument to honour the Survivors of residential schools was unveiled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at the Peace Garden outside of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

June 02, 2015

Reconciliation 

Summary Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Released

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases the summary of its final report on the residential school system and the experiences of survivors, characterizing Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples as “cultural genocide.” The report includes 94 calls to action aimed at redressing the legacy of residential schools and assisting in the process of reconciliation.

November 03, 2015

Reconciliation 

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,opens at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

December 15, 2015

Reconciliation 

Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Released

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases its final report, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who attended the ceremonial release of the report,commits his government to implementing all of the 94 recommendations set out in the June 2015 summary report.

May 30, 2016

Kathleen Wynne

Reconciliation 

Premier Wynne Issues Residential Schools Apology

In response to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne formally apologizes on behalf of the provincial government 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 announces a $250-million, three-year investment in several initiatives aimed at reconciliation.

October 06, 2017

Reconciliation 

Settlement for Sixties Scoop Survivors

The federal government announced a settlement of $800 million with Sixties Scoop survivors.

November 24, 2017

Reconciliation 

Trudeau Issues Newfoundland and Labrador Residential Schools Apology

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes to the Survivors of residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador who 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, Gregory Rich, Innu Nation Grand Chief, refused Trudeau’s apology on behalf of the Innu Nation, saying it was too narrow.

June 03, 2019

Reconciliation 

Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Released

The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls reveals that persistent and deliberate human rights violations are the source of Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people. The report gives 231 calls for justice to governments, police forces and institutions.