timeline

Residential Schools

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools established to assimilate Aboriginal children into Euro-Canadian culture.

January 01, 1831

History 

Mohawk Institute

The Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Upper Canada, became Canada’s first residential school. At first, the school only admitted boys. Girls were admitted in 1834.

January 01, 1844

History 

Bagot Commission

The Bagot Commission proposed that separating Indigenous children from their parents was the best way to achieve assimilation. The commission also recommended that the Mohawk Institute be considered a model for other industrial schools.

January 01, 1857

History 

The Gradual Civilization Act

The Gradual Civilization Act required 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 awarded 50 acres of land to any “sufficiently advanced” Indigenous male, and in return removed any tribal affiliation or treaty rights.

January 01, 1867

History 

Federal Responsibility

Under the Constitution Act (British North America Act), Indians and land reserved for Indians were made a federal responsibility, as was education.

January 01, 1883

History 

Residential Schools Authorized

Sir John A. Macdonald authorized the creation of residential schools in the West based on the recommendations of the 1879 Davin Report.

January 01, 1884

History 

Creation of Residential Schools

Amendments to the Indian Act of 1876 provided 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 banned traditional Indigenous ceremonies.

January 01, 1896

History 

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.

January 01, 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), revealed that Indigenous children were dying at alarming rates. Bryce suggested the mortality rate could be as high as 42 per cent.

January 01, 1920

History 

Residential Schools Become Mandatory

Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott, made attendance at residential school mandatory for every Indian child between 7 and 16 years of age.

January 01, 1922

History 

The Story of a National Crime Published

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

January 01, 1930

History 

Canadian Residential Schools

During the 1930s, the Indian residential school system had a network of 80 to 90 schools with an enrolment of over 17,000.

January 01, 1955

History 

Residential School System Expands

The federal government expanded the system of residential schools and hostels to Inuit in the far north.

January 01, 1960

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.

November 17, 1966

History 

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

History 

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

History 

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

History 

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

History 

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

History 

Last Residential School Closes

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

November 21, 1996

History 

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

Reconciliation 

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

Reconciliation 

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

Reconciliation 

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

Reconciliation 

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

Reconciliation 

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

Reconciliation 

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

Reconciliation 

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

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, 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

Reconciliation 

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

Reconciliation 

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

Reconciliation 

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.