Over more than 100 years, the Canadian government took 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children from their families and placed them in residential schools. In these schools, young people were assigned a number, forced to wear European-style clothes, forbidden to speak their native language, required to work, and often subjected to physical and psychological abuse. If they tried to leave the schools to return to their families, they were captured by the RCMP and forced back. Run by churches, the schools were paid for by the federal government. The last residential school closed in 1996.
It took decades for people to speak out in public about the devastating impact of residential schools. School Survivors eventually came together and launched court actions against the federal government and the churches. In 2008 the Canadian government apologized for the historic wrongs committed by the residential school system. The survivors’ lawsuits led to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, and the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission spent six years gathering testimony and discovering the facts about residential schools.
This book includes the text of the government’s apology and summarizes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, which offer the basis for a new relationship between the Canadian government, Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people.
MELANIE FLORENCE is a writer of Cree and Scottish heritage based in Toronto.