Residential Schools in Canada
The Canadian government and the Christian churches formerly introduced residential schools with the purpose of assimilating Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. This research report will provide a brief background on the origination of residential schools in Canada. The report will examine the consequences of residential schools, the parties involved in negotiations, the outcomes of the negotiations and its impact on independent parties.
Canadas first residential school- The Mohawk Institute located in Brantford, Ontario, opened in 1831. In residential schools, enrollment of girls started in the year 1834. In the eyes of the Bagot Commision, Mohawk Institute made the perfect model for all other schools. The commission also recommended separating Indigenous children from their families in order to accomplish an effective assimilation. In 1884, various modifications to the Indian Act of 1876 permitted the formation of residential schools across Canada. Simultaneously, traditional Indigenous ceremonies were prohibited by the Canadian government. By the year 1896, in totality, 45 residential schools were operating across the country. Such detrimental enforcements caused conflicts between the parties involved- the Canadian government, churches, and the Indigenous communities. Issues were to be discovered and negotiations were to take place between the parties.
The Canadian Government The Christian Churches
The Canadian government and the Christian churches are the parties that ignited the conflict with Indigenous people. Government funded the residential schools as it felt the need to civilize Indigenous peoples and controlling education served as the prime approach. In 1857, under the Gradual Civilization Act, Indigenous men who were 21 years of age, had to be literate in either English or French. Churches and key leaders like Sir John A. MacDonald (Canadas first Prime Minister) were set to end the cultural differences faced with the Indigenous communities. Just over 130 residential schools were active across the country from 1831 to 1996.
Indigenous communities include Metis, First Nations (also known as Indians), and Inuit. The children of these communities were being converted to Christianity against their will. Not attending residential schools put the future of Indigenous families at stake. Next, the issues caused by the residential schools and issues faced by the Indigenous children and their families will be examined.
Residential school system was responsible for cultural genocide. Historisca Canada, defines the term cultural genocide as, the intentional eradication and destruction of cultural artifacts and structures, the banning of cultural activities, and the obliteration of social structures rooted in unique cultures. Likewise, the prime goal of residential school system was to segregate Indigenous children from their families and communities in order to conform them into Euro-Canadian culture. The attempt of forceful assimilation caused Indigenous people to terminate their distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. This was made possible by compulsorily isolating Indigenous children from their communities and enrolling them in residential schools. Students were banned to speak in their mother tongue and perform their traditional art forms, such as dance and music. As residential schools were underfunded, the living conditions were very poor. The residential schools were getting overcrowded as The Gradual Civilization Act started awarding 50 acres of land to any Indigenous male who were willing to under the pressure of running a family, give up tribal membership. Residential students were facing starvation, and students suffered through abuse in terms of physical, emotional, and sexual, on a daily basis. The immeasurable damage caused by the residential schools resulted in intergenerational trauma that continues to affect Indigenous people even today. It is evident that there is a severe conflict between the parties; so did anyone try to initiate a negotiation? Or even bring forth the conflict publicly and speak up? The next section covers key people who publicized the conflict and initiated a negotiation.
Key Influential People
Dr. P. H. Bryce
In 1907, Dr. P. H. Bryce was the first to officially without any bias examine the conditions of residential schools. In Canadas Department of the Interior and Indian Affairs, Dr. Bryce was the chief medical officer in the years 1904 to 1921. After having examined the conditions at residential schools, he announced that the Indigenous childrens mortality rate was approximately 42%. It was the first time in the history of residential schools that, the government was exposed of its suppression of statistics on Indigenous peoples health. It was extremely brave of Dr. Bryce to expose the government in his 1922 publication- The Story of a National Crime.
Chanie Charlie Wenjack
Chanies death had raised questions on the Indian education and its philosophy at the time. On November 17, 1966, a jury declared their verdict of holding an autopsy for Chanie Charlie Wenjacks death. Throughout 1960-1980s, residential schools had started to close down. In the year 1969, the agreement between the Canadian government and churches had officially ended. As a result, the Department of Indian Affairs was in charge for the remainder of schools running. With the immense responsibility in the hands of the Department of Indian Affairs, in 1979, the remaining 12 residential schools were evaluated. An initiation was in place by making school administration more culturally aware, keeping in mind the requirements of Indigenous children.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was instigated by the respective Prime Minister Brain Mulroney, in the year 1991. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples consisted of seven commissioners who would generate a report regarding the effects of residential schools on generations. The final report was concluded in 1996. The report made 440 recommendations as to how the relationships between Indigenous people, non-Indigenous people and Canadas government could be resolved. As far as negotiation was concerned, the Royal Commission had proposed to take on the accommodative approach in order to keep peace and encourage mutuality in the future.
During the 1980 and 1990s, previous students of residential schools held campaigns to get the churches and the government to acknowledge the schools exploitations and to receive some form of compensation. In the year 1998, a Statement of Reconciliation was finally issued by the Canadian government. The statement recognized the cruelties suffered by former Indigenous students by establishing the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. In an attempt of using the negotiation tactic of Give Something to Get Something, in 2003, the Alternative Dispute Resolution process was put in place. This process allowed for an out-of-court mechanism in providing compensation and psychological support.
The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA)
In terms of negotiation, the residential school conflict deals greatly with the cultural context. When it comes to culture in negotiation, there are three main rules. First is to learn the other sides culture. Second, never to stereotype. Third is finding ways to bridge the culture gap. The third rule is exactly what the Canadian government was offering by establishing the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement in 2007.
Under the IRSSA, survivors of residential schools are offered compensation. Part of the IRSSA is the Common Experience Payment, which is paid out on the basis of how many years the victim has attended residential school. Not to forget the Independent Assessment Process through which every statement of sexual, psychological or physical abuse, was resolved on case-by-case basis.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)
June 1, 2008, marked the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Reportedly, $60 million had been put aside for TRC. The TRC has been put in effect for a span of five years to manuscript the truth regarding the conditions of residential schools and rightly inform all Canadians. The TRC is a great platform for victims and their families to vocalize their experiences. Through national events held in different parts of the country such as Winnipeg, it becoming easier to raise public awareness of the truth. TRC is an effective tool in order to create a comprehensive historical record on the residential schools.
It is the least to say that residential schools produced immeasurable damage by disrupting healthy Indigenous communities and causing long-term intergenerational problems. However, with the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in effect both parties have come to peace with each other. Not to forget, the apology made by the former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008, on behalf of the Canadian government to the former students of residential schools. It would be correct to say that Indigenous people no longer would feel like outsiders after seeing the recent progress made by the TRC. In 2015, in the final report of TRC Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, is officially the documentation consisting the awful experiences of the past residential school students. Keeping in mind the ultimate goal of resolving conflicts with the Indigenous communities, the final report states 94 Calls of Action. Having said that, their is great hope for the success of the Indian Residential School Settlement.
CBC News (2016, March 21). A history of residential schools in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/a-history-of-residential-schools-in-canada-1.702280
Historica Canada. (2015, December 31). Residential Schools in Canada: Education Guide. Retrieved from http://education.historicacanada.ca/files/103/ResidentialSchools_Printable_Pages.pdf
Kennedy, Mark. (2015, December 14). Residential schools to blame for problems plaguing aboriginals: Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Retrieved from http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/residential-schools-to-blame-for-problems-plaguing-aboriginals-truth-and-reconciliation-commission
Marshall, Tabitha (2016, September 29). Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Retrieved from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/indian-residential-schools-settlement-agreement/
Rice, Joanna. (2011, March). Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commision of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/indian-residential-school-truth-and-reconciliation
Taylor, Adam. (2015, June 5). Did Canada commit a cultural genocide?. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/06/05/did-canada-commit-a-cultural-genocide/?utm_term=.90bc697961bf
The Critical Thinking Consortium (2015, December 31). Background to residential schools. Retrieved from https://tc2.ca/uploads/backgroundbriefs/BBResSchools.pdf
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