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Residential Schools a “Cultural Genocide”

Tuesday marked the release of the long time coming Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The purpose of the Commission was to report on the legacy and history of Canada’s century long practice of residential schools. Canada’s residential schools were operated by churches and funded by the Canadian government. In total, 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children spent over a century behind their closed doors.

In short, the report calls for “sweeping federal and provincial government measures.” Students at residential schools were denied the opportunity to express their First Nations’ culture in any way, shape or form. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin made the historic declaration last week that Canada’s residential school policy was “cultural genocide.” Furthermore, not only did residential schools directly negatively effect 150,000 children, it also “manifested racism, systemic discrimination, poverty and dying indigenous languages.”

On Tuesday, Chair of the Commission, Murray Sinclair, reminded Canadians of the 6,000 children who died as a result of mistreatment, suicide, and disease endured at the hands of Canada’s residential schools.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission put forward 94 Recommendation. There is some skepticism surrounding how many the federal government will adopt. You can read the 94 Recommendations here.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was brought together to respond to over a century of atrocities that were just barely addressed during the court cases that were beginning to emerge.

In the 1996 court case – referred to as “Blackwater” – that prompted the Truth and Reconciliation Committee there were 27 plaintiffs. By 2005 when the case finally came to an end, all but one had settled out of court, and one had committed suicide. In 2005 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Leroy Barney – the one plaintiff who did not settle out of court –  would be given $200,000 in damages. 75% from the federal government, and 25% from the United Church of Canada.

In 2008, Stephen Harper would deliver an official apology on behalf of the federal government. You can watch the official video here. This speech marked the federal government’s conclusion to a multi-billion dollar compensation deal awarded to former residential school attendees, and the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Commission warned Tuesday, that relations between Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples and the federal government have worsened since Harper’s 2008 apology.

On Tuesday, Grand Chief, Edward expressed his appreciation to John Leroy Barney who took it upon himself to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, in turn forcing Canada to do more. John goes on to say that enduring harsh cross examination was the norm throughout the court case. Especially when the subject was the abuse by Arthur Plint – the dormitory supervisor at the Alberni Indian Residential School from 1948 to 1968.

About Sarah Murray

Sarah Murray
Born and raised in Ontario, Sarah now lives in beautiful British Columbia. Despite having earned a Masters in Contemporary Art History, she managed to find gainful employment as a content writer. Her hobbies include creating semi-inspirational chalkboards, health fads, people watching, and creative writing. Contact Sarah sarah.murray@youthindependent.com